supermarket food aisle

Why is having a shopping list important?

Having healthy foods at home and planning your meals helps to avoid unhealthy last-minute decisions and fewer spikes in your blood glucose. Having a stock of healthy foods on hand can also keep your meals interesting, inspiring you to mix and match them in a new glucose-friendly way. You can use a variety of frozen, canned, or fresh foods, making the meal-making process and cooking easier.

Our Tip

Never go shopping hungry. Chances are high that if you are hungry when shopping you will grab the chocolate or the pizza and follow your cravings. Make sure you prepare a list before shopping and stick to it as best you can.

Which types of foods should you always have in your pantry?

Proteins, Fats, and Carbs: to mix and match 

Not only are proteins, fats, and carbs easy food types to incorporate into your meals, like a side of brown rice with some tofu, but they are also vital in keeping your blood glucose balanced. This is because your body digests certain food types faster than others and some food types will raise your glucose more than others. This is why the order in which you eat your food has a big effect on your blood sugar. One of our favorite glucose hacks is veggies and protein first, then carbs.

Carbs are absorbed by the body at a much faster rate and will increase your glucose in a more intense way but if you eat other items like proteins and fats before carbs they can slow down the breakdown of carbs and help keep your glucose stable.

Fiber

Most of us know fiber to be helpful in keeping our bathroom visits regular but fiber is also a great way to control your blood sugar. So, how does fiber help your blood sugar?

Our bodies are unable to break down and absorb fiber (the complete opposite of what happens when we eat carbs). This means it doesn’t cause our blood sugar to spike and when added to meals it can help keep glucose at ideal levels (1).

Fiber can be found in many foods such as your favorite fresh vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, or seeds. Add these as a side to your meal or keep a bag of your favorite nuts handy for a quick on-the-go snack.

Dairy Products

Your next glucose-friendly shopping list should definitely include some dairy products! Not only do they provide calcium to help build strong bones and teeth but they are also packed with a good level of fat and protein to help balance your glucose (2).

When choosing what dairy products to buy we recommend reading the labels and picking items that are low in fat or salt. Some good options are skyr, greek yogurt, and feta cheese. Find more dairy options on our own shopping list!

Healthy Snacks

When cravings or hunger hit they probably have you running to grab your favorite sweet or salty snack or just the most convenient thing you can find. But before you reach for anything highly processed or with tons of sugar be sure to buy some healthy alternatives next time you go to the store.

One of our recommended favorites is dark chocolate! A few pieces of it can satisfy your cravings and can help you avoid a glucose spike.

Beverages

Drinking water is always the best beverage option to promote healthy glucose levels but it can get very boring, very fast. Some tasty alternatives to add to your next shopping list are things like sparkling water, a variety of teas (which you can also enjoy with ice on a hot summer day), or sugar-free lemonade.

It’s important to stay properly hydrated not only to feel at your best but also to help lower your glucose levels. Drinking water or sugar-free alternatives helps raise your blood volume which in turn lowers the amount of glucose in your bloodstream. Being properly hydrated also helps your body get rid of any excess sugar when you go to the bathroom (3).

Frozen and Canned Foods

Work smarter, not harder, right? Frozen and canned foods can be a great way to add variability to your meals if fresh versions are not available or you simply don’t have the time to prepare them from scratch. Even though these items are not fresh they are still a great source of vitamins for your diet.

It is important when buying these foods to try and avoid highly processed foods or anything with extra added sugars as they may be full of additives that won’t be good for your blood sugar. When buying canned fruit for example buy fruit in their natural juice and not sugar juices. For frozen foods, check to see if they are “non-processed”, this is the better choice.

Pro Tip

Fermented Foods – good for gut health & digestion: Fermentation breaks down the sugar in foods, making it easier to digest AND keeping blood sugar more stable.

4 tips on how to combine foods for a better blood glucose response

1. Coat your carbs

Carbohydrates are known to raise blood sugar levels sharply in a short amount of time as they are digested much more quickly than other food types. Eat carbs last and incorporate other food types into your meal to lessen this effect.

2. Remember the food order

Follow the golden glucose rule: veggies and protein first, then carbs. Eating vegetables and proteins 15 minutes before carbs can reduce your glucose response by up to 73% (4). What are you waiting for? Give it a try!

3. Make your meals rich in fiber

Fun fact: your body doesn’t break down fiber, it just passes through your system without getting digested. This means that when eating a meal rich in fiber, your glucose curves don’t rise and fall so intensely, creating flatter curves and a more stable pattern.

4. Incorporate apple cider vinegar

There are two ways we recommend consuming apple cider vinegar (ACV): 

  1. Drink 1 tablespoon of ACV with a glass of water 20 minutes before your meal.
  2. Instead of a pre-made salad dressing, make your own and add ACV.

ACV has been popular for many health reasons in the past but recent studies have found that it can also help decrease post-glucose levels (5).

Find all the science behind why these tips can help you stabilize your blood sugar in our glucose hacks article. Which of these hacks will you try?


Hello Sugar Program

Hello Inside Team

We have a passion for health, wellbeing and lifestyle topics. We love to discover new things and get to know ourselves better. Transforming scientific knowledge and insights into actionable advice is our goal.

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Hello Inside Team

We have a passion for health, wellbeing and lifestyle topics. We love to discover new things and get to know ourselves better. Transforming scientific knowledge and insights into actionable advice is our goal.

more posts from author

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Today, let’s dive into a topic that many of us have heard about but might not fully understand: menopause. Don’t worry; we’ve got your back! So let’s talk about those hormonal changes and the oh-so-fun symptoms that come with them, such as hot flashes, trouble sleeping, fatigue, or vaginal atrophy.

Hormones in the menopausal transition

Now, picture this: once you reach puberty, your body is like a bustling hormonal factory, producing estrogen and progesterone-like nobody’s business. But as you enter the magical realm of menopause, the production line starts to slow down. It’s like those hormones are taking a vacation, leaving you to navigate this new hormonal landscape alone. The signs of perimenopause vary greatly. Many women experience unpredictable periods, weight gain, more belly fat, hot flashes, chronic fatigue, mood swings, or cold sweats at night. Talk about an adventure, right? 

The age when women start their perimenopause (the time before their final period) and when they reach menopause (once you haven’t had your period for 12 months) varies greatly. Perimenopause usually happens in your forties or fifties, but everyone’s journey is unique, so don’t fret if your experience is a little different.
And if you experience some symptoms post- menopause: That’s also normal. Just because you haven’t had your period for 12 months doesn’t mean all your hormones are done working, they’re just not that much in sync anymore.

The five perimenopause symptoms many women experience

Weight gain, chronic fatigue, hot flashes, mood swings, and sleep disturbances. It’s like our bodies are throwing a wild party without an invitation. But fear not, we’ve got some tricks up our sleeves to tackle these symptoms.

Weight Gain

The mysterious weight gain seems to sneak up on a majority of women during this phase. It’s like the metabolism decided to go on vacation and left you with a few extra kilos as a souvenir. It’s a common part of the journey, and your body is just adjusting to the new hormonal landscape. Focus on nourishing yourself with healthy, whole foods, stay active in ways that bring you joy, and remember that your worth isn’t determined by a number on a scale. Monitoring your blood sugar can help you understand what foods will keep your glucose levels balanced, without adding extra weight. 

Chronic Fatigue

Fluctuating hormones during perimenopause can affect your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar effectively, leaving you feeling drained and exhausted.  

You wake up in the morning, and it seems like someone stole all your energy. Or you may have difficulty keeping your eyes open during the afternoon. It doesn’t have to be that way. By choosing balanced meals and snacks that include a mix of complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and healthy fats, you can stabilize your blood sugar levels and say goodbye to those energy crashes. So, load up on whole grains, fruits, and veggies and pair them with some lean protein. Staying hydrated will also help.

And hey, if you need an extra boost, reach for some nuts or a piece of dark chocolate for a tasty and energizing treat. Remember, you’re in control of your health, and by monitoring your blood sugar, you’re giving yourself the gift of sustained energy during this incredible journey of menopause.

Hot Flashes

Picture this: you’re casually sipping your coffee, feeling fabulous, and suddenly your body transforms into a furnace. It’s like someone turned up the heat to the max, and you’re left wondering if you accidentally stepped into a sauna. The key here is to stay cool (literally and figuratively). Dress in breathable fabrics, and layers, avoid spicy foods, and some women even swear by a mini handheld fan in their purses. Stress can intensify hot flashes, so keep a close eye on your blood sugar levels to understand your triggers.

Mood Swings

You’re laughing one minute, and the next, you’re crying over a cute kitten video. Emotions on a roller coaster ride, similar to your blood sugar?

Our advice: Feel the feels, but don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s okay if you’re carving chocolate when you’re feeling down, but remember to cover it with some protein or go for a walk after to balance your blood sugar. Remember, you have control over your blood sugar and how you feel at least a little bit.  

Sleep Disturbances

Sleep disturbances such as night sweats, insomnia, or restless sleep are the last thing on our list many women experience in their menopausal transition. And while it was easy for your younger self to feel energized after 4 hours of sleep, it’s not that great in your forties or fifties. But it wouldn’t be us if we didn’t have advice for you on you you can find some more sleep again.
Establish your own relaxing bedtime routine by drinking some chamomile tea (because we can all improve our hydration game), writing down the thoughts that might bother you before bedtime, opening the windows for some fresh air to lower the room temperature, and avoiding heavy meals within 3 hours before bedtime. 

Take your health into your own hands

We’ve covered some of the most common symptoms, but keep in mind that every woman’s experience is different. Some may sail through the menopausal transition with minimal disruptions, while others may face additional challenges. It’s essential to listen to your body and seek support from your healthcare provider if needed. They can offer guidance tailored to your specific needs and help you navigate this exciting new chapter. Some may recommend menopausal supplements such as monk pepper or hormonal combinations to reduce the intensity of the symptoms. 

Remember, what happens in the body during menopause is one thing. But what we think and how we see things also significantly influences how we experience menopause and therefore how we feel. If you stay curious and know what’s happening in your body, what’s coming up, and what you can do to feel better, you’ve already taken the first important step.

Because from now on, nobody knows you better than you. 

Start our Hello Hormones Program

Marie-Luise Huber

Luise has spent the last 15 years learning about nutrition and coaching people toward healthy behaviors. Before becoming Head of Nutrition at Hello Inside, she helped parents plan proper lunches for their children. Luise also optimized food ingredients in Central and Eastern European countries. She supported 1000+ people of all ages on their weightloss journey. Her favorite tip to balance blood glucose is moving her body because Luise loves to run, ski or bike. And she loves to bake (not always blood glucose friendly).

more posts from author

Marie-Luise Huber

Luise has spent the last 15 years learning about nutrition and coaching people toward healthy behaviors. Before becoming Head of Nutrition at Hello Inside, she helped parents plan proper lunches for their children. Luise also optimized food ingredients in Central and Eastern European countries. She supported 1000+ people of all ages on their weightloss journey. Her favorite tip to balance blood glucose is moving her body because Luise loves to run, ski or bike. And she loves to bake (not always blood glucose friendly).

more posts from author

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What is Metabolic Health? 

Have you ever heard the term “metabolic health” and wondered what it really means?

Since the concept of metabolic health is still pretty new, no official definition exists yet.
But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a unique understanding of it.

So what do experts say? 

Defining metabolic health

Experts understand metabolic health as the absence of metabolic disorders such as insulin resistance, elevated lipids and blood glucose.
Simply put metabolic health means your body can digest and absorb nutrients from food without unhealthy spikes in blood sugar, blood lipids, inflammation and insulin.

When we look at the opposite, “metabolic unhealth” it becomes even more clear why we strive for metabolic health.
Some people’s bodies have more difficulties keeping their blood glucose and insulin levels from spiking after eating, while others have high blood lipid levels for extended periods after eating. Other people have problems with both blood sugar and blood lipid levels.

Why is it important to be metabolically healthy?

Moderate fluctuations in blood sugar, insulin and blood fat levels after eating are normal and are part of the way your body digests and responds to food.

An occasional spike in blood sugar or a blood fat level that has been elevated for a long time does not do much immediate harm. But over time, these events add up and cause an unhealthy metabolic response. 

Gradually, these unhealthy reactions to food can lead to chronic inflammation, arteriosclerosis, problems producing enough insulin, and possibly weight gain.

If your metabolism is not healthy, you are likely to experience major fluctuations in blood lipid, blood sugar, and insulin levels after eating, as well as diet-related inflammation.

This is not good for your health and increases your risk for metabolic syndrome and metabolic diseases.

To help you achieve your metabolic health, we think it’s necessary to explain a few more terms.
Let’s start with 

Metabolism

Metabolism is chemical processes in your body that make it possible to live, such as breaking down the foods and drinks into fuel for your body. 

When you have a healthy metabolism, your body is able to change the utilization of fuel sources, switching from fats to carbohydrates and vice versa. This is super helpful and necessary, so you don’t run out of energy when you’re not eating for some time. It also helps to perform exercise without eating a big portion of pasta every time before. 

This switching between energy resources brings up a new term. 

Metabolic Flexibility 

Metabolic flexibility describes how good your body is in switching between energy sources, and depends heavily on the availability of carbohydrates in our body. In short, a healthy metabolism is able to switch the fuel source from fat to carbohydrate while maintaining a perfect balance between glucose and fat storage and utilization.
The first signs that your metabolic flexibility is not ideal are energy slumps in the middle of the day, drowsiness after eating and the urge to snack right after the meal.

How does our body choose its fuel source? 

This is a delicate and well-coordinated process. Most of the time (with the exception of low and moderate exercise) your cells will prefer available carbohydrates (glucose) as its preferable fuel source. For example, between meals or at night, your cells start using fat as fuel because they perceive that no glucose is coming in, so they switch fuel sources. This is often referred to as fasting.
If you’ve ever used a continuous glucose monitor you may have noticed that your blood sugar levels stay pretty stable overnight  – even without eating. This is because your body switches its energy source to fat so that it doesn’t deplete the glucose stores fully. 

How can you improve your metabolic health and flexibility?

You may have guessed it, as with many things improving your health: Diet and exercise are key to improving your metabolic flexibility and metabolic health.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet, with little to no snacks is shown to be beneficial for your metabolic health. Additionally, we recommend choosing smart carbs over avoiding carbs. And besides all the healthy food, opt for daily movement. Ideally, you aim for a combination of different exercise intensities and strength training.

If you’re curious to see how metabolically flexible your body is, a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) can help you look inside.

With Hello Inside, you’ll be able to see how balanced your blood sugar is, when you’re not eating. You may be surprised about the glucose spike after your breakfast. With our guidance we’ll help you to understand which foods work best for you, so you get a step closer to your metabolic health, and avoid all the unpleasant side effects of metabolic inflexibility such as afternoon slumps, weight gain, or cardiovascular diseases.

Start our Hello Hormones Program

Marie-Luise Huber

Luise has spent the last 15 years learning about nutrition and coaching people toward healthy behaviors. Before becoming Head of Nutrition at Hello Inside, she helped parents plan proper lunches for their children. Luise also optimized food ingredients in Central and Eastern European countries. She supported 1000+ people of all ages on their weightloss journey. Her favorite tip to balance blood glucose is moving her body because Luise loves to run, ski or bike. And she loves to bake (not always blood glucose friendly).

more posts from author

Marie-Luise Huber

Luise has spent the last 15 years learning about nutrition and coaching people toward healthy behaviors. Before becoming Head of Nutrition at Hello Inside, she helped parents plan proper lunches for their children. Luise also optimized food ingredients in Central and Eastern European countries. She supported 1000+ people of all ages on their weightloss journey. Her favorite tip to balance blood glucose is moving her body because Luise loves to run, ski or bike. And she loves to bake (not always blood glucose friendly).

more posts from author

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You may have noticed your blood sugar going up and down without eating or drinking. But is stress the culprit? Does stress increase blood sugar? How are stress and blood sugar connected?

Your glucose graph, with its ups and downs, may serve as some kind of mood barometer similar to a mirror of your emotions. Yet it’s much more than just how stressed, nervous, or excited you feel.
That’s why we have created this post to dive into the relationship between blood sugar and stress. And answer the question “Does stress increase blood sugar? “

Can Stress Raise Blood Sugar?

The short answer is: Yes. When stressed, the body releases hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, resulting in increased blood sugar levels. This holds true for positive (excitement to enjoy a fun activity) and negative stress (like a meeting with your boss you’re nervous about).

Adrenaline

Adrenaline is the hormone that causes symptoms such as sweaty palms and accelerated heartbeat and can make us anxious and irritable. If these warning signs are ignored, cortisol is released.

Cortisol 

Cortisol is a hormone meant for crisis situations. Think “flight-or-fight” mode. This hormone ensures our survival and allowed our ancestors to run away from a mammoth. Because of its function to signal our body to move, it increases blood sugar. This can still be relevant if we’re running late and need to catch a train or bus, but it’s less important in our everyday activities in front of the computer. 

Daily Habits and Stress

Since stress and blood sugar fluctuations are so inextricably linked, we want to look at some habits that may affect your stress levels, probably without you noticing it. 

Skipping breakfast

Eating a good breakfast that is rich in fiber, complex carbohydrates, and protein can help replenish your blood sugar levels and keep them steady throughout the day. When we skip breakfast, the pancreas produces glucagon, which signals the liver to release glycogen, which is then converted to glucose. As a result, skipping breakfast can raise and destabilize our blood glucose levels.

One study showed that skipping breakfast leads to dramatic blood sugar spikes and drops, while another found that those who skip breakfast even once a week have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Eating Late in the Evening 

Is your bedtime irregular? Do you like to snack late at night or have a meal just before you go to bed? This could be a major factor in your stress. A 2020 study says late-night meals can cause blood sugar levels to spike while you sleep, and blood sugar levels are still elevated the next morning.

Not Enough Sleep

We’ve all been there: When we’re stressed, falling and staying asleep becomes a new challenge. And even though we know that sleep is important for our health and recovery, we tend to forget that a lack of quality sleep unbalances blood glucose levels and has a particularly negative effect on insulin resistance. Lack of sleep triggers the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which may be higher due to stress already, and leads to an increase in blood sugar levels.
Read more about blood sugar and sleep here.  

Not Drinking Enough Water 

Let’s be honest: When we’re stressed, drinking is not the first thing we think of. Some people reach for a glass of water when they feel tired and noticed they haven’t had enough to drink yet. But did you know that dehydration also has a big impact on your blood sugar levels?  Even mild dehydration can increase blood sugar levels and start a dangerous cycle: The kidneys force the body to urinate to flush excess glucose from the body, but the more you urinate, the more dehydrated you become. Water accounts for 50-60% of body weight in women and 60-65% in men, so every biological function depends on the availability of water.

Stress and Women’s Health

Women may face particular challenges when it comes to managing stress and blood sugar levels.
Hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle and menopause can affect blood sugar levels. Additionally, women may be more likely to experience stress related to caregiving responsibilities, work-life balance, and social expectations. So let’s have a look at five ways stress can affect a woman’s health.

Reproductive Health

Stress can disrupt the menstrual cycle, leading to irregular periods or even infertility. Chronic stress can also increase the risk of developing conditions such as endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This is one of the reasons why monitoring your blood sugar levels for women is super helpful. It allows them to understand their body better and potentially see if certain situations make them feel stressed. 

Pregnancy: 

High levels of stress during pregnancy can increase the risk of complications such as preterm labor and low birth weight. Stress can also have long-term effects on the child’s health, such as developmental delays and behavioral problems.

Cardiovascular Health 

High blood sugar levels and chronic stress can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke in women, as well as contribute to high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. This is especially important because women have a higher risk for stroke than men. 

Mental Health 

Unfortunately, women are twice as likely as men to experience depression and anxiety, and stress is a significant contributor to these conditions. Especially during the second half of the menstrual cycle, women are more likely to experience more intense emotions and mental health changes. Imbalanced blood sugar levels can be a big contributor to this. 

Immune system 

Even though women are known to have a stronger immune system than men, stress can also weaken their immune system, making women more susceptible to infections and illnesses. Checking their blood sugar levels can be a good indicator of a potential infection.

It’s important for women to prioritize self-care and stress management to protect their blood sugar levels and, thus, their health. 

Coping mechanisms have been shown as helpful in managing stress and lowering your blood sugar.

How To Relieve Stress and Lower Blood Sugar

Exercise

Regular physical activity is a great way to relieve stress and improve blood sugar control. Besides its positive impact on short and long-term blood sugar, exercise may help bump up the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins.
Yoga and gentle movements have been shown to be especially helpful in relieving stress. If you’re wondering how to lower blood sugar levels fast, we recommend moderate-intensity exercises such as cycling or walking. And as a nice benefit, it will also decrease the negative stress in your body. 

Meditation And Mindfulness 

Certain practices can help to calm the mind and reduce stress on the body.
One easy mindfulness practice is to feel your feet on the ground.  When you feel the support of the ground you enhance the connection between your mind and your body, which in turn improves your sense of awareness in the present moment.
Another great tool to lower stress quickly are breathing techniques, such as alternate nose breathing or diaphragmatic breathing, which will also lower your blood sugar. 

Social Support

Talking to friends and family can help to alleviate stress and provide emotional support. Having supportive relationships with friends, family, or a community can provide emotional, practical, and informational support that can help you cope with stressful situations.

Relaxation Techniques

Techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization can all be effective in reducing stress.
One great breathing exercise to release stress is: Coherent breathing, also known as Resonant Breathing. It is a slow breathing technique that involves six breaths per minute. This pattern of slowing down the breathing rate will alter the autonomic nervous system, including blood glucose and heart rate. Studies show that this will change the brain’s activity, decrease stress, and maintain insulin secretion. 

However, with effective coping strategies and support, women can successfully manage their stress and blood sugar levels. It’s important to work with a healthcare provider to develop a personalized plan for managing stress and diabetes, taking into account individual factors such as age, lifestyle, and overall health.

Ready to Look Inside? 

Stress impacts your body in many ways, and one thing that changes inside you is your blood sugar levels. That’s why balanced blood sugar levels can be an important factor in supporting your overall well-being.

With Hello Inside, you’re able to track your glucose levels so you can see what stresses your body and make lifestyle choices that support a healthy life.
Ready to take the first step? Start with our quiz to see how Hello Inside supports you and your health.

Start our Hello Hormones Program

Marie-Luise Huber

Luise has spent the last 15 years learning about nutrition and coaching people toward healthy behaviors. Before becoming Head of Nutrition at Hello Inside, she helped parents plan proper lunches for their children. Luise also optimized food ingredients in Central and Eastern European countries. She supported 1000+ people of all ages on their weightloss journey. Her favorite tip to balance blood glucose is moving her body because Luise loves to run, ski or bike. And she loves to bake (not always blood glucose friendly).

more posts from author

Marie-Luise Huber

Luise has spent the last 15 years learning about nutrition and coaching people toward healthy behaviors. Before becoming Head of Nutrition at Hello Inside, she helped parents plan proper lunches for their children. Luise also optimized food ingredients in Central and Eastern European countries. She supported 1000+ people of all ages on their weightloss journey. Her favorite tip to balance blood glucose is moving her body because Luise loves to run, ski or bike. And she loves to bake (not always blood glucose friendly).

more posts from author

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5 tips for PMS symptoms

You can usually tell when it’s almost time for your next period. Why? PMS, or premenstrual syndrome. Turns out, about 70 percent of all menstruating women experience a wide variety of PMS symptoms, both psychologically and physically. Unfortunately, often times PMS symptoms are downplayed and the motto is: just get over it. But the fact is, PMS can be incredibly uncomfortable and limit many women in their daily lives. Things as simple as getting out of bed can be difficult.

The good thing is that there are ways to alleviate the discomfort of PMS, or even avoid it altogether. How? With a healthy lifestyle and small changes that everyone can incorporate into their daily routine [1]-[3].

What is PMS?

Premenstrual syndrome refers to the symptoms some women may experience on the days leading up to their period, usually about two weeks before menstruation. These symptoms can include nausea, headaches, and weight gain, among other things. During this time, one to several symptoms can affect your well-being [1], [3].

What causes PMS?

Research has not yet clarified exactly why women suffer from PMS during their period. But possible causes include [2], [4]:

  • Hormone imbalance
  • A reaction to the breakdown products of progesterone
  • Existing mental illnesses
  • Stress, nicotine, or alcohol
  • A lack of exercise or sleep

PMS – Symptoms

From mild nausea to severe headaches and depressed mood, PMS symptoms can affect the whole body. Did you know that there are now up to 150 different symptoms known to occur with premenstrual syndrome?

As sudden as these PMS symptoms appear, they can subside two to four days after menstruation.

What are the symptoms of PMS?

The most common PMS complaints that many women have are [1]:

  • Nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, or digestive issues
  • Cravings
  • Headaches, insomnia, circulation problems
  • Tightness in the breasts
  • Skin blemishes, acne
  • Weight gain, water retention (edema)

PMS can also be accompanied by psychological symptoms such as concentration problems, fatigue, irritability, mood swings, and depressive moods [1].

If symptoms worsen, PMDD may be the cause

For example, if headaches feel worse than usual during PMS or mood swings become uncontrollable, then it may be premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). In this case, affected women feel the PMS symptoms much more intensely, especially the psychological ones [1].

To diagnose PMS, you need to keep a diary

It is best to discuss with your gynecologist whether the symptoms before your period are indicative of PMS or not. As symptoms can greatly vary they may have other underlying causes. 

This is why it is helpful to keep a diary to document your symptoms during your cycle. This will help your doctor make an accurate diagnosis.

5 tips to combat your PMS symptoms

It can be frustrating when you know PMS symptoms are coming every month. Especially when they drag down your mood and ruin possible plans with your friends. If you’ve thought until now that you always have to deal with severe PMS symptoms, know that this is definitely not the case. A healthy lifestyle can be a great way to ease the discomfort.

The following health and nutrition aspects play a big role in making PMDD symptoms more manageable: 

  • A stable blood sugar
  • Anti-inflammatory foods
  • Cravings
  • Exercise and relaxation
  • Getting good sleep

Stable blood sugar is the be-all and end-all for PMS symptoms

Blood sugar is influenced by many things. One of them is the hormones of the female cycle. Strong fluctuations during your period can lead you into a vicious circle of PMS symptoms. Therefore, it is important to try to reduce constant and strong fluctuations in your glucose as much as possible.

When your blood sugar is low, your body is signaling that it needs energy. The quick solution is to eat something sweet. But the result is that you feel incredibly hungry afterward. Especially before your period, the desire for fatty foods or sweets can increase. If you’re reaching for sweet treats often, your blood sugar can quickly shoot up. Naturally, your body will try to bring it back down, which can cause your blood sugar levels to drop too low again. And the vicious circle starts again.

Try to reduce foods that greatly increase blood glucose

Constant blood sugar fluctuations increase PMS symptoms such as headaches, cravings, mood swings, or period pain. To avoid feeling this way, you should try to stay clear of the following food categories – especially if you are prone to severe PMS or PMDD symptoms:

  • White flour products 
  • Potatoes
  • Sweets and snacks
  • Fast food
  • Soft drinks
  • Fruits such as watermelon, pineapple, and dried fruit

But be aware that everybody is unique. So your blood sugar may be sensitive to foods that don’t cause blood sugar spikes in other women. If your PMS symptoms are limiting you in your daily life, consider checking your blood sugar regularly. It may help you to incorporate certain foods into your diet to balance your blood sugar.

Eat anti-inflammatory foods

We have already described that your blood sugar can fluctuate constantly during your cycle and that your diet contributes to this. If your blood sugar rises, inflammation can be the consequence, which is usually followed by pain and discomfort. The more inflammation there is, the more uncomfortable it becomes. This may sound worrisome at first, but it’s in your control. And you can make positive changes by eating foods that help with inflammation [5].

Omega-3 fatty acids have an anti-inflammatory effect

Certain nutrients help fight inflammation, like omega-3 fatty acids. You’ll find these healthy fats in cold-pressed virgin flax or canola oil, as well as in walnuts and cold-water fish (herring, mackerel, and salmon). Omega-6 fatty acids, on the other hand, promote inflammation. They are found in red meat, sunflower oil, and coconut oil. Therefore, you should only eat these foods in small amounts, if at all, to prevent inflammation and further discomfort during your period [5].

Other than that, it’s helpful to eat plenty of vegetables – about three servings a day. You’ll find lots of phytochemicals and antioxidants in vegetables, which can also fight inflammation.

Important info:
Salt can increase your symptoms

High salt consumption may be linked to PMS symptoms. Eat no more than five grams of salt per day. Fast food, in particular, contains high amounts of salt. If you use salt mainly as a flavor enhancer, you can switch to other spices and herbs to make your food just as tasty [5].

Prevent cravings

Cravings can lead to blood sugar spikes. Foods that contain fiber keep you full for a long time and raise blood glucose slowly – which is ideal during your period. Incorporate fiber bombs into your diet like whole grain cereals, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. 

Another common cause for us to reach for the cookie jar can be that sometimes our body confuses thirst for hunger. In this case, it may be helpful to drink a glass of water first and see if the craving goes away. And another effective tip is to take your time when eating. Always chew your food slowly and thoroughly. If you don’t wolf down your food, it will keep you fuller longer.

Get enough exercise and make sure you relax

Doctors recommend doing sports and exercise to relieve PMS symptoms. But of course, only if you feel up for it. After all, you don’t want to end up feeling worse. 

Stress can also contribute to worsening your PMS symptoms. You can fight back by doing an easy yoga class or meditation. Other effective relaxation techniques are tai chi or qigong. 

Most importantly, do what feels good for you! If you need time for yourself, take it. Time is the best investment for you and your body and thus for your health.

Get enough sleep

It’s no secret that getting enough sleep is healthy. Unfortunately, we don’t always manage to do it. By improving your sleep schedule, you can significantly reduce your PMS symptoms. 

If sleepless nights haunt you, try following these tips for a good night’s rest [5]:

  • Try to go to bed at around the same time every day
  • Avoid staring at bright screens in the evening, or at least set a blue light filter
  • Caffeine, alcohol, and heavy foods in the evening are a big no-no, as they make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.
  • Drink a nice cup of herbal tea or try meditating
  • An evening exercise session can rob you of sleep rather than make you tired, so easy does it.

Important information:

Drinks containing caffeine can increase discomfort during PMS, for example, the feeling of tightness in the chest. Try to avoid coffee, green and black tea, as well as energy drinks during this time. If you can’t live without a good cup of joe, feel free to give decaf a try [5].

In summary

Well-known remedies such as monk’s pepper or lady’s mantle tea are also optimal for PMS symptoms. But what we can’t emphasize enough is how important a healthy lifestyle is to help fight PMS symptoms. Research shows more and more that a healthy diet and an active lifestyle can alleviate PMS symptoms. This means keeping your blood sugar in check and not having to spend your days feeling uncomfortable. Start by making small changes and seeing how you can incorporate the tips above into your routine.

Start our Hello Hormones Program

Sources:

[1] „Prämenstruelles Syndrom (PMS) – Nervige Tage vor den Tagen“, Die Techniker, 23. April 2020. https://www.tk.de/techniker/gesundheit-und-medizin/behandlungen-und-medizin/gynaekologische-und-urologische-erkrankungen/praemenstruelles-syndrom-pms-nervige-tage-vor-den-tagen-2017314 (zugegriffen 18. April 2023).

[2] „Pschyrembel Online | PMS“. https://www.pschyrembel.de/PMS/K0M3J/doc/ (zugegriffen 18. April 2023).

[3] P. R. Gudipally und G. K. Sharma, „Premenstrual Syndrome“, in StatPearls, Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing, 2023. Zugegriffen: 18. April 2023. [Online]. Verfügbar unter: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK560698/

[4] V. D. T. Ngo u. a., „Associated factors with Premenstrual syndrome and Premenstrual dysphoric disorder among female medical students: A cross-sectional study“, PLOS ONE, Bd. 18, Nr. 1, S. e0278702, Jan. 2023, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0278702.

[5] „Neue Strategien gegen PMS Pressemitteilung der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Gynäkologie (BVF) und Geburtshilfe und des Berufsverbandes der Frauenärzte (BVF) | 2012 | Pressemitteilungen / Nachrichten | Presse | Deutsche Gesellschaft für Gynäkologie und…“ https://www.dggg.de/presse/pressemitteilungen-und-nachrichten/neue-strategien-gegen-pms-pressemitteilung-der-deutschen-gesellschaft-fuer-gynaekologie-bvf-und-geburtshilfe-und-des-berufsverbandes-der-frauenaerzte-bvf (zugegriffen 18. April 2023).

Hello Inside Team

We have a passion for health, wellbeing and lifestyle topics. We love to discover new things and get to know ourselves better. Transforming scientific knowledge and insights into actionable advice is our goal.

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Hello Inside Team

We have a passion for health, wellbeing and lifestyle topics. We love to discover new things and get to know ourselves better. Transforming scientific knowledge and insights into actionable advice is our goal.

more posts from author

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Woman suffering from period pain

Are you part of the 80 percent of women who struggle with period pain, also called dysmenorrhea? One survey showed that more than 700 out of 1000 women said they experience period cramps and abdominal pain during their period. Unfortunately, this pain can be so severe that many women are unable to go about their daily lives [1] [2]. 

Because menstrual pain affects many women, for a very long time, the medical community assumed that this was normal and merely an annoying side effect of menstruation. But what if we told you there are other options besides painkillers to help you finally stop experiencing bad cramps? 

We, at Hello Inside, want to help you better understand your period pain. In this article, you’ll learn how to ease your discomfort and get through your period as pain-free as possible with a good diet and stable blood sugar.

What are the symptoms of dysmenorrhea?

Like many things in life, period pain is not the same for every woman. While some experience no to mild pain, for others the pain can be unbearable. A survey found that 10 out of 100 women are unable to go about their normal routines for up to three days a month due to period pain. Even the smallest movements hurt and a hot water bottle becomes their best friend those days, not fun [3].

What does period pain feel like?

You probably already know that when you experience period pain your abdominal muscles cramp. This pain can sometimes be so intense that it radiates to your back or legs. 

In addition to those annoying cramps, you may also experience the following symptoms [3]:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache

What causes period pain?

Period pain is due to the biology of women. In each menstrual cycle, a woman’s body prepares to become pregnant. It produces more female sex hormones, which stimulate ovulation, and cause the uterus to produce more mucous membrane. This mucus makes it easier to fertilize an egg and become pregnant.

However, if the egg is not fertilized, the whole process starts over again. As a result, the uterine mucus must be expelled so that new mucus can be formed in the next cycle. To do this, the uterine muscles contract, and this contraction can turn into a painful experience in the form of period cramps. 
If you’re curious to learn more about menstruation, check out our article about the female cycle and hormones.

Types of period pain

Medicine distinguishes between two different forms of period pain, which have different causes:[4]

  • Primary dysmenorrhea
  • Secondary dysmenorrhea

Primary dysmenorrhea is the result of inflammation

Primary dysmenorrhea is experienced by most women during their very first period. Hormone-like substances, called prostaglandins, are the ones to blame for the pain. 

Prostaglandins cause the uterus to contract. They also trigger inflammation and the more prostaglandins your body produces, the more severe the inflammation becomes. As a result, you can experience more painful period cramps [3].

Why your body produces more prostaglandins may be related to your diet. A study found that elevated blood glucose levels can stimulate further inflammation, resulting in more severe pain [5].

Keep reading to learn more about how your diet can affect your period pain.

Secondary dysmenorrhea is caused by an underlying disease

There are several diseases that are associated with (severe) menstrual pain, such as endometriosis. With endometriosis, the lining of the uterus proliferates and attaches itself to organs, such as the stomach, intestines, or muscles. Other conditions such as tumors or chronic inflammatory bowel diseases, like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, can also increase the risk of severe menstrual pain.

If you are using a copper IUD for contraception, this can also be a possible cause of severe period pain [3], [4].

Keep in mind that severe period pain is not normal! So don’t be afraid to go to your gynecologist and explore solutions to reduce pain. 

Often, severe period pain can be due to secondary dysmenorrhea. Although it can be a tedious process for doctors to find the cause of your pain, we want to encourage you to take care of yourself and your health. In this way, you can succeed in improving your well-being and your health in the long term. Always think of yourself and your health first and foremost and try out the tips below to help you deal with uncomfortable period symptoms [4].

Tips to reduce period pain

Your first impulse when experiencing painful cramps may be to reach for painkillers but there are other things that can help. Very often, there is a lack of information and education about other ways to treat period cramps. Follow the tips below to help you reduce pain, and as an added bonus improve your overall health:

  • Reduce foods that significantly increase your blood sugar
  • Try to avoid cravings and snack smarter
  • Focus on adding healthy fats to your meals
  • Incorporate gentle exercise to relieve period pain
  • Don’t underestimate the power of heat

Reduce foods that significantly increase your blood sugar

Foods like white flour products, fast foods, sweets, and soft drinks are full of fast carbohydrates. While these foods may taste delicious and can be hard to stay away from, they are your ticket to the blood glucose roller coaster. That’s because they cause high blood sugar spikes in a very short amount of time. 

If you reach for these foods more often during your period, your blood glucose shoots up. This plays right into the hands of menstrual pain. That’s because inflammation is already present due to prostaglandins, and elevated blood glucose can create further inflammation. Think of it this way, the prostaglandins are already setting little fires, and increasing your sugar levels is like adding gasoline to those fires creating an inferno and making your pain worse.

If you suffer from severe period pain, it’s helpful to check your blood sugar regularly. By doing so, you can check which foods spike your blood glucose [6].

Try to avoid cravings and snack smarter

When experiencing premenstrual syndrome (PMS), usually a few days before your period can cause intense food cravings. This is related to your blood sugar, as it is more sensitive during these days, so there may be more fluctuations in your glucose curves. These cravings usually include sweet or fatty foods, which can promote inflammation and thus pain. 

To help avoid cravings, you should focus on eating a diet high in fiber. Include whole grains and plenty of vegetables in your main meals. Protein-rich snacks such as a handful of nuts can also help prevent cravings. It also always helps to chew your food thoroughly and for a long time to help keep you feeling full for longer. And if you do have a sweet tooth, don’t panic! You can curb your craving with a piece of dark chocolate, nuts, or some fruit. As a pro tip, it’s best to have these things as dessert, and not as a snack.

Focus on adding healthy fats to your meals

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids play an important role in your heart health and in the inflammatory processes. While omega-3 fatty acids prevent inflammation, omega-6 fatty acids promote inflammation. Thus, there is a link between omega-6 fatty acids and menstrual pain. In today’s diet, we consume more omega-6 than omega-3, which increases the risk of inflammation and period pain [7]-[9].

However, since it is not always easy to understand where these fats come from, take a look at the table below for some quick suggestions. 

Foods rich in Omega-3Foods rich in Omega-6
Linseed oil, canola oilSafflower oil, sunflower oil,
corn oil, coconut oil, soybean oil
Flaxseeds, chia seedsButter, lard
WalnutsRed meat
Salmon, herring, mackerel

​​When it comes to oils, make sure they are always virgin and cold-pressed. This means that they are not highly processed and still contain most of the important nutrients. Read our article about why fats are better than their reputation to learn more.

Fried foods and processed foods often contain high amounts of trans fatty acids, which also promote inflammation. Ideally, you should avoid them in the days before and during your period.

Incorporate gentle exercise to relieve period pain

Be it yoga or a short walk – some physical activity can help relieve period pain, as long as the pain is not too severe. If you really don’t feel well don’t force or stress yourself to exercise, do it only if it feels right for you. 

A great resource to find out how to incorporate exercise into your routine during this time is to try physical therapy. Therapists can show and suggest different exercises to ease your period discomfort [10].

Don’t underestimate the power of heat

Buckwheat pillows and hot water bottles are probably the most commonly used aids for period pain. The heat helps relieve cramps, relax your muscles, and help you feel better.

A warm cup of tea can also work wonders on period pain. Studies found that green tea and lady’s mantle tea have been shown to relieve menstrual pain. Ginger is also said to have positive effects on pain [11]-[13]. 

Tip: In addition to heat, magnesium is also a great supplement to help prevent spasms and reduce cramping. Ask your doctor or pharmacist which supplement they recommend for you [14].

In a nutshell – stable glucose levels can help you fight period pain

For too long, menstrual pain has been talked down and treated only with painkillers. But we are here to say that small changes can also have a big effect! It’s important that you don’t try to change all your habits at once though. If you make too many changes at once, you are more likely to stumble and reach your goal more slowly, if at all. Remember, one step at a time will lead you to lasting pain-free success. 

Monitor your glucose levels to get an overview of which foods cause your blood sugar to spike, and potentially trigger inflammation. Knowledge is power and by getting to know your body better and making small changes at a time you can improve your period pain and overall health.

And if the pain ever gets too much or interferes with your day-to-day life, don’t be afraid to see your doctor and discuss other tips or solutions.

Start the Hello Hormones Program

Sources:

[1] „20-WHC-FACTSHEET-Period-Pain-NOV2022-B.pdf“. Zugegriffen: 17. April 2023. [Online]. Verfügbar unter: https://www.womens-health-concern.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/20-WHC-FACTSHEET-Period-Pain-NOV2022-B.pdf

[2] „Periode: Begleiterscheinungen 2021“, Statista. https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/1338015/umfrage/begleiterscheinungen-der-periode-bei-deutschen-frauen/ (zugegriffen 17. April 2023).

[3] „Regelschmerzen: Symptome und Behandlung“, 28. August 2020. https://gesund.bund.de/regelschmerzen (zugegriffen 17. April 2023).

[4] „Pschyrembel Online | Dysmenorrhö“. https://www.pschyrembel.de/Dysmenorrh%C3%B6/K06E0/doc/ (zugegriffen 17. April 2023).

[5] T. Sitter, B. Haslinger, S. Mandl, H. Fricke, E. Held, und A. Sellmayer, „High glucose increases prostaglandin E2 synthesis in human peritoneal mesothelial cells: role of hyperosmolarity“, J. Am. Soc. Nephrol. JASN, Bd. 9, Nr. 11, S. 2005–2012, Nov. 1998, doi: 10.1681/ASN.V9112005.

[6] X. Ma u. a., „Excessive intake of sugar: An accomplice of inflammation“, Front. Immunol., Bd. 13, S. 988481, Aug. 2022, doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2022.988481.

[7] M. D. Onieva-Zafra u. a., „Relationship between Diet, Menstrual Pain and other Menstrual Characteristics among Spanish Students“, Nutrients, Bd. 12, Nr. 6, S. 1759, Juni 2020, doi: 10.3390/nu12061759.

[8] I. Elmadfa und C. Leitzmann, Ernährung des Menschen. UTB, 2019.

[9] D. Bagga, L. Wang, R. Farias-Eisner, J. A. Glaspy, und S. T. Reddy, „Differential effects of prostaglandin derived from omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on COX-2 expression and IL-6 secretion“, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A., Bd. 100, Nr. 4, S. 1751–1756, Feb. 2003, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0334211100.

[10] R. López-Liria u. a., „Efficacy of Physiotherapy Treatment in Primary Dysmenorrhea: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis“, Int. J. Environ. Res. Public. Health, Bd. 18, Nr. 15, S. 7832, Juli 2021, doi: 10.3390/ijerph18157832.

[11] X. Zhang u. a., „Association of tea drinking and dysmenorrhoea among reproductive-age women in Shanghai, China (2013-2015): a cross-sectional study“, BMJ Open, Bd. 9, Nr. 4, S. e026643, Apr. 2019, doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2018-026643.

[12] S. Vlaisavljević u. a., „Alchemilla vulgaris agg. (Lady’s mantle) from central Balkan: antioxidant, anticancer and enzyme inhibition properties“, RSC Adv., Bd. 9, Nr. 64, S. 37474–37483, doi: 10.1039/c9ra08231j.

[13] H. Adib Rad u. a., „Effect of Ginger and Novafen on menstrual pain: A cross-over trial“, Taiwan. J. Obstet. Gynecol., Bd. 57, Nr. 6, S. 806–809, Dez. 2018, doi: 10.1016/j.tjog.2018.10.006.

[14] F. Parazzini, M. Di Martino, und P. Pellegrino, „Magnesium in the gynecological practice: a literature review“, Magnes. Res., Bd. 30, Nr. 1, S. 1–7, Feb. 2017, doi: 10.1684/mrh.2017.0419.

Hello Inside Team

We have a passion for health, wellbeing and lifestyle topics. We love to discover new things and get to know ourselves better. Transforming scientific knowledge and insights into actionable advice is our goal.

more posts from author

Hello Inside Team

We have a passion for health, wellbeing and lifestyle topics. We love to discover new things and get to know ourselves better. Transforming scientific knowledge and insights into actionable advice is our goal.

more posts from author

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Skin, inflammation, and blood glucose do not seem to have an obvious connection. However, they are closely related because blood sugar affects inflammation, which in turn can affect the appearance of the skin.

It may surprise you, but did you know that the skin is the largest organ in the body?

The outer layer of the skin, called the epidermis, is constantly changing and replacing dead or damaged cells.
This layer is essential for the human body as it protects it from various factors such as bacteria and chemicals. So, it is fair to say that healthy skin is very important.

Many lifestyle and dietary factors affect skin health and impact the risk of certain skin diseases.
An unhealthy diet can promote inflammation and flare-ups of certain skin conditions such as dermatitis, acne or psoriasis. Even though these diseases are clinically very different, they have a chronic inflammatory background. So let us first cover some of the basics of inflammation.

What is inflammation?

Although it causes unpleasant side effects, inflammation is actually a good and healthy response by our immune system to a foreign invader. Inflammation becomes harmful when it persists and begins to damage healthy cells, creating a pro-inflammatory condition.
In this context, proper nutrition can suppress the inflammatory response and reduce inflammation.

So what should you eat to reduce inflammation?

The key is to eat a variety of anti-inflammatory foods rather than focusing on one or two specific foods or nutrients. Ideally, your diet should include a combination of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, legumes, red wine, and fish and olive oil.
The modern Western diet, characterized by high levels of processed foods rich in saturated fats, refined carbohydrates and added sugars, has been shown to be pro-inflammatory. You do not want that.

What does this have to do with your blood sugar?

Recently, elevated blood sugar has been shown to contribute to inflammation. The mechanism is complex, but simply put, high blood sugar can lead to the formation of free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that lack an electron. To stabilize their own structures, they “steal” an electron from neighboring molecules, which then damages surrounding tissues, such as the skin, and leads to chronic inflammation.

Monitoring your blood sugar levels can improve your skin health. By using it as a real-time tool to adjust your lifestyle you can reduce inflammatory processes and feel better every day.

Marie-Luise Huber

Luise has spent the last 15 years learning about nutrition and coaching people toward healthy behaviors. Before becoming Head of Nutrition at Hello Inside, she helped parents plan proper lunches for their children. Luise also optimized food ingredients in Central and Eastern European countries. She supported 1000+ people of all ages on their weightloss journey. Her favorite tip to balance blood glucose is moving her body because Luise loves to run, ski or bike. And she loves to bake (not always blood glucose friendly).

more posts from author

Marie-Luise Huber

Luise has spent the last 15 years learning about nutrition and coaching people toward healthy behaviors. Before becoming Head of Nutrition at Hello Inside, she helped parents plan proper lunches for their children. Luise also optimized food ingredients in Central and Eastern European countries. She supported 1000+ people of all ages on their weightloss journey. Her favorite tip to balance blood glucose is moving her body because Luise loves to run, ski or bike. And she loves to bake (not always blood glucose friendly).

more posts from author

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Acne can be a very unpleasant and long-term affair. It can occur at different times in a person’s life. Often it is related to fluctuations in hormone levels. For example, during puberty or even after stopping the birth control pill. However, acne can be treated and influenced in various ways. Nutrition and your diet have a particularly large influence.

What influence does diet have on acne in general?

Acne is caused by various factors, such as increased sebum production (sebum is an oily substance that protects the skin from drying out) or inflammation. Although many factors seem to be beyond our control, diet is one of the main factors that influence the development and aggravation of acne. Studies show that acne is associated with the Western diet. Two mechanisms are discussed that have the greatest influence on the development of acne.

Since blood sugar and insulin are closely linked, let us focus on the second mechanism – insulin-like growth factor-1. Certain foods have the ability to increase levels of insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-1, a hormone that controls the action of growth hormone (GH) in the body. Together, IGF-1 and GH promote normal bone and tissue growth. An uncontrolled increase in IGF-1 impairs metabolism, especially testosterone and fat metabolism. In addition, IGF-1 up-regulates inflammatory responses.

What foods trigger the uncontrolled increase of IGF-1?

Foods that lead to high blood sugar levels, better known as hyperglycemic foods. Blood sugar spikes lead to both chronic and acute hyperinsulinemia. Hyperinsulinemia is the medical term for high insulin levels and activates a hormonal cascade that increases IGF-1 levels.

This mechanism suggests that foods that only slightly affect blood glucose levels contribute to the reduction of inflammation. Increased consumption of dairy products also appears to influence acne via IGF-1.

Our Tips to Improve Your Skin Care and Reduce Acne

Our recommendation: eat the rainbow, with a majority and wide variety of plant-based foods and especially foods that have a small impact on your blood sugar levels.

  • Swap: white pasta, white rice, white bread for whole grain alternatives.
  • Reduce added sugars and processed foods
  • Consume dairy products in moderation
  • Limit saturated fats, such as those from animal products (butter, milk, meat, cheese)
  • Avoid trans fats (chemical hardening of unsaturated fats, fried foods, baked goods, spreads)
  • Alcohol in moderation

In short

Acne is influenced by many factors, including diet. The mechanism of insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-1 triggered by hyperglycemic foods is a major contributor to inflammation. Controlling blood sugar levels is key to reducing inflammation and preventing acne. To do this, choose a colorful variety of plant-based foods, swap white carbohydrates for whole grains, limit dairy, sugar and processed foods, and avoid trans fats and excessive alcohol consumption. Your diet can be an effective way to manage acne and promote overall health.

Marie-Luise Huber

Luise has spent the last 15 years learning about nutrition and coaching people toward healthy behaviors. Before becoming Head of Nutrition at Hello Inside, she helped parents plan proper lunches for their children. Luise also optimized food ingredients in Central and Eastern European countries. She supported 1000+ people of all ages on their weightloss journey. Her favorite tip to balance blood glucose is moving her body because Luise loves to run, ski or bike. And she loves to bake (not always blood glucose friendly).

more posts from author

Marie-Luise Huber

Luise has spent the last 15 years learning about nutrition and coaching people toward healthy behaviors. Before becoming Head of Nutrition at Hello Inside, she helped parents plan proper lunches for their children. Luise also optimized food ingredients in Central and Eastern European countries. She supported 1000+ people of all ages on their weightloss journey. Her favorite tip to balance blood glucose is moving her body because Luise loves to run, ski or bike. And she loves to bake (not always blood glucose friendly).

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The menstrual cycle is regulated by the complex interaction of 4 hormones: luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), estrogen and progesterone. But how do these hormones work and what happens with them during our cycle?

Menstrual Cycle Hormones

The first two, LH and FSH, are produced in the pituitary gland, a gland located in the brain, and are released into the bloodstream until they reach the ovary to stimulate the production and release of estrogen and progesteron, also called the female hormones. Estradiol is the hormone produced in the ovary during the first half of the cycle (proliferative phase), secondary to its stimulation by FSH. Progesterone is the hormone produced in the second half of the cycle (luteal phase) by the corpus luteum, a structure formed in the ovary after ovulation.

These four hormones play a very significant role during the menstrual cycle, increasing or decreasing depending on each moment of the cycle. 

Hormones in the Female Menstrual Cycle (different phases)

Hormones in the first half of the cycle – proliferative phase 

From the beginning of the female cycle (first day of menstruation) and for approximately 7 days, FSH levels increase and stimulate the production of estrogen in the ovary, causing follicles to be selected and to increase in size. When the estrogen concentration is too high, it inhibits FSH production, causing a dominant follicle to be selected. This results in only one follicle growing in each cycle. Before ovulation, estrogen levels decrease again. 

LH maintains its production at low levels during the first half of the menstrual cycle and has its highest production around day 14 of the cycle, when its secretion increases tenfold, generating a peak that induces ovulation.

Hormones in the second half of the cycle – luteal phase

After ovulation, the corpus luteum begins to produce progesterone and levels increase during the second half of the cycle. This causes changes in the uterus, making it suitable for possible implantation in the event of fertilization.

LH and FSH production decreases in this second half of the cycle. Estrogen levels increase slightly again. At the end of the cycle, the decrease in LH causes estrogen and progesterone levels to decrease, resulting in endometrial shedding.  As estrogen and progesterone levels decrease, PMS symptoms may increase until the pituitary gland increases FSH and LH production again and the new cycle begins. Symptoms usually begin during the second half of the menstrual cycle. They usually disappear 1 to 2 days after the menstrual period begins.

Hormonal imbalances & glucose: What happens?

Hormonal imbalance can affect this complex interaction between hormones, brain and reproductive organs. Healthy lifestyle habits (healthy and balanced diet and regular exercise), healthy environmental conditions (avoid stress and ensure a good night sleep)  and keeping blood glucose levels on a healthy range can help to maintain hormonal balance. By continuously measuring your blood glucose levels you can ensure stable insulin levels. 

Insulin plays a key role here. High insulin levels mix up ovary hormone production affecting the balance between estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. These imbalances affect female health, one of the first is that PMS symptoms may worsen or intensify. Many women experience more sugar cravings during PMS and have more fatigue and stress. 

Find your balance regulating your blood glucose levels with the help of a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) and Hello Inside. 

Marie-Luise Huber

Luise has spent the last 15 years learning about nutrition and coaching people toward healthy behaviors. Before becoming Head of Nutrition at Hello Inside, she helped parents plan proper lunches for their children. Luise also optimized food ingredients in Central and Eastern European countries. She supported 1000+ people of all ages on their weightloss journey. Her favorite tip to balance blood glucose is moving her body because Luise loves to run, ski or bike. And she loves to bake (not always blood glucose friendly).

more posts from author

Marie-Luise Huber

Luise has spent the last 15 years learning about nutrition and coaching people toward healthy behaviors. Before becoming Head of Nutrition at Hello Inside, she helped parents plan proper lunches for their children. Luise also optimized food ingredients in Central and Eastern European countries. She supported 1000+ people of all ages on their weightloss journey. Her favorite tip to balance blood glucose is moving her body because Luise loves to run, ski or bike. And she loves to bake (not always blood glucose friendly).

more posts from author

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Blood sugar (or glucose) can have a significant impact on your sleep patterns. Did you know that it could even be the reason for your sleep problems?

The relationship between sleep and blood sugar is bidirectional. In one direction, your sleep directly affects your blood sugar levels (the next day). In the other direction, your blood glucose levels before and during the night’s rest affect your sleep.

Sleep & Glucose: Why this matters

Blood sugar affects sleep, and sleep affects physical health. Short sleep duration – less than seven hours in a 24-hour period – can have a significant impact on health. That explains why adults with too little sleep are at higher risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

So getting your sleep habits under control has a positive impact on your health and life expectancy. We’ll show you how to do just that by monitoring your blood sugar levels.

Sleep is important for your body’s recovery process. When you don’t sleep enough, several changes occur in your body.

Sleep affects insulin levels

Sleep affects hormone levels and your circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm naturally controls your sleep-wake cycle by responding to things like light and darkness.

A small group of nerve cells make up what is called the “master clock” in your brain. This internal clock controls hormone secretion, temperature, eating habits and digestion. For it to function optimally, a consistent circadian rhythm is required. 

If your circadian rhythm is out of sync, your body’s metabolic health can worsen – and you increase the chances for diabetes.  

Also a lack of sleep decreases insulin sensitivity, causing your body to produce more insulin to stabilize blood sugar levels. This eventually leads to glucose intolerance and diabetes.

Unfortunately, even a single night of insufficient sleep can impair the body’s ability to use insulin effectively.

Sleep Regulates Hunger Hormones 

Leptin and Ghrelin are two hormones regulating your appetite. Leptin has multiple roles in your body. Two of the main roles are long-term energy regulation and metabolism.
Let’s look at the mechanism behind it and why it’s related to sleep. 

The fat cells in your body release leptin to tell your brain when you have enough energy. When it is released, it suppresses your appetite and you feel satisfied. Low leptin levels will make you feel hungry. 

Several studies have found that short sleep duration lowers leptin levels, which leads to overeating and weight gain. The desire to eat more, in turn, leads to an increased intake of carbohydrates, which spike blood sugar levels.

Ghrelin has the opposite function of leptin: high ghrelin levels increase your appetite.These high levels can be the result of sleep deprivation. 

The increase in ghrelin level triggers a feeling of hunger, which leads to eating more carbohydrates, which in turn increases the blood sugar level.

In short: Sleeping less leads to more cravings and overeating and may be the reason for weight gain.

Sleep Affects The Activity of the Sympathetic Nervous System

Lack of sleep or also insufficient sleep can increase sympathetic nervous system activity, controlling the fight of flight response. Lack of sleep can cause this “fight-or-flight” mode to kick in during the day and at night, releasing stress hormones such as cortisol. And cortisol can lead to chronically elevated blood glucose levels. The long term consequences of these high blood sugar levels include prediabetes, diabetes, or metabolic syndrome.

Sleep Regulates Inflammation

Research shows that sleep deprivation increases inflammatory levels in the body. Similar to the impact on insulin levels, this effect can occur after just one sleepless night. Inflammation is one of the body’s defense mechanisms, providing valuable protection against viruses and bacteria.

Sleep Affects Brain Function

Glucose is the fuel for the brain. It provides the energy it needs to perform its functions. When sleep is deprived, the brain’s activity decreases significantly. You may have noticed that you can concentrate better after eating something sugary. At least for some time. 

Sleep Helps Regulate Body Fat

As mentioned earlier, sleep helps maintain body weight in many ways, including regulating hunger hormones and insulin levels. Besides the hormonal impact, lack of sleep increases levels of free fatty acids in the blood. These high fatty acid levels reduce insulin sensitivity and hinder the body’s ability to metabolize fat.

We’re going to assume that these are enough reasons highlighting the importance of sleep.
So let’s look at your blood sugar levels when you sleep. 

Blood Sugar Levels During Sleep

In a healthy person, blood sugar levels rise and fall during sleep, which is normal. Some of the changes can be attributed to your sleep phases (usually lower during a REM phase), some may be the result to the glass of alcohol (big fluctuations) you’d consumed with your dinner, or it can also be connected to your circadian rhythm (with your liver being most active between 2-4 am).

In general, we’ve noticed that blood sugar levels tend to be lower during your sleep, then when you’re awake.
Currently, there aren’t any general recommendations for your blood sugar levels at night, but it seems safe to say that healthy ranges during the night are between 70 -100 mg/dl.
So yes, they can be lower than the optimal range of 80-110 mg/dl. However, if you notice that you wake up multiple times during the night and your blood sugar levels are in the lower range, we recommend optimizing your dinner and bedtime routines.

Another fascinating fact about sleep and blood sugar is the dawn phenomenon. 

The dawn phenomenon is a process that happens to everyone. In the early morning hours, certain hormones (growth hormone, cortisol and catecholamines) cause the liver to release sugar into the bloodstream. This process can cause a short-term spike in blood sugar levels. This is the body’s “natural alarm clock”.

For most people, the dawn phenomenon usually occurs between 4 and 8 am, depending on your sleep-wake rhythm. Your blood sugar levels should drop within a few hours again.

High Blood Sugar Levels  ( >110 mg/dl)

High blood sugar before bedtime can affect the nervous system, making it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night. This can trigger insomnia and increase cortisol and adrenaline levels, preventing your body from fully relaxing.

You may need to go to the bathroom more often, which disrupts your sleep. This is because your kidneys are trying to flush the excess glucose out of your body.

High blood sugar can cause you to feel dehydrated and wake up from sleep to rehydrate with a glass of water.

They can also make you feel hot, irritable and restless, making it harder to fall asleep.

Low Blood Sugar (<70 mg/dl) 

Low blood sugar can occur in both diabetics and non-diabetics. It can also severely affect your sleep. Your blood sugar levels may drop due to stress, alcohol, insulin resistance, etc.

Sleep disturbances caused by high/low blood sugar levels can lead to a problematic cycle of poor sleep and poor blood sugar control.

What Does Your Sleep Look Like?

Your blood sugar levels can have a significant impact on how your body feels and functions. Therefore, stable blood sugar levels can be an important factor in your overall well-being.

With Hello Inside, you can track your blood glucose levels over time with the help of a continuous glucose monitor, allowing you to make decisions that promote your health.

Are you ready to take the first step? First, take our quiz to find out which Hello Inside program is right for you.

Marie-Luise Huber

Luise has spent the last 15 years learning about nutrition and coaching people toward healthy behaviors. Before becoming Head of Nutrition at Hello Inside, she helped parents plan proper lunches for their children. Luise also optimized food ingredients in Central and Eastern European countries. She supported 1000+ people of all ages on their weightloss journey. Her favorite tip to balance blood glucose is moving her body because Luise loves to run, ski or bike. And she loves to bake (not always blood glucose friendly).

more posts from author

Marie-Luise Huber

Luise has spent the last 15 years learning about nutrition and coaching people toward healthy behaviors. Before becoming Head of Nutrition at Hello Inside, she helped parents plan proper lunches for their children. Luise also optimized food ingredients in Central and Eastern European countries. She supported 1000+ people of all ages on their weightloss journey. Her favorite tip to balance blood glucose is moving her body because Luise loves to run, ski or bike. And she loves to bake (not always blood glucose friendly).

more posts from author

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