Hormone Balance – Insulin and Glucagon Impact Blood Sugar


Correcting hormone balance can create a domino effect in so many positive ways. Lets look at these 10 tips to help start the correction process.

  1. Donʼt skip meals. This throws your blood sugar and insulin into a tailspin.
  2. Start everyday with a breakfast that includes protein and is low in sugar.
  3. Skip the fancy coffee drinks full of sugar, fruit juice, and sugar fortified drinks such as soda.
  4. Get 300-400mg of magnesium in your diet for insulin support.
  5. Take 250-500mg of chromium for blood sugar balance.
  6. Exercise at least 30 minutes most days of the week.
  7. Do weight bearing exercise which uses up glucose much quicker than regular cardio.
  8. Get 25-30 mg of fiber everyday! This is very important for all aspects of your health!
  9. Watch your sugar intake. Sometimes itʼs hidden in unsuspecting foods such as spaghetti sauce, cereals, yogurt, breads, protein bars and more. Check the ingredients!
  10. Eat foods high in healthy oils such as salmon, olive oil and avocado. Consider taking a good quality omega-3 supplement that has been tested for potency.

High blood sugar can throw your system and hormones out of whack. So many focus on fat, when they should be looking at their sugar intake. Certain supplements can help reduce circulating blood glucose. Below you will find a list of supplements you may want to include in your supplementation program to help reduce and control your blood sugar.

  1. Gymnema Sylvestre 
    Main use:Lowering blood sugar
    Typical dosage: 200 to 250 milligrams twice daily.

This plant’s Hindi name translates as “sugar destroyer,” and the plant is said to reduce the ability to detect sweetness. Itʼs promoted as one of the most powerful herbs for blood sugar control. It may work by boosting the activity of enzymes that help cells use glucose or by stimulating the production of insulin. Though it hasnʼt been studied extensively, it has not had any reported serious side effects.

  1. Bitter Melon 
    Main use: Lowering blood sugar
    Typical dosage: 50 to 100 milliliters (approximately 3 to 6 tablespoons) of the juice daily.

hormone-balance-scalesBitter melon is thought to help cells use glucose more effectively and block sugar absorption within the intestine. When Philippine researchers had men and women take bitter melon in capsule form for three months, they had slight but consistently lower blood sugar than those taking a placebo. However, gastrointestinal problems are possible side effects.

  1. Magnesium 
    Main use: Lowering blood sugar
    Typical dosage: 250 to 350 milligrams once a day.

Magnesium deficiency is common in people with diabetes, and it can worsen high blood sugar and insulin resistance. Some studies suggest that supplementing with magnesium may improve insulin function and help to lower blood sugar levels, but it is fair to mention on the opposing side that other studies have shown no benefit. Magnesium has also been known to help with constipation, and metabolic syndrome (a condition that increases risk for diabetes and heart diseases).

  1. Prickly Pear Cactus 
    Main use: Lowering blood sugar
    Typical dosage: If you eat it as a food, aim for 1⁄2 cup of cooked cactus fruit a day. Otherwise, follow label directions.

This fruit of the cactus has been shown in a few small studies to lower blood sugar levels. If you are lucky, you may be able to find the fruit in your grocery store, but if not, you can probably find it as a juice or powder at your local health food stores. Researchers speculate that the fruit may possibly lower blood sugar because it contains components that work similarly to insulin. The fruit is also high in fiber. Fiber has been known to help with the metabolism of sugar.

  1. Gamma-Linolenic Acid 
    Main use: Easing nerve pain
    Typical dosage: 270 to 540 milligrams once a day.

Gamma-linolenic acid, or GLA, is a fatty acid found in evening primrose oil. Some research suggests that people with diabetes have lower than optimal levels of GLA, and studies have found that the supplementation can reduce and/or prevent nerve pain associated with diabetes.

  1. Chromium 
    Main use: Lowering blood sugar
    Typical dosage: 200 micrograms once daily.

This trace mineral is thought to enhance the action of insulin as well as being involved in carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism. Research has shown that it can help normalize blood sugar, but only in people who are deficient in chromium.

  1. Bilberry 
    Main use: Protecting the eyes and nerves
    Typical dosage: 80 to 120 milligrams two times per day of standardized bilberry extract.

Bilberry is a relative of the blueberry. This berry contains powerful antioxidants in its fruit and leaves. These anti­oxidants, called anthocyanidins, seem to help prevent damage to tiny blood vessels that can result in nerve pain and retinopathy (damage to the eyeʼs retina). Animal studies have also suggested that bilberry may lower blood sugar.

  1. Alpha-Lipoic Acid 
    Main uses: Easing nerve pain, lowering blood sugar
    Typical dosage: 600 to 800 milligrams a day.

Called ALA for short, this vitamin-like substance neutralizes many types of free radicals. Free radical build up, caused in part by high blood sugar, can lead to nerve damage and many other problems. ALA may also help muscle cells in the uptake of blood sugar. In a German study, a team of scientists had 40 adults take either an ALA supplement or a placebo. By the end of the four-week study, the group that had been taking ALA had an improved insulin sensitivity by 27 percent. The placebo group showed no improvement.

  1. Fenugreek 
    Main use: Lowering blood sugar
    Typical dosage: 5 to 30 grams with each meal or 15 to 90 grams with one meal per day.

aerobic-training-butt-walkingThese seeds, which are used in Indian cooking, have been found to lower blood sugar, increase insulin sensitivity, and reduce high cholesterol. The effect may be partly due to the seeds high fiber content. The seeds also contain an amino acid that appears to boost the release of insulin. One of the largest studies done on fenugreek, documented that 60 people who took 25 grams daily showed significant improvements in blood sugar control and post-meal spikes.

  1. Ginseng 
    Main use: Lowering blood sugar
    Typical dosage:1 to 3 grams a day in capsule or tablet form, or 3 to 5 milliliters of tincture three times a day.

Ginseng is known for itʼs immune-boosting and disease-fighting benefits. According to various studies, this Chinese herb has several positive effects on diabetes. Researchers have discovered that this herb slows carbohydrate absorption, increases the cell’s ability to use glucose and increases insulin secretion from the pancreas. A team from the University of Toronto has repeatedly demonstrated that ginseng capsules lower blood glucose 15 to 20 percent compared to placebo pills.

  1. Cinnamon
    Main use: Lowering blood sugar
    Typical dosage: 2 teaspoons a day

Cinnamon’s ability to help regulate blood sugar and lipid (fat) metabolism is supported by research. As little as half a teaspoon a day can have beneficial effects on blood sugar, which can promote weight loss, and a more balanced system.

An important hormone in regulating (decreasing) blood levels of glucose. This hormone is responsible for directing glucose, fatty acids, and amino acids into the cells. Insulin secretion is increased by the pancreas in response to an increase in blood sugar. This increase most often occurs after a meal.

The larger the meal, or quantity of simple sugars consumed, the larger the insulin response. For this reason, it may be in your best interest to instill the habit of eating smaller, more frequent meals. Also, limiting consumption of refined sugar, processed bread, pasta and rice will help to limit the release of large amounts of insulin into your system. Stick to whole grain versions of the above mentioned food items.

Blood levels of insulin begin to decrease about 10 minutes into an aerobic exercise session and will continue to decrease until about 70 minutes of exercise. Also, participating in regular exercise will increase a cellʼs sensitivity to insulin during rest. This increase in cell sensitivity creates a system where less insulin is needed, which is a much healthier system.

Glucagon is the opposing hormone to insulin. This hormone is also secreted by the pancreas, but itʼs job is to raise blood levels of glucose. When blood sugar levels get too low, glucagon is secreted and causes stored carbohydrate (glycogen) in the liver to be released into the blood stream and raises blood sugar back to normal levels. This is also the hormone that causes the breakdown of fat to be used as fuel. A regular increase of glucagon circulating through your system will induce fat loss.

Glucagon usually begins to be released beyond 30 minutes of exercise. This is usually when blood glucose levels begin to decrease. If you have minimal glucagon secretion, you will gain weight. Glucagon is a fat burning hormone. Glucagon also inhibits the release of insulin.

Protein stimulates the release of glucagon. By controlling your intake of protein and spreading it throughout the day, you can constantly produce adequate amounts of glucagon, turning your body into a fat burning machine.

Eat a protein source with every meal and snack throughout the day. This will help slow down carb absorption and keep your blood sugar levels steady and will help with the release of glucagon, which is the key to unlocking your fat storage. Without protein (and balanced blood sugar levels), your body will not release the glucagon.

Getting control over your blood sugar and understanding how insulin and glucagon works can change your life in ways you could not imagine. Research it, study it, and then make the changes necessary.

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About Author

Diane Mohlman

I'm a ISSA certified fitness trainer, specialist in performance nutrition, fitness therapy and youth fitness. I continue to educate myself on the topics of health and fitness. This industry is ever changing and new discoveries are made constantly. I have such a love for this field, and also helping people better their lives! See my profile page for more information.

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