Anxious, fatigued, cranky, hormonally imbalanced? Could it be dysglycemia?

Blood sugar is tied to many aspects of health. Because multiple hormones function together to manage blood sugar, you can have blood sugar readings well within the normal range, but still have symptoms of so-called blood sugar imbalances. That’s because your hormones and neurotransmitters could be trying to compensate in order to keep the blood sugar in normal range. Dysglycemia or blood sugar imbalances can throw off hormone balances and brain functions.


There are many ways to test for how well your body works with blood sugar. One of the most common ways is fasting blood sugar where you go and get your blood drawn after 8-12 hours of not eating or drinking. The reference range is between 70 and 99 mg/dL. This test is 60% sensitive and 90% specific, which means that it is good at ruling out diseases, but not so much telling if there are hidden diseases. In fact, some studies found that people who are at the higher end of this spectrum, with blood sugar more than 90 mg/ml, fare worse than people who are in the middle in terms of diabetes risk: (study and study).

What really matters with blood sugar is how well your body is able to take up and use blood glucose for its normal functions. You know you have perfect blood sugar balance, i.e. no dysglycemia if your blood sugar returns to baseline fasting levels soon after you eat, regardless of what you eat. Also, if you have perfect hormone balance, brain function, and are free of blood sugar imbalance symptoms.

Blood sugar regulation is quite individual. It’s partly genetics, but lifestyle and nutrition has a lot to do with it. Many genetic variations are associated with increased risks of diabetes. However, because genetics load the gun and environment pulls the trigger, your diet, lifestyle and nutrition can override your genetics. Gut bacteria (which is considered as part of your environment) is also involved in regulation of blood sugar. Equally important would be how you eat, how you live, how well you sleep, and your hormones.

Conversely, it is very important to maintain blood sugar for health and hormone balance. This is especially the case if you want to lose weight or if you are approaching menopause.

Here are ten symptoms that show you may have problems with your blood sugar:

  1. Acne. Another name for acne is “diabetes of the skin.” Many people (me included) clear up their acne after taking on a diet that stabilizes their blood sugar. This is even more clearly demonstrated in Dr. Loren Cordain’s Dietary Cure for Acne. This has been clearly demonstrated both through biochemical mechanisms and in human trials (reference).
  2. Brain fog, or in general… poor brain functions. The brain likes a steady supply of fuel (glucose or ketones). And Alzheimer’s is called type III diabetes. Research shows that insulin resistance could be linked to risks of age-related dementia (reference).
  3. Mood swings or anxiety can be a result from low or unstable blood sugar.
  4. Waking up at 3 – 4 AM with heart racing and sometimes hunger could be caused by too low blood sugar.
  5. Carb cravings can also be caused by too low blood sugar or insulin resistance.
  6. Any symptoms relieved by eating.
  7. Fatigue 2 hours after eating, often around 2 hour post-meal. Another sign of this is needing coffee around 3 PM (this could also have something to do with imperfect digestive functions, so if a dose of digestive enzymes take this problem away, it’s not your blood sugar.)
  8. You are stressed out. This can cause misregulations of cortisol levels, which often result in misregulation of blood sugar.
  9. You wake up tired even though you got enough sleep.
  10. You are sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation immediately leads to insulin resistance.

High blood sugar can cause low blood sugar. That might sound counterintuitive, but someone with dysglycemia will have high blood sugar following a high glycemic impact meal. Then, their pancreas will release a lot of insulin to lower that blood sugar. This process could cause a dip in blood sugar soon after, as we commonly know as “sugar crash.” For some, this could manifest in the form of anxiety, hunger, sleepiness, craving for coffee or high carb foods. When the person reaches for high carb foods like donuts and bread every time they have low blood sugar, it becomes a vicious cycle that could lead to insulin resistance and diabetes.

Some people may have the genetics or lifestyle that allow them to tolerate high carbohydrate diets without developing insulin resistance. This may explain why some groups of people can stay very healthy with a high carb low fat diet, whereas others can’t. Therefore, eating a high carb diet may not necessarily be harmful to everyone. It is however important to get regular tests as well as to listen to your body to determine if that’s the case for you. If you have symptoms or if your lab tests came back suboptimal, then it will be critical for your health to adjust your diet and lifestyle to stabilize your blood sugar.

Nothing is wrong with you. Here’s why.

This video by Dr. Sachin Patel captivated me when he used this analogy: people who come to see him (after several practitioners) are so occupied with looking for what’s wrong with their bodies. It’s almost like when they drive their cars poorly, and when a mechanic can’t find any problems with the cars, they keep going to other mechanics trying to find the problem. A human body is amazingly great at fixing itself and ensuring its survival. Trillions of cells work together beautifully.

When you feel symptoms of chronic health problems like PMS, cramps or irregular periods or IBS, your body has tried its best to survive. Apparently it is malfunctioning at some levels. The problem is if we get so fixated on diagnoses and having a pill for each diagnosis, the actual malfunctions will most likely not be resolved.

My mission here is to change this backwards mentality, so you understand the physiology behind all of this. I’ve heard nearly every woman I’ve consulted telling me that their doctors have not been able to help them understand what’s going on, or that lab tests all came back normal and they are clueless. While I’m not against conventional medicine, I strongly disagree with the practice model that fails to transparently educate. I want you to understand all your options and weighting risks vs benefits before making your own health decisions. Everything is important and everything is connected. Then there’s the biochemical individuality, which means that it can take a very different approach for you than for another person even though both of you have the same symptoms.

As a wellness geek, I used to like internet info like “7 benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar” or “10 Foods For Fertility’. Now that I really understand much more about these chronic health problems, I have grown to not like these blog posts as much. Pushing natural remedies to resolve symptoms is no difference from pushing pills if the root causes are not being addressed. Then I realize that the only way I can teach this is through case studies.

Join me live next Tuesday at 8 PM ET so we can go through 3 case studies together. I’ve gathered data from three different women who have been struggling with hormonal issues – short cycles, very long cycles, terrible PMS and cramps. You name it.


From this webinar, you will get clarity on:
1. Symptoms-focused medicine vs evidence-based health detective work
2. Why the former fails to resolve your chronic health problems, and why the latter is better both to resolve chronic health problems and long term health.
3. Physiology behind common hormonal problems, especially among women who lift weights
4. Common lifestyle and dietary modifications to help with hormone balances in the right contexts

Wondering who I am? Check my about me page here.

10 hormonal hacks to prevent holiday weight gain without counting calories

The holidays creep up to you, don’t they? The gigantic turkeys. The buttery stuffings. The apple pies. I kid you not.

I managed to lose 3% body fat over last fall and kept it off over the holidays. Thanksgiving and six major parties in December didn’t ruin my hard-earned work. Here are 10 things I discovered that helped me keep it off.

10 Hormonal Hacks to prevent holiday weight gain

1)   Control your insulin

I lost the weight with a low glycemic impact program, and it naturally stuck with me.

Here’s the catch: low glycemic impact diet is the least hormone-wrecking diet you can follow. If you have issues with insulin (an obvious sign is that you tend to accumulate fat around your tummy), it is wise to follow eat low glycemic impact to get your insulin in check.

It is more forgiving to have that gobble of fat when your insulin isn’t spiking, like when you just have that glass of coke.

One amusing aspect of low glycemic is that the actual glycemic impact of what you are eating depends on the content of your stomach. So, if you wind up eating a high glycemic impact item (e.g. cakes, rice, very ripe fruits, ice cream), it is wise to cut down the impact with some protein, fat and fiber. Never eat desserts or drink anything with sugar (juice included, even 100%) on empty stomach.

Oh, and remember one fact, dairy may spike your insulin at whatever state it is.

2)   Resistance training and high intensity interval training (HIIT)

When you pump iron, a few things happen in your body that use energy in a not-so-obvious ways. That’s especially the case if you are a beginner.

Firstly, your nervous, structural and respiratory systems have to adapt. For example, you build more neuronal connections with your muscles. Secondly, you create energy deficit from destroying your muscles during your training sessions. Those processes are more energetically costly than those numbers you see on the elliptical machines. Last but not least, when you follow a well-planned, well-periodized program (and that doesn’t mean complicated) with proper recovery, you build and retain muscle mass.

Muscle burns more calories and they make you look smaller at the same weight. You will also be stronger and feel like a superhero.

Muscle makes more room for glycogen, reducing your odds of storing excess energy as fat. The 2 fold effects is that 1) when you eat a lot of food (especially carbs) after your workouts, your muscles look more full as opposed to your belly, or tummy, or thighs.

There are many breeds of resistant training, as I just learned. The best ones for this purpose is perhaps the high volume bodybuilding style training, density training and lactic acid training.

I would define HIIT as cardio intervals so hard that you feel like your lungs would explode at the end of each interval. Repeat 10 times. Well, that’s how I do it. But I would warn you that you should not be working out that hard if you have never done it, are de-conditioned or have lots of risk factors for heard diseases.

The thing with HIIT is similar to weight lifting. You burn more calories by 1) creating energy debt by using anaerobic respiration during your exercise and 2) forcing your body to adapt to the torture, so you feel less like a torture next time you do the same thing.

Remember, adaptation takes calories.

And you don’t need lots of time, either. I was a cardio queen with extraordinary endurance. I swam 60 laps in the pool with no rest and biked 70 km/day. But boy, just one Tabata workout that took 4 min made my lungs feel like they would explode by the end of the 2nd minute.

3)   You may want to eat what you don’t normally eat, but don’t eat to the point of discomfort.

Your body has a natural barometer for measuring how much you should be eating. Try not to override it.

We evolved to eat natural, unprocessed foods from the wild, not chocolate cakes, stuffing and sausages.

So, it’s best to focus on the least processed foods or what you can recognize in its natural state. The rest of it, eat it only when it’s really worthwhile, make it a real treat.

And don’t eat to the point that makes you suffer. Who likes food coma, anyway?

4)   Intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting is the practice of stopping eating for a period of time, and then eating again. More and more fitness figures are practicing this.

It might sound kinda crazy, like, “whoa, aren’t you gonna lose your muscles?”

I have seen too many bodybuilders do this to worry about that. For a reference, check this out for reference.

A simple rationale is that, the morning after the party, I would usually not feel like any food if I had my good share of party foods. It feels gross. And the last thing I would feel like doing is to eat.

So when that happens, it’s the body telling you that it has enough foods in the system to last for a while, that you don’t need to eat right then. You may be tired because your body still takes energy to digest the food, deal with new food allergens in the body, or clear out the alcohol. It’s telling you that it has enough work to do with foods.

So what I do is, I skip a day of foods and maybe even workout before I eat again. I make sure the first meal after the fast is full of protein and veggies, some good fats with very little carbohydrates. That’s my typical breakfast, anyway. It breaks the fast. NOT breakfast cereals.

5)   Supplements

I take my CORE supplement before carb-heavy or beer-heavy parties. It’s my security blanket with no side effects. It has the natural carbohydrate absorption inhibitor from white kidney bean, chromium that helps with insulin sensitivity, and leptin support herbs that reduce my appetite. This combination helps blunt the blow and reduce the odds of an endomorphic gal like me storing things as fat.

And if you happen to be eating lots of potatoes, breads and sweets, definitely supplement with chromium, Omega-3 and vitamin B complex. They help with metabolism of carbohydrates and insulin sensitivity.

There are also things like fat blocker (ever heard of Alli?), which I have tried myself. The problem with these is that they make you run to the bathroom with no mercy, and caused bad abdominal cramps. I’m not into this enough to recommend it, but it may be worth it if you are considering inhaling a whole wheel of double cream brie or boatloads of fried foods. While I’m a big fan of good fats, we all know that eating such amount of fats is a recipe to feeling like crap. So you decide.

6)   Find the basis behind your cravings

Cravings often have biological basis. It’s your body telling you something. Either you have a hormonal imbalance or a real dietary deficiency.

Believe it or not? You are often craving what you are allergic too. When you get hurt, your body secretes endorphins to reduce the pain. When you hurt yourself by eating things you are allergic to, you may become addicted to that endorphins. I know, I know. I crave chocolate, too and I am allergic to it. L Do you know anyone who won’t part ways with breads, and pasta or dairy?

A chocolate craving is often a sign of mineral deficiency.

A salt craving is a sign of stress or corticosteroid imbalances.

Carb cravings usually means that your body doesn’t handle carbs very well, and that you tend to store them as fat. It also means that you tend to get your blood sugar in extreme swings.

7)   Eat clean for the rest of the time

If you know you are going to party hard that day, it is wise to not show up ravenous or pre-stuffed with junk.

Make sure you eat lots of vegetables and lean protein sources consistently for the day, or better yet, for the week.

8)   Find out what your food sensitivities/allergies are and avoid them like plaque

It takes a bit of time, real patience and will power to go on a hypoallergenic diet before experiment with potential food allergens. You can do a lab test for food allergies, if you would like.

If you notice some symptoms such as rash, major changes in energy level, mucus, etc, associated with certain foods, it is a good idea to avoid that item.

Overloading your digestive system with what your body doesn’t like may sensitize your body to become more allergic to other things. It can also compromises the functions of your digestive system in the long run.

9)   Know a few favorite recipes of a side, a salad and a dessert that are “safe” for you nutrition-wise and food-sensitivity wise

If you really like some items and would rather have them in your life, it may be possible to invent a healthy version of it. I invented healthy chocolate cakes, mousse pies and cheesecakes that I have no shame in sharing with people or eating the whole thing by myself. Bring that to parties, impress people, and enjoy it! Check out my foods sections for a few ideas or feel free to ask for a recipe makeover.

On the other end of the spectrum, it’s also a good idea to bring a salad or a healthy dish with lots of veggies over so you can ensure that there is something that is consistent with your goals at the party.

10) Don’t get yourself into OCD mode.

Nobody is perfect, really.

Attempting to count foods or calories, or beating yourself up for eating party foods will drive you nuts. Stress hormones doesn’t make for good health or body composition.

You want to enjoy life. Keep it simple.

Go right back to eating clean and exercising, even if there’s still 1 or 3 next parties. Even if it’s not next year yet.

Move. As much as possible. It doesn’t have to be in the gym. It could be a few sets of air squats in your living room.

Lastly, don’t be that annoying person that’s always not easygoing and complaining how fat you get. You are responsible for what you put in your body. Just you. Take it.

Why you should eat organic for hormone balance

I want to start off the Nutrition for Hormone Balance series with this lesson because nutritional deficiencies aren’t always caused by not ingesting the appropriate amounts of nutrients. Rather, the human body is a dynamic system in which multiple components affect each other. For example, let’s look at glyphosate, a pesticide that is commonly used in the food chain.

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There are numerous studies reporting on adverse health effects of glyphosate on Pubmed.

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 6.24.42 PM 

Overall, evidence suggests that glyphosate is a xenoestrogen and may interfere with estrogen metabolism (ref  and ref).

In addition, I believe glyphosate on its own may contribute to the deficiencies of magnesium and many other important mineral deficiencies. Glyphosate works as an herbicide by chelating important minerals, which means that it binds to minerals very tightly and make it not available for the plant. NB: This mechanism remains a hypothesis as there is no direct evidence suggesting that this is true, but it totally makes sense.

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 6.32.37 PMThese evidences are sufficient for me to recommend avoiding consumption of foods that have high glyphosate content and to avoid glyphosate exposures by eating organic foods and not using these chemicals (or any dangerous pesticides for that matter) on your lawn.

From personal experience, I decided to go on an elimination diet with 100% organic foods in order to heal myself from an eczema breakout. Within 3-4 months, I no longer experienced premenstrual syndrome symptoms. I am not one to naturally not get PMS since I had been suffering very terrible stomach cramps and moodiness in the week before my period for years. It is also important to note that I didn’t get PMS until I moved to North America.

Organic foods may cost more than conventional foods, but not when you account for health risks and nutritional values, and give up the expensive processed foods that may only be valued at 1% of what you pay for. For example, a bushel of grains (e.g. 60 lbs of wheat) may cost around 12 cents wholesale. It might take 1 cup or around 125 grams (0.4% of a bushel) to make a $5 box of cereals, and really what you are paying for is the box, the shipping, TV commercials advertising and fortification of the product.

For tips on how to save thousands of dollars on organic, fresh and unprocessed whole foods, check out my blog post on here.

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