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Four things that can affect your blood sugar, that are not food!

Updated: Dec 15, 2023

Firstly, let’s recap on what blood sugars, or blood glucose, is as this phrase is becoming increasingly talked about on social media and in the press. A lot of people also hear the term and assume it is related to diabetes, but we should ALL be concerned about our blood sugar and optimising how they are balanced.

Whenever we eat any food, it is broken down by the digestive system into glucose (sugar). The hormone insulin is released in response to this glucose to help transport it into the blood stream, known as blood glucose or blood sugar, where it is used by the cells as energy.

The rate at which this blood glucose is made and absorbed depends on the type of food we eat. Refined carbs or simple sugars such as white bread, white rice, cakes, or biscuits convert much faster because they are a simple sugar and therefore the body doesn’t have to do a lot of work to convert essential sugar into blood sugar. This then provides us with a short, sharp burst of energy.

However, when we eat foods high in fibre, protein, or good fats, then it takes a lot longer for this conversion to happen and it provides the body with a much steadier supply of blood glucose, or energy.

This whole conversion of food into blood glucose is a normal and essential part of our health, but it becomes an issue when our blood sugars rise too quickly and too often for as much as they rise quickly, the also fall just as quick too and can leave us feeling tired, hangry, more stressed and craving more sugar!

In midlife we want steady blood sugars as this helps:

  1. Provide us with stable energy levels throughout the day

  2. Better concentration and less brain fog

  3. Less fatigue

  4. Less sugar cravings

  5. Better stress levels

  6. More stable moods

  7. Prevent weight gain

However, there are some non-food factors we also need to consider when it comes to optimising our blood sugars, which may be sabotaging your good efforts during the day:


Sometimes unavoidable, stress is probably the biggest factor that can affect your blood sugars, outside of too many carbs or sugar in the diet! Short periods of stress are usually well-tolerated by the body, but if you are undergoing long term stress then this is of bigger concern.

Part of our innate stress response is that the body release cortisol, the stress hormone, and this in turn tells the liver to “produce more glucose” as we need the extra energy as part of our fight-and-flight response.

If, however, you are experiencing long-term stress then this cortisol-liver-glucose cycle is happening all the time. This then leads to a build-up of glucose in the bloodstream which in turn then leads to more insulin being released in response to the glucose. Collectively, this can lead to insulin sensitivity or insulin resistance, which is a pre-cursor to diabetes.

You can read more about insulin resistance in our post ‘What is insulin resistance and why can it affect women in midlife?’


When we don’t sleep well, which can be a struggle during menopause, then this too raises cortisol levels which in turn disrupts our blood sugar levels. Typically, when we don’t sleep and wake up tired we want to eat or crave more carbs, or caffeine, to fuel us during the day.

“Think of these sugar cravings as energy cravings”

If we go to bed having had too much alcohol or too many carbs with dinner, this too can affect our sleep for our blood sugar balancing continues while we sleep. You may find that you wake more often during the night as blood sugar levels drop and the body naturally wakes you up, for our brain is fuelled by blood glucose and it is highly active at night. So, when blood sugar levels drop the body wakes us up to protect the brain.

Coughs and colds

The body naturally demands more energy when we are ill, as part of our natural defence system. It is often why many of us crave more ‘comfort foods’ when we are ill.

If we are struggling with a long-term illness, then this is actually a stressor to the body and affects our blood sugars.

Being sedentary

It makes sense that when we are more active, the body requires more fuel but actually regular exercise is a great way to improve your blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity.

However, a lack of exercise can also elevate our blood sugar levels and this comes down to our muscles. For when we exercise, our muscles use something called glycogen, which is essentially stored glucose. Post exercise, glucose is moved back into the muscles to replenish the glycogen stores which in turn improves insulin sensitivity.

So, when we don’t exercise, this causes our muscles to lose their sensitivity to insulin which in turn affects our body’s ability to regulate blood sugar.


Have you grabbed our free breakfast guide?

Having breakfast, and the right kind of breakfast, is one of THE best ways to stabilise your blood sugar, regardless of how well you slept or how stressed you are.





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