Causes of Adrenal Dysfunction: Blood Sugar Regulation

If you are unfamiliar with what adrenal fatigue and adrenal dysfunction is, please check out my blog post here to read all about it. 


Your blood sugar balance has a huge impact on the health of your adrenal glands. The type of food you eat, when you eat it, how much you eat and the quality of that food all effect the work of your adrenals. You see, when these things have a negative impact on our blood sugar (causing it to spike and drop), our adrenals step in to handle the situation for us. This is great in an emergency, but no so great for every day life. 

To review: blood sugar regulation is an ongoing process in the body.

Our blood sugar (or glucose) levels will increase with meals and the release of glucagon from the pancreas, and drop with the release of insulin from the pancreas or when we use up floating and stored glucose (like during exercise). 

This natural flow happens constantly and our body has built in feedback loops to keep track of when our blood sugar is getting to high (aka time to store it!) or too low (aka time to create more energy!). 

The problem is that certain foods we eat can interfere with our bodies ability to control our blood sugar levels. If we are eating too much of the wrong types of foods too often, that can kick our adrenals into overdrive as they try to respond to the blood sugar “emergency” over and over again. 

When our blood sugar is out of whack it creates two outcomes:

  1. High blood sugar (known as hyperglycemia, which can lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes) 

  2. Low blood sugar (known as hypoglycemia) aka being hangry

Both of these outcomes can have seriously negative consequences on our bodies, putting a lot of stress on important organs like the pancreas, liver and adrenal glands. 

Adrenals and Blood Sugar Regulation 

When it comes to blood sugar regulation, the adrenals job is to step in during times of stress and low blood sugar. 

Since usable energy is pretty important to our survival, your “fight or flight” hormones are released to help us when we really need more energy. 

Cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline (also known as epinephrine and norepinephrine) are released by the adrenals to spike out heart rate, shunt blood and “supplies” to our muscles for quick movements, and even tell our liver to pick up the pace on making us new usable energy. 

This is great when it’s a real emergency, like a famine, or running away from a bear. Not so great when it happens because we’ve skipped breakfast again, or pushed ourselves through a workout without proper fuel. 

It’s important to understand that although this process is there to help us survive, it does have detrimental effects when we use it for long term blood sugar control.

Cortisol tells our body to break down tissues and muscle in order to create amino acids that can be turned into usable energy. It will also break down adipose tissues in order to use fatty acids for energy as well. This “stress” response sends us into a sympathetic state, where our body is no longer concerned with digestion, reproduction, repair and #gainz, because it is focused on survival. 

This can lead to… you guessed it, hormone imbalances, weight gain, inability to build muscle, and a ton of negative digestive symptoms.

If you want to learn more on HOW blood sugar becomes imbalanced and WHAT to do to start correcting it, check out my previous blog post here. 

How do you know if you have trouble with blood sugar regulation?

Some symptoms associated with low blood sugar include:

  • Nervousness and anxiety 

  • Shaky before meals

  • Extreme hunger and cravings 

  • Nausea 

  • Dizziness or foggy head

  • Headaches, especially if meals are skipped

  • Unexplained sweating 

Some symptoms associated with high blood sugar include:

  • Increased thirst and/or frequent urination 

  • Headaches 

  • Trouble concentrating 

  • Blurred vision 

  • Fatigue 

**If you are really suffering with these symptoms, I highly recommend you speak to your doctor about testing your blood sugar levels.**

How Do We Get To Adrenal Dysfunction?

If your adrenals are working overtime helping to regulating your blood sugar levels, chances are they are burning through valuable vitamins and minerals, as well as keeping you in a sympathetic state for far too long. This can place a huge stress on your adrenals. 

When this happens you will see symptoms of adrenal dysfunction:

  • Insomnia or feeling wired at night 

  • Exhausted in the am (no matter how many hours of sleep you get) 

  • Anxiety

  • Mild Depression/less enjoyment in activities you used to love 

  • Cravings for sugary and salty foods 

  • Can’t handle stress well (even everyday things seem overwhelming) 

  • Increase PMS symptoms 

  • Brain fog, memory issues, 

  • Decreased patience and tolerance for others 

  • Decreased libido 

  • Decreased immunity (takes forever to kick a cold)

  • Feel dizzy upon standing quickly 

How to Regulate Your Blood Sugar

Luckily, there are things you can do to start feeling better and to help bring your blood sugar levels back into balance. 

1.Remove Sugar and Refined Carbohydrates 

This includes beverages, soda, refined breads and pastas, crackers, cookies, cakes and muffins. Remove it all. The more of this you eat, the more you will spike your blood sugar and just come crashing down later. 

2. Eat Enough at Meals 

Load your plate with quality fats, proteins and vegetables at every meal! Then add on unrefined carbohydrates like wild rice, sweet potatoes and quinoa. Eating more of the “good stuff” will fill up your energy tank, however, won’t send your blood sugar spiking through the roof when combined with fats and proteins. 

3. Stop Skipping Meals 

This includes breakfast! Eating meals on a schedule will help regulate your blood sugar throughout the day. No more spikes and huge drops. 

For more tips on regulating blood sugar, be sure to check out my previous blood post here. 

If you’re looking for more information on adrenal dysfunction, check out older blog posts here. 

Do you have some work to do on your blood sugar? Let me know!