How quitting sugar can free you from hormone woes: A hormone expert explains

By Lara Briden |

How quitting sugar might free you from PMS (+ 6 other hormone woes)

Dreaming of painless periods, zero PMS symptoms and skin that doesn’t break out at the mere mention of chocolate?

If you suffer from hormonal imbalance, you might be pleased to find out that quitting sugar can bring many surprising health benefits, including much better periods (are you listening, ladies?!). Here’s the benefits of quitting sugar for your hormonal health.

1. More regular periods.

Sugar causes insulin resistance which in turn causes a common hormonal condition called polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS.

PCOS is estimated to affect almost 20 per cent of young women, and typically presents with the symptoms of irregular periods, acne, hair loss, and hirsutism (excess facial and body hair).

There are many natural treatments for PCOS including magnesium and myoinositol, but the single most effective treatment is to reduce insulin by quitting sugar.

2. Better skin.

Sugar causes acne by stimulating a hormone called insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) . This is true for every acne-sufferer even when there are other factors such as PCOS, post-Pill or premenstrual syndrome.

To address breakouts, I ask my patients to avoid all sugary foods, especially dates and other dried fruit, which I have found to be amongst the worst foods for skin. I also ask many patients to avoid dairy, which is the other food that stimulates IGF-1.

3. Better hair.

Androgenetic alopecia is a type of hair loss that occurs when hair follicles shrink because of exposure or sensitivity to androgens or male-type hormones. It’s common with the condition PCOS (discussed above) and hormonal birth control, but it can occur in any woman.

Quitting sugar can treat androgenetic alopecia because quitting sugar lowers both androgens and the inflammation that is the underlying cause of androgen “sensitivity”.

But don’t lose hope if results don’t come immediately. Why? Because hair roots (follicles) are time capsules that “remember” the situation from months prior.

There is usually a three to six month delay between quitting sugar and seeing hair improve. (Also, see my post on some other reasons for hair loss, and speak to your doctor about blood tests.)

4.  Less facial hair.

Similar to hair loss, hirsutism (excess facial and body hair) is caused by exposure or sensitivity to androgens. And similar to hair loss, quitting sugar can help because it reduces both androgens and androgen sensitivity.

It works best in combination with anti-androgen supplements such as magnesium and zinc. Body hair follicles are time capsules with an even longer “memory” than hair follicles. There’s usually a nine to twelve-month delay between quitting sugar and seeing facial hair improve.

5. No more PMS.

Premenstrual syndrome is caused by 1) inflammation, 2) estrogen excess, and 3) progesterone deficiency. Sugar affects all those things. Primarily, it creates inflammation which impairs the healthy detoxification of estrogen, and also the production of progesterone.

Sugar also causes food cravings, which can become a lot worse in the last week of the cycle. When my patients quit sugar, they report significantly less PMS within just one to two cycles. They also benefit from magnesium supplements which both treat PMS and improve sugar cravings.

A period that just arrives. No headaches. No irritability. No food cravings. It is possible!

6. No period pain.

Sugar contributes to period pain because it causes inflammation, and because that inflammation impairs the absorption of key anti-pain minerals such as magnesium and zinc. Quitting sugar is just one part of a total treatment plan for period pain. I often also prescribe magnesium, zinc, turmeric and a dairy-free diet.

7. Lighter periods.

Sugar can cause heavy periods because insulin is a growth hormone which thickens the uterine lining (endometrium). As we saw in the PMS section above, sugar also impairs the production of progesterone, which is the best hormone to lighten periods.  So quitting sugar lightens periods in a number of ways. It reduces insulin, it boosts progesterone, and it also improves thyroid disease, which is another common cause of heavy periods.

We originally published this article in January 2016. We updated it in April 2017.

Lara Briden
Naturopath Lara Briden runs a hormone clinic in Sydney, Australia. Her book Period Repair Manual provides treatment solutions for PCOS, heavy periods, endometriosis and many other period problems.

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