Diabetes is a chronic condition which does not discriminate between genders. However, women have a different set of difficulties with regards to overseeing diabetes. Every woman has a different cycle of menstruation ranging from 20 to 40 days or more. And in some cases, the cycle changes regularly.
Unusually long or infrequent menstrual cycles might be connected to insulin resistance. This acts as a barrier to process sugar and supply glucose to sugar levels.
Why do periods affect sugar levels?
Now that we have stated the relation between diabetes and periods, we should know why periods affect sugar levels.
Hormones are chemical substances that are secreted by glands to control body functions from simple to complex systems. Surprisingly, the hormones that control the menstruation cycle also effects the sugar levels.
Progesterone is a hormone produced in the ovaries, which helps in regulating menstrual cycles, conception and pregnancy. Increased level of progesterone can affect in insulin sensitivity.
Oestrogen is a key hormone to see how your cells respond to insulin. Oestrogen also regulates insulin resistance.
Both these hormones are at highest before periods start. As these hormones also play a role in insulin resistance, more insulin is required to keep the sugar levels in control.
Although it is common amongst most women to experience high sugar levels, some women experience hypoglycaemia (low sugar levels). This may be due to the increase in oestrogen which has an opposite effect on insulin as compared to progesterone.
- Increased appetite
Sometimes, before menstrual cycle there can be an increase in craving for carbohydrates which explains the rise of blood sugar.
Can periods have any effect on diabetes?
Unusual periods indicate metabolic changes that increase risks of insulin resistance. Hence, there are ways when periods affect diabetes.
- There is usually a spike in sugar levels before the menstruation cycle begins.
- Women and girls sometimes experience hypoglycaemia.
How can I control blood sugar during periods?
Every woman is unique in different way. Some may find their blood sugar to spike before their periods while some might not notice any difference. In fact, there are chances that few might experience hypoglycaemia before their menstruation cycle. Before making any changes to your lifestyle, try to know your pattern.
- In Type 1 diabetes, the fasting blood sugar usually rises before your period. However, adjusting the overnight insulin can help. Also, when your periods start and if you notice a drop in sugar levels, re-adjust your insulin level. Make sure you consult your diabetes educator about the same. With Type 2 diabetes, it is advisable to not take insulin but regular physical activity is a must. This would give you more energy, controlled sugar levels and lesser menstruation side effects.
- Eating low carbohydrate food during periods will help you crave less for food which is high in carbohydrates, high in GI and high in sugar. Chocolates, caffeine and alcohol can make you feel less edgy and affect your mind. Foods which are low in carbohydrates (Glycaemic Index) should be consumed to keep your sugar levels fluctuate. This will help you stay full for a longer period and help you not overeat.
- Try eating in small intervals. If you do eat regularly, then you might reduce the intake of carbohydrate portions during meals to make room for healthy snacking. Fresh or dried fruit, low-fat yogurt or multi-grain bread is considered to be healthy snacks.
- Limit your salt intake to avoid bloating.
- Regular exercise is a must. This helps you to keep sugar levels in control and help you feel better.
- Make note of the dates of your periods to keep a track. This will help you to increase the insulin intake a few days before the period starts. As we say, every woman is unique in a different way and therefore periods are one of many factors that can affect sugar levels.
- Pills that prevent pregnancy/ regulate periods can affect the sugar levels because of the hormones present in the pills. Notice your sugar pattern when taking these pills. Moreover, consult your diabetes educator to make any changes in lifestyle.
PCOS and Diabetes
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition which has afflicted millions of women. It is similar to pre-diabetes as both the conditions are similar. PCOS is also called the disease of hormones. The common symptoms of PCOS are:
- Irregular or absent periods
- Women also produce testosterone, a male sex hormone. Elevated levels of testosterone can result in growth of facial hairs and body.
In PCOS, the initial stage starts with insulin resistance. This is similar in Type 2 where the body resists insulin. In some cases, the insulin stimulates the body to produce excess testosterone which results in facial hair, baldness and acne and may subdue the female hormones that release eggs. This is why women with PCOS often find it difficult to conceive.
Since PCOS causes high sugar levels, women need to go for early screening before pregnancy to check gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is a condition where the body finds it difficult to process sugar. The high sugars can result in complications during delivery for the baby and the mother. A balanced diet is required to keep diabetes in check.
The symptoms and treatment of PCOS is somewhere related to Diabetes. And hence, both can be managed by a proper diet and exercise regime.
Menopause and Diabetes
Menopause, a natural change in the body when the reproductive hormones also fluctuates sugar levels usually occurs after the 40s. In some cases, menopause occurs early due to removal of ovaries for other medical reasons. When menopause and diabetes go together, there are certain complications which should be looked out for:
- Diabetes and menopause changes the way the body responds to insulin. The decrease in the secretion of oestrogen and progesterone causes problems in diabetes management. During the initial years of menopause, the female hormones are unstable and fluctuate often. Oestrogen and progesterone works the opposite way. Where oestrogen improves insulin sensitivity, progesterone causes insulin resistance. During this phase, you can notice the fluctuation in sugar levels.
- Women also tend to experience weight gain during the initial stages of menopause. This also affects blood sugars as weight gain is considered to cause problems in diabetes management. As oestrogen levels drop, the body starts building fat near the belly and a muffin top appears within no time.
- High blood sugar during menopause can cause infections such as urinary tract and vaginal infections. During menopause, when the oestrogen levels drop, the bacteria and yeast can thrive in the urinary tract and vagina which increase the risk of infections.
- Diabetes can damage the nerves of the cells that line the vagina. This causes problems in arousal and orgasm.
- With menopause, if a person is suffering from Type 2 diabetes, then you are at high risk of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a condition where the walls of the arteries get fattened due to build-up of fatty material. This increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack or stroke.
Menstruation is part of a woman’s life- with or without diabetes. Therefore, the only thing that can be controlled is diabetes. With proper medication and regular monitoring, diabetes management can be made simpler. BeatO is a diabetes management organisation which helps you keep to sugar levels in check by continuous support of diabetes educators.
Control diabetes the smart way!