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. Diabetes and periods are closely related.
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 affect the sugar levels.
Progesterone is a hormone produced in the ovaries, which helps in regulating menstrual cycles, conception and pregnancy. Increased levels of progesterone can affect 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 their 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 hypoglycemia (low sugar levels). This may be due to the increase in oestrogen which has an opposite effect on insulin as compared to progesterone.
Sometimes, before the menstrual cycle there can be an increase in craving for carbohydrates which explains the rise of blood sugar.
Diabetes and Periods – What are the effects?
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 hypoglycemia.
Diabetes and Periods- How can you control your blood sugar levels during periods?
Every woman is unique in a 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 hypoglycemia 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 fluctuating. 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 yoghurt 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 helps 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.
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.