Blood Sugar Imbalances, Diabetes and the Menopausal Transition

blood sugar Oct 03, 2019

With the reduction of estrogen, also comes an increased risk of blood sugar irregularities and Type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately, 1 in 3 women post menopausally will develop type 2 diabetes. As estrogen supports the pathways that regulate insulin and blood sugar levels, this function diminishes as the hormone level drops. Nothing is more important than a healthy diet at this stage of life. By a healthy diet, I mean a whole food, unprocessed diet, based on adequate-protein, abundant vegetables, salad, fruit, and good fats. What you need to be avoiding is sugar or highly processed foods as they are hidden sources of sugar. For more information see the Menopause Nutrition Basics articles.


But having a healthy diet alone isn't enough to prevent diabetes. Excessive stress can also contribute to this diagnosis. And who these days isn't stressed? Although I can not wave a magic wand and remove excessive stress, I can recommend you increase your stress management tools, things like exercise, meditating, breathing, sleeping, all help improve your tolerance or your response to stress. These lifestyle factors are key to helping you reduce your blood sugar spikes.  As when you are stressed, your body produces additional cortisol. This hormone liberates stored sugar into active blood sugar to provide you with energy to run away from danger. Have you ever been that stressed that you feel shaky? This is the stress response telling you to run and escape the stressor. If you don’t run and burn this additional sugar, insulin is then produced to store it away again for another day. If this keeps happening, it can lead to insulin resistance or prediabetes.


Blood sugar imbalances produce similar symptoms as the menopausal transition. If you are experiencing any or all of these symptoms you need to rule out blood sugar irregularities before putting all the blame on your hormones:

  • hot flushes
  • fatigue
  • brain fog
  • weight gain
  • issues getting to sleep
  • issues staying asleep
  • bad moods (irritable, aggressive, snappy)
  • recurrent headaches
  • digestive issues
  • frequent infections
  • feeling short of breath
  • skin outbreaks
  • inflammation and pain
  • feeling dizzy
  • trembling hands
  • hair loss


There are 3 blood tests I recommend to help you assess how balanced your blood sugar levels are. Please note these must be tested in a FASTING state.

  • Glucose - active blood sugar level
  • Insulin - this hormone is released when carbohydrates are ingested or when call apon by your cortisol - your stress hormones. Insulin signals for the storage of sugars and the stockpiling of fats.
  • HbA1c - Glycated hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein found in red blood cells. When glucose builds up in your blood it binds to hemoglobin. This test measures how much glucose is bound. As red blood cells live for about 3 months, this test shows the average level of glucose in your blood over the past 3 months.


If you have already developed diabetes, it's important to be aware that the menopausal transition will play havoc on your blood sugar readings. Some women will require additional medications or increased doses of their existing medication to stabilise their readings. 


Did you realise Type 2 diabetes is reversible? It's a lifestyle disease and lifestyle diseases can be corrected by generally doing the opposite of what gave you the disease in the first place. So, replacing inactivity with regular exercise, replacing sleepless nights with adequate rest or replacing processed foods and sugars with organic meals high in protein, good fats, and vegetables. It’s your life, so it's your choice.


Supplements to consider:

  • Chromium - reduces cravings and enhances the action of insulin
  • Inositol - reduces blood glucose
  • Vitamin D - deficiency is linked to metabolic syndrome, it also helps prevent diabetes
  • Resveratrol - reduces the accelerated aging response from high blood glucose
  • Alpha-lipoic acid - this antioxidant protects against free radical damage and is especially important if you are diabetic. It can prevent and treat peripheral neuropathy. I’ve seen it work wonders with diabetic-related foot issues.
  • Magnesium - helps reduce cravings, helps balance blood sugar levels and diabetes have a higher need for magnesium


Herbs to consider:

  • Gymnema - this is an Indian herb also called "the sugar destroyer". 
  • Cinnamon - increases insulin sensitivity and lowers blood sugar levels

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