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Diabetes and Insulin Resistance in Surgical Menopause

In Surgical Menopause, many women will often have concerns about their blood sugar.  Ladies who have had a prior diagnosis of Diabetes will find that it’s harder to regulate their blood sugar, and some women will be newly diagnosed with the disease as surgical menopause takes hold.  So does surgical menopause cause diabetes?  If so, what can be done about it?


The ovaries are part of a large, complex metabolic system that includes the adrenals, thyroid, sex hormones and insulin.  Unfortunately, insulin and blood glucose in relation to surgical menopause has not been thoroughly researched, so it leaves many ladies without clear information on how the two interact with each other.  The Mayo Clinic has shared information linking natural menopause and diabetes, so we can conclude that the same hormonal interactions exist in Surgical Menopause. 


Here is what we know:


Estrogen and Progesterone affect how your body responds to insulin:  While it is not entirely understood how estrogen and progesterone help control blood sugar and insulin levels, it is generally accepted that higher levels of estrogen improves insulin sensitivity, while higher levels of progesterone may decrease it.  When insulin sensitivity decreases, more insulin is needed to help glucose move into the cells.  Hormone instability, such as the drastic loss experienced in surgical menopause, can absolutely affect the amount of insulin the body is making and able to use internally. Women have reported that their blood sugar can become less predictable than before.


Here are some examples of complications that can arise due to blood sugar instability:


  • Changes in blood sugar levels: Unstable blood sugar and insulin

  • Weight gain: Since fat makes estrogen, low estrogen will cause the body to hold onto more fat cells.  Higher weight will increase the need for more insulin

  • Infections: Diabetics are more prone to vaginal and urinary tract infections.  Low estrogen and high blood sugar makes it more likely that bacteria and yeast will thrive in the body.

  • Sleep Problems: Hot flashes can disrupt sleep. Sleep deprivation can worsen blood sugar control

  • Sexual Problems: Diabetes can damage nerves in the vagina, causing pain during sex.


Here are a few things you can do to help offset the problems that unstable blood sugar can pose:


Healthy lifestyle choices:  Don’t underestimate the power of eating healthy foods and exercising.  Eating lean protein along with healthy fats, fruits and vegetables and limiting sugar and processed foods can do wonders for blood sugar and insulin control.  Exercise not only helps to regulate blood sugar, but also releases “feel good” chemicals that can help you feel your best in the post menopausal transition.  Getting enough water, sleep and reducing stress can also help lower blood sugar. 


Speak with your Doctor:  If you have been diagnosed with Diabetes or Insulin Resistance, your doctor may need to prescribe or adjust your medications.  Keeping a detailed log of your blood sugar and symptoms can be extremely helpful for doctors, who should prescribe a treatment plan for you.  Your doctor may also refer you to a licensed dietician to help with an eating plan. 


Use Hormone Replacement Therapy:  Women who were on a stable hormone replacement therapy had lower occurrences of Diabetes and Insulin Resistance.  However, there is some evidence that oral based HRTs have significant negative effects on insulin and insulin sensitivity. Oral estrogens have many effects on body chemistry since it passes through the digestive tract and liver.  Transdermal estrogens don’t metabolize the exact same way, so for women who already have a Diabetes diagnosis, avoiding oral estrogens may help improve their blood sugar control. 


Having Diabetes or Insulin Resistance can add some challenges to Surgical Menopause.  But working with a qualified doctor, and getting the best hormonal balance you can can ease the upheaval.

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