Understanding Blood Sugar Changes During Menopause

blood sugar during menopause

Welcome to the roller coaster ride of menopause, where hot flashes are the new weather forecast and sound sleep is a thing of the past.  It’s no wonder irritability is listed as a symptom of menopause when you’re dealing with hot flashes, hormonal changes, and libido changes.  Allow me to introduce another aspect of menopause (just when you thought things couldn’t get any crazier)… blood sugar.  Blood sugar changes are an aspect of menopause that has the ability to impact multiple aspects of our health.  Given the impact that blood sugar has on our mood, weight, and focus, stabilizing blood sugar can help to produce a sense of stability during a time with so many changes. In this blog post, we will explore the connection between menopause and blood sugar, common symptoms to look out for, how diet and exercise play a role in managing blood sugar, the impact of stress, and when to seek medical advice for blood sugar management.

Hormonal Influence on Blood Sugar

hormones and menopause

Navigating the hormonal shifts during menopause can feel like a complex journey, and understanding how these changes affect your blood sugar levels is just part of this process. It's important to grasp the role of hormones, particularly estrogen, in this process. Estrogen is not just about reproductive health; it also has a significant influence on how your body manages sugar. With the onset of menopause, the natural decline in estrogen levels can lead to a decrease in insulin sensitivity, meaning your body might not handle sugar as efficiently as before. This can result in higher blood sugar levels, which is something to keep an eye on for maintaining optimal health during menopause.

This hormonal shift can also contribute indirectly to changes in body composition, such as an increase in abdominal fat, which is known to affect blood sugar management. It's a double-edged sword, as these changes can make your body less responsive to insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels.

Awareness of these connections is your first step towards effective management. By understanding how menopause influences your body's approach to blood sugar, you can adopt strategies that support your health during this time. It's all about adapting to your routine to be able to maintain some consistency and balance your wellness routine. With the right approach, managing blood sugar during menopause can become a manageable part of your journey to staying healthy and vibrant.

Common Symptoms of Blood Sugar Changes During Menopause 

symptoms of high blood sugar during menopause

Recognizing the signs of blood sugar fluctuations during menopause is key to managing your health proactively. Each woman's experience is unique, but there are several symptoms that may hint at changes in your blood sugar levels. Feeling unusually fatigued or finding yourself reaching for a glass of water more often than usual could be your body's way of signaling that your blood sugar is off balance. Similarly, if trips to the restroom become more frequent or your vision seems a bit blurrier than before, these could also be signs that your blood sugar levels are fluctuating. Difficulty in focusing or concentrating on tasks at hand is another common symptom that shouldn't be overlooked.

While these signs can be unsettling, they serve as important cues from your body, urging you to pay attention to your blood sugar levels. Recognizing these symptoms early on can empower you to take the necessary steps towards maintaining your well-being during this phase of life. It's all about tuning into your body and responding with care and attention to what it needs. With the right approach to diet, exercise, and stress management, as discussed in this blog, you can navigate the shifts in your blood sugar during menopause with confidence and ease.  Remember, you know your body best and if you get the feeling that something is “off” then please consult with a healthcare professional.

Common Blood Sugar Changes During Menopause 

blood sugar during menopause

1. Insulin Resistance:

Reduced estrogen levels can lead to insulin resistance, where cells become less responsive to insulin, resulting in higher blood sugar levels or elevated HbA1c.

2. Weight Gain:

Changes in hormone levels during menopause can contribute to weight gain, particularly around the abdomen, which is associated with insulin resistance and elevated blood sugar.

3. Vaginal infections:

High blood sugar has been linked to an increased risk of urinary tract and vaginal infections. The drop in estrogen levels that accompanies menopause further increases this risk as it creates an easier environment for yeast and bacteria to thrive.

4. Glucose Intolerance:

Some women may experience impaired glucose tolerance, where the body has difficulty processing glucose efficiently, leading to higher blood sugar levels after meals.

5. Fluctuating Blood Sugar:

Menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats can disrupt sleep patterns. This disruption can be understandably stressful and lead to glucose dysregulation.

Strategies for Managing Blood Sugar During Menopause 

exercise during menopause

1. Focus on Food Choices: Focus on a diet rich in fiber, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats to support stable blood sugar levels, hormones, and mood.

During menopause, your diet becomes a pivotal tool in helping you manage those tricky blood sugar levels. What you eat can either be your best ally or a challenging obstacle in maintaining a healthy balance. By focusing on nourishing your body with the right kinds of foods, you can significantly influence how your body copes with the hormonal changes affecting your blood sugar.

Incorporating a variety of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables into your meals provides a steady source of energy that keeps blood sugar levels stable, avoiding the peaks and troughs that sugary snacks and refined carbs can cause. Try to make your plate colorful. Different colors signify a range of phytonutrients and vitamins in your food.  Consuming a range of colors helps to make sure you’re getting a healthy balance of vitamins and minerals.  Additionally, lean proteins and healthy fats, like those found in avocados and nuts, are key players, helping to slow down the release of glucose into your bloodstream, keeping those sugar levels more consistent.

Remember, it’s not just about what you add to your diet but also what you may need to limit. Reducing your intake of processed foods, sugary treats, and beverages can prevent unnecessary spikes in your blood sugar.  This can help to keep hormones, weight, and mood more stable.

2. Stay Active: Regular physical activity helps improve insulin sensitivity, manage weight, build muscle, and regulate blood sugar levels.

Physical activity can be one of the most powerful ways to combat aging, stabilize weight, hormones, and blood sugar. 

When you integrate consistent exercise into your routine, you’re not just boosting your mood and energy levels; you’re also enhancing your body’s ability to utilize insulin. This increased insulin sensitivity means your body can manage glucose more effectively, keeping those blood sugar levels more balanced. A good sign that your insulin is functioning efficiently is to have blood sugar levels return to pre-meal within two hours after finishing your food.

Whether it’s a daily walk in the park, a swim, or a spin class, finding an activity you enjoy ensures that exercise becomes a part of your everyday life rather than a chore. Additionally, incorporating strength training a couple of times a week (2-3 times is ideal) can be particularly beneficial as strength is directly tied to longevity. Muscles are great glucose consumers, and by increasing your muscle mass through exercises like weight lifting or resistance training, you can create a more efficient glucose-processing machine within your body. This approach not only helps in maintaining stable blood sugar levels but also supports bone health, which is especially crucial during the menopausal transition. If you’re new to the gym or want to start with at-home workouts then check out our Beginner’s Guide to Resistance Training in Your Living Room (complete with sample workout programs).

Embrace the power of exercise as a dynamic ally in your journey through menopause. Shoot for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week of 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise. By staying active, you’re giving your body the support it needs to navigate the changes it’s going through, ensuring that you can maintain a vibrant and healthy lifestyle.

If you’re looking for easy ways to increase your physical activity check out our blog: “7 Ways to Add More Physical Activity to Your Day Without Going to the Gym.”

3. Manage Stress: Practice stress-reducing techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or mindfulness to minimize stress-induced blood sugar fluctuations. 

manage stress

The journey through menopause is often accompanied by its fair share of stressors, both physical and emotional. It's crucial to understand how this stress can influence your blood sugar levels during such a pivotal time. The connection between stress and blood sugar is more significant than many realize. Under stress, your body's instinctual 'fight or flight' response kicks in, releasing hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones are designed to provide you with a quick energy boost. However, they also raise your blood sugar levels as part of that process. During menopause, when your body is already navigating hormonal fluctuations, the added impact of stress can exacerbate blood sugar imbalances.

Managing stress becomes an essential part of maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. Simple, yet effective strategies like engaging in regular physical activity, practicing mindfulness or meditation, and prioritizing good sleep can make a world of difference. Each of these activities helps to lower stress hormones in the body, mitigating their effect on your blood sugar. Creating a supportive network of friends, family, or joining support groups can also provide emotional comfort and stress relief.

By acknowledging the impact of stress and adopting healthy coping mechanisms, you can better support your body through menopause. Remember, managing stress is not just about reducing unwelcome feelings; it's about taking proactive steps to ensure your body's systems, including blood sugar regulation, function optimally during this transformative period.

4. Get Regular Checkups: Monitor blood sugar levels regularly and consult with healthcare providers for personalized guidance and management strategies.

Navigating the shifts in your blood sugar during menopause with lifestyle adjustments is a great first step, but sometimes, additional support is necessary. If you find yourself grappling with symptoms that suggest your blood sugar levels might be consistently too high or too low, despite your best efforts, it’s time to reach out to a healthcare professional. Whether it's experiencing unusual fatigue, persistent thirst, frequent urination, blurred vision, or difficulty concentrating, these signs shouldn't be overlooked. You know your body best so if you feel usual then don’t delay a visit to your provider. Your doctor can offer a comprehensive evaluation through blood tests and tailor a management plan that fits your unique health needs. This might include medication, hormone replacement therapy (HRT), lifestyle changes, or a combination to ensure your blood sugar levels are well-controlled. Remember, seeking medical advice is a proactive step towards safeguarding your health and ensuring you can enjoy this phase of your life to the fullest. With a partnership between you and your healthcare provider, managing blood sugar during menopause can be a smoother, more manageable journey.

Final (Hot) Flashes of Knowledge 

menopause symptoms

Menopause can bring about changes in hormonal balance that may affect blood sugar levels and increase the risk of insulin resistance and glucose intolerance. Remember these tips to help effectively manage blood sure ding menopause and promote overall well-being.

  1. Adopt a blood sugar friendly diet- minimize processed foods and sugary drinks, focus on lean proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates (like fibrous vegetables and legumes)
  2. Monitor blood sugar levels- whether this is on your own with a glucometer or CGM (continuous glucose monitor) or with the help of your physician, keep on eye on your blood sugar. Try to have blood sugar come back to pre-meal levels within 2 hours after eating and shoot for a reasonable fasting blood glucose upon waking.
  3. Stay active- shoot for 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of high-intensity physical activity per week. Incorporate resistance training to help improve insulin sensitivity, muscle mass, and bone health.
  4. Manage stress- this is arguably the most challenging one but be proactive and prioritize self-care as much as possible.
  5. Seek professional guidance- you don’t have to go through this change alone. Seek professional guidance for any mental or physical needs. Regular healthcare checkups and personalized strategies are essential for maintaining optimal blood sugar control and minimizing the risk of metabolic complications.




Author: Dr. Colleen Gulick