Written by Yoppie
18 Jan 2021
How is blood sugar connected to your period?
What if you have diabetes?
How does each point in your cycle affect blood sugar?
Managing blood glucose levels alongside your cycle
In the words of Def Leppard, pour some sugar on meeeeee. Except maybe when menstruating? If you have blood sugar issues, experience hypoglycemia or suffer from diabetes, then you may have noticed fluctuations during your menstrual cycle thanks to constantly changing hormone levels. These changes can be difficult to manage in themselves, never mind the added stress of sensitivity to insulin.
If you suffer from diabetes and your hormones seem unpredictable, trying to manage your blood sugar alongside this can be challenging. One solution won’t suit everyone, but here are a few things you might want to know about this frustrating but important topic...
It’s all about those pesky hormones. Estrogen and progesterone control both your menstrual cycle and your blood glucose, so when you experience fluctuations in your blood sugar levels it can often be attributed to a certain point in your monthly cycle. When estrogen and progesterone are at their highest level, they affect insulin, which is also a hormone. This can cause your blood glucose to rise if your body becomes more resistant to the effects of insulin.
You may not notice a difference, or you might be one of the unlucky ones who experience slight rises in blood glucose and get all the symptoms to match, like increased thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, tummy pain, and more. There is no one-size-fits-all answer here - everyone has a different experience.
If you suffer from either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you may experience much more noticeable and significant changes in your blood sugar before and during your period. This can include a difference in energy levels, libido, appetite and mood, so understanding how this bodily system operates can help you manage it with relative ease in the long term.
Top tip: If you are diabetic, you may find it useful to record your blood glucose results alongside tracking your menstrual cycle to identify patterns.
Diabetic or not, the menstrual cycle is entirely different for each person and can vary by month. However, On Track Diabetes offers a rough guide to what’s happening to your blood sugar in relation to your menstrual cycle.
They explain that there are 4 primary hormones affecting the menstrual cycle; estrogen, progesterone, Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH).
Each hormone affects blood sugar and sensitivity to insulin differently. Let’s look at the whole cycle, starting with the first day of your period.
Day 1-10: Hello period! You may experience higher blood sugars and insulin resistance on the first day, but insulin sensitivity should revert back to normal for the rest of your period, and a few days after it ends.
Day 11 - 14: You’re ovulating, so you may experience higher (and somewhat erratic) blood sugar levels and insulin resistance once again. When your body is prepping to release an egg, the levels of LH, FSH and estrogen all rise, which can cause a spike in your blood sugar lasting 2-3 days, max.
Day 15 - 20: The roller coaster that is your blood sugar level drops closer to its typical level for a few days.
Day 21 - 28: … and up we go again! This is the point in your cycle, known as the mid-luteal phase, where you’re more likely to experience significant insulin resistance and higher blood sugar levels in the days before you start your next period. And then the cycle begins all over again!
If you are diabetic and already carefully managing your blood sugar levels, you’ll probably have this down to a fine art. But if you experience particularly bad PMS symptoms (premenstrual syndrome) like mood swings and bloating, then it can be all the more challenging. You may find it helpful to control these menstrual symptoms through use of hormonal contraception, such as the pill or injection, but it is worth bearing in mind that these can impact your blood sugar control too.
One symptom to watch out for is food cravings, as these can easily affect blood glucose levels. A craving for carbs or sweets combined with a lack of physical activity around your period could affect this, so always be aware of your body’s reaction to certain times of the month, and don’t be afraid to ask your GP if you experience any issues that you feel negatively affect your daily life.
Want to minimise food cravings? Here are a few tips:
If you have any questions or concerns about how your blood glucose levels are affected by fluctuating hormones during your menstrual cycle, talk to your GP about how they can help you better understand what your body is doing, effectively monitor your levels, and stay healthy.
Got questions about blood sugar and your period? Ask away over on Instagram at @itsyoppie! If we don’t have the answer, we’ll point you in the direction of the info you need. You've got enough going on at that time of the month so don't forget that our personalised period box can get organic cotton tampons, and much more, delivered through your letterbox. That's a few less things to worry about each cycle!
Yeung EH, Zhang C, Mumford SL, et al. Longitudinal study of insulin resistance and sex hormones over the menstrual cycle: the BioCycle Study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2010; 95: 5435–5442.
Brown SA, Jiang B, McElwee-Malloy M, et al. Fluctuations of Hyperglycemia and Insulin Sensitivity Are Linked to Menstrual Cycle Phases in Women With T1D. J Diabetes Sci Technol 2015; 9: 1192–1199.
Cortés ME, Alfaro AA. The effects of hormonal contraceptives on glycemic regulation. Linacre Q 2014; 81: 209–218.
Fact checked by Doctor Brooke Vandermolen.
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