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The link between diabetes & early menopause

The link between diabetes & early menopause

By: Shona Wilkinson

Menopause is a natural biological process that marks the end of a woman's reproductive years, presenting both common symptoms and less common symptoms. Recent research indicates that women with diabetes may experience this transition earlier than their non-diabetic counterparts. There is an intriguing connection between diabetes and early menopause that goes both ways. Here we discuss and consider the role of hormones and diet during menopause in managing these conditions.

The link between diabetes and early menopause

Studies reveal that women with diabetes are more likely to enter menopause at an earlier age. This finding raises questions about the potential bidirectional relationship between diabetes and menopause. 

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Does menopause influence diabetes risk?

Research suggests that the hormonal changes that occur during menopause can have an impact on a woman's risk of developing diabetes. The drop in oestrogen levels during menopause may affect how cells respond to insulin, leading to insulin resistance. This hormonal shift can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, especially in women who are already predisposed to the condition due to genetics or lifestyle factors. Learn more about the 10 symptoms of diabetes to look out for, and in 'What is insulin resistance?'. 

Oestrogen and progesterone's role in insulin response

Oestrogen and progesterone, two key hormones in a woman's reproductive cycle, can influence how cells respond to insulin. Oestrogen tends to have a positive effect, improving insulin sensitivity and promoting glucose uptake by the body's cells. On the other hand, progesterone's effects on insulin are more complex, potentially causing fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Visit our Menopause Hub for expert guidance on helping you thrive through all stages of menopause.

Types of diabetes linked to early menopause

While the exact type of diabetes associated with early menopause is not specified in available research studies, it is important to note that the risk of early menopause appears to be more pronounced in women with type 2 diabetes. This form of diabetes is often linked to lifestyle factors including obesity and physical inactivity, both of which can affect the timing of menopause. You may also enjoy reading 'Best foods for type 2 diabetes' by our nutritionists. 

The role of diet in managing diabetes and menopause

Diet plays a crucial role in managing both diabetes and the symptoms of menopause. A balanced diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean or plant proteins and healthy fats can help stabilise blood sugar levels and manage weight, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. Diet also plays a vital role in relieving symptoms of menopause - learn more in 'Nutrition for the menopause'.

Additionally, certain foods, including those high in phytoestrogens (for example, soy products), may help alleviate some menopausal symptoms by mimicking oestrogen's effects in the body. You can also find phytoestrogens in MenoFriend®, the best-selling natural supplement with clinically tested botanicals and minerals to relieve symptoms of menopause and peri-menopause

If you're unsure if your diet is supporting you, or if it contains the vital nutrients your body needs, we recommend completing your the free Diet Profile (it only takes 3 minutes) which shows you the nutrients your body needs and what you're diet provides. 

Preventing diabetes during menopause

To reduce the risk of developing diabetes during menopause, it's vital to focus on maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle. Regular physical activity, a balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight are key factors in diabetes prevention. Consulting a healthcare provider for regular check-ups and diabetes screenings is also important, especially for those with a family history of diabetes.

You may also be interested in reading 'Symptoms of high and low blood sugar' and 'Is oat milk good for diabetes?'.

Managing blood sugar during menopause

Women experiencing menopause should be even more vigilant in monitoring their blood sugar levels regularly. If insulin resistance becomes a concern, intervention may be necessary. Here are some important natural ingredients and supplements that can help you manage and regulate your body's blood sugar during menopause:

  • Chromium: Chromium is needed by the body to process blood sugar effectively, and a deficiency in chromium may lead to raised blood sugar levels.
  • Cinnamon: Cinnamon is well known for its ability to help control blood sugar levels. Adding cinnamon to foods and drinking cinnamon tea could help support blood sugar management when used alongside dietary changes. You may be interested in trying our 'Apple Rose Tarts (Ve)' recipe with cinnamon.
  • Complex carbohydrates and protein: Consuming a mix of complex carbohydrates and protein with every meal and snack helps to steady blood sugar levels and avoid peaks and dips. This helps you maintain steady blood sugar levels throughout the day. Discover the 'Best protein sources on a plant-based diet'.
  • Cut the sugar and alcohol: Eliminate all sugar and refined foods from your diet if you want to reduce your risk of diabetes and early menopause. Instead, enjoy whole grains and fresh fruit (no more than 2 portions of fruit per day though). Also make sure you avoid meal replacement shakes and powder supplements - not only are they ultra-processed foods, in the vast majority of cases they contain plant-sweeteners or artificial sweeteners, both of which are harmful to long term health. Learn more in 'Exposed: Plant-sweeteners and type 2 diabetes'. 

The link between diabetes and early menopause is a complex and intriguing one. Hormones like oestrogen and progesterone play significant roles in this relationship, affecting insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism.

To reduce the risk of diabetes during menopause, it's essential for women to prioritise a healthy lifestyle, including a well-balanced diet and regular exercise.

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