Diabetes is an insulin-based disease, which means it occurs because of a disruption of the hormone insulin that the body produces, messing up blood sugar levels and throwing bodily systems out of whack. Since it is so closely tied to hormones, it can have some intertwined effects with your menstrual cycle.
HORMONES AND BLOOD GLUCOSE
Ah, the yin and the yang of periods and diabetes. A few days before and throughout your menstruation begins, your body will undergo some changes in hormone levels, particularly estrogen and progesterone. As such, your blood sugar levels may be more difficult to control. Progesterone has been shown by studies to be associated with increased insulin resistance – i.e. during the back half of your cycle, when those progesterone levels are higher, you will have a lower insulin resistance, which naturally leads to more hyperglycemic instances.
Guess what? When it comes to frequency of periods, the onset of menstruation and even the beginning of menopause, diabetes can very much affect occurrence and timing.
Type 1 diabetes tends to correlate to a shorter time-span of reproductive years. This means you may experience your first period later than your peers, you may have a longer time between cycles and you may also enter into menopause earlier than most. This does not apply to Type 2 diabetes quite as much.
RISK OF CERTAIN CANCERS
Not a fun thing to hear, but something to be aware of nonetheless: diabetes can correlate to a high risk of endometrial cancer. Since that particular cancer is the most commonly reported gynecologic cancer and is thought to be closely associated with both elevated levels of insulin and a body’s insulin resistance, women who are living with Type 2 diabetes may be especially at risk.
Being significantly overweight, too, further increases the likelihood and risk of endometrial cancer. A higher BMI can already disrupt regular menstrual cycles and, during those cycles, your uterine lining gets hit with waves of estrogen without that progesterone shield, which encourages endometrial growth.
As we mentioned before, menstruation and diabetes both are closely related by fluctuating hormones. That balance can particularly screw you up if you have Type 1 diabetes, as your higher blood sugars a few days before menstruation mean more crazed hormones which can then lead to periods that, unfortunately, last longer and have you bleeding more heavily than women who do not have diabetes.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
You can always take some preventative measures to make sure you are tackling potential period problems head-on:
If you experience heavy bleeding, invest in a pair of PantyProp’s leak-proof underwear to be at ease.
Make healthy food choices (low salt, low sugar, cut the caffeine) to help mitigate symptoms
You may need to temporarily increase your insulin dosage to keep those blood sugars in a good range
Get at least eight hours of sleep each night