If I have diabetes, how can my period affect my blood glucose levels?

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If you have trouble keeping your blood glucose levels on target just before your period starts, you are not alone. A survey of 200 women with type 1 diabetes showed that in the week before their periods, 27 percent had problems with higher-than-normal blood glucose levels and 12 percent had lower-than-normal blood glucose levels. Another study revealed that among women under the age of 45 who were hospitalized for diabetic ketoacidosis, half were within several days of starting their periods. A survey of more than 400 women revealed that nearly 70 percent experienced problems with blood glucose levels during their premenstrual period. The problem was more common among women who considered themselves to suffer from the moodiness associated with premenstrual ­syndrome (PMS).

It’s difficult to pinpoint just how many women have problems with their blood glucose levels before menstruation. Many studies are based on surveys con­ducted after the fact and do not take physical activity and eating patterns into account.

You can find out for sure that your blood glucose levels are affected by your menstrual cycle by looking at your daily blood glucose records over the past few months. Mark the date that your period started for each month. Do you see any pattern? Are your blood glucose levels higher or lower than normal during the week before your period? If you are not recording your blood glucose levels, now may be a good time to start.

Here are some strategies to help control your glucose levels before your period:

  • If you use insulin, gradually increase your dose. Work with your healthcare team to add small increments, so that insulin levels are higher the last few days of your cycle, when blood glucose levels normally rise. One to two addi­tional units of insulin may be all it takes. It will take a little trial and error to figure out the right dose for you. As soon as menstruation begins, estrogen and ­progesterone levels drop. When this happens, return to your usual dose of insulin to lower your risk of ­hypoglycemia.
  • Eat at regular intervals, when possible. This will keep your blood glucose levels from swinging too much. Large blood glucose swings could contribute to some of the emotional and physical symptoms of PMS, which may in turn make variations in blood glucose levels worse.
  • Try to avoid eating extra carbohydrates. Keep a handy ­supply of crunchy veggies—for example, celery, radishes or cucumbers—and dip them in fat-free salsa.
  • Cut back on alcohol, chocolate and caffeine. They can affect both your blood glucose levels and your mood.
  • Be especially careful about your sodium intake, which causes ­bloating. Use pepper, fresh or powdered garlic, lemon, cayenne pepper or scallions to add some zing to food.
  • Try to be more physically active. Many women find that regular exercise diminishes mood swings, prevents excessive weight gain and makes it easier to manage blood glucose levels.

Continue Learning about Diabetes

Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus (MEL-ih-tus), often referred to as diabetes, is characterized by high blood glucose (sugar) levels that result from the body’s inability to produce enough insulin and/or effectively utilize the insulin. Diabetes ...

is a serious, life-long condition and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Diabetes is a disorder of metabolism (the body's way of digesting food and converting it into energy). There are three forms of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that accounts for five- to 10-percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes may account for 90- to 95-percent of all diagnosed cases. The third type of diabetes occurs in pregnancy and is referred to as gestational diabetes. Left untreated, gestational diabetes can cause health issues for pregnant women and their babies. People with diabetes can take preventive steps to control this disease and decrease the risk of further complications.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.