Here is something you’ve probably never been told: Perimenopause (the period leading up to menopause) and menopause are risk factors for developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes is a sugar metabolism disorder that affects 1 in 9 women where there is too much sugar (glucose) in the blood.
In type 2 diabetes, cells don’t respond properly to the hormone insulin – a condition called insulin resistance – and they receive no nourishment. Glucose, therefore, builds up in the body, leading to diabetes and eventually damaging blood vessels, tissue, organs, and limbs. The body makes insulin but has a hard time using it.
But why are we women at risk? Three big reasons:
- Perimenopause and menopause trigger major hormonal changes. Levels of estrogen and progesterone plummet, causing blood sugar levels to increase. Your body also becomes more resistant to insulin as a result.
- Being 45 years or older is a risk factor for diabetes on its own, so combining aging and fluctuating hormones ups your risk even more.
- With age, your metabolism slows down. This can lead to weight gain and increased body fat, both of which trigger insulin resistance and the progression to type 2 diabetes.
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to prevent these conditions, because if untreated, diabetes can lead to many other diseases and a shortened lifespan.
More Reasons We Want to Prevent Diabetes
One condition of concern is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal illness that can cause irregular menstrual cycles, fertility problems, excess male hormone levels, and cysts on the ovaries. High insulin levels are believed to contribute to the inflammation associated with PCOS.
In addition, many studies show that people with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes run a higher risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia later in life.
One reason has to do with insulin resistance. When brain cells don’t use insulin normally, your brain cannot work properly. Blood sugar piles up in the blood vessels in the brain, causing harmful fatty deposits that can lead to vascular dementia.
Excessive insulin can cause imbalances of chemicals in your brain too. The adverse effects of insulin resistance on the brain are so serious that many scientists feel that Alzheimer’s disease should be called type 3 diabetes.
This is all very tough news, but the good news is really good news. These days, if you are willing to make a few lifestyle changes and participate fully in self-care, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes can be prevented. Here are the steps you can take.
4 Ways to Prevent Insulin Resistance and Type 2 Diabetes
Follow a Healthy Diet
This will go a long way toward prevention, and even control type 2 diabetes if you have it. I recommend a Keto-Green eating plan. It combines the principles of ketogenic nutrition with alkaline eating – both of which have been found in research to be effective treatments for insulin resistance and diabetes.1
This dietary strategy is also anti-inflammatory. Preventing chronic inflammation can also help prevent diabetes and the complications associated with it.
For information on following a Keto-Green diet check out my new book MenuPause. If you have type 1 diabetes, consider following my Keto-Green Extreme plan also featured in the book. This plan is helpful for autoimmune disorders. We know that type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune process in the body that mistakenly destroys the insulin-producing cells or beta cells in the pancreas.
All three plans assist with hormonal balance too. But please consult your doctor prior to starting any new diet if you have insulin resistance or diabetes.
RELATED: The best way to stop stress eating.
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Consider bioidentical hormone therapy
Going on hormone therapy has numerous benefits in perimenopause and menopause, including the improvement of blood sugar levels. A 2001 study published in Diabetes Care of more than 15,000 women with type 2 diabetes found that women in their 60s who were on hormone therapy had A1C levels that were lower than women who were not on this therapy.2 A high A1C is a marker for diabetes.
Consider, too, using over-the-counter progesterone cream. I use a progesterone topical cream that has 20 milligrams of progesterone and 10 milligrams of pregnenolone per pump dosage in the evening at bedtime.
Note: It is best to work with a functional medicine doctor for hormonal testing and prescribing the exact dosages of hormones.
Avoid Endocrine Disruptors
Technically, an “endocrine disruptor” is any substance that alters, or mimics, normal hormone levels or functions in the body.
Many man-made chemicals such as dioxins, pesticides, and bisphenol A (found in plastics) are endocrine disruptors. They can cause insulin resistance (which leads to diabetes) and alter the function of insulin-secreting beta cells in the pancreas.
To protect yourself, eat organic foods and cruciferous vegetables as much as possible, stay hydrated, avoid plastic containers, and use natural cosmetics and cleaning products.
RELATED: Get started cleaning up your cleaning products.
Stay Fit to Prevent Diabetes
The more active you are, the more successful you will be at preventing insulin resistance and diabetes. A 2020 review article published in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology listed several key benefits of exercise (including cardio and resistance training).3
For the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes, exercise:
- Improves insulin sensitivity
- Reduces A1C
- Normalizes blood sugar
- Improves inflammation markers
- Reduces cardiovascular risk factors
- Reduces body fat percentage
- Enhances lean muscle mass
If you’re interested in learning more about insulin issues in menopause, order your copy of Menupause now and start reaping the many benefits of my recommended dietary plans. You can also learn more about diabetes by watching my free master class: Diabetes, Prediabetes & Women
Share with your friends who want to live healthier lives!
Dr. Anna Cabeca, DO, OBGYN, FACOG, is triple-board certified and a fellow of gynecology and obstetrics, integrative medicine, and anti-aging and regenerative medicine. She has special certifications in functional medicine, sexual health, and bioidentical hormone replacement therapy.
For the past 20 years, she’s served 10,000+ women in her private practice— and millions more through her books, online videos, and articles.
When her own health took a troubling turn during menopause, she sought out the wisdom of healers around the world. She learned that modern medicine and time-tested natural remedies are not at odds. Working together, they create indisputable results and true well-being. Using delicious, healing foods and simple lifestyle changes, Dr. Anna reclaimed her health and life.
Fueled by her belief that every woman deserves to be empowered and in control of their health and life, she developed the Keto-Green lifestyle, which has helped thousands of women opt out of menopause misery and experience a joyful transition to the next stage of their lives. With her methods, you, too, can breeze through menopause into your “second spring”, feeling the best you ever have.
- Bolla, A. M., Caretto, A., Laurenzi, A., Scavini, M., & Piemonti, L. (2019). Low-Carb and Ketogenic Diets in Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes. Nutrients, 11(5), 962. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11050962
- Ferrara, A., Karter, A.J., Ackerson, L.M., Liu, J.Y., Selby, J.V. (2001, July 1). Hormone Replacement Therapy Is Associated With Better Glycemic Control in Women With Type 2 Diabetes, Diabetes Care 2001;24(7):1144–1150 https://doi.org/10.2337/diacare.24.7.1144
- Whillier, S. (2020) Exercise, and Insulin Resistance. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, 1228, 137-150. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-15-1792-1_9