Menopause and Insulin Resistance
Are you feeling the heat of menopause? Hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings—the list goes on! But did you know that many women experience another sneaky symptom during this time? It’s called insulin resistance, and it’s not something you want to ignore.
Insulin resistance means your body has trouble using the hormone insulin, which regulates your blood sugar levels.
This can lead to a host of issues, from weight gain and fatigue to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases. And unfortunately, menopause can make this problem even worse. But fear not!
In this blog post, we’re going to dive deep into insulin resistance and menopause, exploring why it happens, what it means for your health, and most importantly, how you can take steps to prevent and manage it.
What Is Insulin Resistance?
Insulin helps your cells use carbohydrates for energy. It’s the key that unlocks the door to your cells, allowing glucose (sugar) to enter and provide energy.
When you become insulin resistant, your cells don’t respond to insulin as well as they should. This means that your body has to make more insulin to get the same amount of glucose into your cells.
Symptoms of Menopause and Insulin Resistance
- High blood sugar levels
- Increased hunger and cravings
- Weight gain, especially around the waistline
- Difficulty losing weight
- Dark patches of skin on the neck, armpits, and groin area
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol levels
- Increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes
Causes of Menopause and Insulin Resistance
During menopause, there are changes in hormone levels that can affect the way your body uses insulin.
Specifically, the hormone estrogen plays a role in maintaining insulin sensitivity, or the ability of your cells to respond to insulin. Therefore, as estrogen levels decrease during menopause, insulin sensitivity can also decrease, leading to insulin resistance.
Additionally, weight gain and physical inactivity, which are common during menopause, can contribute to insulin resistance. Other factors such as genetics, certain medications, and medical conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can also cause insulin resistance.
Insulin Resistance and Hot Flashes
There is still much to learn about the relationship between insulin resistance and hot flashes. Yet some evidence points towards a connection. Insulin resistance can cause inflammation, contributing to the severity of hot flashes.
Additionally, insulin resistance can affect the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels, which may contribute to hot flashes.
It is important to note that hot flashes can have many different causes. Thus, not all women who experience hot flashes have insulin resistance.
Insulin Resistance and Weight Gain
Weight gain is one of the most annoying symptoms of menopause, and insulin resistance can be a contributing factor.
When you become insulin resistant, your cells don’t respond to insulin as well as they should. As a result, your body has to make more insulin, which can encourage fat storage.
This is why many women find it difficult to lose weight during menopause, even if they eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly.
How to Diagnose Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance can be diagnosed through a blood test that measures glucose and insulin levels in the blood.
- Fasting plasma glucose test: This tests your blood sugar levels after not eating for 8 hours
- Glucose tolerance test: This tests your blood sugar levels 2 hours after drinking a sugary drink
- Hemoglobin A1c test: -This tests the average glucose level in your blood over 3 months What Can You Do About It?
Preventing Insulin Resistance During Menopause
There are lifestyle changes that women can make to reduce their risk of insulin resistance during menopause.
Physical activity is an important tool. It helps to maintain a healthy weight, improve insulin sensitivity, and reduce inflammation in the body.
Women in menopause should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week, such as brisk walking, cycling, or swimming.
Resistance training, such as weight lifting, can also help to maintain muscle mass and improve insulin sensitivity.
Maintaining muscle mass is especially important for women over 40. Exercises such as pilates, power yoga, total body workout gym classes, and using resistance bands work great.
Eat a Balanced Diet
Eating a balanced diet is crucial. Women in menopause should focus on a diet high in fiber, fruits, vegetables, and lean protein sources.
Avoiding processed foods, sugary drinks, and excessive amounts of red and processed meats can also help reduce insulin resistance risk.
It is important to maintain a healthy weight, as excess body fat can increase the risk of insulin resistance.
Get a 5-day meal plan for the menopause diet here.
Stress can have a negative impact on the body and increase the risk of insulin resistance. Women in menopause should practice stress-reducing activities such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing, or other relaxation techniques.
Getting enough sleep can also help to reduce stress levels.
Drinking enough water can help reduce inflammation and the risk of insulin resistance. Women in menopause should aim to drink at least 8-10 cups of water per day.
The Bottom Line
Menopause can increase a woman’s risk for insulin resistance, a condition in which the body does not respond properly to insulin. This can lead to serious health complications such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
To reduce the risk of developing insulin resistance during menopause, women should focus on making lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, reducing stress, quitting smoking, and staying hydrated.
Dr. Su-Nui Escobar is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist in Miami, FL. She is passionate about helping women over 40 live their best lives through healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle. Su-Nui is a doctor in clinical nutrition, able to translate complicated evidence-based science into practical advice. Su-Nui is the former spokesperson of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.