Menopause and Diabetes

Menopause and diabetes will be discussed on this page, after learning exactly what diabetes is.

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder characterized by our body’s decreased ability or complete inability to utilize carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are normally broken down within the body in the form of glucose, our body’s main energy source.

Insulin is the protein hormone created in the beta cells of the pancreas, and it is secreted into the blood stream in response to high levels of glucose in the blood. Insulin is essential for transporting the glucose in the blood across the cell membranes where it is converted into energy.

mature woman having hot flash

Our body cannot absorb glucose directly into its cells, so insulin must be present in order for glucose to get into our cells and be put to work.

However, for someone with diabetes there is an insufficient production of insulin and therefore the glucose is prevented from getting to the cells and being converted to energy.

Instead the glucose accumulates in the bloodstream. When this happens the result is symptoms ranging from mental confusion to coma. Some of the major symptoms of diabetes are: excessive thirst, frequent urination, increased appetite and loss of weight.

Types Of Diabetes

There are two major types of diabetes:

Type I Diabetes is also called insulin dependent diabetes. This is sometimes referred to as juvenile diabetes because it most often begins in childhood, but it can also occur in adults.

Because the body does not manufacture insulin, people with Type I Diabetes must take insulin shots to live. Less than ten percent of people who have diabetes have Type I.

Type II Diabetes is also called adult-onset-diabetes. In this case the body may make insulin, but either it makes too little insulin or the body cannot use what insulin it makes. In other words, the body makes insulin but it cannot convert the glucose in the blood so it can be utilized by the cells of the body.

This is called insulin resistance where the cells of our body become less and less responsive to our own insulin and so not enough glucose is allowed to enter our cells. Type II

Diabetes occurs most commonly in people over age forty.

Menopause And Diabetes

As women when we enter our 40’s we may begin experiencing symptoms of peri menopause as our estrogen and progesterone levels fluctuate and begin decreasing.

These symptoms include: fatigue, sweating, dizziness, inability to concentrate, mood swings and irritability. So if you have diabetes, it can be hard to tell the difference between menopausal symptoms and symptoms of high or low blood sugar.

The hormonal fluctuations of menopause have varied effects on our blood glucose, and these effects can range from mild to wreaking havoc on our blood glucose balance.

With less progesterone you may have greater insulin sensitivity, but with less estrogen you can also have increased insulin resistance. And the decrease in both estrogen and progesterone can cause other changes which may worsen diabetic complications:

  • As your body produces less estrogen your body becomes more resistant to insulin which can cause your blood sugar levels to rise
  • As your body produces less progesterone your body is more receptive to insulin and this can cause your blood sugar levels to drop

So for women in menopause who have diabetes controlling the symptoms of menopause, using hormone replacement therapy, HRT, can be a challenge.

It has been said that women with diabetes can’t take hormone replacement therapy because of how it affects their blood sugar.

This makes the case that for menopausal women who have diabetes it is important to explore alternative, natural hormone replacement options as well as natural products that help control your diabetes. I can assist you with suggestions on some very good products that do just that!

Another factor for menopausal women who have diabetes is the ability to control the level of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine is an amino acid that is transported throughout the body in the blood. Hormones have a big influence on controlling homocysteine.

When the ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone during menopause, homocysteine levels rise. Higher levels of homocysteine, as documented in the American Journal of Medicine, are linked to the development of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, among others.

There is a new study that indicates that Metformin treatment increases the level of homocysteine in Type II diabetes patients who take insulin.

The best way to control and detoxify elevated levels of homocysteine in the blood is by taking a combination of the B Vitamins: B-12, B-6 and Folic Acid. I can assist you with a product suggestion for controlling homocysteine.

Post Menopause And Diabetes

After menopause the risk of vaginal yeast infections, vaginitis, increases for women with diabetes. As estrogen levels decrease, yeast and bacteria have an easier time growing, especially if blood glucose levels are frequently too high.

Yeast thrives in warm, moist places with a good supply of glucose. Some suggestions that may help prevent or control yeast infections are:

  • Lessen problems during post menopause and diabetes complications by working at keeping your blood glucose levels under control
  • Lessen problems during post menopause and diabetes complications by using natural hormone replacement products
  • Lessen problems during post menopause and diabetes complications by taking a digestive enzyme/acidophilus supplement to help keep the balance of good bacteria in your system

The Importance Of Supplements For Women In Menopause And Diabetes

The word diabetes means “siphon,” so water-soluble vitamins and several minerals are excreted in abundance by women with menopause and diabetes. So an adequate supplementation of vitamins and minerals is extremely important in the management of menopause and diabetes.

Minerals like chromium and vanadium are known to assist the function of insulin and current research shows that calcium and magnesium are important for the control of blood glucose and insulin receptor function.

Soy is also valuable in the management of menopause and diabetes, as we discussed earlier.

Ovarian Cancer and Menopause

Ovarian cancer and menopause does seem to cause quite a bit of concern in a lot of women. However, menopause itself is not associated with an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.

On the other hand, the rates of many cancers, including ovarian cancer, do increase with age.

How well you manage your health as you get older determines your overall risk for developing diseases such as cancer. Also, some of the medications prescribed to manage menopausal symptoms may play a part in putting you at risk for developing cancer.

To fully understand the relationship between ovarian cancer and menopause you must first be aware of just what ovarian cancer is.

Ovarian cancer is a malignant tumour that can develop in one or both of your ovaries. As you know, the ovaries are the two small organs in your body located in the lower abdomen (pelvis) on either side of the womb (uterus), and they produce and release ova, human eggs. The ovaries also produce estrogen and progesterone.

Not all ovarian tumors are cancerous. Many tumors are benign ovarian masses and can be: abscesses or infections, fibroids, cysts, polycystic ovaries, or endometriosis related masses.

About 20% of tumors or masses found in women who are still menstruating, and have not gone through menopause, are cancerous. For women who have been through menopause about 45% of tumors or masses that are found are cancerous.

Ovarian Cancer is classified in the following ways:

  • Epithelial tumors: These tumors arise from the layer of cells that surround the outside of the ovary. About 75% of ovarian cancers are epithelial and this is usually found in women who have been through menopause.
  • Stromal tumors: these tumors develop from connective tissue cells that help form the structure of the ovary and produce hormones. Usually only one ovary is involved. This accounts for about 10% of ovarian cancers and occurs in women 40 to 60 years old.
  • Germ Cell tumors: these tumors arise from the germs cells, the cells that produce the egg. This accounts for about 15% of ovarian cancers.

These tumors most often develop in young women.

  • Metastatic tumors: these are tumors that occur in the ovaries as a result of cancer spreading from other parts of the body; such as, colon, breast, stomach and pancreas. This accounts for only 5% of ovarian cancers.

When ovarian cancer is discovered in its earliest stages it can be cured 90% of the time. Unfortunately, early ovarian cancer detection is hard to do. But if ovarian cancer is diagnosed before it has spread to other organs, then the five year survival rate is greater than 75%.

What Are The Causes Of Ovarian Cancer?

The cause of ovarian cancer is not really known and ovarian cancer and menopause are not directly linked, however, there is an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer if:

  • A woman has a family history of ovarian cancer
  • A woman has never been pregnant
  • A woman is over the age of 50, as the risk of ovarian cancer increases with age.
  • A woman has Ashkenazi Jewish heritage
  • A woman has European (white) heritage: White women are more likely to develop ovarian cancer than African American women
  • There is repeated exposure of the genitals to talc
  • There is irradiation of the pelvic area

As mentioned above ovarian cancer and menopause are not directly linked because menopause itself does not cause ovarian cancer, but some studies have linked the long-term use of estrogen therapy and or hormone replacement therapy (over 10 years) to an increased risk of ovarian cancer.

So, again, if you are considering medical hormone replacement therapy, discuss the risks and benefits with your medical practitioner and understand ovarian cancer and menopause.

The following factors decrease your risk of ovarian cancer:

  • Pregnancy – as the number of pregnancies increases, the risk of ovarian cancer decreases
  • Breastfeeding lowers the risk of ovarian cancer and risk decreases with the increasing duration of breastfeeding
  • Having your “tubes tied” (tubal ligation) to prevent pregnancy or having a hysterectomy lowers your risk of ovarian cancer

What Are The Symptoms Of Ovarian Cancer?

Ovarian cancer and menopause are not directly linked but are there and similar symptoms between ovarian cancer and menopause?

Ovarian cancer in its early stages has few symptoms. The first sign of ovarian cancer is an enlarged ovary, but this can go unnoticed until it becomes advanced. Usually symptoms of ovarian cancer do not occur until the tumor has grown large enough to apply pressure to other organs or the cancer has spread to remote organs in the body.

And some symptoms of ovarian cancer are so non-specific that they may not be considered as symptoms of ovarian cancer.

Symptoms of more advanced ovarian cancer include:

  • Swollen abdomen-caused by build up of fluids produced by the tumor
  • Lower abdominal and leg pain
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Change in bowel or bladder function, e.g. urinary frequency
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Gas and/or diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Swelling in the legs
  • Pain with intercourse

A good rule of thumb is to see your doctor if you have abdominal pain, distension or bloating that cannot be explained for the usual reasons.

And remember if you have any concerns about ovarian cancer and menopause see your doctor.

Some Ovarian Cancer And Menopause Tips To Protect Yourself

Here are a few tips on how you can lesson the risk of ovarian cancer:

  • Get a yearly pelvic exam
  • See your doctor if you have any irregular, vaginal bleeding or abdominal pain
  • Discuss with your doctor the risk factor of ovarian cancer for you if any of your close family members like your mother or sisters have ovarian cancer
  • Eat a low fat diet