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Managing your insulin during your period

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blood sugar and menstrual cycle

As a woman with Type 1 Diabetes, I quickly learned that my menstrual cycle affected my insulin needs. At certain times of the month, my blood sugar levels seemed to be completely unmanageable. I remember riding home from work on the train and watching my blood sugar climb from 100 to 150 for no readily apparent reason. I hadn’t eaten anything recently. When I reached my stop, I started hiking home; up hill. I think I walked close to 1 mile without it affecting my levels very much. My blood sugar went down to about 130, but as soon as I stopped moving it went back up to 150 and refused to budge! When these stubborn blood sugars hit, it can be really hard to stay in a healthy range once you put carbs on top of those stubborn numbers. I’m here to tell you that there is hope! You can master those stubborn blood sugars that come with your menstrual cycle and I’m happy to share my experience with accomplishing this. 

Can Type 1 Diabetes Affect the Menstrual Cycle?

In short, absolutely! I won’t bore you with details of the rise and fall of estrogen and progesterone levels or quote entire portions of the book “Think Like A Pancreas”. I’ll get right to the point because I know you want to know what you can do right now! The fact is that when progesterone levels rise, the body becomes more insulin resistant. This means that the body may actually require a temporary 40-50% increase of basal and bolus insulin. This resistant phase usually builds up to a peak of 2-3 days of increased insulin needs followed by one day of ‘normal’ insulin needs, then your menstrual cycle starts. Tracking can help you determine more precisely when these peaks occur so that you can start to somewhat predict when they are going to happen. It helps to know these ranges so that when you recognize insulin resistance in yourself and check your calendar to find that your cycle is about to start, you can confidently set a basal/bolus override, temporary basal increase, or adjust your injection doses to account for the changes.

I currently run the Omnipod pump with the Dexcom g6 and DIY Loop. The way I handle the changes that come with my menstrual cycle is by setting up a ‘Pre-Cycle’ Override, also known as a Temporary Basal on the Omnipod PDM (controller). This is similar to setting up a separate basal profile on ‘closed loop’ pumps like the Tandem or simply setting a Temporary Basal on the Omnipod Eros, or Dash as pictured below.

This ‘override’ tells Loop that I need 50% more basal and bolus insulin than what is used as my normal settings. Thankfully, Loop can handle about a 30% variation up or down on it’s own and I don’t HAVE to use this override or worry about it providing too much insulin if I didn’t need the override. 

There are many advanced insulin management techniques that can be used. Simply, doing the math and starting with even a slight 10% basal/bolus increase when you notice stubborn high blood glucose levels can start you down the road to more precise blood glucose management. 

Can Insulin Stop Your Period?

As an NPC Competitor in the Bikini Division, it is not uncommon for women who aren’t diabetic to lose their period. Loss of the menstrual cycle can be caused by any number of things, including a body fat percentage that is too low or hormone imbalance. A regular menses cycle is a sign of good female health. It could be argued that anything that affects hormone regulation could affect your period. Thus, insulin used in a way that does not appropriately support hormone balancing (too much or too little insulin) could technically cause a loss of the menstrual cycle. The longer you keep your blood sugar levels in range, the better chance you give your body and organs the opportunity to function properly. Focusing on overall health, including the use of advanced insulin management techniques, can help give your body what it needs to be a successful functioning organism. If you are struggling with irregular cycles or loss of your cycle altogether, it could be beneficial to take a deeper look at your blood sugar levels and nutrition.

You Can Conquer Your Blood Sugar

There are so many variables that affect our blood glucose levels and overall health than what can be discussed in this short article. I do hope that you have found some value and perhaps some new strategies to help you overcome those stubborn high blood sugar levels that can accompany the menstrual cycle. I am always happy to chat more and answer any questions. Please don’t hesitate to reach out. I can be reached at TheCrankyPanky@gmail.com or on IG @the_cranky_panky.

Chat soon!

Stephanie Johnson, M.S.

www.TheCrankyPanky.com

Stephanie Johnson, M.S.
Stephanie Johnson, M.S., creator of the The Cranky Panky™ health data tracking platform, is a Type 1 Diabetic working full-time while endeavoring to share her vast knowledge of nutrition, fitness, and body recomposition experience. She has competed in the NPC Bikini Division and specializes in Strategic Process Development.

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