The female cycle (hormones) and blood glucose
Table of Contents
Why blood glucose levels matter for women’s health
Why health alone isn’t enough for women
When we, here at HELLO INSIDE, talk about health, we’re not just referring to it as the absence of disease. Health, as the WHO defines it, is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being” that requires men and women alike to actively take care of themselves.
While it is our goal to help both, men and women, equally to become the healthiest version of themselves we also recognize that women’s health does not get the (medical) attention it deserves – and desperately needs.
The narrative created online around wellbeing and self-care might lead you to believe that women dominate the health industry. But science tells a different story.
Women’s healthcare: a relic from the past
We’ve addressed this more in depth in our recent post, but health professionals quite literally know less about female biology compared to the male one. Women were historically underrepresented in clinical studies until the 1990s. As a result, the female body and its medical conditions were treated as if they were biologically male. This led to misdiagnosis, wrong treatment, or no diagnosis at all.
Even though prevention, management, and treatment have clearly advanced since then, there remains a chronic lack of awareness of the diseases that affect women differently, or that they may be more prone to.
Whether it’s heart diseases, mental health or osteoporosis, many women feel misunderstood and left to deal with their health issues in isolation.
This is exactly why in this post we want to:
- give insight into the most important aspects of women’s health
- take a closer look at how the female cycle works
- and how stabilized blood glucose levels can optimize overall, female health
Female health concerns everybody should care about
Just like women themselves, female health comes in many shapes and forms.
That’s not to say that some of the areas mentioned below don’t affect men. But the biological difference in sex and especially hormones (we’ll get into that later) often require an alternative, medical approach.
Topics with specific aspects for women include:
- Sexual health (libido, STIs)
- Menstrual health and gynecological conditions (PMS, endometriosis, vaginal infections)
- Pregnancy, childbirth, pregnancy loss and postnatal support
- Fertility & reproductive health
- Menopause and hormone therapy
- Mental health
- Metabolic health
- Physical health
- Healthy aging and long-term conditions
- Disease treatment (including, but not limited to): heart diseases, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and other benign conditions affecting the function of the female reproductive organs, osteoporosis, depression, autoimmune diseases
- Preventative care for women
Now, female health should not just be memorized like a list in an attempt to find the right doctor for the right problem (which, let’s face it, can be a challenge on its own already).
“Women statistically live longer than men.
They also spend a greater proportion of their lives being ill or disabled.
This is exactly why we want to encourage you to learn more about the female body and how that knowledge can be used to your advantage.”
Especially when it comes to the female cycle.
Of course, taking charge of your own health can be quite overwhelming sometimes.
How are blood glucose and female health connected?
One, perhaps surprising but equally helpful way to get started on this journey is by monitoring your blood glucose levels. Blood glucose is one of the best biomarkers to measure and optimize your overall health.
Because your blood glucose balance influences your entire hormone system and once this delicate cascade is disrupted, chances are very high that your blood glucose levels have been thrown off along the way or are the underlying cause for your hormonal problems to begin with.
Side note: It is natural for your blood glucose levels to be in constant flux throughout the day and night. As long as the spikes and drops are in a so-called healthy range, anything between 80-110 milligrams per decilitre (mg/dL), they are completely normal and stable.
What we all need to know about the menstrual cycle & female hormones
In order to fully understand how complex women’s bodies are, we need to take a closer look at the female cycle and how it affects a women’s day-to-day life.
This infographic below gives you a little insight into what we’re about to get into:
Many of us refer to the days women actively bleed as the menstrual cycle. Wrongfully so.
The female hormone cycle is defined by a cyclic pattern of hormonal changes that starts with the 1st day of your period, lasts from 24 to 35 days and ends just before the next menstruation.
Yes, you read correctly, the female cycle never really ends and consists of four phases that are dictated by the in- and decrease of four key hormones:
Estrogen, Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), Luteinizing Hormone (LH), Progesterone
The four phases are:
- Proliferative phase (also known as late follicular phase)
- Ovulatory phase
- Luteal phase
With the help of the brain (the pituitary gland) the reproductive system (Adrenal glands, ovaries, follicles, and uterus) each of them creates a little system on its own that affects your mood, energy levels and appetite differently.
Now let’s take a closer look at each of the phases:
Every cycle starts with the part women are probably most familiar with: the period.
In biology, this is described as the shedding of the uterine lining (endometrium) that lasts from 3 up to 8 days.
During this phase, the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) is produced and prepares the follicles to grow an egg for ovulation.
Estrogen and progesterone are at their lowest points, which can lead to low energy levels, rapid mood changes and even affect your sleep pattern sometimes.
Try to create a healthy bed routine without any devices, take it slow and incorporate foods rich in iron such as lentils, pumpkin seeds or spinach.
2. The Proliferative Phase:
The proliferative phase can take up to seven days, the FSH slowly decreases again and only one follicle continues to develop, containing the egg that later will be dropped at ovulation.
The dominant follicle produces estrogen as it grows, and the uterus lining starts to thicken again. Imagine it as if the body is creating a warm nest where the potential fertilized egg could grow.
With the increase of estrogen women usually feel more social, focused and energized.
Use these days for more demanding physical activities, spend time with friends and make yourself nutritious meals including fermented foods like kefir or sauerkraut.
3. Ovulation phase
The ovulatory phase lasts around 2-3 days and starts off with a big bang. Hormonally speaking.
Once estrogen levels are high enough, a signal is sent to the brain, causing a dramatic surge in luteinizing hormones, which in turn stimulate the egg release, also known as ovulation.
Fun fact on the side: The follicle and the Fallopian Tube, the passageways that carry the egg towards the uterus, where it can be fertilized by sperm, are not actually connected – rather imagine little finger-like protrusions at the end of the tube that catch the egg during a free fall.
The estrogen levels are still quite elevated at this point, and most women will feel motivated and optimistic. If you are more sensitive to hormonal changes, you may feel more tired at night.
This is the best time to prevent PMS, try to eat serotonin-boosting foods like complex carbohydrates (wild rice, oats or quinoa).
4. Luteal Phase
During this phase, the luteinizing hormone and FSH levels decrease, the ruptured follicle closes after the release of the egg and creates something called corpus luteum, which produces progesterone.
Progesterone causes the lining of the uterus to thicken more, to prepare for possible fertilization. If no egg is being fertilized, the production of progesterone stops, estrogen levels decrease and we are back right at the beginning:
The shedding of the inner lining of the uterus (=period).
This last part of the cycle is also known to be the one that causes women the biggest problems. The hormonal changes often lead to PMS (premenstrual symptoms), including digestion issues, headaches, acne, tiredness, mood swings and much more.
Try light exercise to decrease PMS, choose light, unprocessed food to avoid sugar crushes, stay hydrated and most importantly – be kind to yourself!
We hope that you have realized by now how delicate the female hormonal cycle is.
“Your habits and the environment can have a direct impact on this well-orchestrated system, causing imbalances that not just affect your reproductive system but your overall health.”
As we’ve mentioned before, one of the most underestimated causes of hormonal imbalances is unstable blood glucose levels. But luckily, looking at it from a different angle, this also means that controlling your blood glucose levels can have a positive impact on your cycle and your hormones.
How blood glucose levels can help you to optimize your cycle and reduce hormonal imbalance?
As versatile as the areas of female health are, as versatile are the ways you can incorporate a continuous glucose monitoring device (CGM) in your life to improve your well-being and balance your hormones.
Cravings & weight control
Every woman has probably had them once or twice in her life. Period-Cravings. You probably know the feeling—no matter how much ice cream or cookies you have at home, you’re not satisfied until you eat that one specific sort or brand.
They are mainly caused by the body’s physiological need for more energy during the luteal phase.
How to get on top of your PMS cravings
Even though it is important that women fuel their bodies during this time, it is worth mentioning that excessive intake of simple carbs such as cookies, cakes, or white bread, r can cause your blood glucose levels to crash and burn, affecting your mood and enhancing your PMS in the long run.
Swap your milk chocolate for dark chocolate, or add a handful of seeds to your salad, or enjoy your yogurt with berries. This can have a positive effect on your blood glucose and your hormonal balance.
Why the menstrual cycle can be beneficial to your weight management
Studies have shown that the female cycle not just creates hormonal food cravings during certain phases of the menstrual cycle but also is more susceptible to weight loss during the first day of your period or the late follicular phase.
A CGM-device can help you monitor these steps. It can tell you immediately when changes in your diet affect your body and therefore your hormones.
Fertility and pregnancy
We know, you’ve heard it many times before. But balance really is key. Especially, when we look at the connection between hormones, pregnancy, and blood glucose levels.
Obese women at increased risk of poor pregnancy outcomes
On one side of the spectrum, women are still dying from preventable diseases such as preeclampsia (a serious blood pressure condition) during childbirth. Long-term overweight causes a significant disruption in the glucose homeostasis. Which can lead to insulin resistance and therefore preeclampsia, putting the mother and child at risk.
Malnourishment and its impact on women’s health
On the other side of the spectrum, caloric restrictions caused by drastic diets or diseases that inhibit your body from getting sufficient nutrition can take a severe toll on the female reproductive system.
We won’t get too much into the details, but by depriving the female body of necessary nutrients such as glucose or fatty acids, the system goes into panic mode and causes a cascade of hormonal reactions that delay or even completely disrupt the menstrual cycle.
Using a CGM device and stabilizing your blood glucose levels before pregnancy can support you to make better lifestyle choices and adjust your diet when needed.
(Need more tips on boosting your fertility? Check out: Boost fertility naturally: 5 diet and lifestyle tips (helloinside.com)
Sleep and mental health
Due to the hormonal changes during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause, women are more likely to suffer from insomnia. Poor sleep can cause serious health issues in the long run like diabetes or heart diseases. It also makes women even more susceptible to anxiety or depression.
The connection between sleep and blood glucose
The bad but equally good news is: sleep has a direct effect on your blood glucose levels and vice versa. You might not be able to control the hormonal changes that occur in the female body. However, you can monitor your blood glucose levels, adapt your nightly routine accordingly and balance your cycle in the long run.
We know it can be a bit intimidating at first, but taking charge of your hormones and your blood glucose levels also means taking charge of your body, and your health.
Embrace your female superpowers, and start our “Hello Hormones” Program now.