Does Estrogen Affect Blood Sugar Levels? Estrogen and Insulin Resistance

Posted May 20, 2020 by Clint Kelly - See Editorial Guidelines

Abnormal levels in hormones can, directly and indirectly, have an impact on other aspects of the body’s health. Estrogen is one hormone that may affect the cell’s response to insulin, which can lead to insulin resistance.

So, in this article, we are going to discuss estrogen and its effect on blood sugar levels. Here’s a quick overview look at estrogen and insulin resistance before we get into more detail.

Estrogen and Insulin Resistance: After women go through menopause, they often see a dip in their estrogen levels. This dip in estrogen has often been associated with insulin resistance. On the other hand, estrogen levels that are stable at a normal level will help improve insulin sensitivity.

Here is how estrogen and insulin resistance are correlated, and everything you should know.

The Function of Estrogen

Estrogen and Insulin ResistanceEstradiol is the main form of estrogen and is present in both men and women but is significantly higher in females. The levels of this hormone are especially high after puberty and before menopause.

Estrogen plays a major role in the development of sexual characteristics in women. This includes the development of breasts and the regulation of menstrual cycles. In men, estrogen plays a role in the maturation of sperm. It also helps individuals maintain a healthy libido.

Estrogen levels often fluctuate during the menstrual cycles in females, and over the course of their life. The fluctuations in these levels can significantly impact a person’s mood and other aspects of their life.

The normal range of estrogen levels in women before going through menopause is 30-400 picograms per milliliter (pg/mL). Men should have a level of estrogen between 10-50 pg/mL.

The ovaries produce estrogen in women. In men, it is produced mostly by the adrenal glands and the testes.

Estrogen Levels After Menopause

Estrogen levels after menopause naturally drop. The ovaries drastically lower the production of estrogen, typically between the age of 40-55. The normal estrogen level after menopause is below 30 pg/mL.

Due to menopause and a drop in estrogen levels, women may experience symptoms at midlife, such as:

  • Breast tenderness
  • Mood swings
  • Hot flashes
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Night sweats
  • Headaches
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Weight gain

Estrogen and Insulin Resistance

Estrogen has been proven to help optimize insulin. Insulin is the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels. Therefore, low estrogen levels may lead to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a contributing factor that can lead to type 2 diabetes and put you at an increased risk for heart attack or stroke.

Estrogen deficiency, which often occurs after menopause, may cause weight gain around the mid-section. This type of weight gain is the build-up of fat around organs, which is known as visceral fat.

Other than menopause, women may experience lower levels of estrogen levels due to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), lactation, ovary removal, and anorexia.

In addition to low levels of estrogen putting you at risk for insulin resistance, older women are more likely to be less active. Therefore, fewer calories are being burned throughout the day, making weight gain even more inevitable.

Estrogen deficiency can also cause inflammation in the body. Inflammation can farther decrease the effectiveness of insulin. Therefore, low levels of estrogen and insulin resistance can have severe negative effects on a person’s health.

To make things more complex, estrogen dominance may also lead to insulin resistance.

Progesterone is another female sex hormone crucial for menstrual cycles and pregnancy. Progesterone and estrogen levels should remain fairly stable together throughout someone’s life. If one of these hormones begins increasing or decreasing significantly more than the other, then it can impact a person’s health.

As mentioned early, estrogen decreases with menopause. However, if progesterone decreases more rapidly, then you can have estrogen dominance. If your estrogen to progesterone ratio is off and you have estrogen dominance, then you may have an increased risk for weight gain and more fat storage around your mid-section.

Estrogen dominance also slows your metabolism, making it more difficult to lose weight. Again, this increases your risk of having insulin resistance.

Balancing Estrogen and Insulin Sensitivity

Keeping a balance between estrogen and progesterone levels can be difficult, but it can be very beneficial for your health. Here are ways that you can naturally balance these hormone levels out.

  • Increase your fiber intake
  • Exercise daily
  • Avoid eating refined carbs and process foods
  • Eat enough protein and vegetables
  • Reduce red meat intake
  • Get enough sleep and reduce stress

Taking steps to increase insulin sensitivity and improve blood sugar levels, even before being diagnosed with insulin resistance, can be helpful. Here are ways to naturally improve insulin sensitivity that can help keep your blood sugar levels stable.

  • Exercise regularly
  • Lower carbohydrate intake
  • Avoid eating foods high in trans fat
  • Include apple cider vinegar into your diet
  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat more fiber

Challenges of Diabetes and Menopause

Estrogen and Insulin Resistance

As mentioned, low estrogen levels often associated with menopause can lead to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. But if you already have diabetes, then going through menopause can have detrimental effects on your health.

If estrogen affects how responsive the cells are to insulin, then a person with diabetes going through menopause can have uncontrolled blood sugar levels. You may notice large fluctuations in blood sugar levels and may need changes to your medication or the dose of your medication if this is the case. Dramatic fluctuations in blood sugar levels can cause severe health complications if left untreated.

Diabetes can put an individual at risk for certain infections. Low estrogen levels after menopause increase this risk even farther. Infections may include urinary tract infections and yeast infections.

Women going through menopause may experience trouble sleeping due to night sweats and hot flashes. Sleep deprivation can cause a person with diabetes to have even more uncontrolled blood sugar levels. This makes it even more difficult to get your blood sugar levels under control.

Individuals facing challenges of diabetes and menopause together may also have sexual problems. This may include vaginal dryness due to cells around the vagina being damaged from diabetes.

In order for you to better manage the challenges associated with diabetes and menopause, you must make healthy lifestyle choices. This means adjusting your diet if need be, exercising regularly, and quitting smoking if you are smoking.

You should check and monitor your blood sugar levels more frequently. Monitoring your blood sugar carefully will allow you and your doctor to make proper adjustments to your diabetes management. If you notice out of control blood sugar levels after going through menopause, then talk to your doctor about making adjustments to your diabetes medication.


Research is still needed to determine if estrogen and insulin resistance are correlated in any other ways. However, we hope this has given you greater insight into the effects of estrogen levels and the challenges associated with diabetes and menopause.

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