Low estrogen levels and insulin resistance can have negative health consequences, and your doctor can best guide you on how to manage and treat these health concerns.
Functions of Estrogen
Of all the essential functions estrogen performs in the body, one of the most critical is optimizing the action of insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. Therefore, low estrogen levels (like during menopause) may lead to increased insulin resistance or impaired insulin action 13.
According to the Mayo Clinic, insulin resistance is associated with metabolic syndrome; a medical condition that can increase the risk of health problems like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke 5813. Insulin resistance due to low estrogen levels can adversely affect health, and a medical professional may be the best guide for learning how to manage and treat this condition 13.
Read more: Benefits of estrogen
Metabolic Syndrome and Heart Disease
A 2017 study in the journal Translational Research explains that metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that can include elevated blood sugar levels, a symptom of both prediabetes and type 2 diabetes (T2DM) 8. Elevated blood sugar has been linked to obesity, high blood pressure and elevated triglyceride levels (a risk factor for heart disease).
Read more: The best foods for insulin resistance
Estrogen and Insulin Resistance
Besides impairing insulin action, low estrogen levels may also hinder the insulin production from the pancreas, suggest the study authors. Insufficient insulin causes the liver to secrete excess glucose, raising blood sugar levels. According to a 2007 study in Endocrine Reviews, estrogen deficiency may also cause inflammation, which can also impair insulin action 11.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Estrogen can be created synthetically, and is used in contraceptive drugs and for hormone replacement therapy (HRT), an approved treatment for menopause and osteoporosis. HRT has been investigated as a possible treatment to improve insulin action and negate the consequences of insulin resistance 13.
According to a 2016 study in the Macedonian Journal of Medical Science, HRT could help treat insulin resistance due to low estrogen levels, although more research is needed before HRT can be said to effectively treat insulin resistance in women with low estrogen levels 13.
Signs of Insulin Resistance
According to Diabetes.co.uk, the signs of insulin resistance can include excessive fatigue, hunger, difficulty concentrating and weight gain 13. Low estrogen levels may be associated with insulin resistance, which is also more likely to occur if you have gained excess weight or tend to carry fat in the belly area 13.
Diabetes.co.uk also states that insulin resistance can be improved by doing things like eating less carbohydrates, reducing calories, getting more exercise, reducing stress or even having weight loss surgery 13.
If you are postmenopausal, suspect you have low estrogen levels, or experience the symptoms of elevated blood sugar, speak with a doctor to be sure.
- Hormone Molecular Biology and Clinical Investigation: Estradiol Regulates Insulin Signaling and Inflammation in Adipose Tissue
- Journal Of Diabetes Research: Estrogen: An Emerging Regulator of Insulin Action and Mitochondrial Function
- Metabolism: Clinical and Experimental: The Association of Elective Hormone Therapy with Changes in Lipids Among Glucose Intolerant Postmenopausal Women in the Diabetes Prevention Program
- Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism: Estrogen and Androgen Receptors: Regulators of Fuel Homeostasis and Emerging Targets for Diabetes and Obesity
- National Institutes of Health: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Insulin Resistance and Prediabetes
- JAMA: Prevalence of the Metabolic Syndrome in the United States, 2003-2012
- Journal of Diabetes Research:Estrogen: An Emerging Regulator of Insulin Action and Mitochondrial Function:Anisha A. Gupte, Henry J. Pownall,Dale J. Hamilton1:(2015)
- Mayo Clinic:Metabolic Syndrome:(N.D.)
- Translational Research:Cardiovascular consequences of metabolic syndrome:Johnathan D.Tunea, Adam G.Goodwill,Daniel J.Sassoona,Kieren J.Mather:(2017)
- National Institute of Oncology, Surgical and Molecular Tumor Pathology Centre:Low Estrogen Exposure and/or Defective Estrogen Signaling Induces Disturbances in Glucose Uptake and Energy Expenditure: Zsuzsanna Suba: (2013)
- Endocrine Reviews:The Complex Role of Estrogens in Inflammation: Rainer H. Straub: (2007)
- Macedonian Journal of Medical Science:Effects of Hormone Replacement Therapy on Insulin Resistance in Postmenopausal Diabetic Women:Iskra Bitoska, Branka Krstevska, Tatjana Milenkovic, et al:(2016)
- Diabetes.co.uk:Insulin Resistance