Natural Solutions to Manage Your Insulin-Resistance PCOS
Seventy to eighty percent of women with PCOS have some level of insulin resistance, including women who don't have excess body weight (often referred to as "lean PCOS").
Did you catch that? Yep, there's this common MYTH that all women with PCOS are overweight. So, if you've been told you don't have a problem with insulin or PCOS because you're not overweight, you may be missing out on the correct treatment for your PCOS.
What is insulin-resistance?
Insulin is a hormone that's responsible for storing energy from the food you eat. When your blood sugar rises, your body releases insulin to help move the sugar from your blood into your cells. Sometimes, this process doesn't work the way it should and your cells become "tired or deaf" to the effects of insulin. This means they don't open up to let the glucose (sugar) in as easily as they should. And your body responds by making more and more insulin until the cell finally responds. This is known as insulin resistance.
What causes insulin-resistance?
There are many factors that can contribute to the development of insulin-resistance, including what you eat (e.g. a higher sugar intake), lack of exercise, genetic predispositions, poor gut health, adrenal exhaustion, smoking, lack of sleep and stress.
It's never really ONE cause, but a culmination of things that can contribute to the onset of insulin resistance. This is why a holistic approach is always best to address your PCOS.
How does insulin resistance affect PCOS?
In PCOS, having too much insulin triggers your ovaries to produce extra testosterone and other androgens. Excess insulin also lowers an important protein called sex hormone blinding globulin (SHBG) - it's main role is to mop up excess hormones and keep your levels balanced.
Instead of being mopped up, the androgens run free and the excess testosterone and androgen gets into your head hair follicles (making it fall out), skin glands (clogging them and causing acne) and into body hair follicles (causing thick, dark hairs where we don't want them).
High insulin levels also causes your brain to secrete less follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). And FSH is needed to trigger your follicles (baby eggs) to grow to the right size needed for you to ovulate. Without enough FSH, you either fail to ovulate altogether (meaning your period disappears) or it takes much longer to ovulate (causing very long gaps between periods).
Finally, high insulin levels causes another key hormone involved with ovulation, luteinizing hormone (LH), to be secreted in high levels. When your LH levels are too high, your body shuts down or delays ovulation, further contributing to missing or irregular periods.
Signs and Symptoms of Insulin-Resistant:
- Dark, velvety patches in your skin folds, armpits & neck (acanthosis nigricans)
- Intense sweet and sugar cravings daily
- Weight gain, particularly around your waist area
- Excess belly fat
- Feeling tired or jittery after a meal
- Craving stimulants like coffee after eating
- Skin tags (especially on your neck)
- Other classic signs of PCOS (acne, hair changes, irregular cycles)
- Pre-diabetic or high fasting insulin or glucose on blood test
Natural Solutions for Insulin-Resistant PCOS
While discovering that your insulin may not be functioning properly can be a bit overwhelming, the good news is that simple diet, nutrition and supplement tweaks can greatly improve your symptoms by improving insulin sensitivity.
Your First Step: Break Up With Excess Sugar
Excess sugar is one of the biggest contributors to insulin-resistant PCOS. Eating sugar causes your blood glucose levels to rise quickly, triggering a release of insulin. In insulin resistance, this response is exaggerated, causing a flow on effect to testosterone production and other PCOS hormonal imbalances. To reduce insulin production, we first need to reduce blood sugar spikes. Reducing your added sugar intake is a great way to start addressing blood sugar.
Some common sources of sugar to reduce...
- Adding sugar to your tea and coffee
- Cakes, pastries, doughnuts, cookies
- Soda, energy drinks, flavored milks
- Candy, chocolate bars, etc
PCOS and insulin resistance can cause instense sugar cravings, so follow these tips to help fight your sugar cravings when they show up:
- Have a drink of water first - thirst can be mistaken for cravings
- Prioritize sleep (fatigue increases sugar cravings)
- Have a balanced snack on hand to reduce the likelihood of reaching for a candy bar - e.g. dark chocolate (aim for 85% or higher cacao), piece of fruit with handful of nuts, some almond putter butter or a quality protein snack
- Be kind to yourself when you do give into occasional treats - enjoy them mindfully and then move on
Your Second Step: Enjoy Balanced Meals
Enjoying a balance of macronutrients on your plate (fats, protein and carbs) will allow your blood sugar levels to rise slowly, preventing the large spikes in blood glucose which trigger excess insulin production. Eating this way also helps to reduce sugar cravings and give you more sustained energy throughout the day.
- Create meals that contain a balance of protein, healthy fats and slow-release carbohydrates.
- Make protein and fiber-rich vegetables the focus of your meals
- Choose a small portion slow-release carbs (e.g. brown rice, sweet potato, whole oats)
Your Third Step: Add PCOS Specific Supplements
Diet and lifestyle strategies are crucial in addressing the root cause of your PCOS. Adding in targeted vitamins to support your specific root cause is often the final piece of the puzzle to reverse your PCOS symptoms for good. Here at Inspire Organics I have created herbal root cause supplement to support the individual drivers of your symptoms.
These are herbal supplements which specifically address the root cause of this type of PCOS.
All my best,
Love and health,