What is insulin resistant PCOS?
PCOS is a complex metabolic and hormonal condition. ‘Polycystic’ literally translates to ‘many cysts’. This refers to there being many partially formed follicles on the ovaries (visible by ultrasound), which each contain an egg. These rarely grow to maturity or produce eggs that can be fertilised.
Types of PCOS
- Insulin resistance PCOS
- Post pill PCOS
- Inflammatory PCOS
- Adrenal PCOS
In this blog post i’m going to talk about insulin resistance PCOS, as it is the most common type of PCOS. Women with insulin resistance PCOS have high levels of insulin, often resulting from a combination of genetic, diet and lifestyle factors. When insulin rises, so do androgens (male sex hormone testosterone). Too much insulin stimulates your pituitary to make more luteinising hormone (LH), which stimulates even more androgens. All women have testosterone, but too much can throw things out of whack.
Symptoms differ from woman to woman. It is important to get an early diagnosis because PCOS can lead to type 2 diabetes, infertility, heart disease, high blood pressure and breast cancer.
Symptoms of insulin resistance PCOS
- Male pattern baldness
- Facial hair (known as hirsutism)
- Abnormal / irregular periods
- Absent periods
- Ovarian cysts
- Heavy or prolonged periods
- Weight gain
- Menstrual pain
- Fluid retention
- Darkening of the skin
- Mood swings/ depression and or low mood
- Acne not associated with puberty
- Poor sleep
- Digestive concerns
- Pelvic pain (throughout and in between menstruation)
Dietary support for PCOS – After all, all health begins with the gut right?
Eliminate sugar & simple carbs
Consuming less sugar will support your body’s insulin response. Reduced insulin levels reduce male sex hormone levels (testosterone). This means cutting back on all sugar and processed sugary foods from your diet. You will also need to minimise your fruit intake to one serves per day of low GI fruits such as berries. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a treat every now and then, it’s about owning your condition and being honest with yourself.
Tips to cut back on sugar
- Make sure you get enough sleep.
- Eat every 3 to 5 hours to reduce sugar cravings.
- Have sufficient protein & good fats with each meal – this will help you feel fuller for longer.
- Drink cinnamon tea daily, it may help stabilise blood sugar levels and reduce sugar cravings.
- Magnesium is involved with the regulation of glucose, insulin and the neurotransmitter dopamine. If you don’t have enough magnesium in your diet, you may experience cravings for chocolate and sugar .
- Gymnema is a common herb used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine and has been called the herbal form of Metformin. It regulates insulin levels while controlling sugar or carbohydrate cravings. Gymnema actually numbs the sweet taste areas of the taste buds which helps suppress appetite.
Eat more good fats
Good fats will keep you fuller for longer, balance blood sugar levels, and help regulate your hormones. Include olive oil, coconut oil, MCT oil, ghee, tahini, avocado, nuts and seeds to your diet.
Eliminate dairy and soy
Studies have shown that eliminating or reducing dairy can help reduce period pain and acne related to PCOS. Opt for nut mylks such as almond, coconut, macadamia or hemp alternatives.
Soy contains phytoestrogens (plant oestrogen) and can mimic the functions of your natural oestrogens, disrupting hormonal balance. Soy is also considered as an anti-nutrient (blocking the absorption of other essential nutrients) and may block thyroid production.
Avoid inflammatory foods
A certain level of inflammation is a normal part of the menstrual cycle. However, excessive menstrual cramping is usually triggered by high levels of inflammatory prostaglandins (made from omega 6 fatty acids). Avoid omega 6 foods such as vegetable oils (e.g. soybean, corn, safflower, sunflower, cottonseed, and grape seed oils), fried foods, backed goods and processed meats.
Eat adequate amounts of high-quality protein
Protein will help balance your blood sugar levels and is a super important during productive years. It is essential for healthy energy and mood production. Eating a small portion of protein at every meal is ideal. A general rule of thumb is a serving size of your palm during your main meals. Opt for grass-fed, organic meats and poultry, wild caught seafood and free range organic eggs.
Alcohol impairs your livers ability to metabolise hormones. Heavy drinking increase weight gain and increase testosterone levels in women. Drinking in moderation is the key, know your limits and sticking to it. If you are try to conceive, i always suggest that you avoid alcohol (this goes for both parents).
Exercise can boost your body’s sensitivity to sugar and reduce insulin resistance. It is also a great way to boost the endorphins and feel good. Find something that appeals to you and is appropriate for your fitness level.
Common PCOS natural remedies
Magnesium – Studies have shown that a high magnesium diet are associated with a lower risk of insulin resistance. Without enough magnesium, glucose doesn’t enter the cells in sufficient amounts. This can cause fatigue and difficulties regulating blood sugar.
Zinc – Promotes healthy ovulation, regular periods and can help with insulin resistance. Women with PCOS are prone to chronic inflammation. Zinc has been shown to reduce inflammation and alleviate some of it’s symptoms.
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) – Is particularly effective for lowering testosterone and increasing ovulation when combined with white peony. One of the benefits of licorice for women with PCOS is decreased acne and hair growth.
White Peony (Paeonia lactiflora) – Used mostly in conjunction with licorice. It has been shown to inhibit the production of testosterone and promote the activity of aromatase, which converts testosterone to oestrogen.
Inositol – Is a B vitamin that can help improve insulin resistance. It’s also been found promote healthy ovulation aiding fertility in some cases of PCOS.
Dandelion Root (Taraxacum officinale): Is used to cleanse the liver and get rid of any excess hormones. Dandelion root is used for PCOS treatment because menstrual irregularities are often affected by the liver being backed up with excessive hormones.
Remember to always seek professional advice before commencing any treatment. Listen to your body, this journey is about working out what’s right for you. For more information on insulin resistance PCOS or to book a naturopath consultation contact me.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome. Retrieved from URL: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/polycystic-ovarian-syndrome-pcos
4 ways to lower lutenizing hormone naturally | PCOS support. Retrieved from URL: https://www.pcosdietsupport.com/diet-tips/4-ways-to-lower-luteinizing-hormone-naturally/
Role of diet in the treatment of PCOS. Retrieved from URL: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3752890/
Health benefits of cinnamon. Retrieved from URL: https://draxe.com/health-benefits-cinnamon/
Sugar cravings are a sign of which mineral deficiency. Retrieved from URL: https://www.livestrong.com/article/496016-sugar-cravings-are-a-sign-of-which-mineral-deficiency/
Weight loss benefits of gymnema. Retrieved from URL: https://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/weight-loss-benefits-of-gymnema/
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