Something you’ve probably heard in your research on PCOS is that many women with PCOS are also Insulin Resistant or IR. As someone who has been diagnosed with PCOS since I was 17, IR is not something new to me, in fact, I have struggled with severe weight fluctuations my whole life. When I was in my teens, my mom tried to get me to take the condition seriously, but being stubborn and just wanting to fit in, I didn’t listen. On this side of everything (an 80 pound loss, 40 pound gain and then loss, and finally a 100 pound gain) I really wish I would have listened sooner.
I truly feel that the key to managing PCOS and weight is by cracking the code to Insulin Resistance. So without further ado, let’s get into it.
What is Insulin Resistance?
Shortly put, it is when your body does not respond well to insulin, and has a hard time processing glucose from your food whether that be from simple carbs, refined sugar, or high starches. Specifically in women with PCOS, there tends to be a disruption in the insulin transport chain which leads to a build up in the body of excess sugar that gets stored for later use as fat.
I also recently saw insulin sensitivity explained in the terms of a threshold. For instance, the body starts with a specific level of insulin that is just enough but not too much to help the body process the sugars from the food that we intake. When we eat a healthy and balanced diet, our bodies have the perfect amount of insulin to transport the glucose from our food to the parts of the body that need energy. When we eat a diet that is higher in carbs and sugar, it raises our body’s level of glucose, which then tells the insulin system that we need to send more insulin in order to make use of all the glucose. Over time of eating a high carb and sugar diet, our body increases the base level of insulin that it makes in anticipation that we will need it in order to process all of the glucose coming in, thus decreasing our body’s insulin sensitivity. Now, with the decreased sensitivity, our body is expecting more sugar that it normally should… this leads to cravings, and in many cases, “sugar crashes” that mimic that of a diabetic blood sugar crash.
An additional interesting fact about insulin resistance is that having IR can make your body more susceptible to protein glycation. This is when a protein or fat binds itself to a sugar molecule in the bloodstream. Thus resulting in AGEs or Advanced Glycation End products. In a non-PCOS body, there are usually enough antioxidants present to help take care of the AGEs that occur, but with people with PCOS, we tend to have way fewer antioxidants, making AGEs and IR a huge problem for us. High AGEs numbers contribute to the reason diabetics can do a blood test to see how their “sugar numbers” are looking – the higher the number, the more proteins and fats have bound to sugar, and the body doesn’t have a place for it to be stored or used except for all of the wrong places like fat, liver, and kidneys.
How to Fix Insulin Resistance
The best way for women with IR Type PCOS to manage their insulin sensitivity is to start with a balanced diet. It is advised that women follow a low-carb diet in order to lose weight and manage their IR. I do agree with this, but think it is not a long-term solution. My suggestion is to make changes in two steps… if you are a person with IR looking to lose weight, I would suggest beginning with a low-carb diet (50 or fewer grams of carbs per day) until you reach a weight that you are satisfied with. After you reach your ideal weight, I suggest following the Mediterranean Eating Pattern which allows for more carbs in the form of beans, rice, and potatoes.
This sort of plan of attack allows for some grace for higher or lower carb days and is way less strict than the keto diet. It also tends to be less triggering for women suffering from eating disorders to be able to still take charge of their diet, but not in an unhealthy or overly restrictive way.
Supplements that Help with Insulin Resistance
For women that are trying to manage their IR naturally, there are a few options for supplements that can be taken in addition to making lifestyle changes that can help to repair the insulin transport chain and make your body more sensitive to insulin. Some people prefer to go through their doctor to get Metformin, but if you are looking for a more natural or at-home approach, then you might want to look into Myo Inositol and D-Chiro Inositol. My personal favorite brand is Wholesome Story from Amazon, they’re a reputable company with a variety of products.
Cinnamon is a natural antioxidant that can help to reduce blood sugar by preventing protein glycation and increased weight gain. Try adding cinnamon to your diet naturally or in capsule form! Sometimes the smallest changes can have the biggest impact.
This is the kind that I use:
Fenugreek is a seed that is known to help lower blood sugar levels by again helping to prevent the glycation of protein and fat by causing the breakdown of carbs and sugar to slow down. It also sometimes raises testosterone levels, so be aware of that when using it if you struggle with higher T already. It can also help to balance the body’s PH naturally (which who couldn’t use a little help with that?!)
If you can’t find it locally or don’t want to, here is a great option from Amazon:
Can Exercise Help Insulin Resistance?
Yes, it absolutely can! When we exercise, we are using more energy, which typically comes first from the glucose our body stores. Exercising can, therefore, help to lower the overall levels of glucose in your body AND also help with a variety of other great things for your hormones.
If you aren’t too keen on hitting the gym any time soon, I totally understand. Every time I kicked off my weight loss journey, I have started at home also. The first time, I made a list of songs on Youtube and did dance cardio in my bedroom. Zumba is SUPER fun, and there is a treasure trove of free videos you can find online before you head out to find a class. Not all exercise has to be cardio either! I really enjoy strength training using yoga and pilates workouts. Blogilates is AMAZING for this at home!!! Sometimes just starting with yoga is the perfect jumping off point. And if you don’t like cardio…. that is OKAY!
Want More Info on Insulin Resistance? Let me know what you want to know in the comments!