Insulin Resistant PCOS
Our body breaks down the food we eat into sugar and sends it into the blood. Insulin is the hormone made by the pancreases that helps move this sugar (aka glucose) from the blood into your cells in your muscle, fat, and liver. This sugar in the cells is then used as fuel for energy or stored for later use. When cells in your muscles, fat, and liver don’t respond well to the insulin, they can’t use sugar from the blood for energy. This is called insulin resistance. Due to this, your pancreas makes more insulin to help the sugar enter your cells. And over time, this insulin resistance leads to blood sugar levels going up.
So, what causes insulin resistance?
Scientists believe obesity, especially excess fat in your belly and around your organs (visceral fat), is a primary cause of insulin resistance. Other than obesity, lack of physical activity, highly processed, high-carbohydrate foods, saturated fats and certain medications like steroids, blood pressure medications, psychiatric medications can lead to insulin resistance. Even stress contributes to insulin resistance.
The bittersweet truth
Not all women with insulin resistance develop PCOS. But…
According to a study, 30% to 40% of women who have PCOS have insulin resistance
Studies also suggest that insulin resistance may actually be at the root of PCOS and could worsen its symptoms. However, not all women with insulin resistance develop PCOS.
Symptoms of insulin resistance:
- Cravings for sweets and salty foods
- Darkening of skin in the groin, armpits, or behind the neck
- Frequent or increased urination
- Increased hunger or thirst
- Tingling sensation in the hands of feet
These symptoms then leads to weight gain, which increases the risk of health problems such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, osteoarthritis, and diabetes. When PCOS and insulin resistance are combined, infertility and early miscarriage can make it difficult to carry a baby to term. These also put you at the risk of developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy.
If you do experience any of the above symptoms, your doctor will ask you to take blood tests to see how well your body deals with sugar.
- Fasting glucose, fasting insulin test
To measure your blood sugar and insulin after you haven’t eaten for at least 8 hours.
- HbA1C test
To measure your average blood sugar over the previous 2 to 3 months. And used to to diagnose prediabetes or diabetes
Oral glucose tolerance test
Another test to diagnose prediabetes or diabetes. After taking the fasting glucose test, you'll drink a sugary solution. Two hours post that, you'll take another blood test.
Can you reverse insulin resistance?
Don’t ‘Sweet’ it, ‘Sweat it’
There’s a way to reverse insulin resistance and restore insulin sensitivity
If you are diagnosed with insulin resistance, you can reverse it with the following lifestyle changes:
- Maintaining a healthy diet with high-fibre grains, vegetables, legumes, leafy greens, and fruits after consulting a nutritionist
- Moderate and regular exercises, at least 30 minutes thrice a week
- Stress, drink and smoke less. And get ample rest
A spoonful of medicine helps the sugar go down
Supplements to help control your blood sugar levels
Here’s a list of supplements that can help you lower insulin resistance, balance hormones, reduce deficiencies and also lower symptoms:
- Myo-inositol + D Chiro
- Vitamin D
While Metformin is recommended by doctors to improve insulin resistant PCOS, studies have shown that Myo-inositol combined with D-chiro-inositol is preferred in improving insulin resistance.
In one study, 66 women with PCOS compared the benefits of consuming 1,500mg of Metformin daily with 4 grams of Myo-inositol daily for 6 months.
After 6 months, the comparison between Metformin and Myo-inositol showed no significant differences between the two treatments. This reinstated the fact that Myo-inositol can be used to reduce insulin resistance because a lot of women with PCOS simply cannot handle the side effects associated with Metformin.
These side effects include gastrointestinal symptoms, nausea, flatulence, diarrhoea, bloating, metallic taste, abdominal pain, and anorexia. Hence, Myo-inositol is a far more well-tolerated treatment option with very similar results.
However, before consuming any of the above, we recommended consulting a healthcare expert because all treatments vary from person to person.