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Understanding PCOS & Insulin Resistance

In the last few weeks we have covered some of the causes of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). One of these causes is insulin resistance.

What is insulin?

Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar (which is what we call glucose). How it works: the food we eat is broken down into blood sugar, this enters our bloodstream which signals the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin helps our blood sugar enter our cells, and once this happens then insulin is signalled to decrease.

Insulin has 3 major roles in the body. It takes up blood sugar into our system, signals the release of the hunger hormones (leptin & ghrelin) and takes up amino acids into our muscle cells.

What is insulin resistance?

This is when our cells stop responding to the insulin - becoming insulin resistant. Because the pancreas releases insulin, it feels the cells not taking in the blood sugar and starts to pump out more insulin. Since the cells are insulin resistant, they still do not respond, but the blood sugar levels begin to rise in the body. This leads to further risk of type 2 diabetes, and PCOS.

Insulin resistance is usually genetic; a family history of type 2 diabetes is often the cause. Being overweight or inactive can also cause insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance in women with PCOS is pretty common. High insulin levels can affect ovulation and cause the ovaries to make excess testosterone.

Symptoms of insulin resistance

  • Increased hunger

  • Increased food cravings

  • Increased thirst

  • Increased need to urinate

  • Fatigue

  • Tingling sensation in hands and feet

You don't necessarily have to have all of these symptoms for insulin resistance, nor do these absolutely mean you have insulin resistance. If you are in doubt, we recommend making an appointment with a doctor to get blood work done.

Can you cure insulin resistance?

Insulin resistance has no known cure, but you can certainly increase your cells insulin sensitivity. Insulin resistance can be reduced through an improved lifestyle.

  • Eliminate highly sugary foods

  • Remove highly processed foods from your diet

  • Consume a high fiber diet

  • Eat balanced meals

  • Don't skip meals

  • Get 30 minutes of movement a day

Highly sugary foods & processed foods include:

  • Sweets, cookies, chocolate (except dark chocolate & cacao nibs!)

  • Sugary drinks

  • Ice cream

  • Confectionary such as muffins, cakes, cupcakes

  • Sausages, deli meats, bacon, hot dogs

  • Corn syrup

  • Fast foods like french fries, pizza & burgers

  • Chips & similar savory snacks

High fiber foods include:

  • Whole-grains like bread, pasta, rice and oatmeal

  • Fruits like figs, peaches, blackberries, raspberries, passion fruit

  • Beans, legumes & seeds like black beans, adzuki beans, lentils, peas, flaxseed, chia seed

  • Vegetables like brussell sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, sweet potatoes, onions, mushrooms

Bottom line

Although these dietary and lifestyle changes may seem daunting, it's all about balance and taking it slow! Start gradually and it will eventually become like second nature.

If you feel like you need some guidance, get in touch! We work with clients to create plans for PCOS that are tailored to you so it can fit in with your lifestyle. Click the button below to be redirected to our plans made specifically for PCOS & work with us!

Over on our Instagram, we have a number of easy to digest infographics (if you're more of a visual learner!), so click here to go to our page, @lorrainekearneynutrition!

Contact Us

Phone: (212) 328-0195

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