Let's talk about sugar. But not the kind we all want to talk about. This time we are going to talk about the sugar in our blood. That thing that wreaks havoc on our moods, energy, ovaries, and skin.
I'm seeing more and more women in social media groups asking about PCOS, insulin resistance, and unstable blood glucose. I do not for a moment think I am an expert in this area, but I do hope that I can share what I do know and have it in a place that will make it easy to share and for others to find.
There was the thought for years and even still by many that PCOS and insulin resistance are two different conditions. Yet, while we don't know the etiology of PCOS, we know that insulin resistance is found in a minimum of 65% of women diagnosed with PCOS, which is just a minimum. In 2012, an article published in the NIH discussed the research of treating all women diagnosed with PCOS for insulin resistance.
I am not an endocrinologist, but this has me wonder if insulin resistance is the result of PCOS or is PCOS the result of insulin resistance. We know that many women who have PCOS have increased levels of estrogen and androgens. We also know that insulin resistance and increased blood glucose wrecks havoc on hormones, which causes irregular periods, facial hair, cysts, weight gain, etc.… All symptoms are also found in women diagnosed with PCOS.
While I will not go into details about endometriosis here, I did want to discuss the correlations between PCOS, insulin resistance, and endometriosis. The increase of estrogen and androgens are seen with PCOS and insulin resistance are the same hormones that cause the thickening of the endometrial lining. The thickening of the endometrial lining is what causes endometriosis.
So while this is a bunch of information and may not even be sensical, let's get down to what really matters. What can someone who has been diagnosed with PCOS and/or endometriosis do to find some relief and maybe even healing?
The first thing to do is to look at your diet. How many carbs and types of carbs are you taking in each day? How does your body respond to the kinds of carbs you are ingesting? You can find out both of these by keeping track of all the foods you eat for a week and keeping track of your blood glucose numbers during that week. You will need to check your blood sugar 4 times per day (fasting and 1 hour after the beginning of each meal) to see how your body responds. This can be a very empowering tool to use. Once you have this information, you can make needed adjustments to keep your glucose numbers as stable as possible. For many people, just the change in diet will help regulate their hormones and bring them the results they are looking for.
For those who need more extra firepower, let's discuss some of the supplements that we know help regulate glucose, which helps with the other symptoms. My favorite is a type of carbohydrate called inositol. It comes in a few different forms, but myo-inositol and d-chiro-inositol are the ones that we know help with insulin resistance and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, which happens to be a risk of insulin resistance. This is the brand I recommend to clients and can be bought on Amazon.
The other two supplements I would highly encourage adding to the inositol are magnesium and Vitamin D (little secret…..D is not a vitamin, but a hormone). Both of these supplements are large contributors to helping the body balance insulin resistance. You can find my favorites both on Amazon as well. Seeking Health has an amazing Vitamin D that will last for months. KAL makes a great magnesium glycinate that I recommend.
Some women still need some Western medicine, no matter changing diet and doing all the holistic things. There is no shame in needing the help either. Many women find help with the use of metformin and usually at a pretty low dose. All of these things together can be beneficial to many and bring about healing for many.
As far as labs are concerned. I would highly recommend asking your primary care physician to run some labs for you. I would suggest the following: CBC, A1c, thyroid panel (not a TSH), Vitamin D, and Ferritin. Once you have a baseline of those, you and your care provider can decide if you need some more lab information.
Just a warning, though. Many women who have dealt with infertility due to these health concerns find themselves pregnant way sooner than they ever expected. So be prepared just in case that happens to you.
I'd love to hear your comments and thoughts. If you have questions, feel free to reach out. I cannot guarantee that I have the answers, as I am only here to share my experiences with myself and my clients.