We know that women with PCOS tend to struggle with insulin resistance but not all of have insulin resistance. We also know that we are at risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes (in fact 40% of us will develop Type 2 Diabetes by the time we’re 40 (1)– seriously scary stuff)! Or we may be prediabetic. But what does this all mean and how are all of these things related? Even more important, how can we manage these things using a PCOS Diet?
Let’s have a look at each term, what it means in general and how it applies to us. Then we’ll try and connect the dots.
Insulin Resistance in PCOS
The first thing to understand is that insulin resistance is closely linked with chronic inflammation (2). Now chronic inflammation is also inherent in PCOS, putting us at risk of developing insulin resistance.
So, we know that we’re prone it IR as a result of our inflammation. Our cells slowly start losing their sensitivity to insulin, forcing our body to release more insulin for our cells to respond. This consistently high insulin level is called insulin resistance.
So what are the symptoms of insulin resistance?
For me, my next question would be, “How do I know if I have insulin resistance?” Well the symptoms of IR include:
- Brain fog or difficulty concentrating
- High blood pressure
Well, if I’m honest, I occasionally have those symptoms as a result of my PCOS, not necessarily insulin resistance. So, the only way to absolutely sure if you have insulin resistance is to consult with your doctor and have blood tests. Normally, a fasting blood test is done to measure your fasting blood sugar and insulin levels (3).
Okay, so just because you may have insulin resistance, doesn’t necessarily mean you will go on to develop prediabetes or diabetes.
Prediabetes and PCOS
If your insulin resistance remains unchecked and untreated, it could develop into Prediabetes. But what does that mean? Well, it means that your blood sugars are consistently on the higher end of normal. This suggests that your cells are losing their sensitivity to insulin and some of the glucose remains in your blood stream, instead of moving into the cells (4).
That fasting blood test will look at your blood sugar levels when you haven’t eaten and if these levels are higher than they should be, you would be diagnosed as prediabetic.
If your insulin resistance and blood sugar levels remain untreated, you could develop Type 2 Diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes and PCOS
Okay, so the statistics suggest that 40% will develop Type 2 Diabetes by the time we’re 40. Basically, our blood sugar levels continue to climb as our body loses sensitivity to insulin or cannot produce enough insulin (5). Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes include:
- Being thirsty all the time
- Frequent need to urinate
- Increased hunger (this can also be linked to PCOS)
- Extreme tiredness
- Sudden loss of muscle mass (as your body starts to use your muscles for energy)
Type 2 Diabetes can have serious complications so you need to make sure that you get it investigated if you suspect you may have Type 2 Diabetes.
Right, so now you can see the full picture with insulin resistance, prediabetes and diabetes. The good news is that you don’t have to be one of the statistics. There are some things you can do to prevent or even reverse the development of all these things.
Follow a good PCOS Diet
It’s really important that you are eating well to manage your PCOS as a whole. This will help to manage insulin levels, as well as alleviate any inflammation that you may be struggling with. Here are the principles that I would suggest are part of a good PCOS diet.
Research has shown that exercise helps to increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin (6). Now, before you ask what type of exercise you should be doing, let me point you to another article that suggests that even walking for about an hour a day can hugely improve insulin sensitivity (7). So, it doesn’t really matter what you do, just get moving!
Exercise is also crucial in helping to manage that chronic inflammation we all struggle with (8).
There are also supplements that you can take to help with insulin sensitivity and inflammation. These are also the supplements that I most commonly recommend for women with PCOS.
Omega 3’s are important in lowering testosterone levels in women with PCOS and also play a role in improving chronic inflammation in the body. Omega 3 is readily available in fatty fish like Salmon which I try to incorporate in my diet at least once a week. I also strongly recommend an Omega 3 supplement, such as this one.
I’ve already written about the benefits of Inositol (you can find that article here) so I won’t rehash it now. This has been one of the moist effective supplements I have used in managing my own PCOS and I strongly recommend it. You can find Inositol at most pharmacies or on Amazon.
So, to summarise, women with PCOS are at risk of developing Insulin resistance and Type 2 Diabetes. You don’t have to be one of those statistics though and following a good PCOS diet, exercising regularly and taking some supplements can really help to improve all of your symptoms of PCOS, including insulin resistance.
I would love to hear from you! Have you had any success reversing your prediabetes or are you in the process of making the above changes? Leave me a comment below!