PCOS: The Power of Diet
by James Haley MD, FACOG, FPMRS
Diet plays a powerful role in controlling PCOS symptoms. In this article, we’ll unlock the link between PCOS and insulin resistance.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects approximately 15-20% of women, with a vast majority experiencing insulin resistance. Exploring the connection between PCOS and insulin resistance is essential for effectively managing symptoms. A change in diet will help women with PCOS reduce symptoms and live a healthy life.
How Insulin Resistance Plays a Role in PCOS
Insulin resistance, a defining characteristic of PCOS, arises when the body’s cells become less responsive to insulin. This results in reduced glucose uptake by cells, causing glucose buildup in the bloodstream. As a response, the pancreas produces more insulin, contributing to health issues and aggravating PCOS symptoms.
Understanding the correlation between PCOS and insulin resistance is crucial as almost all women with PCOS are prone to this condition. If they aren’t showing signs of insulin resistance now, it is certainly possible for it to become a problem later in life.
Symptoms of Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance disrupts blood sugar regulation, necessitating heightened insulin production. Elevated insulin levels adversely affect hormonal balance, metabolism, and overall health. Basically, what this means is it makes all PCOS symptoms worse.
Weight management challenges, particularly abdominal weight gain, are prominent indicators of insulin resistance in PCOS women. This difficulty can be attributed to the disruptions caused by insulin resistance. This insulin resistance disrupts hormone levels, which can then lead to irregular periods, infertility, increased androgen levels, causing acne, excessive hair growth, and even hair loss. But it’s important to know that if a woman has PCOS and doesn’t have unwanted weight gain, she still could be insulin resistant.
A Healthy, Low Carbohydrate Diet Reduces PCOS Symptoms
To effectively manage PCOS and insulin resistance, a change in diet plays a pivotal role. Implementing a healthy, low carbohydrate diet significantly enhances insulin sensitivity and reduces PCOS symptoms.
Overall, a daily diet to control PCOS symptoms should consist of approximately:
- Less than 15% carbohydrates
- 45% protein
- 40% healthy fats
Following are key dietary tips when choosing a diet low in carbohydrates:
- Eat plenty of vegetables and legumes – These foods release glucose gradually, preventing blood sugar spikes and insulin surges.
- Include lean proteins – Incorporate lean protein sources such as fish, organic chicken, beans, and tofu. These promote stable blood sugar levels and keep you feeling full.
- Choose healthy fats – Emphasize unsaturated fats found in avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. Limit saturated and trans fats, which can induce inflammation and insulin resistance.
- Avoid dairy – Women with PCOS do best when avoiding dairy products such as milk and cheeses. Include non-fat Greek yogurt or other sugar-free non-dairy products.
- Control portions – Be mindful of portion sizes to avoid overeating, which worsens insulin resistance.
- Balance meals and snacks – Aim for regular, balanced meals and minimal snacks to maintain steady energy levels and stabilize blood sugar.
- Minimize added sugars – Restrict consumption of sugary beverages, processed snacks, and desserts as they trigger blood sugar spikes and exacerbate insulin resistance.
- Try intermittent fasting – Allowing your body to spend time in the fasted state improves glucose regulation and insulin sensitivity. An occasional 12-16 hour fast from dinner to the next day can help with insulin resistance, increase energy, and reduce cravings.
Physical Activity and Supplements
In addition to dietary changes, regular physical activity plays a pivotal role in managing insulin resistance and PCOS symptoms. Engage in aerobic exercises, strength training, and yoga to improve insulin sensitivity, support weight management, and boost overall physical and mental health.
There are several helpful all-natural supplements that help with insulin control and help reduce overall PCOS symptoms. Some examples include inositol, berberine, green tea, resveratrol, chromium, coenzyme Q10, manganese, and more.
Our OB/GYNs Can Help
Our OB/GYNs are female health experts and treat women with PCOS and insulin resistance every day. We can develop a personalized treatment plan for you that encompasses dietary recommendations and lifestyle modifications tailored to individual needs and concerns.
By comprehending the connection between PCOS and insulin resistance and embracing these dietary changes, women with PCOS can take charge of their condition.