Friday, June 1, 2012

PCOS and Insulin Resistance

Warning... this is kind of a longer post, however I tried to add some pictures to break it up. However the pictures have hardly anything to do with the text... just letting you all know!

I have actually learned quite a bit more about PCOS and what may cause it, or contribute to it (PCOS is still unexplored greatly and there can be a lot of gray areas - such as what actually causes PCOS.) I have also learned that a healthy diet and exercise are not just a recommendation for women with PCOS but are pretty much the treatment at this point. (There are medications you can take to treat individual symptoms but not the whole syndrome.) That made me wonder if there was a specific way I should be eating besides just healthy... and I've pretty much learned that if you follow the dietary recommendations for those with diabetes that it will help (there are diet books just for women with PCOS, I have only read one entirely and have started on a second one - both with good information and recommendations).

Red Rose

The reason for following a diet closer to those with diabetes is that a lot of women with PCOS are also Insulin Resistant (IR). Okay, I'd heard that before but honestly I had no clue what insulin resistant actually meant (I just knew it contributes to obesity). This came out after I had my glucose test and hubby was asking me questions. So I looked into IR a bit more and found out that IR is basically when cells in your body don't want to let the insulin allow the sugar into the cells. From my basic understanding the cells have openings that let insulin (insulin receptors), the insulin goes into the holes and lets the sugar into the cells. If you have insulin resistance however, the cells are not as sensitive to letting the insulin into the receptors and so the body (specifically the pancreas) floods the body with extra insulin to in effect force insulin into these cells and thereby get the sugar into the cells and out of the blood. Muscle cells require more sugar than other cells and have more insulin receptors in them. However, some cells notice there is an overload of insulin in the body because they are not as sensitive or resistant (like the ovaries.) When the ovaries notice there is a flooding of insulin they release excess androgens into the blood (androgens are male hormones... Females have male hormones and males have female hormones just in small amounts.) The release of these excess androgens cause some of the symptoms that women with PCOS notice. It also gives a clearer understanding of why a diabetic type diet works best. Those with insulin resistance may develop type 2 diabetes if they do not monitor their eating habits. The pancreas will eventually tire out from overworking and not be able to keep flooding the body anymore.

So learning all this while pregnant was quite interesting. I decided to actually try out this type of dietary guideline. This was the first time I've counted carbs and calories. (Normally I just count calories. Except the diet I went on last time I ate a specified amount of food from each food group with a list of those to avoid, etc.) It was also the first time I've counted calories that I haven't been trying to lose weight. I can honestly say that it is somewhat of a liberating experience. Eating right to help my body handle what it eats and knowing I am doing what is best for myself is an amazing experience. I am doing this for me and me alone... okay not entirely true, I am also doing it for my family. I want to be able to be active with my children throughout their lives - something that I may not be able to do if I don't regulate my eating habits (and exercise... but I'm not getting into that right now.) However I am not doing it for what others around me will say - I mean, they don't even know - I have a nice sized basketball belly right now! (Plus the goal now is NOT to lose weight... but to eat healthier and help my pancreas not wear itself out. And to be perfectly honest, I would be happy if I limited weight gain to the recommended 1 lb a week, not 2 lbs ever week or week and a half.)

Me & My Son Revised
One of my motivating factors!

I am wonderfully blessed with support from my husband. He is great at helping me eat right - without being pushy or nagging. He doesn't complain at the reduction of goodies around our house... although I am sure he does want to from time to time! (I'm not saying we NEVER have goodies, we just don't have them as OFTEN!) In fact the second day I started my new dietary plan was his birthday and we had cake and ice-cream. However I made sure to budget for it and not eat as many carbs with dinner because it was a special occasion (and splurging for occasions such a birthdays isn't a bad thing).

Thanks for your support honey!

I will be discussing more about my new dietary plan and how it's worked another time (partly to avoid making this post into a novel!) However I do want to say 2 things about changing eating habits - first, I feel we focus too much on restrictions instead of what is allowed. This only leaves us craving what is restricted! Second, it's okay to 'cheat' once in a while! No eating habit will last if we cannot occasionally splurge. The important thing is that we stick to it MOST of the time.

Fruit & Chips3
When splurging, a dessert with fresh fruit is best! Although dark chocolate has some benefits in moderation!

 Finally I just want to discuss a pet peeve of mine. Sugar substitutes (or artificial sugar) should not be considered a 'free food' on any diet! (I think they have it as a free food because it doesn't raise blood sugar.) This is one thing that never sat right with me (maybe it's because I can taste them and they don't taste right - when I had morning sickness one taste of anything with artificial sugar and I knew it was in there... and was absolutely disgusted by it! Gotta love morning sickness.) However I recently read that researchers have found that these may actually make you crave more sugar... and really that's the last thing that we (at least I) need! So just be careful if you use sugar substitutes - they are not necessarily as innocent as some diets would make you believe.

Stay tuned for the next installment where I discuss my new dietary plan and how it's been working out for me...

This is part of my series on PCOS and learning to understand and live with it. *I am not a medical professional, nor do I have a lot of knowledge of PCOS other than what I've read. This is just me, my opinions, how I understand PCOS and how I am dealing with it.


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  3. I have pcos. Last year a cyst grew on my right ovary and caused it to twist. By the time the doctors found out what was wrong my ovary was black, the size of a nee born baby's head, and pretty much dead. I had to have it removed.

    If i dont take birth control cysts grow and I get a period once every five or six months and really bad acne. And plus with one ovary gone the doctors tell me I should do my best to keep that ovary cystless so I cant get off birth control.

    The birth control has given me severe yeast infections that literally do not go away with any sort of antifungal. The only thing I can do it eat no sugar. No bread, potatoes, artificial sweeteners, corn, wheat products.

    They say losing weight and working out helps. Never helped me. Not that it won't help with anyone else. It just seriously sucks. I work out three days a week for two hours each time.

    But I also have Hashimoto Thyroiditis, which really messes up all your hormones and everything too. Autoimmune diseases go hand in hand so if you have one there is a good chance you have another. Like celiacs and pcos or hashimotos and pcos, like me.

    1. I'm sorry you have to go through this. I know that PCOS has varying severity but it seems like you got the rough road to travel with it. Good luck and I hope that things work out.

    2. Oh and all your recipes look amazing, by the way. :)


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