How to improve insulin resistance when you have PCOS

If you have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), then you know just how frustrating it can be if you’ve been trying to gain control of your weight. I have quite a few friends, clients, and patients that deal with this condition that digs deeper than infertility, as devastating as that can be on its own.

First let’s define what it is and why it matters for your weight. PCOS is characterized by overproduction of the androgen testosterone, menstrual abnormalities when ovulation does not occur and enlarged ovaries containing multiple small follicles (hence, polycystic ovaries). Women with severe PCOS have greater menstrual irregularity, androgen excess, total and abdominal fat and resistance to insulin; higher degrees of obesity are associated with worsening symptoms. This means their risk is increased for metabolic comorbidities such as diabetes. Since insulin is a known fat storage hormone, the greater the insulin resistance, the harder it usually is to control weight gain. It’s a double whammy.

Did I just described you or someone you know personally? Whether your insulin resistance is caused by PCOS or something else, some of these principles will apply. Insulin resistance otherwise known as “pre-diabetes” or “glucose intolerance” often leads to diabetes later in life and can really wreak havoc on your weight loss efforts. If you have received a diagnosis of insulin resistance, it means your insulin receptors are not very sensitive to the “lock and key” fit that insulin creates to move glucose (sugar) into their cells for energy. As a result, your pancreas produces more insulin to try and keep up. But like anything, our bodies become tolerant when it gets too much of something. Same thing happens when you take antibiotics over and over- your body recognizes it and you become antibiotic resistant over time. Consider someone who has become addicted to a drug and requires more over time to attain the same effect they did when they first tried it. Same concept.

When you have an abundance of insulin circulating in your blood stream, it’s constantly promoting fat storage in your body making it extremely difficult for you to succeed at any weight loss attempts. A common treatment in PCOS specifically is to prescribe metformin. However this isn’t really correcting the problem – it’s just telling your liver to produce less glucose but not directly addressing the fact that your body is producing too much insulin.

My expertise is in natural health and what to eat. So I’m not recommending you stop any current medical treatments without speaking to your physician. But I do want to help you with what you can safely control, starting today.

Begin with these simple (but maybe not so easy) steps:

  1. You gotta cut out fake food – meaning processed, refined, simple carbohydrates and sugars. These foods do nothing for you. Well, nutritionally they do nothing. I know emotionally they are “feel good” foods and literally turn on the pleasure centers in our brain by increasing dopamine levels and offer a great distraction to our negative emotions. But they spike insulin levels quickly and when consumed persistently (as part of frequent snacking let’s say), they worsen insulin resistance eventually leading to type 2 diabetes. Don’t misread this, those with a normal functioning pancreas cannot give themselves diabetes by eating these foods alone. Many other factors are running behind the scene including weight and genetics.
  2. Reduce your total carbohydrate intake. Key word here is REDUCE not eliminate. I’m really not a proponent of consuming under 10% of your calories from carbohydrates because I haven’t seen anyone sustain it for long term and there are very healthy foods that truly don’t deserve that kind of neglect. Why would you eliminate an apple from your diet that contains fiber and vital nutrients? It doesn’t make any sense. But it IS a good idea to cut back to 100 to 130 grams of total carbohydrate per day. If that sounds like a lot to you, consider that most people consume anywhere from 300 to 600 grams of carbohydrate per day in the standard american diet. Restricting down to 100 or so is enough to put you into a very mild ketosis so that you are depleting your glycogen stores (in simple terms, energy from sugar stores) while dipping into some of your fat stores. The effect of ketosis is to reduce hunger and successfully lose weight while not feeling terrible. *Note if you are a diabetic taking insulin you will need to discuss this with your doctor before lowering your carbohydrates this much as your regimen is likely designed for you to eat more than this.
  3. Consider a 30 day cleanse to reset your system and begin to bring your hormones into balance. This will not be an overnight fix. But, essential oils are natural, aromatic compounds that when coming from pure sources, have therapeutic properties that can have amazing benefits for bringing body systems that are out of balance, into balance. A good cleanse eliminates processed food and sugars, includes a high quality multivitamin, whole food enzymes, essential oils, probiotics and others that I outline specifically on a recent post here that you can read about if interested. If you experience symptoms like fatigue, irritability, headaches, stomach distress, bloating, recurrent sinus infections, lack of focus, or other vague symptoms not otherwise diagnosed as anything definitive, a cleanse could be exactly what you need. These could be signs of a weakened immune system caused by increased levels of stress, poor diet, increased candida overgrowth in your gut, and/or sleep deprivation.
  4. Incorporate essential oils into your daily maintenance plan to bring and keep your hormones in balance. Oils like clary sage and geranium when used daily regulate the hormones responsible for the female reproductive system. Clove, cinnamon, and rosemary support the pancreas to balance healthy blood sugars. Grapefruit, cinnamon and ginger regulate appetite and reduce cravings, particularly for sweets. Making teas using these can help along with increasing your fluids. And lastly but just as important, oils like cilantro, lemon and tangerine regularly cleanse and assist the liver to keep it functioning at it’s best. I recommend adding lemon to all of your water for this purpose. Just one drop of essential oil per eight ounces.
  5. Manage sleep and stress. This isn’t easy, I realize. However, you can do all of the above and if you don’t take care of these two, it won’t do you any good. Stress and sleep deprivation increase the hormone, cortisol, which inhibits the production of progesterone, a main marker of PCOS. Grapefruit essential oil can also prevent cortisol from doing this, so adding it to some of your water is a good idea. But more importantly, taking measures to get at least seven hours of sleep each night is key. Refer to this post I did a while back on taking simple measures to achieve this.

I’ve only scratched the surface on this. As you know, PCOS affects many areas of your life from causing unwanted facial hair, to thinning hair, and infertility. This post was meant to focus primarily on the weight and insulin resistant aspects as that is what I do best. However, I do believe that by addressing diet and hormonal issues that naturally, each of the symptoms can be improved greatly over time. If you’d like to know more about my cleanse and diet program, please feel free to contact me.

P.S. If you’re looking for online support with like minded women striving to live a healthier lifestyle, you may be interested in joining my free support group here.

 

Follow me for daily livestreams on Facebook

Instagram: TheOilRD

Email: contact@jillianmcmullen.com

Jillian McMullen, RDN, CSOWM, LDN

Do you know what high fructose corn syrup really is?

Believe it or not, there is a large degree of controversy in the health community as to whether or not high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) any different than consuming sugar, honey, or any of the other sweeteners humans have consumed for decades prior to the 1970s when it was first introduced on the market.

Let’s start off with defining what this evil thing is, HFCS, anyway. I’m sure you’ve heard of it, probably all bad things. But do you know what it really is (besides an evil liquid sweet substance that makes you fat especially your liver, inflames everything in your body, and will likely give you a heart attack in the next 5 years)? Defined, it is derived from corn starch which has been broken down into corn syrup to which enzymes have been added to change some of the glucose to fructose, making the product

sweeter than regular corn syrup. Regular corn syrup is 100% glucose whereas HFCS now has a large portion or fructose. According to the FDA, HFCS 42 (as in 42% fructose) is mainly used in processed foods, cereals, baked goods, and some beverages. HFCS 55 (as in 55% fructose) is used primarily in soft drinks. Make sense?

Why is it used? Because it’s cheap. It comes from an abundance and renewable source in the agricultural industry – corn. It’s also stable in acidic environments and beverages, making it very easy to use in products. Being that it’s liquid, it’s also easy to pump from delivery vehicles to mixing and storage tanks.

So why the controversy? It’s cheap, it’s easy, seems to be near identical to table sugar, which is 50% glucose and 50% fructose – the substance all other sweeteners are compared to. So why all the media hype? One of the biggest spotlights it has been deemed a demon for is the obesity epidemic. I’ve done as thorough research review and as Harry Truman said, “If you can’t convince them, conf

use them.”And that’s largely where I’m at -sort of.

Here’s why. The vast majority of the studies I read concluded that HFCS is no more to harmful to our health than consuming regular table sugar is. That doesn’t mean it’s good for you, it just means it’s not worse for you than eating added sugars in general. That makes a lot of sense to me because I already know that eating added sugar does more harm that good. What didn’t make sense to me was that some of these articles, like this one from the NIH, while compelling, were funded by Pepsi Co International, Coca Cola, ConAgra Foods, Kraft Foods, Corn Refiners Association, and Weight Watchers. The conclusion was “based on high quality evidence from randomized controlled tria

ls (RCT), systematic reviews and meta-analyses of cohort studies that singling out added sugars as unique culprits for metabolically based diseases such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease appears inconsistent with modern, high quality evidence and is very unlikely to yield health benefits.” In case you forgot, Weight Watchers has a large product line if one and two point cakes, muffins, and other yummy sweet treats to keep you on track with your point count.

And this review, who’s final statement was “it does not appear to be practical to base dietary guidance on selecting or avoiding these specific types of sweeteners,” was funded by the United States Department of Agriculture. It’s just hard for me to see beyond the possibility of hidden agendas w

hen companies who have a lot to lose are dumping their money into statements telling the public th

at what they are doing is perfectly safe.

I did find some unbiased research out there though. As of 2004, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that there indeed is evidence that it may have a special connection to the rising obesity rates, particularly because of the overconsumption of sweetened sodas. The conclusion that started this whole controversy was that “the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and gout is also increased with the consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks.”

But why would this be? For starters, with the cheap source of sweeteners, the average soda size grew from sixteen ounce bottles to twenty. Even more so, this sugary substance is addicting. W

hen we get a taste of it, we want more. Sweetness is an acquired taste. Ever met a one year old who’s never had candy or cookies? I have and they could care less about it. I met a holistic nutrition doctor once that has two children between the ages of five and ten who have never had sugar of any kind before….and they didn’t want it. In contrast, I’ve met a two year old who’s tasted candy and they will go through great lengths to get it (like pulling up chairs, climbing furniture, hiding behind furniture with said candy, screaming, crying…not that this was my kid or anything.)

In a more recent study in 2013, they concluded similar results (along with increased risk of fatty liver disease) with more astounding statistics – between 1950 and 2000 the soda consumption increased from 10 gallons per year to over 50 gallons per year and from 120 pounds of sugar in 1994 to over 160 pounds of sugar in the 21 st century.

Additionally, fructose can be a nightmare if you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome. For about one third of sufferers, fructose malabsorption or intolerance may exacerbate symptoms of bloating, gas, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Fructose is naturally found in honey and fruits. But we eat it on the daily in sugary drinks and processed foods – trying to eliminate it can be a challenge. Same goes for those with a corn allergy. It’s becomes a second job to avoid HFCS since it’s now in not only sodas but crackers, cookies, frozen dinners, granola bars, and yogurt.

Lastly, I’ve talked about the hunger regulating hormones, ghrelin and leptin before. There is evidence to suggest that HFCS inhibits insulin secretion thus, the leptin isn’t produced to promote satiety after a meal or a snack full of HFCS. As far as I have found, ghrelin (the hunger producing hormo

ne) isn’t increased, but who cares when you get no full signal while you’re chowing down on a box of doughnuts?

Bottom line: eat it, as with table sugar and all added sugars, in moderation. It is unclear if HFCS is the cause of the rising obesity epidemic and all of the related health issues we are experienc

ing in ourselves and our families, but it is crystal clear that there is a correlation.

What is moderation though? Well, I didn’t find much out there. I know less than 160 pounds per year, but that doesn’t tell me a whole lot. To give you an idea, one 12 ounce can of soda has 40 grams. So consider a plant-based diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and eliminate sweetened beverages. Start there and limit the sweets to special occasions and holidays.

 

P.S. If you’re looking for online support with like minded moms striving to live a healthier lifestyle, you may be interested in joining my free support group here.

Follow me for daily livestreams on Facebook

Instagram: TheOilRD

Email: contact@jillianmcmullen.com

Jillian McMullen, RDN, CSOWM, LDN