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  • Taylor Richter, RDN, LD

How Balancing Blood Sugar Can Transform PCOS Symptoms

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) affects millions of women worldwide, causing a range of symptoms that impact both physical and emotional well-being. From irregular menstrual cycles to infertility, weight gain, and acne, PCOS can significantly disrupt daily life. However, there's a promising avenue for managing its symptoms: balancing blood sugar levels. In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the intricate relationship between PCOS and blood sugar regulation, and explore effective strategies for achieving balance.


Understanding PCOS and Its Impact on Health

PCOS affects about 1 in 10 women of childbearing age and is a leading cause of infertility. It is a complex condition with a range of symptoms that can vary from person to person. Some of the common symptoms include:


  • Irregular periods or no periods at all

  • Difficulty getting pregnant due to lack of ovulation

  • Excessive hair growth on the face, chest, or back (hirsutism)

  • Thinning hair on the scalp

  • Weight gain or difficulty losing weight

  • Acne or oily skin


In addition to these symptoms, women with PCOS are at an increased risk of developing certain health problems later in life, such as type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and heart disease. One of the underlying causes of these health issues is often insulin resistance.


The 4 Type of PCOS

Did you know that there are actually 4 types of PCOS? The four types of PCOS are:


  • Insulin-resistant: this is the most common form of PCOS. The cells stop responding to insulin which actually results in higher levels of insulin which leads to higher levels of androgens.

  • Inflammatory: in this form of PCOS, chronic inflammation can lead to an increase in androgens and prevent ovulation.

  • Post-pill: if oral contraceptives are stopped rapidly, this condition could occur. It produces excessive androgens and can lead to PCOS symptoms without insulin sensitivity.

  • Adrenal: too much stress can lead to the production of DHEA, the building block for androgen hormones, cortisol, and testosterone. This form of PCOS does not come with insulin sensitivity.


The Role of Insulin Resistance in PCOS

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps regulate blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance occurs when the body's cells become less responsive to insulin, leading to higher levels of insulin in the blood. This can contribute to weight gain, particularly around the abdomen, and can also increase the production of androgens in the ovaries.


Balancing Blood Sugar to Manage PCOS Symptoms

One of the most effective ways to manage PCOS symptoms, particularly insulin resistance, is to focus on balancing blood sugar levels. This can be achieved through a combination of diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes.


Follow an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

In order to have an anti-inflammatory diet, you want to consistently pair carbohydrates with fat and/or protein. Including protein and fiber in your meals can slow down the absorption of carbohydrates, preventing spikes in blood sugar levels. This approach also ensures you are getting adequate protein, fiber, and fat to promote satiety, stable energy and mood, and fat loss.


Eating an anti-inflammatory diet that supports blood sugar balance includes accentuating:


  • vegetables

  • low-glycemic fruit

  • beans and legumes

  • nuts and seeds

  • anti-inflammatory fats and oils

  • grassfed, organic, free-range, wild-caught, and/or local meat, poultry, and fish

Exercise

Maintaining a regular exercise routine, such as walking and strength training, is crucial for strengthening your bones to aid in avoiding osteoporosis, maintaining muscle mass, improving mood and sleep quality. Even taking a 10 minute walk after you eat a meal has been shown to decrease blood sugar levels.


Sleep

Another great tool to lower inflammation and balance blood sugar is sleep! Getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night is key to lowering inflammation, reducing stress, and balancing blood sugar. Sleep is key to living in a body that feels safe and supported.


Manage Stress

Chronic stress can contribute to insulin resistance and exacerbate PCOS symptoms. Finding healthy ways to manage stress, such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises, can be beneficial.


Supplements

Some supplements, such as inositol and berberine, have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and regulate menstrual cycles in women with PCOS. However, it's important to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen.


Conclusion

PCOS is a complex hormonal disorder that can have a significant impact on a woman's health and well-being. While there is no cure for PCOS, managing its symptoms is possible through various lifestyle changes. By following an anti-inflammatory diet, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep and managing stress, women with PCOS can improve their insulin sensitivity and reduce the severity of their symptoms. Working closely with a healthcare provider is key to developing an individualized treatment plan that addresses the specific needs of each woman with PCOS.

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