Insulin resistance is one of the main drivers and underlying root cause of PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). If affects an average of about 75% of women with PCOS. If you are a cyster, it is crucial for you to know, what it is and how to reverse it.
What is Insulin Resistance?
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, which is a hormone gland attached to your duodenum in the shape of a sweet potato. Insulin is secreted by the pancreas, every time we eat carbohydrates. Carbs are broken down into glucose during digestion and released into the blood stream where they are being transported to the cells of our body to be used for energy production. In order to enter the cell, insulin is required. It functions like a key, docking to a protein in the cell membrane, which can be compared to a lock. The doors are opened for glucose to enter and to be processed further.
When we are insulin resistant, this opening-mechanism is broken. Insulin is being secreted and docking to the protein receptors in the cell membrane, but there is little to no response. The cell does not receive the glucose it so desperately needs for energy production. Instead of using up the blood glucose, our body is storing it as fat. Thus, insulin resistance leads to fatigue, weight gain and sugar cravings. You are eating, but your cells are starving.
How does Insulin Resistance Develop?
The main reason why insulin resistance develops is a diet high in refined carbs and sugar and constant eating or snacking, which leads to chronic high blood sugar levels and causes the pancreas to tirelessly secrete insulin to help the cells receive the glucose. If the cells are being bombarded with insulin non-stop, they cease to react at some point. This can lead to the condition of insulin resistance over time.
An other underlying factor that can cause or worsen insulin resistance is chronic stress, which can be physical, mental or emotional. Difficulties in your marriage, pressure at work, injury or food sensitivities can all contribute to cells becoming resistant to insulin.
A third contributing factor is chronic inflammation which can be caused by stress, an imbalanced diet and a sedentary lifestyle. Especially women with excess belly fat tent to have higher levels of inflammation since the adipose cells produce inflammatory cytokines which make the cells of the fat, liver and muscle tissue resistant to insulin (1).
3 Tips on How to Reverse Insulin Resistance
Since eating too much sugar and refined carbs and constant snacking are one of the underlying root causes of insulin resistance, I usually recommend my clients to cut down or completely avoid sugar and refined carbs. Refined carbs are found in products made from flour, such as bread, muffins, crackers or pasta. Brown, red or black rice, quinoa or baked goods made with almond or coconut flour are great replacements. When you have a snack, replace empty calories with nutrients. Exchange your muffin or snickers for nuts, some carrot sticks with hummus or some seed crackers for example.
Another great way to reduce insulin resistance is exercise. The best time for cardio training is after a meal. It will help lower blood glucose levels. Strength training is great for women with PCOS and insulin resistance. If we train our muscles and cause them to grow, the number of insulin receptors around the cell membranes will increase, thus making our cells more receptive to insulin.
Lastly, there are some medications and supplements you can take to lower insulin. Doctors usually prescribe a drug called metformin or a supplement called inositol. Both substances help increase insulin sensitivity. A great natural supplement, which I like to add to a lot of my meals is cinnamon. It has a similar effect to insulin in the body. Make sure you get enough chromium and magnesium in your diet, since they both are involved in blood sugar regulation. Berberine is also a great supplement to increase insulin sensitivity and fight inflammation.
Now you understand what insulin resistance is and what you can do to reverse it.
I hope this information is helpful to you. Please leave a comment or share this post.
Sending you my love,
- de Luca, Carl, and Jerrold M Olefsky. “Inflammation and insulin resistance.” FEBS letters 582,1 (2008): 97-105. doi:10.1016/j.febslet.2007.11.057