What is the connection between Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and Pre-diabetes?
Certain people are born with a set of genes that make their tissues “insulin resistant”. This means that the insulin the pancreas produces doesn’t work well - again based on genetics and other factors like obesity and a diet high in carbs/sugars. Since the body’s natural insulin isn’t working well, the pancreas works hard to make more and more of it leading to high levels of circulating insulin in the body. Insulin is a fat storing hormone - so if you have a lot of insulin around, your body is constantly in fat storing mode!
Insulin resistance may actually play a role in the cause of PCOS and certainly can exacerbate symptoms. High insulin can impair ovulation and cause the ovaries to make excess testosterone.
Insulin resistance is also what causes pre-diabetes (again whether it’s from genetics, weight gain, poor diet - or a combination of these things). Over time, the pancreas can become overworked and cannot keep up - which leads to the development and progression into Type 2 Diabetes.
What are some symptoms of PCOS?
Fatigue and slow weight gain or difficulty with weight loss despite lifestyle changes (since high insulin levels continue to store fat no matter what you do!).
Other characteristic signs due to hormonal imbalances seen with PCOS are:
- Irregular periods
- Difficulty getting pregnant
- Excessive hair growth on the body
- Thinning hair
- Oily skin
- Painful ovarian cysts
- Low sex drive
- Mood changes
What can people with PCOS do to try and understand and prevent diabetes?
Lifestyle changes and dietary supplements are essential! My quick tips:
1) Eat less carbs. Opt for foods with lower glycemic index - they are less likely to spike blood sugars, and subsequently they don’t trigger the pancreas to create a surge of insulin! In other words, these foods do NOT cause a spike insulin.
2) Exercise - even walking for 10 minutes after a meal can help naturally lower sugar when you need it the most, again preventing the need for the pancreas to make a bunch of insulin!
3) Stress less - Stress and anxiety causes high cortisol levels. Work on stress-relieving techniques… such as meditation, exercise, saying no to an overbooked schedule, or making time for things you enjoy!
4) Sleep!! People who get less than 7 hours of sleep at night have worsened risk of developing insulin resistance and diabetes.
Natural ingredients can help!
At Diabetes Doctor, we offer supplements filled with natural ingredients that have individually been studied to be beneficial for insulin resistance. At certain doses -the following natural herbs, vitamins and minerals have proven benefits on insulin function which, therefore, may indirectly benefit PCOS symptoms: Curcumin, Vitamin D, Magnesium, Banaba, Chromium, and Cinnamon all found in our Pre-Diabetes Early Defense and Blood Sugar 24 Hour Support supplements. Inositol and berberine appear to be especially beneficial for PCOS specific symptoms.
Clinical research shows that taking berberine 500 mg (a key ingredient in our Carb & Sugar Blocker) three times daily for 3 months reduces fasting plasma glucose, markers of insulin resistance, cholesterol levels, testosterone levels, waist-to-hip ratio and can increase sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) in women with PCOS and insulin resistance when compared with placebo (study 1, study 2).
One study also shows this same dose of berberine when added to a gonadotropin releasing hormone agonist for IVF after 3 months increases the number of clinical pregnancies by almost two-fold and increases the live birth rate more than two-fold when compared with placebo. The effects of berberine on these outcomes were comparable to metformin (study link).
There is extensive research showing that inositol has comparable efficacy to metformin for improving fasting insulin, insulin resistance (measured as HOMA-IR), androgen levels, and BMI (study 1) as well as increased ovulation and pregnancy rates in women with PCOS (study 2, study 3, study 4, study 5, study 6).
It is recommended to take Inositol as either D-chiro-inositol (1-1.2 grams/day), or myo-inositol (2-4 grams/day), or the combination of the two. Higher doses appear to be more effective and recommended duration of use is 3-6 months. Keep in mind the dosing… 2-4 grams is generally a larger dose than you can get in a pill form – so consider using a bulk powder option.