This article was written by my previous Nutrition Grad Student, Kimmie Singh. She is a fat woman of color who experiences PCOS. You can find out more information about her work now as a dietitian here.
Now that you have background on the importance of insulin and glucose I’m going to explain how getting glucose in cells can be harder for people with PCOS.
Let’s dive in.
Most people with PCOS are insulin resistant. What’s that? Although the pancreas releases insulin after eating, the body doesn’t respond as expected. The body’s building blocks or cells that usually respond to insulin by taking up glucose from food rebel. They resist insulin in the bloodstream.
Why does this happen? We aren’t sure exactly. We do know that these cells end up without energy from the food just eaten.
This creates problems one of which the cells don’t get their primary source of energy. Also, the glucose in the bloodstream isn’t entering the cells, so it’s hanging out in the blood longer than it should be. This high level of glucose in the bloodstream causes the pancreas to make more insulin with hopes to get the cells to respond. They are hungry!
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Now there’s a lot going on: the energy-hungry cells need glucose, too much glucose in the blood bounces around causing havoc, and too much insulin in the bloodstream increases fat storage.
This process has your pancreas working overtime with half the pay.
It’s producing and pumping more insulin, yet blood sugar is still high and not getting into the cells for energy.
These long-term work conditions produce a pancreas unable to produce enough insulin to keep up with the body’s needs. This leads to the development of type 2 diabetes with PCOS.
Insulin resistance with PCOS can set the stage for:
- carb cravings that make every cell in your body DEMAND you to polish off a plate of brownies.
- very low energy levels
- exercise that feels like you are carrying around a bag of rocks
- more inflammation
- poor ovulation
- disrupted sleep
- weight gain around the midsection
You may want to learn more about insulin resistance, and the Internet has a lot of great information about it. Warning: many sources suggest weight gain is a contributor to insulin resistance. Wrong.
For people with PCOS, research shows insulin resistance is likely to occur regardless of weight. And, if weight gain occurs, it is likely a result of the insulin resistance not the other way around.
Insulin resistance is tough.
It can seem as though the odds are against us, but we are a tough bunch. You can manage your insulin resistance and nourish your body without dieting. Learning about insulin resistance helped me better understand how my body is different and why I respond to foods differently than my friends without PCOS.
I feel empowered to understand how my body works, and I hope this information helps you feel empowered too!
Want to explore more non diet options to help manage your PCOS, promote health AND healing?