Insulin resistance is one of the biggest contributing factors of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) symptoms, such as hormonal acne, irregular periods, hair loss, excess hair growth, weight gain, infertility, and cystic ovaries. Having high insulin levels not only leads to insulin resistance, but also makes your body produce more androgens (male hormones), which is what causes the symptoms, but treatment is available and with a PCOS diet that is sugar-free (maybe even keto), you can improve your Polycystic Ovary Syndrome symptoms and improve fertility.
When I was first diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome a few years ago, I instantly knew that diet would become the main focus of my PCOS treatment plan. At the time, I was not concerned about fertility, and the symptoms that I cared about were my hormonal acne and difficulty losing weight/fat.
I knew about PCOS and that it was associated with insulin resistance even before I was diagnosed, so I started by switching to a low-GI diet immediately. This meant cutting out inflammatory foods (inflammation is also associated with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) that spike insulin levels, such as sugary cereals, cakes, candies, and cookies; as well as high-GI carbohydrates like pasta, bread, rice, etc.
I have since transitioned to a mostly low-carb/keto diet, which is a great treatment diet for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. You want to manage insulin resistance when you have PCOS, as it can affect quite a few hormones, which will affect you in different ways.
Your body also uses some excess testosterone (an androgen) to produce estrogen, which can make you estrogen dominant, leading to fat gain and low progesterone levels. Having low progesterone levels increases the chances of fertility issues, such as having miscarriages and it also makes it hard to become pregnant. As a symptom, low-progesterone levels can even make your period last a lot longer than usual. Trust me, I know. I had my period for a year and a half nonstop until last year, although now my period hasn’t come back in ten months.
As you can see, it is a complicated cycle, but I have been able to improve my symptoms, such as hormonal acne and mood swings and it mainly starts with managing insulin resistance by adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Insulin Resistance Treatment Tip #1: Cut Out Sugar & Processed Carbohydrates:
They increase your blood glucose levels, which spikes your insulin and leads to insulin resistance. Try to consume your carbs from vegetables, and if you must have other forms of unrefined carbs, like sweet potato, butternut, and quinoa, only have them once or twice a week or once a day, so that you follow a ketogenic/low-carb diet 90% of the time.
This change is probably one of the best things you can do for your fertility and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.
Insulin Resistance Treatment Tip #2: Eat Two or Three Times a Day:
You have probably heard that in order to lose weight, you must eat around five or six meals a day, but the problem is that every time you eat, regardless of what you eat, your insulin levels will rise. It will just increase a lot more when you just eat carbohydrates than when you consume fat or protein. Rather have slightly bigger meals, but spread them throughout the day. I recommend having two to three meals a day, four if you must, especially if you are trying to lose fat or support your fertility.
Insulin Resistance Treatment Tip #3: Practise Intermittent Fasting:
Intermittent fasting (IF) is the practice of limiting your eating window and fasting for a certain period of time, typically between 12 and 23 hours a day, although many people fast for 24 hours once or twice a week, or do three-, five-, or seven-day fasts.
If you do drink a cup of coffee or eat breakfast at 8:00 in the morning, then you can stop consuming anything other than water between 18:00 and 20:00 that night. By doing this, you will mostly fast while you are sleeping.
Intermittent fasting is great for regulating insulin and gives your body longer breaks from eating, digesting food, and having elevated blood sugar levels. When you are fasting, your body will run out of available glucose to use for energy and it will then start to break down your fat and damaged cells when it needs energy through a cell-recycling process called “autophagy”.
I do not recommend that women with PCOS fast for too long, because it can put too much stress on the body, but you will need to determine the ideal amount of time for your body when you try intermittent fasting as part of your PCOS and fertility treatment plan.
Insulin Resistance Treatment Tip #4: Eat Fibre, Protein, and Fat at Every Meal:
When you switch to a diet aimed at managing insulin levels and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome symptoms, I recommend that you focus on consuming fibre, protein, and fat at every meal, as this will help you feel and stay full, and will help you manage insulin resistance.
Your body burns carbohydrates quite quickly, so if you eat a meal that only consists of carbohydrates (especially low-fibre carbohydrates), it will spike your glucose levels, which will then lead to a drop in glucose levels, which will make you feel hungry a lot sooner. When you eat protein and fat, however, it will help you stay full for a longer period of time before getting hungry again, especially when you pair it with a low-carb fibre source.
Try to eat at least two sources of fibre per meal. Vegetables and low-sugar fruits like berries are great sources of fibre, as well as nuts, needs, avocado, coconut flour, and chia seeds.
Insulin Resistance Treatment Tip #5: Get Enough Sleep Every Night
Even a 30-minute shortage of sleep per night can increase the amount by which your insulin levels rise the next day, which makes sleep even more crucial for women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome who want to improve their PCOS symptoms and fertility.
Seeing my ovarian cysts on the screen at the doctor’s office for that first time inspired great change in my lifestyle and diet. I have been on a mission to manage my Polycystic Ovary Syndrome symptoms through diet and lifestyle, and have seen great improvements thus far with this treatment approach.
Use the PCOS diet and lifestyle tips in this post to help you if you are concerned about your fertility and want to do anything you can to improve your chances of becoming pregnant, and also to possibly improve other symptoms like hormonal acne. You can even slow or prevent the formation of ovarian cysts.
While I don’t have a baby yet, part of me really wants one day, and I want to do what I can to manage my Polycystic Ovary Syndrome symptoms and boost my fertility. I guess you could say I am on a fertility treatment diet. Ovarian cysts will not get in my way. When the time comes for us to start a family, I want my body to be as healthy as possible regardless of my Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, ovarian cysts, hormonal acne, mood swings, and the fact that I am currently not ovulating.