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By Alex Allan on 11/08/23 | Blood sugar balance

Always hungry? It might be your blood sugar...

One of the critical aspects to consider in managing PCOS is blood sugar balance. But what does that even mean? Let's dive in. 

If your blood sugar levels are wonky, you might experience the following PCOS-related symptoms:

  • Frequent hunger, with an inability to go more than three hours without eating
  • Irritability, mood swings, or heightened anxiety when hungry
  • Difficulty concentrating or focussing
  • Weakness or dizziness striking unexpectedly
  • Trembling or shakiness that disrupts your day
  • High levels of fatigue
  • Uncontrollable cravings for caffeine, sugar or nicotine
  • Mid-afternoon energy slumps that have you to reaching for sugary or carby snacks
  • Waking up abruptly in the middle of the night

These signs could point towards blood sugar imbalance, a concern that's increasingly prevalent in today's fast-paced world. Our diets are often loaded with refined carbohydrates like bread, cereals, pasta, cakes, and cookies. The catch? We might not be incorporating sufficient protein or healthy fats into our meals, which can wreak havoc on our blood sugar levels. 

But how does this relate to PCOS?

In essence, the Western diet's emphasis on sugary and low-fibre foods results in rapid digestion, quick conversion into sugar, and subsequent absorption – culminating in blood sugar spikes. These spikes trigger a substantial release of insulin, a hormone responsible for transporting sugar into cells for energy. However, an excess of insulin can lead to a temporary drop in blood sugar levels below the norm.

What's the consequence? Your body might signal that it needs more food, potentially causing overeating and contributing to weight gain – a concern commonly faced by individuals dealing with PCOS. 

Moreover, the brain requires consistent energy for optimal function. Plunging blood sugar levels can impede brain performance, leading to difficulties in concentration, fatigue, racing thoughts, and an irresistible urge to reach for a quick snack.

With these recurring episodes, your body might perceive them as stressors, prompting the release of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol's role includes regulating blood sugar to ensure the body has enough energy for fight-or-flight responses – think escaping from a proverbial tiger. 

By boosting energy supplies, cortisol tries to counteract the stressor, which can further fuel the blood sugar imbalance, perpetuating a distressing cycle. In the long run, this cycle contributes to a rollercoaster of blood sugar levels, exacerbating symptoms.

And the blood sugar rollercoaster that you’re now on can lead to high levels of insulin – which is not a great thing if you have PCOS.

Why is high insulin problematic for PCOS?

High insulin levels play a significant role in the development and exacerbation of PCOS symptoms. Here's how:

Insulin resistance: If insulin is being released too frequently, insulin resistance can occur, which is when the body's cells start to become less responsive to the effects of insulin – almost like they’re deaf to it. This means that the body needs to produce more insulin to help regulate blood sugar levels. In people with PCOS, insulin resistance is common and can lead to even higher levels of insulin in the blood. Which can lead to…

Hyperinsulinaemia: Hyperinsulinemia refers to elevated levels of insulin in the blood. Insulin is not only involved in regulating blood sugar, but it also has other effects on the body. High insulin levels can stimulate the ovaries to produce more androgens (male hormones) such as testosterone. This can disrupt the delicate balance of hormones in the body and lead to various PCOS symptoms. Which can lead to…

Androgen Production: Elevated insulin levels can stimulate the ovaries to produce excess androgens. Androgens are normally present in both males and females but are typically at lower levels in females. In PCOS, the increased androgen production can lead to symptoms such as irregular or absent periods, unwanted hair growth on the face, chest and back, acne, weight gain and metabolic dysfunction.

Therefore, managing blood sugar balance and reversing insulin resistance are important aspects of managing PCOS and its symptoms. 

Specific diet and lifestyle changes can help improve insulin sensitivity, regulate hormonal imbalances, and alleviate the symptoms associated with PCOS. If you’d like to know more, why not book in a call to chat to one of our practitioners – just click here.

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