When we eat food, our body breaks it down into glucose (which is a simple sugar). In order for this glucose to be used by our body, the pancreas creates insulin. The insulin helps our body pull the glucose out of the blood stream and into the cells. But women with PCOS have problems with this process– their pancreas creates an improper amount of insulin. This is called insulin resistance. Instead of the glucose going into the cells for energy, it lingers in the blood stream with nowhere to go. Insulin resistance causes a spike in blood sugar levels and will, over time, contribute to some of the physical issues we see in PCOS sufferers (darkened patches of skin, excess weight, excess body hair, etc). It may also lead to more serious health complications down the road.
Many women with PCOS and insulin resistance will choose to take a drug such as Metformin to help their body with insulin resistance. Metformin has helped many women lower their fasting glucose levels and even lose some of the weight they gained. However, this medication is not a magic cure– women with PCOS need to help their bodies find balance by doing their part. This means changing your dietary habits and choosing nutritious foods that your body needs to help it heal.
We strongly recommend that all patients with PCOS find a local nutritionist or dietitian to help them with treatment. (It would be helpful if this person had a medical background in endocrine disorders like Polycystic Ovarian Disease.) This specialist can help you understand how the body processes sugar, how certain foods (not just sugar) spike blood sugar, and he or she can help you make realistic changes to your diet that will be achievable.