All Posts tagged PCOS

PCOS and Insulin Resistance: How Diet Plays a Key Role by Alice Yang

PCOS and Insulin Resistance: How Diet Plays a Key Role by Alice Yang

It seems that we’re always battling against time. Whether it’s the daily morning rush out the door to work, last minute exam cram, pivotal moments where we wished we had more time with a dying loved one or the ticking of our biological clock to create new life, it can make us feel at the mercy of time. 

The feeling of time passing almost feels the same as a chronic disease that passes by daily. Occasionally we notice its presence just like when the seasons change, or when the sun rises or sets. The symptoms which crop up tells us the disease exists, and what we do about the disease is how we “pass the time” with that condition.

The parallels between time and disease could be applied to most chronic illnesses, but when it comes to Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), timing really might be everything.

PCOS Insulin Resistance: Why Does it Happen?

How long PCOS has existed in humans, we’re not sure. Nor are we certain how, why or when it occurs. To be honest, no one has the exact answers, but there are millions of women around the world affected by it. The negative effects on the body ranges from increased risk of diabetes and related cardiovascular diseases, infertility, weight gain or difficulty losing weight, acne, and possibly even facial hair growth, all of which can affect the mental and emotional wellbeing of the woman.

From what we currently know, PCOS seems to have a strong link with insulin resistance, but why is something seemingly isolated to the ovaries linked to insulin which runs throughout the whole body?

Because of the link between insulin and PCOS, metformin, normally used in diabetes (also an insulin related disease), is the first choice when it comes to medication management of the condition. How metformin works exactly, is a bit of a mystery just like PCOS, but we know it works in diabetes where there is an apparent increase of insulin, or lack of sensitivity by the receptors on cells to the effects of insulin.

This apparent increase or lack of sensitivity to insulin also seems to be at play in PCOS. So why is there an excess of insulin? Insulin is normally released in response to glucose (a sugar) which is one of the net products from the food we eat and is required by the body for energy.

The diagram below helps to outline how this process works.

pcos insulin

Just as time in reality is not against us, our bodies are not against us. In fact the body and all the wonderful daily processes that seem to go on in the background are all an incredible effort to keep us alive and functioning. The human body has evolved over time to ensure we have adequate energy stores to survive varying environmental conditions, and thus the invention of fat stores.

PCOS and Diet: How Insulin Contributes to Weight Gain

But these days basic survival is much more accessible to everyone. There are hundreds of apps, websites, or the old school phone to bring freshly cooked food to our door, attaining a source of energy for survival requires much less physical effort.

The body is smart, it knows it can’t predict the future, it can only prepare for the future, even if you’re comfortably relaxing on the couch in a state of “Netflix chill” after a long stressful day, the body’s processes continue and it assesses the environment. It was a stressful day, had very little sleep the night before, no time for lunch today, no time for breakfast this morning, but now there’s time to have a late pizza dinner to make up for the rest of the day.

The pizza has gone in, and the delicious doughy pizza base made from refined flour is easy for our digestive system, no fibrous vegetation to sort through, the glucose is efficiently extracted and sent into the bloodstream to be further processed. Because the refined flour was easily digested, there is suddenly an increased amount of glucose in the body especially considering there was very little food conversion to glucose earlier in the day, other than maybe some glucose from that cup of coffee and a few biscuits.

pcos weight gain

Insulin is called upon and like a manager it starts dictating to different cells to pick up their workload, glucose; this is done in accordance with the orders of the big boss, the brain. But like any work setting, management is often a difficult job.

After a while the cells don’t really care about what insulin has to say. Sometimes the cells haven’t much work to do – when we go through “starvation”, when we don’t have the time to eat, and sometimes there is a sudden spike in the work load, where a lot of glucose needs to be put away. The worker cells eventually get tired and fed up of the extreme up and down, they become insulin resistant.

Meanwhile, the big boss sees that there is still plenty of glucose lying around waiting to be put away, so the big boss increases middle management, more insulin is sent out, but the root of the problem isn’t necessarily the cells, or insulin, but the timing and quantity of glucose coming into the body.

Fat Cells versus Muscle Cells: Why They Matter In PCOS

There are different types of workers – fat cells and muscle cells. All the cells in the body have insulin receptors, as every cell requires energy to function.

Insulin receptors can be thought of as a cell’s work desk. Fat cells can be thought of as having a larger desk compared to muscle cells, so fat cells in general are more receptive to insulin, and therefore can take on more of the glucose workload and store it in the fat department.

This continues to be the case even when muscle cells become less able to receive as much glucose, because their work desks tend to be smaller than that of the fat cells, and is only able to process so much glucose, no matter how much insulin is sent its way to enforce a deadline.

To bring this all back to PCOS, we know insulin resistance is involved in the disease, and other than medication management with metformin or contraceptive hormone pills, there are perhaps lifestyle choices we can make to help us live with PCOS differently, and hopefully in an improved way.

Lifestyle Changes Can Make a Big Difference With PCOS

We can retrain our worker cells to listen to insulin again, and make it an easier job for insulin. Eating foods low in glucose is a start. Consuming foods which slow down the digestive process reducing the chance of having sudden dumps of sugar on our cells. It also provides a steady paced work load for our cells instead, which requires putting food in at regular intervals rather than an all or nothing approach.

Many popular health diets today include the essential element to retraining insulin cells, such as the low glycaemic index diet or paleo diet. Regardless of the labels and abundance of recipes to accompany either diet, ultimately, it’s all about eating more plants and less refined and processed foods.

pcos and diet

Increased vegetable intake, and I don’t mean comforting ones like creamy or crispy potatoes, starchy rice, or sweet corn, but a rainbow of leafy and crisp vegetables. In fact, vegetables need to become a large portion of the daily food intake, with good sources of protein and fats. Vegetables, protein and fat all work together to provide nutrients, while keeping us feeling satiated and give the cells a stable level of sugar to process and use as energy.

It doesn’t have to be a complicated list of what we can and can’t eat. Of course, the portion and proportion is still important, but a simplified concept of simply eating more vegetables, a healthy portion of good protein and fats and little to no sugary foods is crucial if we want to make it a life-long change to our relationship with PCOS.

The Grain Free and Fiber Rich Pizza Base

This is an easy recipe to make even with a busy schedule. It is also an excellent way to hide vegetables in one of children’s favourite dishes. It doesn’t need to be an elimination of your favourite foods just a different way to preparing them.

 grain free pizza

Ingredients: (2 x A4 size pizzas)

5 cups or about ½ of a large cauliflower minced into a fine meal but not a mesh.
4 eggs
1 cup of almond meal
2 tablespoon of nutritional yeast (vegan option) or cheese of choice


Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.
Spread and press mixture onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper, roughly 5mm thick (depends on personal preference).
Bake at 170oC for roughly 10 minutes each sides (depending on the oven) or until slightly golden brown.

This can be made in advance and stored in the freezer.

Hope you enjoy the recipe.

All the best,


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10 Simple Ways to Improve Your PCOS Symptoms Quickly

10 Simple Ways to Improve Your PCOS Symptoms Quickly

Do You Have PCOS?

If you do then you are not alone. According to a recent US News article, one in every 10 women has polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, a disorder that is the leading cause of female infertility and a risk factor for diabetes, cancer, heart disease and other life-threatening illnesses.

And yet the crazy thing is that half of all women with PCOS (which works out to be 5% of all women) don’t even know they have the condition and continue to remain undiagnosed.

So if you are one of those women who knows you have PCOS, then hope is not lost!

Here is a list of the 10 things that you can do immediately to improve your PCOS symptoms.


Undoubtedly, the first step is to understand how PCOS affects you directly. Once you know what is happening in your body, you can work out what you need to do about it. Without a benchmark to work from you are literally going in blind – and this makes you much more likely to fall prey to the next fad diet or miracle cure, without the certainty of knowing what your body actually needs.

PCOS can leave women feeling confused and disconnected from their own bodies. Not to mention the fact that there is also so much conflicting information on food, supplements, exercises and medications that can use to get PCOS under control. So how do we know that something is actually right for us?


On the whole, PCOS causes irregularities in a woman’s insulin processing abilities so it’s no surprise that the delicate hormonal balance can be in for a bumpy ride.

Often it’s a double-edged sword – a woman’s body tends to over respond to carbs by releasing too much insulin and her ovaries in tern respond to the insulin by releasing too much testosterone. So, if you can get some control of your insulin levels, you’ll have greater control of your overall PCOS symptoms.


We know that we need to exercise in general is great for our health and overall well being but it’s also crucial for keeping PCOS in check. Even if you aren’t seeing any movement on the scales, there’s no doubt that your metabolic markers and hormones are still benefitting from your efforts and will in turn, help your symptoms improve.


PCOS Symptoms
Public Domain from pixabay

Dietary and lifestyle changes should be the first line of treatment for all women with PCOS. In fact, there is countless evidence to suggest that switching to a PCOS diet and a more active lifestyle can significantly help counter the symptoms of PCOS. I could literally write a book about this topic but there’s just not enough space to do it justice so stay tuned for more diet related blog posts in the future.

Please remember – before you make any drastic changes you should always make sure you consult your doctor or physician. It’s best to be on the safe side.


There are so many supplements available on the market these days, many of which can be very helpful with different aspects of PCOS. Also, women with PCOS tend to be deficient in a number of vitamins and nutrients that they just won’t be able to get enough of in their regular diets. So, supplements are important in addressing some of the underlying deficiencies and issues in PCOS and are an important piece of your PCOS management plan.


PCOS Symptoms
Public Domain from pixabay

Making any kind of change to the way you eat or to your lifestyle can be challenging. If we don’t know why we need to make the changes, it’s much harder to do it. Your ‘why’ is your reason for wanting to be healthier and in control of your body. It could be your children or loved ones that motivate you, or the fact that you just want to feel good about yourself and enjoy all that life has to offer, unhindered by PCOS.

So dig deep and find out what keeps you motivated as your ‘Why’ will no doubt help you to fight the cravings and remind you to take your supplements every morning.


Never underestimate the power of planning. I mean in all honesty, would you go camping without a tent or sleeping bag? It goes without saying then that having a plan is important, whether it be a meal plan, craving plan, snack plan or eating out plan.

It’s when we’re not prepared that we’re more likely to go for convenience and ditch our exercise routine or make unhealthy food choices. So always have a plan at the ready so you don’t end up in the middle of knowhere without a tent!


You know the saying. “No man is an island”? Well, no woman with PCOS can or should do it on her own.

So start building your team of merry supporters so that they can give you the encouragement, advice, love and sometimes tough love when you need it. Just look around and you’ll find all manner of people ready to chip in and lend a hand from our partners, family, friends, medical practitioners or the wider PCOS community.


Dori from Finding Nemo is one of my favourite characters and she said it so well with, “Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.” Life has a habit of throwing some real doozies and we all need to step up and try and catch the ball somedays even if it’s coming at us like a freight train.

There are going to be bad days and days when we mess up but it’s so important that we just keep swimming, swimming, swimming in the direction that we ultimately want to go in. Never stop. Never give up. And always remember your why? That’s the reason that you get up and try again every time you fall off the bandwagon.


Public Domain from pixabay

With PCOS, the wins may seem small in comparison to others but they are huge for women with the condition. Having a period? EPIC! Lost 1 kilo or pound? Awesome! Going about your day despite the mood swings or depression? A job well done.

Be real about the struggles you face but equally acknowledge when you’ve done well. We need to be kinder to ourselves and show some love and celebrate the steps forward in the right direction, no matter how big or small they may be.

So, there are 10 ways that you can improve your PCOS symptoms with some of them being very practical whilst others are a bit more on the emotional side. There will always be more to add to the list but this is a good starting point.

Lovingly Curated via PCOS Diet Support

If you are suffering from PCOS then help is at hand. BOOK AN APPOINTMENT to see one of our experienced women’s fertility practitioners at the House of Fertility & Healing to discuss how to alleviate your PCOS symptoms.



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