Tag Archives: insulin resistance

PCOS: The causes, consequences, and how to reverse it

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PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome, is the most common female hormonal imbalance today. PCOS has far reaching consequences, including an increased risk of autism in offspring. The good news it may be reversible through diet and lifestyle changes.

PCOS is a condition in which an imbalance in estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone causes cysts to grow on the ovaries. While this can be painful, the consequences of PCOS can be severe, including a 60 percent increased risk in giving birth to a baby who will develop an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

The symptoms of PCOS

Consider the symptoms of PCOS, below, which reflect how pervasive this disorder is on the body as a whole.

Here are some symptoms:

  • Infertility
  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Acne, oily skin, or dandruff
  • Obesity and excess weight, usually concentrated around the abdomen
  • Male pattern baldness
  • Dark, thick patches of skin on the neck, arms, breasts, or thighs
  • Skin tags
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Sleep apnea

PCOS causes male attributes

The hormonal imbalances associated with PCOS cause higher levels of the male hormone testosterone. This in turn leads to the development of such male attributes as male pattern balding, facial hair growth, deepening voice, and perhaps a more aggressive or indifferent personality.

What causes PCOS?

It’s no accident that symptoms of PCOS are similar to those of high blood sugar and diabetes. Although genetic predisposition plays a role in PCOS, the diet and lifestyle factors that cause insulin resistance (high blood sugar) and type 2 diabetes also cause PCOS: a diet high in sugars and processed carbohydrates, lack of plant fiber, overeating, and lack of exercise.

The upside to this is that switching to a whole foods diet that is free of sugar, lower in processed carbs, and high in vegetables and adding in daily physical activity can help reverse not only high blood sugar but also PCOS. For younger women this paves the path to a smoother transition through perimenopause and menopause, a period in life that can be made miserable by blood sugar imbalances.

The vicious cycle between PCOS and blood sugar

Standard lab markers that can identify PCOS include a fasting blood sugar of over 100 and elevated triglycerides and cholesterol, especially if triglycerides are higher than cholesterol. Not surprisingly, these are also markers found with insulin resistance, or pre-diabetes.

Insulin resistance is a condition in which the body’s cells become less sensitive to insulin due to a high-sugar, high-carbohydrate diet, over eating, and sedentary lifestyle.

This leads to high testosterone and PCOS in women (and elevated estrogen in men).

Unfortunately, elevated testosterone causes cells to become more resistant to insulin, thus creating more testosterone in a vicious cycle.

As a functional nutritionist, I can guide you in strategies for balancing blood sugar and managing PCOS naturally. Contact me today to schedule a Skype call.

Why high blood sugar can give you deadly diseases

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It’s not easy being a healthy American. We are constantly besieged by the lure of sugary, starchy treats (salted caramel latte and a scone anyone?). Yet behind the innocent disguise of these lures is the threat of chronic disease, the leading cause of death.

Heart diseasestroke  diabetes, arthritis  and Alzheimer’s are among the most common and expensive health problems in the United States. In most cases their origins spiral back around to those small daily decisions — the fries instead of a salad, the syrupy hot drink with whipped cream instead of a simple cup of coffee or tea, or the ice cream or pie for dessert instead of a little fruit (or, gasp, no dessert).

What is it about these seemingly innocuous indulgences that add up to deadly diseases? Sugar and refined carbohydrates. (Although the hydrogenated fats, lack of fiber, industrialized salt, and artificial chemicals play their roles, too.) Continue reading

Manage diabetes with functional medicine

diabetes management

Anyone with diabetes knows it’s important to manage insulin levels. Functional medicine offers unique tools to manage insulin and blood sugar — including diet, exercise, stress management, detoxification, and maximizing essential nutrients. To understand how all these tools apply, it’s helpful to know how insulin works.

Insulin and Blood Sugar: A Balancing Act

Insulin helps keep glucose (sugar) levels in the bloodstream within normal range. When you eat, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, our primary energy source. When glucose enters the bloodstream, the pancreas responds by producing insulin, which enables glucose to enter the body’s tissues. Excess glucose is stored in the liver; when needed to sustain blood sugar between meals, the liver releases sugar and the pancreas responds with more insulin to help it enter cells. This balancing act keeps the amount of sugar in the bloodstream stable.

When the pancreas secretes little or no insulin (type I diabetes), when your body doesn’t produce enough insulin, or when your cells are resistant to insulin (insulin resistance, common in type II diabetes), sugar levels in the bloodstream can get too high. Chronic high blood sugar can lead to complications such as blindness, nerve damage, and kidney damage.

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Control insulin resistance to prevent chronic disease

blood sugar and chronic diseaseHeart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s — chronic diseases are the most common and costly health problems in the United States. What’s worse is they are largely lifestyle diseases, meaning they often can be prevented through changes to the diet.

Many Americans today eat diets that throw their blood sugar out of balance and cause inflammation. Along with lack of exercise, these diets underpin the development of many chronic diseases today.

The body has several ways to keep blood sugar within a narrow range so it doesn’t go too high or too low. For the average American, unfortunately, the body must constantly struggle to manage overly high blood sugar.

This is because people consume diets high in sugars, sweeteners, and refined carbohydrates—pasta, white rice, breads, pastries, soda—that quickly spike blood sugar.

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Feel sleepy after meals? This could be an Alzheimer’s risk

image17Do you feel sleepy or have intense cravings for sugar after meals? Are you a woman whose hair is thinning, yet you’re growing facial hair? Are you a man who cries at movies and has “moobs” (male breasts)? If so, you probably suffer from insulin resistance. Not only does insulin resistance gender bend your hormones, research shows it also raises your risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s.

What is insulin resistance?

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Study shows sugar makes us more stupid; omega 3 to the rescue

image2A recently published UCLA study shows what many have suspected all along: Eating too much sugar makes you stupid. Scientists found that just six weeks of bingeing on sweets and soda will sabotage both learning and memory. Fortunately, consuming omega-3 fatty acids can counteract some of the damage.

The study looked at the effects of fructose — in the form of cane sugar (sucrose), high-fructose corn syrup, and corn syrup — which is found in the American diet in everything from soft drinks to baby food. A whopping 156 pounds of sugar per year is what the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates an average American consumes, including 82 pounds of fructose, the sugar that was studied. In total, we Americans are consuming 150 more pounds of sugar per year than we did in 1822. Put another way, our sugar consumption has increased by almost a pound of sugar per person per year. Every year. That’s a lot of sugar.

Sugar lowers the brain chemical needed for memory

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Why does eating make me sleepy?

Question

I practically fall asleep in my plate after every meal. Why does eating make me so sleepy?

Answer

Feeling sleepy after meals is a common symptom of insulin resistance, a risk factor for diabetes.

Starchy foods and too much insulin

Insulin resistance is common today and is a stepping-stone to diabetes. Overeating and eating a diet high in sugar and starchy foods causes insulin resistance. These foods include breads, rice, pasta, pastries, chips, potatoes, soda, sweet coffee drinks, and more.

Converting glucose to fat demands energy

Insulin escorts glucose into the cells to make energy. Starchy foods bombard the bloodstream with too much glucose, forcing the release of insulin to lower it. When a person eats a starchy diet on a regular basis, the body overproduces insulin to lower chronically high blood sugar.

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Food allergies can prevent weight loss

Question

I learned I have intolerances and allergies to certain foods, and that I need to avoid those foods if I want to lose weight. Isn’t it just a matter of eating fewer calories?

Answer

Some people find they can’t lose weight through calorie restriction alone. When that happens several issues need to be investigated. One of the most important is food intolerances. Eating foods to which you are allergic or intolerant will prevent weight loss.

Food intolerances cause inflammation

Food intolerances and allergies create inflammation, and inflammation prevents weight loss. Every time you eat gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, corn, or some other food that may be a problem for you, you create inflammation in your body.

Leaky gut is a primary culprit

For many people today, a variety of foods trigger inflammation. This is due largely to intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut,” which allows undigested food particles to slip into the bloodstream through damaged and inflamed intestinal walls. Leaky gut is very common today due to poor diets, excessive sweets, chronic stress, and other maladies of modern life. Gluten intolerance and celiac disease are also common and cause leaky gut. Continue reading

Why can’t I lose weight?

Question

It seems all my attempts to lose weight and get rid of my belly fat fail. Is there hope for me?

Answer

Absolutely. Normal attempts at weight loss can fail if you’re battling any metabolic disorders.

When you are doing all the right things but still not losing weight you may have some health issues sabotaging your efforts.

Issues that can hinder weight loss:

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Food intolerances
  • High cortisol
  • Insulin resistance
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I am a woman losing my hair. Help!

Question

I am a woman who is losing my hair. You can see my scalp now. This is very distressing, what can I do?

Answer

Hair loss can have several causes but the most common reasons clinically are insulin resistance and hypothyroidism.

Insulin resistance in women elevates the male hormone testosterone, which can cause hair loss, excess facial hair, a deepening voice, aggression, and other male characteristics. This is because insulin resistance triggers an enzyme called 17,20 lyase in women that over produces testosterone.

Insulin resistance

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