From missed periods and infertility to acne and weight gain, polycystic ovarian syndrome is one of the most distressing reproductive conditions women face. While an imbalance in our sex hormones is often at the root of PCOS, researchers have discovered that there may be more to the PCOS puzzle than estrogen and testosterone.
In fact, most women who have polycystic ovaries also have trouble maintaining a healthy insulin balance. This throws another wrench into the already delicate hormone balance and can lead to further health issues.
Thankfully, PCOS and insulin resistance aren’t life sentences. There are many ways to restore a healthy hormone balance and improve the health of your reproductive system. Let’s learn how we can break the cycle of hormone imbalance and restore optimum reproductive health!
What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common endocrine disorder in women of reproductive age. Despite a common condition, many women who have PCOS don’t become aware of it until they struggle to get pregnant.
PCOS occurs when too many androgens (“male” hormones) are produced. As a result, the hormone balance shifts, which causes multiple immature follicles (or cysts) to develop in the ovaries.
Beyond the characteristic cysts, this increase in male hormones causes a range of symptoms like irregular menstrual cycles, fertility issues, excessive hair growth, and acne.
What Causes PCOS?
The exact cause of PCOS is still unknown, but most cases are likely due to a combination of several factors, including genetics, diet, and environmental factors.
In Chinese medicine, PCOS is linked to the Kidney, Liver, and Spleen systems. These organ systems are entire energetic networks that link to other organs and regions of the body and have deep connections to the ovaries, hormones, brain, and reproductive system in general.
When there is a weakness or imbalance in one of these systems (often resulting in what we call “dampness”), it can affect the reproductive organs and hormones. With acupuncture and other Chinese medicine tools, we correct these organ system imbalances to improve your reproductive function, overcome PCOS, and boost overall health.
Understanding PCOS and Insulin Resistance
Despite the name, PCOS does not only affect the ovaries. In reality, it is a complex endocrine and metabolic disorder that involves the whole body.
The past several years of research have shown that PCOS is closely related to insulin levels and that most women with PCOS (about 70%) have higher-than-normal levels of insulin and signs of insulin resistance.
What is Insulin Resistance?
Insulin is an essential hormone that is released after we eat. It tells the muscles and the liver to absorb sugar from the blood and convert it to energy.
When our blood sugar spikes, the body releases more and more insulin to store the excess sugar. Diets that are high in sugar and carbohydrates will require more and more insulin to function. Eventually, the body becomes resistant to insulin (and levels go through the roof).
Aside from throwing the body’s balance off, high insulin levels increase inflammation and cause weight gain. This excess fat causes the body to produce even more insulin. The cycle goes on and leads to issues like diabetes and PCOS.
What’s the PCOS-Insulin Resistance Link?
Along with weight gain, stress, and inflammation, insulin also causes the ovaries to make too much testosterone. This interferes with the healthy development of the follicles, and ovulation slows or stops.
But, PCOS could also be the trigger for insulin resistance. Experts believe that women with PCOS have a slight change in the insulin receptor, making it “deaf” to the insulin message. As a result, more insulin is needed to reach the same goal.
Finding Balance: Acupuncture for PCOS and Insulin Resistance
PCOS and insulin resistance are manageable conditions that can be reversed with the right care and lifestyle changes. In addition to the conventional treatments (like metformin), Wellnest Denver’s acupuncture treatments bring the body’s hormones – and insulin – back to balance.
Let’s see how acupuncture can improve PCOS and insulin resistance:
Acupuncture balances hormones.
Acupuncture is a holistic treatment that improves the symptoms of PCOS while also bringing key hormones into balance. For women with PCOS, acupuncture can lead to more regular and predictable ovulation, better mood balance, and even weight loss. Acupuncture has also been shown to increase blood flow to the ovaries and uterus to enhance fertility.
Acupuncture helps manage blood sugar.
A simple acupuncture treatment could improve the way your body metabolizes sugar. Studies show that acupuncture does this by improving the conditions that lead to insulin resistance in the first place. It helps to lower high blood sugar, reduce blood lipids, and encourage healthy weight loss.
Acupuncture reduces stress.
Since stress tends to complicate most health issues, It’s no surprise that stress makes insulin resistance worse. Research shows that high cortisol levels (the stress hormone) increase the body’s resistance to insulin. To fight back, acupuncture helps to reduce excess cortisol and strengthen our resilience to stress. Acupuncture also quiets feelings of worry and anxiety, putting the body into a healthy state of “rest and digest.”
3 Simple Ways to Manage Insulin Resistance and PCOS
Holistic reproductive care starts in our Wellnest Denver acupuncture clinic, but it continues right at home. Here are five ways to improve your insulin sensitivity and reduce your PCOS symptoms with easy lifestyle habits:
1. Eat a protein-packed breakfast (and nutritious lunch and dinner).
When it comes to managing insulin levels, skipping breakfast is out of the question. So is opting for a sugary, carb-heavy breakfast like donuts or cereal, as this can throw your blood sugar on a rollercoaster. Instead, eat a hearty breakfast high in protein and healthy fruit or vegetables. This keeps blood sugar levels balanced throughout the day and boosts your natural energy. Try these simple mushroom breakfast burritos or blueberry almond energy bites for something sweet and smart.
Beyond breakfast, what you eat throughout the day also has a huge impact on your hormone balance. Try switching to a PCOS-friendly whole foods diet by avoiding processed food and enjoying fresh and healthy nutrient-packed meals.
To rebuild your insulin sensitivity and keep blood sugar balanced, ditch the refined sugar, pasta, white potatoes, and rice. Instead, include plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein in your diet. Eat complex carbs and high-fiber foods like quinoa, oatmeal, berries, lentils, sweet potatoes, green vegetables, and almonds. These contain essential fiber and antioxidants that slow down digestion and stabilize blood sugar levels.
2. Catch your Zzz’s.
Think skipping sleep won’t do much harm? Unfortunately, there is a clear connection between PCOS and poor sleep habits. Poor sleep is known to cause hormone imbalances and even directly interferes with insulin control.
The good news is that improving your sleep patterns is easier than it seems, but you’ll need a smart sleep plan. Plan to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, cut on your caffeine consumption, create an evening routine to “train” your body to recognize bedtime. Keep screen time limited in the evenings and practice a stress-relief ritual before bed (like meditation).
3. Enjoy being active.
Exercise is an excellent habit for anyone who wants to live a healthy lifestyle. But for those who wish to manage PCOS and insulin resistance better, it’s essential. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight, relieve stress, balance hormones, boost circulation, and improve digestion – all of which work to decrease insulin resistance and get your period back on track.
Conquer PCOS and Insulin Resistance Naturally with Wellnest Denver Acupuncture
Taking control of PCOS and insulin resistance naturally starts with balancing your hormones. And the path to balanced hormones begins by getting to the root of the problem. At Wellnest Denver, we are experts at uncovering the root issues so your body can naturally revert to its healthy, natural state.
Book your first treatment today to learn how Wellnest Denver can help you boost your reproductive health and live in balance!