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PCOS and Type 2 Diabetes: Your Guide to Prevention and Management

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and Type 2 Diabetes are two distinct health conditions that are increasingly recognized for their interconnectedness. PCOS is a common hormonal imbalance disorder that affects individuals assigned female at birth, characterized by hormonal imbalances leading to irregular menstrual cycles, ovarian cysts, and metabolic disturbances. One of the significant metabolic implications of PCOS is an increased risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. 

This blog will explore the connection between PCOS and Type 2 Diabetes and offer effective prevention strategies to help mitigate and reduce the risk of these chronic conditions. Let’s get started! 

PCOS and Type 2 Diabetes: What’s the Connection? 

First things first, what’s PCOS? Well, it’s a common hormonal disorder that affects people with ovaries. In fact, it affects up to 1 in 5 women across the globe. Individuals with PCOS may not use insulin properly, which can lead to higher levels of insulin in the blood and insulin resistance. Too much insulin can cause you to gain weight, especially around your belly, and this can increase your chances of getting Type 2 Diabetes. 

Now, let’s talk about Type 2 Diabetes. This condition occurs when your body doesn’t use insulin properly, causing sugar to build up in your blood. Since women with PCOS are genetically predisposed to having insulin resistance, this leads to a higher risk of Type 2 Diabetes. 

Understanding the Link Between Type 2 Diabetes and PCOS 

Both PCOS and Type 2 Diabetes are associated with insulin. Here’s a breakdown of the 3 main factors that contribute to the development of Type 2 Diabetes in individuals with PCOS. 

Insulin Resistance: A key factor linking PCOS and Type 2 Diabetes is insulin resistance. In PCOS, the body’s cells become less responsive to insulin, leading to elevated levels of insulin in the bloodstream. Insulin resistance is a hallmark of Type 2 Diabetes and is often an early precursor to the development of the disease. In fact, by the time blood sugar levels or A1c are elevated, insulin levels have been high for decades. 

Hyperinsulinemia: The persistently high levels of insulin in PCOS can contribute to weight gain, particularly in the abdominal region. This is called visceral fat and is associated with an increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes. 

Inflammation: PCOS is also linked to chronic low-grade inflammation. Chronic inflammation can further exacerbate insulin resistance, worsening weight gain and contributing to the progression towards Type 2 Diabetes. 

As you can see, insulin resistance and high insulin levels create a vicious cycle that significantly increases the risk of Type 2 Diabetes for individuals with PCOS. But wait, there’s a silver lining! 

Type 2 Diabetes Prevention Strategies 

Here are 4 actionable strategies that you can start implementing today that can lower your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes and other chronic conditions associated with insulin resistance and PCOS. 

Healthy Eating 

A healthy diet for PCOS and Type 2 Diabetes prevention includes focusing on foods that don’t cause a spike in insulin, as this can help insulin levels lower over time. Lower insulin levels can help reverse insulin resistance and lead to weight loss and improved metabolic health.  

Foods that don’t spike insulin include lean proteins, non-starchy vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, and healthy oils.  

Foods known to spike insulin include starchy foods (rice, bread, pasta, and potatoes), milk and whey, and added sugars. 

Regular Exercise for Prevention and Management 

Get moving! Exercise is like a superhero for your body. It helps your cells use insulin more effectively, so your pancreas doesn’t have to secrete as much. This helps lower insulin levels, facilitate weight loss, and improve overall health. Choose exercises you love to do (regardless of calorie burn) and aim for at least 30 minutes most days of the week. 

Medication and Supplements 

Your healthcare provider might prescribe medications to lower insulin levels and manage symptoms. However, these medications or supplements are not effective without dietary changes that include avoiding insulin-spiking foods.  

Monitor Insulin Levels 

Keeping an eye on your insulin levels is crucial for safeguarding yourself against the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. Understanding your insulin levels also guides you in making informed lifestyle choices. If you are beginning a Low Insulin Lifestyle, monitoring insulin levels regularly can help you detect changes and improvements in your insulin levels, keeping you motivated to stay on track! 

Luckily, regularly monitoring and tracking your insulin levels has never been easier! Lilli At-Home Insulin Testing Kits enable you to test insulin levels conveniently from the comfort of your home. Our Lilli Kits measure fasting glucose, insulin, and HOMA-IR. It’s also a safer and more efficient solution to testing for gestational diabetes.  

Final Thoughts: PCOS and Type 2 Diabetes Management 

Understanding the connection between PCOS and Type 2 Diabetes empowers you to take control of your health. You can navigate these conditions successfully by making positive lifestyle choices, such as following a Low Insulin lifestyle.  

Check out our resources like our Lilli Kits, Low Insulin Lifestyle book by Dr. Ali Chappell, and newsletter for more evidence-based education, tools, and support to help reverse insulin resistance and live your healthiest, happiest life!