If metformin isn't for you, what natural alternatives are out there?
Metformin is the most commonly prescribed medication for women with PCOS. It's considered an insulin-sensitizing drug, helping to reverse insulin resistance (IR). Metformin is actually a type II diabetes medication but, because many women with PCOS have issues with blood sugar levels and IR, it's often prescribed.
Early beliefs were that Metformin was a wonder drug for PCOS but, as time as gone on and with more anecdotal and clinical evidence, results have been underwhelming of early hopes. This is due, in part, to the individual, and complex nature of PCOS.
There are many natural alternatives to Metformin that you should be following, either alongside your Metformin or, if you simply cannot take Metformin due to the side effects.
1) RESISTANCE EXERCISE
Resistance exercise is any form of exercise that puts your body under an external force. So, things like weights, the machines at the gym, dumbbells, kettlebells etc. Resistance exercise helps to build lean muscle tissue, which in turn, increases your insulin sensitivity.
In one study, a group of insulin-resistant adults who engaged in 30 minutes of moderate walking 3 to 7 days per week for six months succeeded in reversing their insulin resistance! This was without changing their diets or losing any body weight (although their body proportions of fat and muscle likely changed for the better).
Within another PCOS specific study, In the women who exercised they found reductions in cardiometabolic risk factors including insulin resistance, triglycerides, and visceral fat were observed without significant weight loss. This shows that weight loss should not be the sole focus of exercise programs.
So, you shouldn't just look at exercise as a tool to help you burn X amount of calories or lose X amount of weight. Exercise is a tool to literally improve your PCOS by improving your hormonal and metabolic balance.
2) LOW-MODERATE CARB DIET
Going low carb doesn't mean boring food!
Insulin resistance is made worse by high carb, high sugar diets due to their impact on blood sugar levels, and therefore, insulin production. Why is that?
Insulin is released by your pancreas in response to your blood sugar levels rising, like after a meal. In our western diet, our meals are always filled with quick processing carbohydrates, this leads to quick, and large spikes in blood sugar. And you know what that means, don't you? yep, equally quick and large spikes in insulin levels.
Out of your 3 macronutrients (carbohydrate, protein and fat), it is carbohydrate which has the greatest effect in raising blood glucose levels. Protein and fat can also raise blood sugar levels but to a much lower extent than carbs.
Following a low carb diet, I've found 20%-30% of your overall diet to come from carbs, generally, nowadays people's diet will be anywhere from 60%-70% carbs, to be the perfect spot for optimal low carb/enjoyment/freedom, and results.
Inositol is a vitamin-like substance that acts as a second insulin signal in insulin-resistant cells. This means that blood sugar can get into the cells that need it instead of it being blocked due to the cells being resistant.
This helps to reverse your insulin resistance and the symptoms that come along with it, such as fat gain, poor energy, increased hunger, and excess ovarian testosterone production. One six-month study found that 4 grams per day of inositol improved insulin sensitivity, blood pressure and cholesterol levels more than a placebo controlled group.
It's also important to note that it's been shown that women with polycystic ovary syndrome have increased urinary clearance of inositol , which was positively associated with hyperinsulinemia. This means you will have lower levels of inositol, a reason why supplementing with inositol is so beneficial.
Other supplements that have been shown to help insulin resistance are NAC, cinnamon extract, and apple cider vinegar.
I hope this helps, especially to those who are struggling with PCOS, insulin resistance but are unable to take Metformin due to side effects or any other reason.
Insulin Resistance Bundle
In this bundle, I've combined the 3 most effective supplements for improving insulin sensitivity together in one easy to take bundle that helps you save money. The bundle includes;
Inositol by Healthy PCOS helps by improving your insulin sensitivity (the opposite of insulin resistance). This is incredibly powerful as we know that insulin resistance is the main driver causing your ovaries to overproduce testosterone, leading to irregular or absent periods, infertility, acne, hair growth, and weight gain.
Inositol improves insulin sensitivity by acting as a secondary signal to the hormone insulin, allowing nutrients to enter the cell instead of being blocked by the cell being resistant.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has been shown to have numerous benefits for blood sugar and insulin levels. It increases insulin sensitivity during a high-carb meal by 19–34% and significantly lowers blood sugar and insulin responses. Numerous other studies show that vinegar can improve insulin function and lower blood sugar levels after meals.
ACV has been shown to reduces blood sugar by 34% after eating carbohydrates. For this reason, and its ability to improve insulin sensitivity, ACV will be useful for people with diabetes, pre-diabetes, women with PCOS, menopausal women, or those who want to keep their blood sugar levels low for other reasons.
Insulin is one of the key hormones that regulate metabolism and energy use. It’s also essential for transporting blood sugar from your bloodstream to your cells. The problem is that many people are resistant to the effects of insulin, especially women with PCOS.
This is known as insulin resistance, a hallmark of serious conditions like PCOS, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes. The good news is that cinnamon can dramatically reduce insulin resistance, helping this important hormone do its job.
About Drew Baird
Drew Baird is the founder and owner of Drew Baird Fitness and Healthy PCOS. Drew has worked with over 24,000 clients on his online programs and helped his clients lose over 263,000kgs over the last 7 years.
He's best known for his knowledge of PCOS and the metabolic/hormonal state in which it creates.
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