Recently my endocrinologist recommended I begin a diet based on the glycemic index. This approach to food is kind of like a ‘low carb’ diet but not exactly. It is less focused on protein and more on regulating insulin. This is particularly important with PCOS patients because they are ‘insulin resistant’ (different then diabetes). In the PCOS Workbook (my new favorite book) by Angela Grassi and Stephanie Mattei explains the condition:
“If you have been diagnosed with PCOS, chances are you have insulin resistance. This occurs when your cell doors do not respond appropriately to the normal amounts of insulin produced by your body. In other words, your insulin ‘key’ does not fit well into the ‘lock’ on your cell walls. When this happens, extra insulin is produced to increase the chance of getting more glucose into your cells. The result: your body has too much insulin. Since insulin is a growth hormone, too much promotes weight gain mostly in your belly. “(Grassi, and Mattei, 19-20).
This is just one of the amazing things I am learning about my body as I research my condition. Its amazing how one little malfunction in my body can have such overarching effects in my weight, appearance, future fertility, energy levels, depression, anxiety and more. Even the way I handle stress can be effected by the insulin resistance. Its actually a vicious cycle because my insulin levels affects my hormones (particularly one called cortisol) which lead to greater stress and exhaustion levels, but that very stress makes the cortisol levels go up and everything else along with it…It also does not help that it is at the stressful times that we tend to eat poorly (although I am not an emotional eater I definitely used to eat fast food when stressed-more out of time then anything else). Higher levels of cortisol particularly effects a person’s ability to handle ‘alarm reaction’ and ‘exhaustion’ (meaning the onsets and endings of stress are the hardest- totally me. I hate surprises and change. Also, I almost always get sick after a really stressful situation. Even in high school I used to get sick after every play).
I could go on and on… As I mentioned earlier I have been learning to eat in a new way. As the PCOS Workbook describes:
…different foods affect your insulin levels differently. Simple and refined carbohydrates cause rapid rises in insulin whereas other ‘slow’ carbohydrate-containing foods (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and milk) gradually increase insulin keeping blood sugar levels more stable. (Grassi and Mattei, 31)”
To gauge the effectiveness of a food on my insulin levels I follow the glycemic index. This list gives the carbohydrate totals for certain foods ranging from 1-100. In general it is best to eat from foods 51 or lower. The PCOS Workbook says “To avoid surges in insulin levels, limit your carbohydrate intake to one to three servings per meal (15-45) grams of total carbohydrates and one to two per snack (15-30 grams of total carbohydrates. Although still important protein and fat do not contain carbohydrates and affect insulin to lesser extent…” (Grassi and Mattei,31)
Later on in the chapter they discuss fats and meats going into great detail about OMEGA 3 fish oils, OMEGA 6, what the best proteins are and what is truly a ‘whole grain’. It is a fabulous resource but I won’t bore you with much more recitation.
While I am excited to be learning so much, adjusting to the new diet has been harder then I thought. I figured I was doing pretty good after a year of eating right but I’ve been surprised at how difficult it is. One of the things the PCOS Workbook says is that strong cravings are to be expected:
“A fast insulin release followed by low blood sugar may also explain why many women have a strong desire for sweets and intense cravings. When your blood sugar drops, your blood glucose is low and your brain tells your body it needs more glucose now! To raise blood sugar levels your body tells you to eat. After eating, glucose enters your blood stream quickly giving you a rapid rise in blood sugar, which makes you feel better. The more refined food you eat, the greater increase in insulin and the more refined foods you crave. Simply the more sugar you eat, the more you want. (Grassi and Mattei, 21)
This makes so much sense to me because throughout my entire I life I get ravenously hungry quickly and have strong cravings for sweet/simple carbs. I have also been prone to feeling light-headed, fainting and nausea if I do not eat and drink enough. Since I’ve been this way my whole life I just thought it was the way I am- didn’t know I could change it. Even driving home from Syracuse today it had been several hours since I ate, and I could barely keep my eyes on the road I was so tired.
As I said making these changes has been tough. Even with the medicine helping (well at first it made me sick but now I’ve adjusted) I still have strong cravings and long for the old foods. It is a difficult adjustment both mentally and physically. It is with this in mind that I turn to you. If you could send me your recipes that fit into 51 or lower on the glycemic index (see above). Please particularly avoid white sugar, flour, potato and other high starch/sugar foods. It would greatly help me out. The recipes can be entres, breakfast food, side dishes, salads, anything. Especially if you have something that is a little bit sweet that’d be great! (fruit is allowed and some sweeteners in moderation like agave syrup.) I also crave pasta but find whole wheat pasta lacking. If you have any way to make it taste less heavy and gritty I’d love to try it!
Thank you so much in advance. If I get some good ones I will give another prize- maybe a good cookbook or a meal if you live close. I hope you weren’t too bored by all that I’ve shared. It is so life changing I couldn’t help but share. Also, thanks for listening to me moan and groan on occasions as I make this change.