According to a recent report by the CDC, only one in nine Americans who have pre-diabetes are aware of their condition. Why is this important especially to health conscious moms? Because pre-diabetes is just that–a condition which transforms into type II diabetes with time. The likelihood of this condition progressing to diabetes can be significantly decreased through diet and exercise–but you need to know you have it first!
Given the epidemic of diabetes that is going on today, anything we can do for ourselves and our children along the lines of prevention is very important. The first step towards prevention is an increased awareness of the signs and symptoms of pre-diabetes. One common sign in women is long and irregular cycles accompanied by dark hair on the upper lip, chin, chest, upper arms–called male pattern hair growth or hirsutism. Other signs could be infertility, adult onset, hormone related acne, and difficulty losing weight. This symptom combo is due to a disease called polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) ninety two percent of the time.
Long and irregular cycles are common when women first start having periods, unfortunately, young women are frequently given synthetic hormones to regulate a phenomenon that could resolve itself if given a year. It is extremely rare for the underlying cause of irregular cycles in young women to be diagnosed, and corrected. In the case of irregular cycles due to PCOS, one of the major underlying causes is insulin resistance—aka–prediabetes!
So what can be done, if you or your teenage daughter has irregular cycles?
You can ask your doctor to test you for insulin resistance. If you have insulin resistance, then start with dietary changes first:
Sprinkle a little cinnamon in your coffee (preferable decaf—but we are moms—so let’s be real!)
Look up recipes you can make using the spice turmeric
Download a low glycemic index diet app and try and eat low glycemic index meals—or if you eat something with a high glycemic index, then always offset that with a low glycemic index food
Eat foods rich in chromium like grapes juice, ham, turkey and certain grains and cereals—you need around 200 mcg per day to decrease insulin resistance
Supplements known to lower insulin resistance include inositol, alph-lipoeic acid, and citrus peel extract
Lower cortisol by getting a yoga video and doing it at home with your little ones, asking for a massage for mother’s day (and your birthday, and your anniversary, and because its SaturdayJ), and by changing how you think in response to stressful events in daily life—check out the book Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman PhD
Implement an exercise program—take care of yourself, so you can take better care of everyone else
If your cycles do not start to “regulate” with these lifestyle changes, you may need help from your doctor. Doctors who are open to complementary and nutritional medicine will offer the most holistic solutions.
The bottom line is that irregular cycles are due to an underlying cause with serious long term health effects. Women need to be educated on the connection between irregular periods and prediabetes, so that early intervention with lifestyle changes can prevent the development of diabetes later in life. A little knowledge could go a long way in battling this epidemic!
Laurie Heap M.D., founder of the website www.RUhealthyRUhappyMD.com, graduated from the University of Kansas Medical School in 2001. Her passion, in addition to her four kids and wonderful husband, is helping women treat hormone related symptoms by restoring balance to the body, rather than symptom masking and medicine stacking.