PCOS: salivary hormones and blood sugar levels

I am back in Canada for a few weeks to visit my family and decided to take advantage of this time to try to get healthier… as always!

I had my first visit to a naturopathic doctor last month and I am quite happy at how holistic their approach is. It is so good to have every part of your body looked at and every organ considered to help you reach your optimal health.

Although my past blood analysis showed normal hormone levels, my naturopathic doctor wanted to check my salivary hormones. She also wanted to check what my fatigue was due to by checking my ferritin levels (to check for anemia), thyroid hormones (not only TSH, but also T3 and T4) and adrenal gland (by checking cortisol in am and at bedtime).

My ferritin was at 99! Higher than ever! I used to suffer from anemia and had 11-12 in the past while on eating whole grains, soy and legumes a la “regular” dietitian’s advice, up to 16 after many months of supplementing with high doses of iron! I am probably eating less iron in total than when eating fortified whole grains and taking iron supplements, but the iron is my food is more bio-available. I believe my improved ferritin levels because I eat more animal food and have decreased my phytate intake (anti-nutrient that inhibits iron absorption, among other things) by avoiding soy, grains and legumes.

All my thyroid hormones (TSH, T3 and T4) were within range.

However, my extremely low salivary cortisol levels at night (as you can see below) show that I might have adrenal fatigue.

My salivary hormones also show high testosterone and borderline low estrogen, which is pretty much typical for PCOS… I am glad I am not dealing with the symptoms associated with high testosterone levels(abnormal hair growth or hirsutism, acne, etc), but I attribute this to the fact that I am eating a clean, low-carb Paleo diet. I believe I might not be as fortunate should I have still been eating my former high-carb, high-grain diet after stopping taking the birth control pill (now almost 14 months ago… no cycle since)…

my salivary hormones (Dec 2011)

To see whether insulin resistance was involved for me (and it is for many women with PCOS), I decided to experiment with testing my blood sugar levels (see the results below).

my blood sugar levels (Jan 2012)

This is not good news… Some of my results are in the prediabetes and even diabetes range… I definitely don’t want to be following the Canadian or American Diabetes Association’s guidelines, which are definitely not strict enough if you want to stay healthy. Instead, I am comparing with what Chris Kresser recommends as optimal targets.

blood sugar target (www.chriskresser.com)

Fortunately, I can see that by keeping my carbs very low (probably around no more than 10 g per meal), I can normalize my blood sugar levels. (If you have diabetes, prediabetes or blood sugar issues, do not lower your carb intake without first talking to a doctor or dietitian specialized in low-carb diets, especially if taking medications).

My experiment clearly indicate, in my own opinion anyway, that I have serious insulin resistance problems. This probably explains why I put on weight so easily and need to be very careful about every bite I eat… During the holidays, after over 6 months of following a very restrictive diet (to control my post-infectious IBS, fructose malabsorption and SIBO), I took advantage of my increased tolerance by enjoying a bit more GAPS- and Paleo-friendly treats (cake, cookies and muffins made with coconut flour and honey, nuts and nut butter, fruits and butternut squash fries!) Although my GI system seemed to be fine with this, my high insulin levels helped my fat cells stored every one of these delicious bites…. Result: 6 lbs. weight gain in about 2 weeks. Needless to say, I have stopped coconut flour, honey, nut, fruits and higher-carb vegetables (squash, beets)…. but the weight doesn’t want to come off that easily it seems…

My plan:

  • My naturopathic doctor has recommended a detox plan for me, which I have been following for the last month and will last a few more weeks.
  • I was doing IF (intermittent fasting) to help with my weight/insulin resistance, but because of my adrenal fatigue, she prefers that I spread my food intake throughout the day.
  • To control my blood sugar levels, which will help me keep my insulin levels down and hopefully lower my testosterone levels as well, I will stick to a very-low-carb diet (around 20-30 g of carbs/day).
  • I want to start exercising every other day (something light like walking, snowshoeing and light resistance training). I have been too tired lately (probably bc of the adrenal fatigue), but I am feeling like I have a bit more energy since having started the detox. Exercising is great for improving insulin resistance, which appears to be the root cause of many cases of PCOS.
  • I will also continue doing my best to lose at least the weight that I gained during the holidays, and maybe more. Weight loss, if needed, is also a good way to improve insulin resistance.
  • Continue to aim for at least 8-9 hours of sleep (which I already do, except for when I have insomnia… like now!, which happens 1-2/week)…
  • Avoid stress or take more time to relax, play and enjoy life!

Any comments or suggestions are greatly appreciated!

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8 thoughts on “PCOS: salivary hormones and blood sugar levels

  1. Wow. This post helps me SO much! We have always had such similar symptoms and SUCH similar paths. What you have written is this post is pretty much what i’ve been experimenting with and found on my own, but with your confirmation, I feel like i’m not fumbling around so much…and I know we’ve been over this so far, but I feel like i’m NOT crazy. I know i’m not, but with the S.A.D. (standard american diet) and the advice of conventional med doctors, I begin to self doubt. I have suspected Estrogen Dominance …but now will push to have it formally checked. Thanks for posting all the details. It gives me something to take in to my GYN who is both conventional and natropathic in practice.

    Did you know the first doc originally told me I had stress, wanted me to take anti-depressants and sent me away? The second told me I had IBS and prescribed me fiber and water. When I pushed the third doc (I knew SOMETHING was wrong) We found I had low D, was anemic, had diabetes, and SIBO. REALLY! You know the rest-all the experiments in diet, supplements, and the gravitation to Paleo, etc.

    With my ‘diabetes’, I have found that super low carb is what I need -but i’m sure it’s not for everyone… I found that my ideal carb intake is around 15 per meal but definitely less than 20, and less than 7 carbs per snack. You probably already know this! I think we each have our own carb range that works for us. I have been playing with it for 2 years so let me know if you need any support!

    I can’t thank you enough for sharing. BEST BEST of wishes to you in healing.

    • Thanks for your support and for sharing your story…we are indeed on very similar paths! Have you been able to lose weight? It just seems so hard with the insulin resistance and hormonal derangement. I also thought I had estrogen dominance because I tend to gain weight in my hips, thighs and arms, but not so much around my waist, but it turns out it is actually on the low side as you can see. I really recommend having your salivary hormones tested to have a clear picture. Good luck to you and please keep me posted! 🙂

      • Will do! If your naturopath knows anyone in the DC area i’ll go to them!

        I did lose weight AFTER low carb. I started running again despite the exhaustion due to anemia. I take supplements to fight back the anemia and D deficiency -and enzymes to absorb the most nutrients I can and after two weeks of low carb the weight started MELTING off. Each few days i’d drop a pound. It was REALLY rewarding to fit back into my clothes -and i was never…really FAT. Was still in the healthy range. The thing to watch out for is when you feel so good you tend to think you are FINE, and your (my) diet begins to slip. The MOMENT you eat too many carbs, the weight comes back.

        I have learned so much to share but the important thing is consistency. Give it two weeks or REALLY hard discipline and you will see. Your body will feel tired if it is used to higher sugar levels but that passes. I made sure my glucose was not in a dangerous zone (too low) and got through it. My body never let me down -I had to learn to trust it. It seems I had to adjust to the new lower (and healthier) ranges for me.

        OH – WHEN you succeed after two+ weeks and you feel great, if you are human, you will slip up and lose your diet for a special occasion or from denial. Let it go and know ***very important a doc never told me this*** It takes my body about THREE days to recover from one day’s carb/sugar/glucose overload. I get tired, cranky and I crave EVERYTHING sugary. If it happens to you, just be disciplined for those days and you will bounce right back.

        If you work your angle and I work mine, we can meet in the middle!

    • Awesome! I was never that overweight either, but am at the higher end of the healthy BMI range. I know I feel best in my body with about 10 lbs. less. I definitely recognize the cycle you are mentioning… I have just managed to wean me off the “treats” I had during the Holidays… I felt totally addicted but better now. I just need to stick to my new plans and results should follow!

  2. Aglaee, first, good luck in healing! I’m glad you are finding some help.

    I wanted to thank you for the suggestions you made to me on the Fructose Friendly site.
    You suggested I may not be getting enough fat. I don’t shy away from fat, I’m not following a low fat diet or anything. But I don’t have a gallbladder, if I eat too much fat I have even more diarrhea.

    I know the low FODMAPS diet didn’t work for you, and it may not work for me, but I’m going to give it another chance with a dietitian’s help. Since I had a positive breath test, I feel I need to make sure I’m simply not following the plan well enough.

    If things continue, I’ll be looking for something else, and will probably go back to GAPS.

    Unlike you, I have blown up to way over the overweight mark. I’ve gained 50 lbs!! I’m absolutely miserable.

    I’ll probably be back to you for advise and information, especially if the dietitian can’t help.

    good luck!

    • Good luck! Of course, it is worth a try!

      If you need to turn to the GAPS diet for relief, which I think is probably the best diet to help people with GI disorders (and you can make it fructose-friendly at first to help if you believe it is an issue for you), it is important that you know that the GAPS diet is lower in carbs, moderate in protein and higher in fat compared to most diets. If you are not able to handle larger amounts of fat because you don’t have a gallbladder, I would suggest experimenting with digestive enzymes (including lipase or bile) to help you digest what your body is no longer to digest so you don’t feel hungry, have energy and are able to stay away from any fermentable carbohydrates (including almost all starches and sugars).

      How quickly did you gain these 50lbs? Do you understand why you gained that weight? Did you eat more or did the weight just appear like that?

      Don’t give up, you are on the good path to find relief! 😉

  3. You are wrong about one part.
    Having LOW estrogen is “not” typical for women who have PCOS. Instead, they usually have higher estrogen level and lower progesterone.
    Women with HA /FHA usually have low estrogen levels.

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