Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common conditions in reproductive-aged women. It is estimated that 8-13% of all reproductive-aged women have this condition and up to 70% of those women are undiagnosed. People with PCOS have cysts on their ovaries that cause hormonal symptoms such as:
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Excessive hair growth
- Weight gain and weight loss resistance
- Scalp hair loss/thinning
- Oily skin/acne
Often we find that PCOS patients also have insulin resistance and/or type 2 diabetes. According to some studies, nearly 70% of women with PCOS also have insulin resistance. High levels of blood insulin increase androgen levels (male hormones such as testosterone). Excess androgens in females are mostly to blame for the undesirable effects of PCOS, including acne, weight gain, facial hair, and weight loss resistance.
Inflammation increases the risk for PCOS. Insulin resistance is just one cause of systemic inflammation. Gut health, stress levels, and weight gain can all contribute to inflammation as well.
Currently, health care providers recommend weight loss as a primary approach to PCOS relief. Fat cells cause inflammation, so this makes sense. However, as many people may already know, weight loss is not always as easy as it sounds! Insulin resistance can make losing weight through exercise feel impossible.
As far as medications, health care providers often prescribe combination birth control pills to adjust hormone levels, or metformin for insulin resistance. Neither of these approaches truly address the root cause of the insulin resistance and systemic inflammation.
The B Vitamin Cycle of Doom
Just like with most medications, the common prescriptions for PCOS have side effects. Both birth control pills and metformin are known to deplete B vitamins. Metformin specifically makes it more difficult for your body to absorb B12. Birth control pills, on the other hand, are known to cause nutritional deficiencies in folate, vitamins B2, B6, B12, vitamin C and E and the minerals magnesium, selenium and zinc.
Why are B vitamin deficiencies so concerning? B12, also known as cobalamin, is a vitamin that is essential for brain health and nervous system function. It is needed for the creation of red blood cells, which help distribute oxygen to the rest of our bodies (including our brains). It is no wonder, then, that low B12 levels have been linked to dementia.
In addition to taking medications that deplete them, many people with PCOS have a specific gene mutation that makes it even more difficult to create active B vitamins. MTHFR is a gene that helps our bodies convert folate to an activated version that we need in order to use B12 (5-MTHF). Birth control pills deplete folate, B6 and B12 levels, so if you also have the MTHFR mutation then your body will really struggle to activate and utilize B12.
Some studies have suggested that women with PCOS are more likely to have a mutation on the MTHFR gene. So, due to medication side effects and/or gene mutations, people with PCOS often suffer from B vitamin deficiency (hence their association with Major depression).
What’s interesting is how much overlap there is between B vitamin deficiency symptoms and PCOS symptoms. It begs the question: Are PCOS symptoms made worse by B vitamin deficiency, caused by the very medications meant to bring the patient relief?
The Dr. Autoimmune Difference
Our office uses a functional medicine approach to identify and address the root cause of chronic conditions such as PCOS. Rather than using medications, we know how to help you provide your body with the tools it needs to correct imbalances naturally.
For example, our office uses continuous glucose monitoring technology to help our patients identify how certain foods affect their blood sugar. Our nutritionist works one on one with patients to develop plans that help their bodies regulate blood sugar levels more effectively. Once insulin resistance is under control, weight loss becomes much easier. Loss of excess fat= less inflammation= less PCOS symptoms.
The bottom line is that PCOS is not a life sentence- lifestyle changes such as exercise, supplementation, and diet change designed to address the root cause will provide relief. If you are ready to tackle your chronic condition and change your life naturally, click the “Start Your Journey” button at the bottom of this page.
Diabetes affects 11.3% of people in the US, and 90-95% of those people have type 2 diabetes. What many people may not know, however, is that all forms of diabetes will increase your risk of dementia. Glucose (sugar) is an essential source of energy for your brain, so when your insulin is not metabolizing it in a way that makes it useful, your brain misses out on important fuel. A pre-diabetic state is marked by insulin resistance, which is when your insulin cells can’t use glucose effectively.
Some early signs of insulin resistance include:
The catch is, even if you try to get your diabetes under control with medications such as metformin, you will still be increasing your chances of getting dementia.
The Misfortune of Metformin
Metformin may be prescribed as generic, or by brand names such as Fortamet or Glumetza. It is a commonly used drug for type 2 diabetes and has been prescribed to over 120 million people worldwide.
Numerous studies have shown a correlation between use of metformin and chronic vitamin B12 deficiency. Typically within one year of consistent usage of metformin, your ability to absorb B12 becomes compromised and you may experience symptoms of B12 deficiency including:
- Lightheadedness especially coming from seated to standing
- Feeling cold
- Muscle pain or weakness
- Tingling and numbness in the hands and feet
- Loss of reflexes, which may progress to depression, confusion, and memory loss
B12, also known as cobalamin, is a vitamin that is essential for brain health and nervous system function. It is needed for the creation of red blood cells, which help distribute oxygen to the rest of our bodies (including our brains). It is no wonder, then, that low B12 levels have been linked to dementia. Researchers Norbert Goebels, M.D. and Michael Soyka, M.D wrote:
“Cobalamin deficiency has been shown to be the most frequent associated physical disease in patients with dementia.”
So, diabetes can lead to dementia, and the medication for diabetes can also lead to dementia. Not to mention the recent national recall for metformin based on a batch containing a carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemical. Is there no way to win here? Well, our office has a different approach.
What Else Can Cause B12 Deficiency?
Besides medications like metformin, there are other risk factors that can lead to a B12 deficiency. Age is one of these factors. Ten to thirty percent of people over the age of 50 produce too little stomach acid to release B12 from the foods they eat. A certain amount of stomach acid is required to break down the carrier foods and release the B12 vitamin. This could mean that even though you are eating foods that technically contain B12, you may not be breaking the food down enough to actually absorb the B12. The older you get, the less stomach acid you produce, so this risk only increases.
MTHFR is a gene that helps our bodies convert folate, A.K.A. vitamin B9, to an activated version that our bodies can use. All B vitamins need to be converted to their methylated forms in order for our bodies to use them. What does this have to do with B12?
Our bodies need activated (methylated) folate in order to use B12. So, when there is a mutation on our MTHFR gene, it affects our body’s ability to make activated folate, and therefore our ability to use B12. This creates an interesting dynamic where someone can have completely normal levels of B12 in their blood, but are actually deficient in the vitamin and have the corresponding symptoms.
At Dr. Autoimmune, we are able to order specialized blood tests to detect mutations on the MTHFR gene when Dr. Ian suspects this may be a concern.
Managing Diabetes Naturally
Instead of prescribing medications that increase your risk of dementia, our office seeks to address the underlying cause of your condition and develop a management plan using lifestyle changes and proper supplementation.
One tool we frequently use is a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to help our clients learn exactly how different foods affect their blood sugar. While we use this tool to manage and make decisions about diet changes, we also dive deeper.
As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, insulin resistance is a precursor to diabetes. Insulin resistance is caused by systemic inflammation in the body. This can be caused by gut dysbiosis, food sensitivities (particularly to gluten), toxin exposure (such as mold), stress, and hormone imbalances, just to name a few.
By identifying and addressing these root causes, rather than managing symptoms with a band-aid medication, our patients find that their bodies have exceptional healing abilities when given the right tools! If you are ready to change your life, click the “Start Your Journey” button at the bottom of this page.
Dr. Ian recently went viral with a video about MTHFR and B12 deficiency related to metformin use. Make sure to subscribe to him on TikTok to get daily health tips and kernels of knowledge!
The virus that shook the world has a few symptoms we all know, such as loss of taste and smell. And by now, most of us have heard of the term “long-COVID”, referring to recovered COVID-19 patients who have symptoms long after they test negative for the virus. Long-COVID symptoms include continued absence of smell and taste, difficulty breathing, fatigue, and brain fog. If you have been struggling with this, there is hope!
According to an early study funded by the National Institutes of Health, about 70% of COVID-19-positive patients had lost their sense of taste and smell. A later study found that 61% of recovered COVID patients still had symptoms after 6 months. That is a long time to go without being able to smell anything!
So why are so many people not able to smell for months after they had the virus? Loss of smell (anosmia) is actually a sign that the brain is inflamed.
What Causes Brain Inflammation?
Diabetes, obesity, and insulin resistance are risk factors for severe COVID-19. In fact, this whole-population study in England showed that one third of all the COVID-19-related deaths occurred in people with diabetes. That’s a huge percentage!
While it is known that these are risk factors for severe COVID, emerging evidence is also tying these to long-COVID, especially loss of smell and taste. As we mentioned before, the loss of smell and taste is actually related to brain inflammation. This can be caused by insulin resistance.
When you eat, your food is broken down into glucose (sugar) molecules. Your body then releases insulin, which is a hormone that allows glucose to enter a cell and be used for energy. When your cells become resistant to it, glucose can no longer enter and be used. This causes two things: your cells no longer have an energy source, and inflammation starts to accumulate.
Insulin is an important hormone for brain function. Insulin resistance causes your brain to not have enough energy to function properly and become inflamed. It has been tied to the loss of smell that is common in diabetes patients, so it is no wonder that it is also the culprit behind your long-COVID symptom. Insulin resistance is also one of the most common culprits behind autoimmune disorders and dementia.
Other symptoms of insulin resistance:
- Sugar cravings after meals
- Feeling “hangry” between meals
- Weight loss resistance
Insulin Resistance and Alzheimer’s
Your inability to smell or taste anything months after you had COVID-19 is an important sign that you may have insulin resistance that is causing your brain to become inflamed. This is important for you to get on top of not only so that you can enjoy your essential oil diffuser again, but also so that you can protect your brain from long-term damage.
Insulin resistance and diabetes have been linked to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and other dementias for the same reasons they cause the loss of taste and smell. Over time, insulin resistance causes the brain to become more inflamed and receive less fuel for cell energy. Correcting insulin sensitivity levels can help you prevent, and sometimes even reverse, dementia.
Smell and Taste Again with Dr. Autoimmune
At Dr. Autoimmune, we have helped many patients resolve their long-COVID symptoms. We can get to the underlying cause of your extended suffering and find solutions that work for you. Insulin resistance can be brought under control with the right diet and supplementation regimens for your body. We frequently use continuous glucose monitoring to help patients understand exactly how different foods affect their blood sugar levels. Our extensive blood panel, including a fasting insulin marker, also helps us get a better picture of your metabolic health.
Do you miss being able to taste your favorite foods and smell your favorite natural candles? Fill out the form below to get started on your healing journey!
Are you ready to overhaul your COVID symptoms? Finding relief at the end of a very long, arduous fight can be resolved with proper diagnostics and support. Getting to the root cause of your aches and pains is just what Dr. Autoimmune ordered.
What is long COVID?
Current research is conflicting, but it appears continuing symptoms could persist 1-3 months after infection, or even longer. The virus can trigger inflammation in various systems in your body, creating one or more symptoms.
If you have tested positive, or know you were exposed and have new or persisting symptoms from the the list below, your inflammation could be getting the better of you. Unfortunately these symptoms are so common that one research article indicated 52% of 16-30 year olds had symptoms at 6 months post-infection. These are some of the symptoms associated with long COVID:
- ‘Brain fog’
- Memory impairments
- Pain syndromes
Lung / Pulmonary:
- Reduced lung capacity
- Wheezing / gasping / unable to get full breath
- Chest pain / tightness
- Abnormal heart rhythm
- Clotting abnormalities
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
- Elevated insulin
- Fatigue after meals
- Shaky, lightheaded or ‘hangry’
Long COVID thrives on immune system weaknesses! There are multiple reasons why some experience long symptoms, while others are unscathed. Contributing factors may include age, obesity, inflammatory markers, and insulin resistance (IR). IR is when your cells resist insulin and can no longer use glucose for energy. This can cause sugar cravings after meals, weight loss resistance, and fatigue.
One of the common symptoms of long COVID, loss of smell and taste, may indicate that the brain is resistant to insulin and therefore not getting enough fuel. Insulin resistance can lead to neurodegeneration (conditions like Parkinson’s and Alzheimers). Correcting insulin imbalances often lessen or eradicate symptoms.
How do we control insulin resistance?
Functional medicine might be the answer to your blood sugar handling issues. Assessing inflammation in the body is the first step for determining if your problem is systemic and what the root cause may be. Commonly, the culprit is in your gut. Imbalances in your microbiome have a profound effect on all of your bodily systems. Hormone imbalances can have a similar impact. Could cortisol and stress dysregulation be causing sleep disturbances, leading to insulin resistance? A resounding yes!
Dr. Autoimmune can help!
We have seen a dramatic increase of long COVID cases hauling their way through our practice. For many, autoimmunity was triggered or exasperated by the virus. Our proprietary process of diet, supplementation, lifestyle strategies and therapies can change your life. We have even seen cases that are now two years old improve or remiss!
Call us today and find out how our New Patient Exam process can help your health soar.