Insulin Resistance And PCOS

Although experts in the fields of gynecology and fertility are still not sure exactly what causes polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), there is reason to believe that a number of factors can contribute to a woman's developing this condition. One of these factors is called "insulin resistance."

Hormonal Imbalance

Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas. This is the same hormone that makes life difficult for diabetes sufferers. This is because a lack or excess of insulin influences the body's blood sugar levels. Although being insulin resistant and a PCOS sufferer does not necessarily mean that you have diabetes too, there is a perceived pattern in the numbers of women who have diabetes who also happen to have PCOS. PCOS is a known cause of female infertility and repeated miscarriage.

How Insulin Affects The Ovaries

If your body is insulin resistant, your cells have difficulty getting the glucose out of your blood and using it to make energy. Your cells need more insulin to carry out this vital process. Your brain therefore sends a message to your pancreas that it needs to work harder. The pancreas in turn produces more insulin, and before you know it, you have an insulin excess.

But how does this excess insulin affect your ovaries? Well, the high insulin levels make your ovaries work harder - but that's not a good thing, because it also makes them produce higher-than-normal levels of male androgens (hormones) such as testosterone.

High levels of testosterone are not welcome in female reproductive organs such as the ovaries, because the male hormones interfere with the growth of the ovaries' follicles. The follicles are the part of the ovary that nurture an egg until it is mature enough to be released down the fallopian tubes in search of a passing sperm cell. So if your ovarian follicles aren't happy, there's a good chance that this will mess up your ovulation and menstrual cycle, making it really hard to get pregnant.

The Obesity Connection

In a vicious circle, excess insulin levels in the body can make you gain weight, and, in turn, putting on weight makes your insulin levels go up even further, thus exacerbating the PCOS symptoms.


Diet and exercise - if you have PCOS and are insulin resistant, your doctor will recommend healthy diet and exercise as a way of reducing your insulin and blood sugar levels. It is essential that you follow this advice. Eating complex carbohydrates (wholegrain bread and pasta, beans, etc.) instead of simple carbohydrates will help. These are digested more slowly and take a longer time to be converted into sugar.

Metformin - it's possible that your doctor might decide to give you this oral drug used to treat type 2 diabetes patients. The medication been proven to bring down insulin levels and even induce regular menstrual cycles in PCOS patients. If, like many other PCOS sufferers, you are in the "pre-diabetes" stage, with a good chance of becoming diabetic in later life, metformin can slow this process down. The drug works best in combination with healthy eating and an adequate exercise program.

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