PCOS and insulin resistance are frequently found together; insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas and has many functions in the body. Insulin is generally secreted in response to a large amount of sugar or glucose in the blood, and once the insulin is produced, it is taken into your body cells and used for energy. If you have PCOS, it is very likely that you also have insulin resistance which means your body has a sluggish response to insulin, which causes larger and larger amounts of insulin to be required before glucose is finally taken into your body tissues. In other words, the way your body deals with sugar is completely changed and you are at risk for being diagnosed with diabetes. There can, however, be a 10-12 year “lull” known as pre-diabetes in which certain changes are occurring in your body, and you are no longer nearly as sensitive to insulin as you previously were. This causes you to have excessively high blood sugar that is not lowered by eating as it normally would be.
Link Between PCOS and Insulin Resistance
There has been a significant amount of research over the past twenty years which suggest a link between PCOS and insulin resistance. A large number of women with PCOS also have insulin resistance problems, and it has even been theorized that insulin resistance may be the root cause of PCOS. The theory is that when your body becomes resistant to insulin, your pancreas will attempt to compensate by producing more insulin. Eventually your body will over-produce insulin, triggering the production of excess androgens, which are male hormones and can interfere with ovulation and reproduction, causing a number of PCOS symptoms. The initial symptoms of insulin resistance can include acne, weight gain, high blood pressure, carbohydrate and sugar cravings or dark patches on the skin, most particularly on the back of the neck, knees, ankles, elbows and knuckles.
Effects of PCOS
Beyond the “normal” effects of having PCOS, there are more serious diseases that PCOS can lead to, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, pregnancy-associated disorders, certain cancers and seizure disorders. Cardiovascular disease is well-recognized as part of insulin resistance syndrome, and can lead to a number of other abnormalities. The insulin resistance can force your pancreas to overwork, leading to cell exhaustion and diabetes, which is a lifelong disease with its own set of complications. You should work with your doctor to ensure your insulin resistance and PCOS are thoroughly managed.
Treatment of Insulin Resistance
Most often insulin resistance is treated through a medication such as Metformin, which helps control glucose production in the liver, thereby reducing your need for insulin, and controlling androgen production. Your doctor may ask you to try and lose weight as well, which can greatly increase the success of the Metformin drug treatment and get you on the road to managing or curing your PCOS. There is also a diet known as the “insulin resistance diet” which can help you both lose weight and manage your insulin resistance. The diet is low in carbohydrates, moderate in protein and fat, and avoids table sugar, ice cream, honey, alcohol, fructose, and even artificial sweeteners. Refined grain products are to be avoided, however wheat and whole brown rice can be included in small amounts. Non-starchy vegetables, raw nuts, and one egg per day are all allowed. Strict adherence to the insulin resistance diet can greatly increase your feelings of health and well-being.