Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition associated with an array of undesirable symptoms and one of the most common causes of infertility.
There are a few hormone imbalances at the root of PCOS but in many women the most influential one is INSULIN!
Did you know that of women with PCOS:
- Approximately 65-70% of those who are overweight and obese have insulin resistance
- 20-25% of those who are lean women have insulin resistance
What is Insulin Resistance?
A state in which the body does not respond normally to insulin.
Normally insulin is released by the body in response to eating a meal. This causes the cells of the body to take sugar from the blood and make it into glycogen to be used for energy later. When an individual has insulin resistance, the cells do not respond to the insulin that is released. Therefore, sugar stays in the blood, and the body attempts to deal with that by producing more insulin.
Insulin resistance can be present for years before someone develops diabetes, and even then, they may not develop diabetes at all. Therefore, chances are that you will not know if you have insulin resistance unless your fasting insulin is tested or even better, have an oral glucose tolerance test.
PCOS is often associated with significant insulin resistance as well as issues with the release of insulin itself. This results in an increased risk of diabetes and an array of other metabolic and hormone imbalances that can result in:
- absent or irregular periods
- hair loss
- facial hair
Many of these issues are directly related to insulin. This is because in PCOS, insulin acts through an irregular pathway affecting the adrenals and the ovaries directly, but also by affecting the message coming from the brain to the ovaries. All of these messages encourage the body to produce more testosterone. So, the more insulin that a woman with PCOS has, the worse the hormone imbalance.
Research states that addressing insulin resistance is the most important factor for achieving hormone balance and resolving symptoms in PCOS.
What can you do?
The most important treatment is diet and lifestyle modifications.
Diet and exercise alone with associated weight loss has shown to reduce symptoms, increase ovulation, increase conception rates and improve metabolic outcomes.
Insulin resistance can however, make weight loss more challenging and therefore not all diets are created equally. Some women may need additional support in the form of supplements or even medication in some instances.
Every woman is different and with PCOS there is such a vast spectrum of symptoms and different hormone profiles that appropriate treatment should be individualized.
If you have been diagnosed with PCOS or have health concerns such as acne, irregular periods, inability to lose weight or excessive body hair and would like to assess your hormones and get started on an individualized health plan, click HERE to book a consultation.
Dr. Lisa Maddalena, ND