What Is Insulin Resistance?


After years of struggling with my marathon period, I’ve googled literally everything in regards to “why the hell won’t my period stop?!” Never once did I stumble upon a post about Insulin Resistance or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Never once did my doctors recommend a diet change or mention Insulin Resistance. It took me forever to even get a diagnosis of PCOS, and still no mention of Insulin Resistance… but why? Polycystic Ovary and Insulin Resistance go hand in hand, but why don’t doctors talk about it?

One theory is, there is no profit in a diet change… but there is a profit in a prescription. It’s a shame really, but it is an unfortunate reality for many. What finally tipped me off and got me on the path to diet change was the mention of one drug… Metformin ‘is the first-line medication for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, particularly in people who are overweight. It is also used in the treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome. It works by decreasing glucose production by the liver and increasing the insulin sensitivity of body tissues’ (wikipedia

Since PCOS is a hormonal imbalance due to a blood sugar disregulation, it makes sense that Doctors would prescribe Metformin for PCOS. But why take a drug that stresses the liver (a very important organ, especially for blood sugar regulation), with potentially nasty side effects, when you can just change your diet? Easier said than done… TRUST ME I know this, as sugar and carbs are VERY ADDICTIVE. More on that later…

Many people have Insulin Resistance. Type 2 Diabetics and women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome for example. But what exactly is Insulin Resistance? First you should understand insulin…

What is Insulin?

Insulin is actually a hormone… When we eat, our body detects a rise in blood glucose in response to the food we just ate. Insulin then tells the cells to open up and let that glucose in, which is then used by our bodies to store glucose in our muscle and liver cells for later use. Without insulin, our cells would starve.  Insulin is secreted by the pancreas and binds to a receptor on the cell telling it to open up. This is similar to way a key opens a lock. When the ‘key’ has been used too much (or there is chronic inflammation), the lock starts to get a bit worn and the ‘key’ will no longer work. This is insulin resistance.

How Does Insulin Resistance Cause PCOS?

The ovaries produce our essential female hormones, including estrogen and progesterone. These cells also secrete a small amount of testosterone, which is essential for many bodily functions, including libido and bone formation. When we have too much insulin, it causes the ovaries to overproduce testosterone. Our bodies have a system in place which will prevent hormone levels from getting too high, but unfortunately this isn’t the case with testosterone because our bodies don’t anticipate insulin making testosterone levels higher. Our bodies were never meant to consume the amount of sugar that is typically consumed in this day and age. As a result, there’s nothing to prevent testosterone levels from spiraling out of control.

When it comes to hormones, 80% should be bound to cells and 20% should be free in the body. The ‘free’ hormones are generally the ones which cause problems. Excess levels of ‘free’ testosterone can:
– Get into hair follicles and make hair fall out (Thinning hair!)
– Settle in hair follicles in our face and make it produce thick dark hair (Pesky chin hair…)
– Get into skin glands and cause acne (Ugh!)

There is another hormone called the Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG), which acts as a testosterone ‘sponge’, binding to excess testosterone and preventing it from causing these annoying problems. Insulin resistance reduces the amount of SHBG, which then allows testosterone to run rampant.

You can think about insulin resistance as a naughty child. He has plugged the bath, turned the testosterone faucet on, snatched your sponges, and ran away calling ‘catch me if you can!’

Ok, so Insulin Resistance can cause PCOS, but What Causes Insulin Resistance?

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