What does Insulin Resistance have to do with PCOS?
A high percentage of women experiencing infertility also suffer from the medical condition, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). Unfortunately, PCOS has been estimated to affect as many as 1 in 5 women of reproductive age which then leads to fertility problems. This condition affects hormone levels and causes women with this condition to produce higher amounts of testosterone instead. This imbalance causes problems such as irregular menstrual periods, fertility issues, metabolic syndrome, sleep apnea, depressions and even endometrial cancer.
PCOS has a wide range of potential symptoms which can make it difficult to accurately diagnose and there’s a lot we don’t know about it still. One of the most widely known potential symptoms is the development of multiple cysts inside the ovaries and the ovaries may also be stimulated to produce extra hormones such as testosterone.
What stimulates the ovaries to produce an abnormal amount of male hormones? Insulin.
Why does Insulin matter for PCOS?
Insulin does a surprising amount for us and fertility. By regulating blood sugar levels it can also help to regular hormones which then leads to improved fertility. This is why taking Myo-inositol to support fertility can be a good idea. That compound increases insulin sensitivity, metabolic function and ovulatory functions too.
High insulin levels are known to be recognised as an underlying cause of PCOS and other fertility problems. Not only that, insulin resistance is being seen as a key feature for women with PCOS regardless of weight. Having high levels of insulin is known to impair ovulation and cause the ovaries to make too much testosterone which then leads to PCOS and worsens the existing condition.
What does it mean to be Insulin Resistant?
Insulin is a hormone that is produced in our pancreas which is essential for turning glucose in food into energy for our cells. Carbohydrates naturally contain glucose and other types of sugar. The insulin causes cells to absorb the sugar and use it for energy. This also means that insulin helps to balance our blood glucose levels by telling our body to store excess sugar in the liver. Stored glucose is only released when blood glucose levels decrease between meals, when you get stressed or when you need an extra boost of energy.
People who are insulin resistant create more insulin than needed to push glucose into cells. Excess levels of insulin have harmful effects on the body including on fertility. Women with PCOS often have ‘faulty’ insulin receptors that don’t work as efficiently as they should.
It’s been estimated that 30 – 50% of women with PCOS also experience some level of insulin resistance. This problem with insulin then exacerbates the existing hormone imbalance from PCOS.
Can Insulin Resistance be Controlled with Medication?
Different prescription drugs can now be used to help manage insulin resistance. The most common one is Metformin which is used for both insulin resistance and PCOS since it works to control blood glucose in multiple ways. It reduces the production of glucose by the liver, blocks your body from absorbing too many carbohydrates from your diet and it increases your cell sensitivity to insulin. This means Metformin works to lower glucose, insulin and testosterone levels which helps women with a PCOS hormone imbalance.
Can Lifestyle Changes help with Insulin Resistance?
Making diet and lifestyle adjustments can also help control insulin resistance and prevent it from getting worse. Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight can help to manage insulin resistance and may catch insulin problems early. However, weight loss can be difficult and especially difficult for women with PCOS.
Making dietary changes to introduce more plants and whole foods will put a higher amount of fiber into your regular diet. This will also help to reduce high glycemic carbohydrates from your diet. White bread, white rice, potato, white pasta, corn and instant oatmeal are all high glycemic carbs that can worsen your insulin resistance. Swap from those to brown rice, whole-grain breads and pasta, leafy greens, grains such as bulgur wheat and steel-cut oats instead. These alternative options are also great nutritionally and are generally better for us.
Working on both a better diet and a healthy weight will greatly improve your chance of improving your insulin resistance. Adding aerobic exercise to your routine has also been seen to be beneficial for those with PCOS. This means most cardio exercises such as cycling, swimming, rowing and using an elliptical trainer. Combining the three will give you the best possible chance.
Are there any Supplements that could help?
Women with PCOS who are trying to conceive can try supplements. There’s a lot of evidence that supplements can assist those with PCOS with their condition, improve fertility and increase the chance of conception. Taking these supplements alongside making the other positive lifestyle changes can help to control PCOS and the related insulin problem.
FertilAid for Women is one of the most research supplements and the results tell us that FertilAid does help. It works by targeting the most common cause of infertility which is hormone related. FertilAid for Women is a blend of herbs to help restore hormone balance and promote regular ovulation. These are issues that can be caused by PCOS and are connected to it. Taking a supplement to improve those things will also increase the chance of a successful conception for women with PCOS.