What is Insulin Resistant Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)17th July 2018
Written by Naturopath Stephanie Hinton
While practicing in clinic I have come across many women with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). PCOS is largely a complex hormonal condition resulting from various interna and external factors. More on this later!
‘Polycystic’ translates to ‘many cysts’, though this doesn’t necessarily mean that women with PCOS have cysts on their ovaries but rather, they have many partially formed follicles on the ovaries, which each contain an egg. These follicles rarely grow to maturity or produce eggs that can be fertilised and in most cases that’s ok.
The important thing to understand is that you can have polycystic ovaries and not have PCOS. Confusing right? To be diagnosed with PCOS you must have a combination of elevated androgens, physical symptoms (more on this below), menstrual irregularities, excess follicles on the ovaries (as I outlined above) and anovulation.
Did you know there’s actually four main types of PCOS?
Yep, to make matters more confusing, there is four ways to categorise PCOS:
- Insulin resistant PCOS (where excess insulin results in imbalanced hormone production).
- Pill-induced PCOS (where the artificial hormones released by the pill cause hormonal imbalances and anovulation).
- Inflammatory PCOS (resulting from systemic inflammation in the body, which disrupts ovulation and impedes hormone receptors).
- ‘Hidden’ or uncategorised PCOS (this refers to a condition whereby there is not a host of symptoms resulting in the lack of ovulation but rather a single issue that needs to be corrected).
While all are prevalent in women, today I’m going to focus on Insulin resistant PCOS, because it’s definitely the most common presentation I have seen in clinic and one that can so often be treated with a quick-fix approach by practitioners.
What is insulin resistant PCOS?
Insulin resistant PCOS occurs when women have high insulin levels, often resulting from a combination of genetic, diet and lifestyle factors. When women have increased insulin (and leptin) in the body this can interrupt a female’s natural ovulatory cycle. You see, when insulin rises, so do androgens (male sex hormones), like testosterone. All women have testosterone
but the amount we have impacts hormonal functions. Too much can throw things right out of whack.
Symptoms of insulin resistant PCOS
• Hair loss or hair thinning around the hairline
• Facial hair or abnormal amounts of dark body hair (known as hirsutism)
• Difficulty losing weight/always carrying excess weight
• Abnormal, irregular or no menstruation
• Heavy menstruation
• Tendency towards depression and/or low mood
• Acne or oily skin
• Poor sleep
• Digestive concerns
• Pelvic pain (throughout and in between menstruation)
These symptoms are often treated with the oral contraceptive pill or other forms of hormonal intervention, but sadly these treatments do not ‘fix’ the root cause, and merely mask the symptoms. The good news is there is lots we can do to treat PCOS naturally!
To improve your health, manage your PCOS naturally and thrive please book in a consultation with me today. Together we can work on a achievable plan to support you.
Stay tuned for my next post of this two-part series, How To Eat When You Have PCOS.