Insulin resistance is an insensitivity of the body to insulin. Insulin is a hormone, produced in the body by the pancreas, which helps to regulate blood glucose levels. When you have insulin resistance, your insulin does not work effectively, so the body needs to produce increasing amounts of insulin to keep the blood glucose levels under control. This is known as hyperinsulinaemia, meaning high levels of insulin in the blood.
Unfortunately, these high levels of insulin circulating in the blood can cause many health problems, including PCOS. High levels of insulin act on the ovaries to cause increased production of male hormones, which disrupts the normal ovulation cycle and causes many of the symptoms of PCOS.
The link between these two conditions also means that if you have PCOS, you are at an increased risk of developing health problems including impaired glucose tolerance (‘pre-diabetes’), gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy), type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The good news is that lifestyle changes including diet, exercise, weight loss, getting adequate sleep and managing stress can all help to improve the way insulin works in your body and thereby improve the symptoms of PCOS and reduce long term health risks.