Insulin Resistance is a term that’s often thrown around in the world of PCOS, and it’s easy to get confused about what it really means. Simply put, Insulin Resistance is a protection mechanism in which cells block high amounts of sugar from entering. In other words, it’s a way for cells to prevent damage that can occur when too much sugar is present.
As a former pharmacist, I recall from my lectures how sugar has been used as a preservative for centuries. An example that we can relate to in our daily lives is making jams and preserving them with high amounts of sugar. So how does it work? High amounts of sugar through osmosis prevent bacteria from taking in water. Therefore, the bacteria that lands in the jam will die because without water, there is no life. Similarly, allowing high amounts of sugar to enter our cells would create an environment that disrupts cellular function and ultimately leads to cell death. Insulin Resistance serves as a protective mechanism that only allows the necessary amount of sugar to enter the cell to produce ATP, which is the energy we need to move.
What happens outside of the cell when glucose levels are high? The body continues to produce insulin, believing that the current levels are insufficient to transport glucose into the cell. However, since the cell is resistant to high amounts of insulin, it cannot effectively transport glucose into the cell. This leads to excess glucose in the bloodstream, and Insulin activates another function, which is to grab the excess sugar in the bloodstream and store it as fat. This is how weight gain can occur as a result of high carbohydrate intake.
When our diets are high in carbohydrates, it can cause inflammation in the body, which can have a significant impact on egg quality and ovulation. This can create another vicious cycle that leads to elevated testosterone levels and other PCOS symptoms.
So, while Insulin Resistance is a protective mechanism for cells, it is not the direct cause of PCOS. The primary reason for the development of Insulin Resistance is high carbohydrate intake. By cutting down on carbohydrate intake, we can reverse all the consequences of high blood glucose levels.