PCOS Insulin resistance

Insulin Resistance and PCOS: Your Complete Guide

Insulin resistance and PCOS often go hand in hand, causing a host of problems throughout your body. If you struggle to lose weight, take a nap after your meals, or are constantly hungry, you may have become insulin-resistant. But not to worry! With an early diagnosis and positive lifestyle changes, you can get your insulin levels in check.

What is insulin, and what does it do?

Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas that helps us balance blood sugar. It allows our cells to absorb glucose to be used for energy. When we eat, our blood sugar rises, signalling our bodies to release insulin. When everything is working as it should, blood sugar molecules move into the cells, and levels in the bloodstream decrease, which signals insulin to drop as well.

What is insulin resistance?

Insulin resistance happens when our cells stop responding well to insulin and need MORE than before to absorb the blood sugar molecules. Your pancreas continues to make more and more insulin to help glucose enter your cells, and your body switches to fat-storing mode. Any extra calories become fat cells, which are stored in your body. Left untreated, insulin resistance can evolve into Type 2 Diabetes.

Signs and Symptoms of Insulin Resistance

While there is no one test to measure insulin resistance, there are many markers and blood tests your naturopathic doctor can test for. Signs of insulin resistance include:

  • A high waistline measurement
  • Skin tags or patches of dark skin
  • High blood pressure
  • Fatigue and low energy levels
  • Increased thirst and frequent urination
  • High fasting glucose levels
  • Weak immune system with frequent sickness
  • High cholesterol levels
  • A feeling of constant hunger
  • Feeling tired after eating
  • Stubborn weight gain & trouble losing the extra pounds

Insulin Resistance and PCOS

Women with PCOS are often insulin resistant, and the more resistant they become, the worse PCOS symptoms get. Insulin resistance is both a symptom of PCOS and an underlying driver. Chronically high insulin impairs ovulation and signals the ovaries to produce more testosterone. This hormone imbalance leads to irregular periods, acne, unwanted facial hair, and stubborn weight gain. PCOS and insulin resistance often go hand in hand, leading to a continuous cycle of unwanted symptoms.

Insulin Resistance if Left Untreated

If unmanaged, insulin resistance can worsen your PCOS symptoms. It can also lead to full-blown type 2 diabetes, which carries a higher risk of stroke, heart disease, nerve damage, kidney problems, and a host of other issues. Being proactive and controlling your blood sugar levels are the best ways to lower your chance of complications.  Furthermore, another big consequence of insulin resistance is having fertility issues.

What’s the Fix?

The first step is to get a proper diagnosis. Speak with your healthcare professional if you suspect you have become insulin-resistant. Addressing the issue early is the best way to avoid further health complications. As a result, your doctor can then give you recommendations that are specific to you. The first line of defence is generally to eat whole foods, consume less sugar and increase your exercise levels. Your doctor may also recommend glucose-lowering medication along with these lifestyle changes.

If you feel you might be insulin resistant, reach out to me here to book an appointment.


You’ve got acne, facial hair, irregular periods, and weight gain. PCOS could be why.

Ever heard of PCOS? You’re looking in the mirror. Who’s that person struggling with chronic acne well past their teens? Is that facial hair again? You check your period app — late again, nothing new. And those extra couple pounds – are they slowly creeping up? The answer may be that you have PCOS.

That is, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. This is a condition characterized by having at least two of the three following criteria:

  • Androgen excess (this may look like: acne, hair loss, course facial hair growth and insulin resistance)
  • Ovulatory dysregulation (cycles 35 days or longer, but less than 6 months apart, or absent menses for 6-12 months after having a regular period)
  • Polycystic ovaries (an ovary which contains more than 12 follicles on ultrasound) 

Because PCOS influences different systems of the body as an endocrine disorder, it can manifest in different ways. People with PCOS often struggle with fertility, have oily and acne-prone skin, have sugar cravings or “hanger,” and have trouble losing weight. 

The main goals we have as Naturopathic Doctors for individuals with PCOS are to regulate menses and to treat insulin resistance, which thereby balances out the androgen excess. Because PCOS is a multifaceted syndrome, every patient gets treated based on what they individually present with. We focus on diet and lifestyle modifications, herbal support and acupuncture protocols to support the body’s cycle.

If you have PCOS or think you may, let’s work together to get your cycle regular and to improve insulin sensitivity of your cells. If you have not been assessed for PCOS but the above sounds like you, let’s investigate and find the root cause of your symptoms. Click here to book with me.l

– Dr. Henna, ND