The hormone, insulin, helps control the amount of sugar (glucose) in the blood. With insulin resistance, the body's cells don't respond normally to insulin. Glucose can't enter the cells as easily, so it builds up in the blood. This can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes.
Insulin resistance, which is often a problem with blood sugar issues, affects hormones in several different ways.
In women, the way that insulin resistance or high insulin tweaks hormones are that it up-regulates an enzyme called 17, 20-lyase, and this increases the production of testosterone and leads to;
- PCOS, which is the number one cause of infertility,
- Oestrogen dominance- Oestrogen levels can also go up because 17,20-lyase converts DHEA, which is an adrenal hormone, into the oestrogen-testosterone pathway, so all of the hormones in that pathway go up, including oestrogen, but testosterone goes up more proportionately, which is why you see the PCOS symptoms.
- Infertility- Not only do testosterone levels go up with insulin resistance in women, but oestrogen going up suppresses FSH, which is a pituitary hormone that acts on the ovaries, and that suppression of FSH is actually what causes infertility in that particular pattern.
- Hair Loss- thinning of the hair or hair loss in the scalp, a more common cause of hair loss in women than hypothyroidism due to increased production of testosterone and/or inflammation is to blame there.
- Facial and Abnormal hair growth- facial hair growth due to increased production of testosterone which is converted to DHT, a form of testosterone that causes abnormal hair growth, acne, weight gain and depression.
In Men - Insulin surges can up-regulate aromatase which is an enzyme that converts testosterone into oestrogen.
In men, what you often see is a normal or low normal testosterone level but a high oestrogen level, and this is commonly seen in andropause or “manopause”. In order to fix it, you really have to address the insulin and blood sugar issue because the problem isn’t low testosterone, per se, although the symptoms are caused, in a sense, or are reminiscent of low testosterone symptoms.
Take steps to address blood sugar dysregulation, like;
- Eating real food,
- Avoiding flour and sugar and industrial seed oils,
- Adjusting your carbohydrate intake based on your blood sugar response
- Doing high-intensity strength training and not sitting as much,
- Getting enough exercise,
- Make sure you’re getting enough sleep and
- Managing stress
Some signs of insulin resistance include;
- Fatty deposits around the mid-section which are resistant to diet and exercise (often referred to as the “muffin top”)
- High blood pressure - readings of 130/80 or higher
- High blood sugar levels - A fasting glucose level over 100 mg/dL
- Elevated cholesterol levels
- Skin tags