PCOS & the contraceptive pill: increased insulin resistance

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Have you have been diagnosed with PCOS and been prescribed the oral contraceptive pill?

Then  you might need to re-think your options because taking the Pill is not a good idea for most women with PCOS. Why?

The Pill causes insulin resistance which is one of the most common causes of PCOS and can worsen your symptoms.

Why is insulin resistance bad?

Insulin is an important hormone that helps your cells take in glucose from your bloodstream and preventing cells from starving. When the cells become resistant to insulin, for any reason, they are no longer taking in the glucose efficiently. As a response, your pancreas will produce more insulin to try to fix the problem.

A vicious cycle is formed where blood sugar and insulin levels keep going up leading to cell damage in the pancreas. Insulin production will be disrupted and you are likely to develop diabetes type 2.

Insulin resistance can also make your PCOS symptoms worse. It raises testosterone levels in your body causing hair loss, hirsutism or acne. So insulin resistance is not good news for anyone really.

The most common causes are chronic inflammation and lifestyle factors such as eating too much sugar and not exercising. Also poor gut bacteria can be a culprit. But that’s not the whole story. Medications can play a part in it too.

The Pill is contributing to your insulin resistance

Ora contraceptives are often used to treat PCOS and some women find them beneficial. But the long-term effects are not clear.

The Pill seems to modify the carbohydrate metabolism and glucose tolerance in the body. The exact mechanism for this is unclear but it has been suggested that the oestrogens found in the contraceptives are enhancing insulin secretion in pancreas resulting in increased levels.

Inflammation can also cause insulin resistance and the Pill is known to reduce antioxidants and promoting inflammatory condition in the body adding to the pot of potential health risks.

But the doctor said I need to go on the Pill?

You are allowed to make your own healthcare decisions. Doctors are not know-it-all and they can get it wrong too. And unfortunately, their knowledge of hormonal issues is often lacking. So do your own research first before taking any medication.

Another issue is informed consent. Did your doctor explain to you that taking the contraceptive pill you are at risk of insulin resistance? Unfortunately many patients are not given the full information to make the best decision for themselves.

Non-hormonal contraceptive options

Fertility Awareness Method or FAM is a very reliable way to prevent pregnancy if done correctly. It does require some effort and learning though. Another option is to use a barrier-method such as condoms. Some women choose the copper IUD as it doesn’t contain hormones but do some research first as it can disrupt the copper-zinc balance in the body and also result in heavy periods.

How to treat PCOS and other hormonal imbalance naturally?

First, lifestyle and diet. Quit sugar & junk food and move your body. That’s a good starting point. Beneficial supplements include magnesium, B vitamins, zinc and iodine. If you want to take your health on another level, then consider homeopathic treatment. It works really well for most endocrine imbalances and can also be used to detox the pill.