Insulin Resistance: The critical piece of the puzzle

Insulin Resistance by Dr Agnes Ryu

Improving insulin sensitivity will be your priority if any of the following applies to you.

  • You want to slow ageing, extend your fertility, delay the depletion of sex hormone and the onset of menopause/andropause
  • You want to lose weight or control appetite.
  • You suffer an energy problem, fatigue and exhaustion.
  • You want to boost your mitochondria, the cellular powerhouse
  • You want to improve egg, sperm, embryo quality
  • You have PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)
  • You or your partner have a metabolic disorder: obesity, fatty liver, prediabetes or diabetes, high blood pressure, lipid dysregulation

The critical piece of the puzzle

In most tissues, adequate insulin secretion is necessary for proper cellular glucose uptake, disposal and management. When normal insulin action is impaired, the cell does not hear the message and it compensates for this impairment by secreting a larger amount of insulin (hyperinsulinemia) to maintain near-normal blood sugar levels. This reduced sensitivity of the cell to the action of insulin is referred to as insulin resistance or insensitivity.

Insulin resistance and the resultant hyperinsulinemia are surprisingly common and may be seen in as many as 25% of a normal non-diabetic population. Insulin resistance may be the single most important underlying metabolic dysfunction related to various chronic conditions, especially the infertility epidemic in developed societies. Achieving insulin balance is a critical piece of the puzzle.

Insulin, the master hormone

Insulin’s role is not really to manage blood sugar per se. Insulin’s function has been to preserve our bodies in the event of a famine.  As a nutrient sensor in origin, its purpose is to monitor and detect certain excess nutrients in the bloodstream and put them into storage for later use. In the modern environment with pure calorific excess and abundant sugar and starch which offer exceedingly little structural value, strong insulin response is evoked constantly. A mechanism that graced us with survivability for millennia now threatens the functionality of every organ system in the body.

Insulin is the master hormone essential for life but, at the same time, it is the single most powerful driver of rapid ageing, fat storage and metabolic diseases.

How insulin is relevant to your fertility and pregnancy maintenance

Throughout evolution, mechanisms have been developed to integrate environmental, nutritional and hormonal cues in order to guarantee reproduction in favourable energetic conditions but inhibit it in the case of food scarcity. Insulin resistance with a high insulin level is the biggest contributor to hormonal imbalance and the biggest obstacle to pregnancy as the body cannot allocate the necessary energy and fuel for reproduction. Pro-inflammatory insulin resistance profoundly affects the intricate reproductive system wherever you are positioned on the fertility-infertility spectrum.

Insulin resistance contributes to infertility through a number of mechanisms

  • Excess insulin shifts the sex hormone balance to promote testosterone production over oestrogen production in women. It promotes oestrogen production in men.
  • It can inhibit ovulation and new insights are indicating that higher average blood sugar levels can compromise the egg quality.
  • Studies show that insulin resistance can cause the delayed maturation of eggs and lead to smaller eggs.
  • Insulin resistance is linked to poor pregnancy outcomes, including delayed embryonic development, growth restriction of the foetus, birth defects and smaller foetuses.


Agnes Ryu

Agnes Ryu

Dr. Ryu is a clinician and biochemist specializing in integrative medicine. Her clinical interests include fertility, hormones, metabolism, healthy ageing, menopause, and natural breast cancer care. As an integrative practitioner, Dr. Ryu aims to uncover the root causes of health issues and strives to empower patients with the knowledge and tools to take charge of their own health.

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