What is PCOS?
Ladies! Having a bit of a mood change? Do you suffer from irregular periods or hormonal acne? You may have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).
PCOS is a complex hormonal, metabolic and reproductive disorder that affects up to 15% of women. It is the leading cause of infertility in women.
Despite affecting millions of women and the serious health consequences, PCOS is unknown to most people and a staggering 50% of the women living with this syndrome are going undiagnosed.
PCOS can lead to lifelong complications and other serious conditions including severe anxiety and depression, obesity, endometrial cancer, type 2 diabetes, liver disease and cardiovascular disease. It also causes hair growth on the face and body and male pattern hair loss.
So… What Is PCOS?
PCOS is a condition that affects a woman’s hormone levels during childbearing years.
Your body makes hormones to make different things happen.
Women with PCOS produce higher-than-normal amounts of “androgens”, which are often called male hormones. This hormone imbalance causes women to skip menstrual periods and can make it more challenging to get pregnant.
PCOS is a “syndrome”, or group of symptoms that affects the ovaries and ovulation.
A woman’s ovaries release eggs to be fertilized. The release of an egg each month is called ovulation. Follicle-stimulating hormones (FHS) and luteinizing (LH) are what controls ovulation. FHS stimulates the ovary to produce a follicle and LH triggers the ovary to release a mature egg.
The word “polycystic” means “many cysts”. In PCOS, many small, fluid-filled sacs grown inside the ovaries. These sacs are actually follicles, each one containing an immature egg. The eggs never mature enough to trigger ovulation.
The lack of ovulation alters levels of estrogen, progesterone, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), and luteinizing hormone (LH). Estrogen and progesterone levels are lower than usual, while androgen levels are higher than usual.
What Causes PCOS?
Genes, insulin resistance, and inflammation have all been linked to excess androgen production.
PCOS runs in families.
It’s likely that many genes contribute to the condition, not just one.
So if you know someone in your family has this it would be a good idea to get it checked up.
Up to 70% of women with PCOS have insulin resistance.
Insulin is a hormone the pancreas produces to help the body use sugar from foods for energy.
When the cells can’t use insulin properly, the body’s demand for insulin increases. The pancreas makes more insulin to compensate. Overflowing insulin triggers the ovaries to produce more male hormones.
Studies have linked excess inflammation to higher androgen levels. Women with PCOS often have increased levels of inflammation in their body.
How To Diagnose PCOS?
There is no single test to diagnose PCOS. Doctors might take a blood test to measure your hormone levels, blood sugar, and cholesterol. The only way to know for sure if through ultrasound.
Doctors typically diagnose PCOS in women who have at least two out of three symptoms:
- High androgen levels
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Cysts in the ovaries
Other symptoms to mention to your doctor: acne, face and body hair growth, and weight gain.
Natural And Medical Ways To Treat PCOS
Treatment will depend on your symptoms, age, and if you are wanting to get pregnant. Diet and exercise can help. Weight loss can also improve cholesterol levels, lower insulin, and reduce heart disease and diabetes risk. Changing your diet will help, but a low glycemic index (low-GI) diet helps to regulate the menstrual cycle better than just a basic low-calorie diet.
Diet plus exercise helps you lose more weight than either intervention alone.
Inositol is one of the best supplements for PCOS and is one of the most raves about by holistic/functional medicine practitioners.
The best way to treat PCOS is through nutrition & managing blood sugar. Hormonal treatments should be a last resort because there are loads of cases where contraception actually makes it worse – like when a woman comes off the pill, it will cause a flare-up.
Progesterone is made in the ovaries. Progestin is made in the lab – this is what is found in birth control pills. And progestin increases the risk of abnormal fertility. Progestin is a toxin to the body. So when you come off the birth control pill, hell usually tends to break loose and thus results in larger hormonal flare-ups.
Magnesium is also crucial in dealing with PCOS and it is the main mineral that metabolises estrogen – and not all estrogen is good. Estrogen still needs to be detoxed by the liver. It’s when the body cannot metabolise and detox is that the excess then turns into toxic estrogen which results in a spike of androgens.
Although the contraceptive pill and hormonal medications are commonly used to treat PCOS, it does not cure the symptoms but causes even more hormonal issues in the body because it just conceals and does not actually treat. If someone can’t metabolise and detox estrogen and testosterone, it can cause further hormonal imbalances in the body. Toxic/excess hormones could end up going straight into fat cells too because at the end of the day, they are toxins if your liver cannot process them.
Surgery can be an option to improve fertility if other treatments don’t work. Ovarian drilling is a procedure that makes tiny holes in the ovary with a laser or thin needle to restore normal ovulation.
See your doctor if you’ve skipped periods or you have any of the other symptoms listed above, like hair growth on face or body, or acne.
Also if you have been trying to get pregnant for over a year without success. All of these might be symptoms of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.