Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) also known as Stein-Leventhal syndrome or Syndrome O, is a metabolic disorder that causes hormonal imbalances as well as a vast array of other symptoms. Including:
- Irregular or absent periods (normally the main symptom)
- Ovarian cysts
- Insulin resistance
- Hair loss or even excess facial hair
- Weight gain
- High blood pressure and/or high cholesterol
- Mood swings
Of course, not all woman experience these symptoms in the same way. Some may have only one or two, while others feel each and every one of them. Sometimes getting a diagnosis is difficult, as test results aren’t accurate. Personally I’ve had multiple blood tests and the doctors have always mentioned that my hormone levels were considered ‘normal’. But the fact I was not ovulating meant otherwise. Some women also don’t even show the classic ‘cysts’ on their ovaries (the cysts are actually empty follicles) and others even have a period every month, although they don’t actually ovulate (annovular cycle).
And a staggering 10% of women actually suffer from this disorder, as it’s the most common cause of infertility.
What causes PCOS?
It’s unknown as to why some women may suffer from this disorder while others don’t, but your genes are thought to be a large factor. Nutrition is also a very big reason why some women struggle with PCOS. Researchers have also found that insulin production is also a large part of it. What you may not know, is that insulin is actually a hormone. And when one hormone is off balance, they all are.
It’s a domino effect.
An excess of insulin also seems to increase the production of another hormone, androgen. Androgen is actually a male hormone (that all women produce, but it’s supposed to be to a much smaller extent) that is made in fat cells, ovaries, and in your adrenal gland. When your body has to much androgen, it can cause ovulation problems as well as excess hair growth and weight gain.
Risks associated with PCOS
When I was younger, a lack of periods never bothered me. It was one less thing I had to worry about! But as I started researching, I found that there were also a host of other issues that could accompany a PCOS diagnosis. Women with PCOS have higher instances of:
- endometrial cancers
- heart disease and heart attacks
- type II diabetes
And personally I think the reason these risks are there is due to the diet that a lot of women with PCOS eat! Infertility and annovulation is just a symptom of a greater issue within your body.
What can you do about it?
PCOS can actually be greatly helped by better nutrition and change of lifestyle. While not easy, it can be done successfully. Most women find that being at a healthy weight relieves a lot of their symptoms. (excess toxins and hormones are stored within your fat cells!)
My own personal journey with PCOS began when I was very young. And since puberty, I never once had a regular cycle. Sometimes going years between each one. When my husband and I started trying to conceive, we knew it would take longer than it would for normal couples for the fact that I would still go 6-8 months between cycles and of course, never knew when I was actually ovulating. After my son was born, I decided I needed to try to get a handle on it and change my health, and after about 6 months, I had started ovulating regularly (every 8 weeks, but still – it was every 8 weeks. On. The. Dot!)
A few things that helped me the most were:
- Eating little to no processed foods
- Giving up a low-fat diet and eating only good, natural foods
- Cutting sugar out of my diet and using only natural sweeteners (i.e. honey, maple syrup, whole cane sugar)
- Lowering my carbohydrate/grain intake, not cutting carbs completely, but cutting back
PCOS doesn’t have to be a devastating diagnosis. It’s a livable and manageable condition. Just think of it as a wake up call to get your health in order. And not only will healthy living reduce or eliminate your symptoms, it can actually prolong your life by reducing the associated risks.