Did you know that millions of women are currently suffering from PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome)? Could you be one of them?
The effects of the symptoms of PCOS can range from mild to devastating. Do any of these feel familiar to you:
- Are you having missed, irregular, or light period?
- Weight gain around the tummy?
- Thinning hair?
- Do you have skin tags?
- Or are you struggling to get pregnant?
PCOS might be the cause.
What is PCOS?
First, know it’s one of the most common issues for reproductive-age women.1 So don’t panic.
PCOS is a hormonal disorder that causes enlarged ovaries with small cysts on the outer edges. It is generally known as a reproductive disorder. It is often called a syndrome rather than a disease because it shows up as a group of signs and symptoms, rather than just one cause in the body. PCOS begins in a girl’s teen years. The symptoms range from mild to severe.
What is actually happening in your body? You don’t have the right balance of hormones you need to ovulate. Hormones come from the brain, ovaries, or the pancreas. If ovulation doesn’t happen, your body can develop small cysts, or bumps. Some women have many. Some have just a few. These cysts make hormones called androgens. Women with PCOS can have high levels of androgens.2 These cysts by themselves are not dangerous, but having PCOS can cause health complications. And can be painful.
How Common is PCOS?
Pretty common actually. It is the most common endocrine disorder among women and often goes undiagnosed. PCOS affects over 7 million people. According to the PCOS Awareness website,3 that is more than the number of people with breast cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and lupus combined. It affects an estimated 10% of women who may not even know they have it. It is also the leading cause of infertility among women.
What causes PCOS?
Doctors don’t know exactly what causes PCOS, but they have some ideas. They do know that PCOS is caused by a hormonal imbalance. A hormone called LH, which comes from the pituitary gland, makes estrogen and testosterone. If it is off balance, or there is too much insulin in your pancreas, your ovaries can make too much testosterone
Your genetics, insulin resistance, and chronic inflammation are all thought to influence your chances of developing PCOS. If you are frustrated by your fertility issues and wondering how you ended up with PCOS, know that it’s not your fault. It has a tendency to run in families. All the evidence points to genetic and environmental 4 factors. Check your family history and see if other women have experienced the same symptoms. It could be you that your mother, aunt, or cousin are suffering with the same symptoms or have in the past.
Studies 5 have found that PCOS maybe more common in young girls who are also obese. Young women with obesity are at risk of developing insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and PCOS later on in life. Why? Insulin builds up in their bodies. If it’s not needed it can increase their androgen level. High androgen levels can cause health complications.
What are the first signs of PCOS?
The first indication you may have an issue is missed or light periods. Your hormonal imbalance is a good indication that you may have PCOS.
Another sign is weight gain despite being on a healthy diet and having an active lifestyle. It appears that only ⅓ of patients with PCOS are at a normal weight or underweight.
Changes in your hair is another sign. You might see some excessive hair growth on your face, chest or back. 6 This condition is called Hirsutism. Hair loss on the scalp or male pattern baldness can also occur. Hair where you don’t want it. And losing hair where you do want it!
Other signs of PCOS are lack of mental focus, brain fog, blood sugar issues, and hormonal imbalance. You may also feel tired despite being well rested.
As if all this were not fun enough, difficult to treat skin conditions can arise. Often women will come in with darkened patches of skin on their neck, arms, or upper thighs. Women also complain of oily skin and show signs of acne. The good news is it’s all addressable, potentially in a natural and holistic way.
Is PCOS dangerous?
It can be. PCOS affects more than just your reproductive health. PCOS is also associated with an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. Women with PCOS show a worsened cardiovascular 7 profile and can have an increase in heart related complications down the road.
Women with PCOS also show an increased risk for insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes. Medical studies are being done to study the long term consequences of the metabolic issues that come along with PCOS.
Women suffering from PCOS also show an increased risk for the development of endometrial cancer. If you have PCOS you have a 6 times greater chance of developing cancer. 8
Psychological stress and PCOS have been shown to be linked. A large number of studies have shown that women with PCOS are prone to suffer from depression, anxiety, or eating disorders. 9 In addition, women with PCOS have lower self-esteem and body satisfaction. 10
Women and teen girls can feel frustrated that they are living a healthy lifestyle, yet the associated weight gain, insulin issues, and other hormone imbalance symptoms make them feel out of control. They may not be aware they have PCOS and attempt to try to treat the condition themselves. Some may resort to extreme dieting or exercise causing further stress on the body.
Infertility and PCOS.
Having PCOS means your ovaries are not getting the right amount of hormone signals. Without these signals you are not ovulating on a regular basis. Think about it as irregular egg production. Due to hormonal imbalances and poor ovulation, infertility is common for those with PCOS as well as complicated pregnancies and miscarriages. Having PCOS does not mean that you cannot get pregnant. In fact, most women with PCOS can and do get pregnant! Dr. Kate provides a holistic way to help restore your body to its natural process. All of this can be done with a phone consultation from the privacy of your home or office.
Is There a Cure?
There is not a cure yet, but there is good news! Consistent dietary practices and certain supplements have been shown to significantly improve PCOS. We offer a research-based, targeted health plan that provides holistic support for PCOS and is delivered straight to you. The nutrition guide and supplement regimen are easy to access, informative, and instantly implementable—and you can benefit from Dr. Kate’s trusted naturopathic approach wherever you are. Great for women who are interested in a holistic approach to PCOS but don’t know where to start. Click here to learn more.
We also recommend lifestyle changes.
Consider a balanced approach to exercise. The idea is to lower the stress response in your body. Consider including some stretching and simple yoga poses into your daily routine.
Practice good sleep habits. Sleep in a cool room under clean comfortable sheets and try to get 8-9 hours a night. Do something relaxing to try to clear your mind before jumping into bed. Consider reading a novel or a warm relaxing bath.
Try to maintain a sense of balance. In today’s hectic world, prayer and meditation can ease the stress on your body and mind and provide a sense of calm.
A few diet changes may help. Consider reducing or eliminating the amount of sugar in your diet. This is not for weight loss. This is to lower the insulin response in your body. No radical diets—that will cause additional stress on your body.
Choose lean, quality protein at each meal. Add more vegetables into your diet. Get as many colors on your plate as you can. Now that it is fall, make sure your plate is not all white with turkey and potatoes. Make sure to add some beautiful salads with oranges or cranberries and some nuts. Butternut squash soups are wonderful this time of year.
Snack on small amounts of nuts or olives rather than grabbing processed foods.
You have heard it before, but it bears repeating, avoid anything that comes out of a box, a bag, or Styrofoam. You are looking for whole, natural foods. Remember your dietary choices are nourishing your body.
This might be a good time to consider giving up alcohol if it raises your blood sugar levels or affects your sleep. A glass of wine or two in moderation won’t bother you, but if you find that you feel groggy in the morning, or you make poor food choices while drinking, you may decide to give it up all together.
Don’t forget about what is happening in your gut. According to this study, 11 understanding what is happening in your gut microbiome may also be a way to alleviate symptoms. You may need probiotics, prebiotics, or other dietary changes. Working with Dr. Kate through phone consultations can help you to understand what is happening in your gut. We are learning that the microbiome is responsible for so many different ailments. Navigating this information can be difficult on your own. Dr. Kate is here to support you on your journey.
This is also the time to watch not just what you put not just in your body, but what you are putting on your body. Toxins and BPA in your skincare and body products could be contributing to the disruption in your body. Read the labels on products.