What You Need To Know About Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
September is known for a lot of things like the pumpkin spice arrival, fall leaves and cozy sweaters. But, the month has another important meaning: it is known as the National PCOS Awareness month. PCOS which stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, is the common cause of infertility in the United States.
It is estimated that five to ten percent of women in their childbearing ages have PCOS. At least thirty percent of all women have some conditions of PCOS. As staggering as the statistics are, it gets worst as the prevalence of the disease seems to be rising around the world.
One of the biggest misconceptions heard from the health conscious community is that some patients are told to take a birth control pill in order to “halt” it from forming. But that is far from the truth! The Pill doesn’t stop PCOS. In fact, a functional medicine physician explained that it only hides the symptoms while the syndrome continues to go about its routine underneath the surface.
The actual cause of PCOS is unknown however there are researchers that believe it may be linked to genetics. The common signs and symptoms include: High androgen levels, facial hair growth, acne, ovarian cysts and irregular or absent menstrual cycles. Certainly, there are four independent types of PCOS that overlaps common symptoms:
Type 1 or the classic PCOS: High androgen levels, irregular to absent ovulation and a polycystic ovary
Type 2 or the hyperandrogenic anovulatory: Excessive androgens, irregular to absent ovulation but no polycystic ovary
Type 3 or the ovulatory PCOS: Excessive androgens with a polycystic ovary
Type 4 or the non-hyperandrogenic PCOS: irregular to absent ovulation and a polycystic ovary
Upon further research, it appears that the underlying link between all of these unrelated symptoms is the susceptible culprits: body fat, insulin resistance and metabolism.
Besides the propelling myth about the birth control, another misconception is the idea that if a woman’s menstrual cycle is irregular then she has PCOS. The truth is many women fail to ovulate because of a multitude of factors. A suppressed hormonal pathway is typically the reason for the irregularity thus causing higher levels of cortisol, inflammation and insulin in the body.
Sadly, many women are put on birth control as a solution when the solution should be geared towards nutritional and lifestyle changes. I recommend a more integrative approach by seeking a functional medicine physician to foster constructive changes than adhering to a “magic” pill.
Because PCOS is linked to chronic stress that boosts the testosterone levels, the solution should be to seek a relaxing activity like yoga to manage stress in the healthiest way possible. Next is to address nutritional habits. A diet rich in refined carbs, processed foods, sugar, and alcohol further advances insulin levels and testosterone which is a big no-no.
By following a plant-based, low glycemic Paleo eating plan, you can best control the weight and safely manage hormonal levels. Too much visceral or belly fat is estrogen producing and insulin resistant. This kind of increased estrogen level suppresses the luteinizing and follicle-stimulating hormones from the brain; the two hormones responsible for the menstrual cycle.
One functional medicine physician I confided in recommended that supplements can be especially helpful and remarked the herbs like curcumin and other herbal compounds can be used to lower inflammation. In addition, omega-3 fatty acids particularly the long-chain variety can be used to lower the production of inflamed messengers within the body.
I strongly recommend seeking the support of a medical provider like a functional medicine practitioner to perform regular lab testing and recommend supplements based on your body’s needs. Besides, this is a hormonal condition! Taking the necessary steps to heal your body and balance hormones are crucial so be sure to have the right support team on your side to reverse the condition.
Women’s Health.gov. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. May 2018.
Center for Young Women’s Health. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Health guides. 7 September 2018.