Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that can affect women at any age after puberty, but most women find out they have it in their 20’s and 30’s. Many women discover they have PCOS when they have infertility problems or other symptoms. The name Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome describes the numerous fluid-filled sacs that form in the ovaries. However, not every woman develops cysts with PCOS.
In some cases, a woman doesn’t make enough of the hormones needed to ovulate. When ovulation doesn’t occur, the ovaries can develop many small cysts. These cysts cause an increase in testosterone which can cause many of the symptoms associated with PCOS. The exact cause of PCOS is not known, but treatment may include lifestyle changes. We will walk you through this underdiagnosed and complicated condition.
How is PCOS Detected?
Detection of PCOS can be tricky. Some health providers use ultrasound and a combination of other methods. At Optimal Hormone Health, we use various diagnostic tools, including reviewing symptoms, blood work for hormone levels, and lifestyle recommendations.
Symptoms and Complications of PCOS
There are some symptoms and complications of PCOS that can help in diagnosis and subsequent treatment.
Irregular menstrual cycle including light or missed periods
Ovaries that are large or have many cysts
Excess body hair on the face, stomach, back, or chest which is the result of too much testosterone
Weight gain, especially in the abdomen area
Oily skin and acne
Baldness or thinning hair
Small pieces of excess skin on the armpits or neck
Dark or thick skin patches on the back of the neck, in the armpits, and under the breasts
Complications of PCOS
Gestational diabetes or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure
Miscarriage or premature birth
Liver inflammation caused by fat accumulation in the liver
A cluster of conditions such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels significantly increase your risk of cardiovascular disease
Type 2 diabetes or prediabetes
Depression, anxiety, and eating disorders
Abnormal bleeding of the uterus
Treatment of PCOS
80% of the treatment of PCOS involves lifestyle changes. What does this mean exactly? We have some suggestions and will discuss them in more detail during a visit to our clinic. The fact is, to manage this condition, you will need to commit to some changes. At Optimal Hormone Health, we can help get you started.
Determine Hormone Levels
Using labs to determine hormone levels is a first step to correcting hormonal imbalances. Hormone replacement may help you feel better. Typically women with PCOS have high testosterone or DHEA levels, low progesterone, and low thyroid.
Reduce Sugars and Carbohydrates
Many women with PCOS also have insulin resistance, which means the body can’t use insulin effectively. Insulin is produced by the pancreas, allows the body to use glucose, or sugar, from food for energy. It also helps keep blood sugar levels in check. You will need to eat a diet low in sugar and simple carbohydrates to lower your blood sugar.
Simple carbohydrates to avoid include cookies, juice, white bread, cakes, soda, and processed foods. Focus more on complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, multi-colored fresh vegetables, beans, oats, quinoa, oatmeal, and brown rice. Foods high in fiber also help to control blood sugars by reducing A1c levels.
Many, but not all, women with PCOS are overweight. Over time, they may become obese, leading to other health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and infertility. Losing weight is a combination of diet, exercise, and portion sizes. Losing weight will also help with self-esteem, energy, and your sex life!
Regular aerobic exercise has many benefits beyond the treatment of PCOS. Exercise can help control blood sugars, help you lose weight, and increase your energy and improve mood. If you aren’t used to exercising, start slowly but consistently. Even a daily walk is a good start.
Resistance or Weight Training.
There is some evidence that resistance or weight training may help improve insulin sensitivity and have a positive effect on those with polycystic ovary syndrome as well. Other ancillary benefits include bone density and improvement of mood.
Manage Depression and Anxiety
Women with POCS are three times more likely to develop depression and anxiety. The reasons for this are complicated but include frustrations with infertility, poor self-esteem, and all of the problems associated with hormonal imbalances. Once you start to improve your overall health, you will probably start to feel better. Psychotherapy can be beneficial as well.
Coping with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
POCS can be a very frustrating and overwhelming condition. But, there is lots of good news. In the process of treating this condition, you can improve your overall health. Labs, subsequent hormonal adjustments, and lifestyle changes all work to help you tackle and conquer this vexing problem.