You might have heard the term PCOS, PCOD or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome before. You might be a cyster (someone with PCOS), know somebody who has it or heard the term elsewhere and are now curious to know more about it.
Let me tell you then that you came to the right place!
The Most Common Signs and Symptoms of PCOS
So what is PCOS? PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. The word syndrome refers to a collection of symptoms that vary from woman to woman. PCOS is one of the major causes of infertility in women of reproductive age that don’t ovulate. In fact, when a woman doesn’t ovulate, it’s PCOS 90% of the time! A lack of ovulation, polycystic ovaries and high levels of male hormones called androgens are the major symptoms of PCOS and in order for a woman to be diagnosed with the syndrome, she needs to have 2 out of 3. So, let’s say a woman does ovulate, but she has high levels of male hormones and small cysts on her ovaries, she might be diagnosed with PCOS. Unfortunately, the most common PCOS type, also referred to as the classic type, includes all of these 3 symptoms.
Besides these 3 major signs that are part of the Rotterdam criteria, PCOS comes with a wide range of additional symptoms that are mainly caused by underlying hormonal imbalances due to a lack of ovulation and high levels of androgens. Most of our male and female sex hormones are being produced inside the ovaries. Some of the major sex hormones include estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. In women with PCOS, the ovaries produce larger quantities of male sex hormone, which automatically affects the production of female hormones. An overflow of male hormones can cause symptoms such as acne, hair loss or hirsutism (excess hair on upper lip, chin, chest or belly), anovulation, missing and irregular periods. A lack of ovulation leads to low progesterone and high estrogen levels, also known as estrogen dominance, which can lead to feelings of anxiety and other mood disorders, sleep problems, migraines or bloating.
Insulin Resistance as One of the Main Drivers of PCOS
One of the main drivers and underlying root causes of PCOS is insulin resistance, which is a blood sugar imbalance that can lead to diabetes type 2 over time. Insulin resistance affects about 75% of women with PCOS. It is characterized by high blood sugar and elevated insulin levels. Did you know that the ovaries have got insulin receptors? High levels of insulin can cause the ovaries to produce even more testosterone. This can aggravate the symptoms mentioned above. Insulin resistance also leads to weight gain, cravings and can cause something called acanthosis nigricans, which are dark skin patches mainly found at the back of a woman’s neck.
As you can see, women with PCOS suffer from a variety of different symptoms reaching from fertility issues to acne and weight gain. It’s a syndrome that can severely affect a woman’s self-esteem, mood and confidence.
Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference in Managing PCOS
If you have got PCOS, don’t worry, there is hope. It can be well managed with shifts in diet and lifestyle. I have seen clients significantly reduce their symptoms – from periods coming back, over success losing weight to less hair loss – by making small shifts. If you would like to create a PCOS friendly lifestyle, start by nourishing your body with nutrient dense foods. Add more fiber, protein and healthy fats to you diet and cut down on refined sugar and carbs. Eat a diet that avoids blood sugar spikes and load up on anti-inflammatory foods like berries or omega-3s, which are found in salmon or chia seeds, for example. Get adequate amounts of sleep and work on your stress management.
I hope this post was helpful to you. Feel free to leave me a comment or drop me an email anytime. I would love to hear from you!
Sending you my love,