PCOS - Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
This is the most common condition affecting women of reproductive age. It is present in 12-21% of women but it is believed that up to 70% of women who actually have the condition remain undiagnosed. As many women go through life undiagnosed it is important to see if you can relate to the signs and symptoms.
So, let us talk about PCOS
What is it?
This is a tricky question to answer because it is a syndrome, which means that there are many categories grouped together under one umbrella. This also makes it difficult to diagnose. One patient may present with a set of signs and symptoms whilst another a completely different set of signs and symptoms and yet they both end up having PCOS, in addition to this, these signs and symptoms can also change over time.
The most common sign is infrequent or irregular ovulation and/or a failure to ovulate.
Other criteria which should also be taken into consideration is hormone testing via blood test as well as an ultrasound to check out the ovaries.
Have a look at these other signs and symptoms and see if you can relate to them:
- No period, or
- Periods that are irregular, infrequent, heavy
- Weight gain
- Pelvic pain during period
- Difficulty becoming pregnant
- Excess facial hair and/or body hair
- Acne on your face and/or body
- Hair loss on your head
- Dark skin patches (acanthosis nigricans)
- Mood changes
- Sleep apnoea
These symptoms can typically present shortly after puberty but can also begin at a later stage either during the teen years or in early adulthood.
What becomes confusing is that most of these signs also occur with insulin resistance, which most people only associate with pre diabetes. Insulin resistance creates an abundance of insulin in the blood stream which creates havoc in the body, causing conditions like fatty liver, endometriosis, fibromyalga, it's actually a really long list. You should read my post on insulin resistance. Link is at the bottom.
There are a few different connectors to PCOS, however it is now clear that the biggest connection PCOS has is with insulin resistance.
Insulin is needed to allow glucose to enter into cells so that it can be used for energy. Due to certain food choices, predominately eating unhealthy fats, found in all of our processed foods and meats, from a young age, changes occur in your muscle, liver and fat cells where fat deposits from food just keep building up and eventually blocks insulin's signal to the cell to take in glucose which is what we call insulin resistance. This is the beginning stages of type 2 diabetes but alot happens for at least 10 - 15 years before type 2 diabetes is usually even diagnosed. Eventually the pancreas gives up on releasing more insulin, usually after about the 15 year mark of trying to get the job done and this is the time when your blood glucose levels rise and you are told that you have type 2 diabetes. It can be completely preventable and reversable for alot of women with changes made to food choices and preparations. All of the requirements for improvements are taught through my wholistic detox program.
With a big contributing factor being components of the diet this then explains why so many women of all different shapes and sizes can get PCOS because it's actually about the fats in your diet not just the hormones and sugar. The hormones only become a problem after the insulin resistance has occurred and then we see the symptoms such as high androgens and hormonal acne etc. Chronically (long term) elevated insulin sends signals to the ovaries to increase androgen production, end result is PCOS.
Insulin resistance is the major contributing factor to the onset of pcos and nutrient deficiencies are often there as well and will need to be balanced, and in my clinic I also use herbal medicine and nutrients specific for insulin resistance and balancing hormones.
Other risk factors include:
- Immune system – having long term inflammation in the body can affect ovulation as well as the hormone receptors. Women who have a family history or past history of autoimmune conditions or other dysfunctions in the immune system have a high chance of developing PCOS.
- Oral contraceptive pill – this is a hard one to understand – often the signs and symptoms for PCOS that develop in the early years are treated with the oral contraceptive pill which takes over your hormones. This can result in your body struggling to produce its own progesterone and oestrogen when you come off it. Therefore, making it difficult to ovulate. There are a couple of hormones that can be tested through blood tests such as LH (luteinizing hormone), and prolactin which can help see if this is the case.
- Environment – this category includes any external or internal sources that are not directly related which have an impact on ovulation, It can also include the thyroid as hypothyroidism can have an impact and disrupt normal ovulation.
As you can see there is no black and white answer for everyone but Insulin Resistance is the number one underlying cause of PCOS.
In my clinic I put patients through a program I have created called Toxins be Gone which works on removing toxins that are preventing the body from working effectively, as well as making changes to food choices to improve insulin sensitivity and reverse this condition. Sometimes making these changes can be difficult so we also work on changing habits and mindset.
Improvements are seen so quickly which helps keep you motivated. Most patients lose 6-8 kilos in 8 weeks.
Who am I?
I am a Bachelor qualified Naturopath who specialises in improving metabolic processes in the body and reducing metabolic inflammation. Major areas for improvement include gut health, thyroid, kidney, liver, weight loss and mental health. Conditions such as fatty liver, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type II diabetes, irritable bowel conditions, depression & anxiety. I help my patients by giving them symptomatic relief while working on repairing the underlying causes of metabolic stress and waste accumulation.
Melissa Callaghan ND, BHSc, BTeach
To book an appointment click here
You can read more about insulin resistance here
Read about metabolic inflammation here
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- Tags: Cravings, Diabetes, Gut, Hormones, Inflammation, Insulin Resistance, metabolism, PCOS, Period pain, Stress, weight gain