Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that causes significant imbalances to the hormonal system in many women today. One of the biggest concerns with PCOS is that it is widely under-diagnosed. Just in the United States alone, there are approximately 7 million women experiencing symptoms of this condition, yet around half of these women have no idea they have PCOS!
For a long time, the root cause to PCOS was believed to be a result of an overproduction of male hormones, called androgens. In more recent years, research has confirmed PCOS is in fact a condition resulting from desensitization to insulin production within the body, which in turn leads to increased production of these androgenic hormones.
In addition, studies on PCOS have revealed those with the condition are at a greater risk for heart disease and diabetes (type 2). Heart disease is the leading killer in women. Even in cases where women were young and fit, yet had PCOS, it was five times more likely they would still develop these risks if they did not seek treatment for their conditions.
If left untreated, it can make you feel quite unwell. There are several telltale signs you might have PCOS. If you notice any one or several of these, it is important you seek medical advice from a qualified Naturopathic Doctor.
1. Problems getting pregnant. There are all sorts of reasons why a woman might not be able to conceive. Having PCOS is one such reason. PCOS affects ovulatory cycles, and the number of viable eggs released during the cycle. However, it is possible to still conceive, but could take some time and requires the proper treatment.
2. Skin problems. PCOS can cause acne, skin tags, dandruff, and acanthosis nigricans. The acne caused by PCOS is typically found along the jaw line, is resistant to acne treatments and often returns after stopping treatment.
3. Excess hair growth or hair loss. With increased production in male hormones within the body, it can cause hair to start growing in areas where you do not want it to grow, like on the face, chest, back, and around the nipples and navel. PCOS can also cause DHT levels to increase, which is another male hormone that causes hair loss.
4. Feel tired and unrested even after a full night’s sleep. PCOS has been linked to sleep apnea. This medical condition is where a person snores loudly and their breathing patterns will stop and restart several times throughout the resting period. Sleep apnea also increases risks for heart disease, high blood pressure, and obesity.
5. Weight gain around the belly.PCOS can cause women to gain extra pounds, particularly around the belly. This is due to problems with insulin resistance, and the resulting improper management of sugar. Women with PCOS may find weight gain is rapid, and resistant to weight loss efforts. Furthermore, PCOS causes leptin resistance, which is the hormone that tells your body when you are hungry, and those with PCOS can feel hungry all of the time, even after eating a full meal.
The good news is, there’s hope. The true root to managing PCOS doesn't actually lie in the suppression of androgens (which conventional therapies often target), but in the proper support of insulin sensitivity to every cell in the body. Insulin’s role is to unlock the cell and drive sugar inwards to be broken down or stored as energy. In individuals with insulin resistance, the body has learnt to ignore this hormone, and the above-mentioned symptoms are the result.
A properly formulated diet with foods that not only balance sugar intake, but also support insulin reception can make a huge impact. Believe it or not, the timing of food is also just as important as the food quality. Other goals of therapy include balancing the enzymes that drive male hormone production forward, and supporting regular ovulation to balance female sex hormones.
While PCOS is a common condition, and many women will move in and out of symptomatic states throughout their life, it isn’t one that you have to continue to suffer from. For more information about PCOS, or if you suspect you might have PCOS and need a professional diagnosis, please feel free to contact Dr. Courtney Holmberg, ND at 647-351-7282 today to arrange a consultation.