Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is common among women and is caused due to imbalanced androgen and estrogenic hormones. Also known as Polycystic Ovary Disorder (PCOD), it causes certain problems linked to your menstrual cycle and other symptoms like body and facial hair growth, and infertility. Women with this problem usually get infrequent and irregular or prolonged periods. Long term complications of it are heart problems, obstructive sleep apnea, obesity, mood disorders, endometrial cancer and type-2 diabetes.
But what causes PCOS? Low grade inflammation, heredity, insulin resistance, excess androgens, lack of physical activity are generally found to cause PCOS. Low grade inflammation is a term used to describe white blood cells’ production of substances that help fight infections. This low grade inflammation stimulates polycystic ovaries to stimulate the production of excess androgens and this leads to heart and blood vessel problems.
Symptoms of PCOS
These usually start appearing from the first period during puberty and sometimes it appears due to unusual weight gain.
How Is It Diagnosed?
The first step to check is the symptoms such as your regularity of periods, weight, facial hair growth, etc. If you are doubtful, then you may have to undergo pelvic ultrasound and blood tests.
Medication for PCOS
Usually hormone blocking and insulin lowering medicines are given to treat PCOS but these don’t work for very long period. Birth control pills block the ovary function but sometimes they don’t recover once the pills are stopped. All these medication do not work on the root cause but suppress the symptoms. Further they have terrible side effects.
1. Oral Contraceptive Agents: Ethinyl estradiol, Medroxyprogesterone, Clomiphene citrate, etc. come under this category.
Clomiphene citrate is ovulation inducer which is given for 5 consecutive days early in the menstrual cycle for about 3 – 6 months. It causes side effects like ovarian hyperstimulation, nausea, headache, abdominal pain, shortness of breath, seizure, stroke, breast tenderness, etc.
2. Contraindications: HT (hormone Therapy) has contraceptive effects due to which it isn’t prescribed to women who desire pregnancy.
3. Insulin Resistance: Metformin is given for insulin resistance but that causes loss of appetite, vitamin B12 deficiency, and abdominal gas elevates.
It is suggested to monitor blood glucose and periodic liver and kidney function tests should be done.
The two important keys to treat PCOS are healthy eating, regular exercise, and weight control.
1. Healthy Eating:
When there is insulin resistance, the ability of the cells to take insulin reduces and thus remains in the body. Thus, blood sugar levels can’t be controlled and more of insulin is released in an attempt to lower it. High carbohydrate food raises the blood glucose levels resulting in increased levels of insulin release.
Thus, prefer low carbohydrate and complex carbohydrates over simple ones as these are low in GI and absorption of glucose slows down. Antioxidant rich foods should be consumed which is present in vegetables and fruits.
Avoid starchy vegetables and refined foods, sugary and foods like pastries. Prefer whole grains instead.
When the pituitary gland releases FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) and LH (Luteinizing Hormone), ovary stimulates the production of estrogen and a follicle releases an egg. The egg travels through the uterus and stimulates the production of progesterone. This is the ripening phase when the egg is ready to be fertilized. When fertilization doesn’t take place, ovary stops the elevated production of estrogen and progesterone due to which the uterine lining sheds and bleeds leading to menstruation.
In PCOS, the follicle doesn’t release the egg due to which progesterone production doesn’t take place. Recognizing the problem, pituitary gland releases more FSH and LH leading to increased estrogen and androgen production. We can balance the hormones by working on insulin sensitivity. As the estrogen levels are high, anti-estrogenic foods are recommended.
Stress can increase the production of male hormones or androgens like testosterone. Thus, relaxation techniques like meditation can be practiced to reduce stress.
Along with low GI foods, consider low sodium foods. Consider more protein, chromium, calcium, vitamin D, zinc, magnesium, licorice root, and cinnamon.
Walking is a great form of exercise which most of the people can do but try to fit in moderate to vigorous activities. Weight or strength training can increase the skeletal muscle mass thereby improve insulin sensitivity thereby increasing the ability of the cells to use the insulin and balancing the glucose levels. Barbells and dumbbells are not the only ways of strength training. You can use kettle bells, resistance bands, or even your own body weight can be used.
3. Quit Smoking:
If you are habituated to smoking then try quitting it because this can affect your ovary health adversely by stimulating the production of androgens.
With the perfectly planned diet, holistic remedies we suggest and strength training, you can treat PCOS completely.