PolyCystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that affects the endocrine system of women causing a wide array of ridiculous symptoms.
It has been reported in the scientific literature that PCOS affects between 5-20% of women of baby-making age.
PCOS is essentially an imbalance of the endocrine system.
The endocrine system consists of squishy glands that release hormones like estrogen, estradiol, testosterone, and insulin.
These hormones control a lot of the processes in the body.
You can think of the endocrine system as a messaging system throughout the body, kinda like the nervous system but much slower than the nervous system.
The hormones released by the glands not only affect other organs but they also affect other hormones and other glands.
When one hormone gets out of whack the whole system becomes out of balance.
With most cases of PCOS insulin is the first to get out of balance.
When insulin is too high this stimulates the ovaries to release more testosterone.
Having lots of extra testosterone creates all those crappy dude-like symptoms:
- spare tire style belly fat
- male pattern baldness
- extra hair growth on the face, neck and other places.
Other symptoms include infertility, irregular periods that are more intense with lots of cramping and bleeding, weight gain (especially in an “apple shape”), mood swings, intense sugar/carb cravings, insulin resistance, disturbed sleep, and dark velvety patches of skin on the neck and armpits.
Treat the syndrome vs. treat the symptoms.
In many cases women and girls with PCOS go undiagnosed for years.
The longer PCOS goes uncontrolled the worse the condition becomes and the worse the symptoms become.
There is a real gap in physicians’ knowledge and ability to recognize PCOS, partly because every woman seems to have a different set of symptoms so PCOS looks very different depending on the individual.
Or, if doctors do recognize the syndrome and make a correct diagnosis they may not know how to properly treat it and will simply take a shotgun approach with the symptoms.
The shotgun approach:
- Birth control for irregular periods.
- Infertility meds for infertility.
- Antidepressants for mood swings.
- Low fat diet for weight gain.
- Spironolactone for excessive hair growth.
These treatments can work but do not necessarily get at the underlying cause to treat the PCOS syndrome itself.
Doctors who know more about PCOS know to treat the underlying causes of PCOS, which is the endocrine imbalance.
The long-term health implications of uncontrolled PCOS are scary.
-Mental health deterioration
-Obstructive sleep apnea
This is why it is so important to get women and girls diagnosed early so that they can have the best chance to get the syndrome under control while they are still young and avoid these complications.
What can be done.
The exact cause of PCOS is not well understood.
What we do know is that PCOS is caused by an imbalance in the endocrine system, more specifically excess insulin through insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance can be successfully treated through diet and exercise routine.
HOWEVER the low fat and high carb diets AND cardio only exercise routines do not work well for insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance can also be treated with a drug called metformin.
However, many women can’t take metformin because it makes them very queasy and sick.
For many women this requires a complete lifestyle shift including a major change in the way we think about food, what we put in our bodies, and how we use our bodies to maximize health.
Many westerners are very sedentary and making a change to a more active lifestyle requires a completely different way of looking at ourselves and the world.
For some, the scary health implications are enough to produce a lifestyle change, but this can wear off with time.
For others a good place to start is with self esteem.
With so many symptoms that are inherently unfeminine, PCOS batters and quashes womens’ self confidence very effectively.
Regaining a sense of self worth and self efficacy is really important before such a massive lifestyle shift can be undertaken.
This is hard.
Working through the emotional causes of low self esteem is some of the hardest self-work that we can do.
But it’s not impossible.
Doing the necessary self-work and getting to the point where you really know yourself, can trust yourself, and rely on yourself is the key to following your own path and living an epic life.
There are pills.
But there are no magic pills that cure PCOS.
For now the most effective treatment is a change in how those of us with PCOS work with our bodies to fight back.
If you would like to know more about how to fight back, bookmark my site and check back often.
I offer tips and tools to kick PCOS in the pants and in the process discover ourselves.