In women’s health news, you may have heard of PCOS, but you may not be sure what it means. I experienced my own journey with this over the years that made me think I was never going to be able to have kids. It took quite a while to get pregnant with my first child, and me and my husband actually were getting ready to start fertility treatment when we found out that I was pregnant. For this reason, creating awareness and educating women about PCOS is something I find very important. Read below to learn more about and recent research that may show natural treatments on the horizon.
What is PCOS?
PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome, is a hormonal disorder that affects one of ten women of childbearing age. An imbalance of reproductive hormones in the body leads to health issues in the ovaries along with a variety of other symptoms. Not only can this syndrome affect reproductive health, but it can also affect skin health, your physical appearance, and metabolic health.
The imbalance of reproductive hormones that occurs with PCOS can cause a variety of symptoms both inside and out. Besides small cysts on one or both ovaries, hence the name polycystic ovarian syndrome, some common symptoms also include:
- Irregular menstrual cycles: may cause a pattern of missed or irregular periods. This irregularity can mean having more frequent periods (less than 21 days apart), fewer periods each year, or no periods at all.
•Hirsutism: can also cause women to develop excess hair on the face, chin, or other parts of the body where men usually have hair. This symptom occurs in about seven of ten women with PCOS.
•Acne: can develop problems with acne on the face, chest, and upper back.
•Thinning hair: can experience hair loss or thinning hair on the scalp.
•Weight gain: may have unexplained weight gain or have difficulty losing weight.
•Skin changes: may notice a darkening of the skin, particularly along neck creases, in the groin, and underneath the breasts. They may also notice skin tags, or short stalks of skin, on their body.
PCOS can be caused by high levels of the hormones androgen and/or insulin. Androgens, which are known as “male hormones” are found in both males and females. However, those women with PCOS may have more androgens than what is considered normal for women. This can lead to some of the symptoms such as acne and facial hair.
Insulin resistance can also lead to PCOS. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body use glucose for energy. Some individuals with PCOS have insulin resistance, which is a condition in which their insulin does not work properly and can in turn lead to higher than normal blood glucose levels. Without proper treatment or diet and exercise intervention, this could lead to type 2 diabetes.
How PCOS can affect fertility
PCOS can make it difficult to have children because of its impact on reproductive health. This syndrome can cause an imbalance of reproductive hormones that can affect the menstrual cycle. For example, this can cause missed or irregular periods. Also, instead of releasing a healthy egg each month, PCOS can prevent eggs from being released or eggs may not develop as they should.
Research shows that because of irregularities in the menstrual cycle, many women with PCOS have increased levels of luteinizing hormone (LSH) and decreased levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). FSH and LH work together to orchestrate your menstrual cycle, and FSH helps to launch pregnancy. Therefore, if FSH is low, then fertility can become difficult.
PCOS and training
Research shows that weight loss can help improve the menstrual issues and related infertility linked with PCOS. A 2016 study looked at the effect of resistance exercise training on women with PCOS. Study results show that four months of three times weekly resistance training helped to improve androgen levels, reproductive function, and body composition in those with PCOS. Researchers suggest that this may be a result of the exercise reducing visceral fat, or the fat around the organs, as well as increasing lean mass. Further studies will look further at the specific diets and exercises that may be most effective in treating PCOS.
This is a serious condition that can greatly affect women’s reproductive and metabolic health. Therefore, if you notice any symptoms of this condition, see your healthcare provider right away to get tested and to receive proper treatment if needed. Research is working hard to find more effective treatments. In the meantime, be sure to eat a healthy diet and stay active to help reduce severity of symptoms. Check out our plans, and see which one works best for you!