Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition in which ovary/ovaries contain multiple cysts. This condition affects between 4 and 10 percent of women in reproductive age. Symptoms of PCOS differ. While some women with PCOS show no symptoms at all, others may have irregular periods/ no periods. Ultrasound could easily detect PCOS.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) Symptoms:
- Irregular Menstruation
- Absent Periods
- Lack of Ovulation
- Insulin Resistance
- High Androgen production in body resulting in growth of Male pattern hair (Facial hair, Hair around nipples/navel), Acne
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) Causes: The PCOS condition is hormonal and affects the entire body. In fact, PCOS could be reflection of a bigger problem of body rather than a cause itself. Obesity/excessive weight gain is believed to be a trigger for hormonal changes leading to PCOS. PCOS could also be related to pituitary, thyroid, hypothalamus, adrenal glands. Irregularities in blood sugar level and resistance to insulin may be a cause for PCOS. Resistance to insulin implies that insulin is not able to shift glucose into cell. This insulin stimulates ovaries to produce more androgen which in turn contributes to more insulin resistance. It has been observed that women with PCOS who are not overweight often have resistance to insulin.
Risks due to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS): Women with PCOS have increased risk for:
- Lipid Disorder ( BP and Cholesterol)
- Coronary artery syndrom
- Breast Cancer and Endometrial Cancer
PCOS diet and lifestyle: In order to improve condition of PCOS, it is advisable to loose weight.In women, excess weight facilitates conversion of androgen into oestrone which results in excessive oestrone. Due to cysts, ovarian oestrogen production however remains low. Physicians also recommend changes in lifestyle such as exercising, reducing stress, and decreasing total intake of processed carbohydrates such as breads/pasta and consuming whole grain carbohydrates such as whole wheat, brown rice and beans. Studies have shown that mere 5% reduction of total body weight lowered insulin levels, reduced acne, increased fertility and decreased level of free testosterone in body. Women with PCOS may find it difficult to lose weight. Reduction in total intake of processed carbohydrates has helped some women. Also, studies have shown that moderate exercising improves insulin resistance in women with PCOS.
In order to improve condition of PCOS, it is advisable to
- Lower consumption of starchy food items such as carbohydrates and sugar. Body uses insulin for storing excess carbohydrates in body as fat. A diet high in refined carbohydrates and sugar may lead to obesity. High Insulin in body stimulates androgen production which leads to PCOS symptoms ( male like pattern of hair grown on face, around nipples/navel).
- Consume sufficient Protein: It is essential to consume atleast one palmful of protein with every meal for balancing blood sugar
- Consume essentially fatty acids: Several clinical studies have shown that essential fatty acids reduce inflammation associated with hormonal imbalance/ insulin resistance.
- Consumption of minerals: Consume food items rich in Magnesium, Chromium and Zinc for balancing blood sugar levels
- Herbs: Cinnamon, Peony, Sage, Fenugreek, Chaste tree are herbs traditionally used for balancing hormones.
- Vitamin D: Get sufficient vitamin D to make sure that you are not deficient in this vitamin.
Signs of Improvement: Usually when hormones become balanced, it is associated with reduction of facial hair and acne. Use of birth control pills to cure ovarian cysts may give you monthly bleed but does not cure the underlying problem. Surgery may remove cysts but there are high chances that they may return if you do not cure the underlying problem. One could consult a naturopath, in addition to taking a good diet and exercising.