Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS): Infertility, Symptoms, Treatment
7 minute read
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS, is a silent disorder and one of the most common hormone-based conditions women face. Not only can PCOS have a strong emotional effect over women, but it is also linked to infertility.
There are a host of unpleasant symptoms and physical problems associated with PCOS that many do not know about. Understanding the condition is the first step in protecting your health.
What Is PCOS?
PCOS is characterized by insulin resistance and a shift in hormonal balance. It is the leading form of hormonal disruption faced by women and yet there is still much about the condition that is unknown.
As the name suggests, polycystic ovarian syndrome causes enlarged ovaries with small cysts forming on the outer edges, causing irregularities in the menstrual cycle and other serious problems in the reproductive system.
Awareness of PCOS has gradually increased in recent years in response to increased incidence. Despite being relatively under-diagnosed, the condition is serious and a majority of cases led to infertility. There is also increased risk for other health problems such as:
♦ Type-2 diabetes
♦ Endometrial cancer
♦ Mood disorders
♦ High blood pressure
♦ Metabolic syndrome
♦ Heart disease
Many women are misdiagnosed based on the symptoms they present with, leaving them with no idea what the cause is. The strong connection to infertility makes misdiagnosis a big deal and stresses the importance of knowing the condition better.
PCOS can develop for a number of reasons with various symptoms, making any diagnosis is tricky. What is known is that insulin resistance does have a starring role.
For those already diagnosed with insulin resistance, hyper awareness for PCOS should be a must. Insulin resistance is easier to diagnose. Once aware of this condition, you can be alert to any of the symptoms associated with PCOS.
Untreated insulin resistance can lead to a host of health problems outside of PCOS, so it is always best to treat it upon discovery.
The symptoms of PCOS vary across women, but there are a few signs to watch for that give a strong indication PCOS are present.
♦ Partial or total infertility
♦ Irregular periods
♦ Hirsutism (excessive hair growth, including areas where women do not typically get hair)
♦ Mood changes
♦ Low sex drive
♦ Weight gain or trouble losing weight
♦ Insulin resistance
♦ Natural Remedies for PCOS
There is no known cure at this time, but there are a number of ways to help reduce symptom discomfort without medications. Dietary changes play a big part in treating PCOS, but there are also important lifestyle changes you can make too.
Following a ketogenic diet has been found to work best for women with PCOS. A reduction in carbohydrate intake and an increase in healthy fats is the basis of this diet.
Ketosis is the process by which your liver produces ketones for you to utilize as energy rather than the traditional source of glucose. As a result your body burns fat more efficiently, which helps with the obesity commonly associated with PCOS.
The reduction in carbohydrate intake also improves insulin sensitivity, another common factor seen alongside PCOS. Incorporating an anti-inflammatory diet into this mix also has been shown to help.
Avoiding foods that trigger inflammation, such as alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods, sugars, and processed foods, reduces many of the metabolic symptoms associated with PCOS.
Getting regular physical activity is great for overall health, but it plays a critical role in treating PCOS. Physical activity can alter hormones and women in particular are more susceptible to hormone changes with exercise.
| Related: How High-Intensity Interval Training Fights Insulin Resistance |
Getting the right amount of activity can help weight loss and improve fertility markers, insulin resistance, and reduce inflammation. You need to be careful not to overdo it, however, as this can contribute to PCOS by way of extreme hormone changes.
Sleep is essential for cell regeneration, hormone production, and weight management. Women with PCOS are more likely to have sleep disturbances, which increases their risk for insulin resistance and hormonal imbalance.
It is important for women with PCOS to get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. If you are having trouble, start a sleep schedule before bedtime. Do not eat for at least two hours before bed and turn off all electronics. If you can dim the lights around you and try a hot, relaxing bath. Practice good sleep hygiene.
Watch for Endocrine Disruptors
These are chemicals that interfere with the production, release, and transport of hormones. PCOS makes women very sensitive to these chemicals, so it is best to know what they are and avoid them.
The most common ones you are likely to be exposed to are pesticides, BPA, dioxins, DBP, and Bisphenol A.
Whether you get a supplement or soak up more of the sun each day, vitamin D is your friend when it comes to PCOS. Deficiency in vitamin D has been linked to PCOS, although it has not been determined to be a direct cause.
Vitamin D helps to improve insulin sensitivity, supports weight loss, can help to regulate periods, and slow the growth of ovarian cysts. Other beneficial supplements to try include magnesium, zinc, calcium, folic acid, and omega-3s, such as those found in krill oil supplements.
The Bottom Line
PCOS is a prevalent disorder affecting thousands of women each year. As a major cause for infertility today, attention has turned to finding ways to identify and treat this condition sooner rather than later.
While medications are available to help, you can treat PCOS naturally with a diet makeover, a few healthy lifestyle changes, and some supplemental support. There are solutions out there, so do not let PCOS control you or your future.