Polycystic Ovary syndrome – an increasingly common condition

Polycystic ovary syndrome seems to be an increasingly common complaint which I am seeing more frequently in my practice. Allopathic medicine seeks to deal with this complaint by telling women to lose weight, by prescribing the contraceptive pill or diabetes drugs such as metformin. However this health issue can be overcome by application of healthy diet and lifestyle practices.

What Is Polycystic Ovary syndrome?

Polycystic ovary syndrome is a disorder of ovarian function. In healthy ovarian function the monthly cycle goes like this:

Each month the ovaries are stimulated by ‘follicle stimulating hormone’ (FSH) to create follicles (cysts). Eggs develop within these follicles. Oestrogen levels then increase and the lining of the uterus thickens. One egg will reach maturity faster than the others and be released into the fallopian tubes. This is the process of ovulation. It is the production of another hormone, luteinising hormone, which causes the egg to be released. The remaining follicles will then degenerate. Further hormones, oestrogen and progesterone then prepare the womb for possible conception. If a fertilised egg is not produced and attached to the wall of the uterus then the thickened lining is shed as the menstrual bleed.

With polycystic ovaries, the ovaries are generally much larger than normal and have a series of underdeveloped follicles that appear as clumps, (they look a bit like a bunch of grapes). Although multiple follicles are produced, none is large enough to trigger ovulation. The undeveloped follicles  tend to remain in place resulting in a number of cysts on the ovaries. By themselves polycystic ovaries may not cause too many problems. However when the cysts start to cause an hormonal imbalance other symptoms will arise and this leads to Polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS. The syndrome is associated with high levels of androgens (male sex hormones) and low levels of oestrogen and progesterone. Symptoms can include irregular or absent periods, fertility issues, unwanted hair growth in areas such as the face, breasts or the inside of the legs, acne, mood swings and being overweight.

Because of the hormonal disruption PCOS is often associated with insulin dysfunction and blood sugar imbalance which can then lead to the development of diabetes. In fact women with PCOS are seven times more likely to develop diabetes.

The good news is that the condition can be managed and improved  through  following a hormone balancing diet, adopting a moderate exercise program and taking supplements such as chromium, cinnamon, and omega-3 fatty acids.  It has been demonstrated many times that hormone levels will balance out with weight loss. As a woman with PCOS reduces her weight, there tends to be a reduction in testosterone levels and  blood insulin levels, resulting in a lessening of the symptoms of PCOS. It is also likely that the function of the ovaries will improve, leading to regular ovulation and successful  conception if this is desirable.

Below are listed some of the common indicators of PCOS, though like any syndrome an individual’s precise symptoms will differ from a fellow sufferer. If you recognise any of these symptoms it would be worth discussing them with your healthcare practitioner.

COMMON PCOS SYMPTOMS

Few or no periods
Irregular or lack of ovulation
Difficulty in becoming pregnant
Recurrent miscarriages
Excess hair growth on the face, breasts, or inside of legs.
Oily skin
Acne
Skin discolouration (‘dirty’ looking around the face, neck and under the breasts)
Thinning or loss of hair on the head
Skin tags
Lack of sex drive
Mood swings
Depression
Weight gain, especially around the middle leading to an ‘apple shape’
Difficulty in losing weight

Comments

  1. That’s really interesting Dot. My sister was diagnosed with PCOS in her late teens. I seem to remember she was advised to take the contraception pill but things didn’t really improve.
    A few years later she moved to Italy, changed her diet and the symptoms resolved completely. She now has two children!

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