Without doubt, women’s reproductive health is a very complex topic. Reproductive health impacts the whole body, and similarly, the general health of a woman has a large impact on her overall reproductive health, and more specifically her ability to conceive.
What Is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)?
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a syndrome that often manifests as multiple small cysts on a woman’s ovaries. These cysts are not harmful themselves, but they can be a sign of a significant disruption in a woman’s hormone balance, specifically increased androgens (male hormones, like testosterone) in her system. The causes of PCOS is complicated and still largely unknown, but genetics play a very important role: if other women in your family have irregular cycles or diabetes, you are significantly more likely to develop PCOS. It is also important to note that PCOS can be passed genetically from both the mother’s or the father’s side.
What are the obvious symptoms of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?
The ovarian cysts caused by PCOS are not painful , so a patient may not know anything is wrong. PCOS is usually diagnosed at the onset of puberty, though it can also occur after a serious weight gain. One of the first indicators of PCOS is having infrequent or irregular periods, about 9 or less per year. Some women will have no periods at all, while others may bleed very heavily during their menses. Due to excess androgens, other annoying symptoms such as heavy acne, excess facial or body hair, thinning or receding hair, and weight gain may occur.
What are the risks of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?
PCOS is strongly linked to the body’s ability to use insulin effectively (called insulin resistance), therefore diabetes is often concurrently diagnosed in women with PCOS. PCOS can have an effect on blood pressure and cholesterol, and can increase risk for heart disease. PCOS is known to contribute to infertility, and it can cause weight gain or difficulty losing weight. Obesity and fertility are also linked: see our blog article here for more information. Emotional symptoms like depression and anxiety are also linked to PCOS, as well as certain uterine cancers.
What is the treatment for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?
Currently, there is no definitive Western medical cure for PCOS. However, collaborating with a holistic and/or functional medicine practitioner can help reduce insulin resistance, rebalance hormone levels to restore regular menstrual cycles and support weight loss, which in turn will positively impact overall health as well as your reproductive health (i.e. fertility and pregnancy). One of the most important immediate changes you can make if you have PCOS is nutrition and lifestyle changes. Diet and exercise may seem like a daunting task for some people with PCOS because they might gain weight and retain weight easily. Losing just 5-10% of your body weight can have an enormous impact on your health.
The necessity to treat the root causes of PCOS are vital for long-term health and vitality, as the condition can affect multiple systems in the body including the heart, the liver, and the pancreas, as well as a mental health and reproductive health.