What is PCOS?
PCOS – known more formally as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome – is caused by an imbalance of hormones. This hormonal imbalance creates problems with the ovaries, which store and release eggs each month as part of a healthy menstrual cycle. In PCOS, cysts can develop on the ovaries, and ovulation can be affected as eggs may not be released.
What Causes PCOS?
The causes of PCOS are multifactorial, however there is one major risk factor:
Insulin resistance plays an intrinsic role in the disease. This happens when the body’s cells do not respond normally to insulin, which leads to higher levels. High levels of insulin make the ovaries create more androgens such as testosterone, which interferes with normal ovulation. Androgens are dubbed ‘male hormones’ as they are responsible for male traits, however small quantities are needed in a healthy female body.
Insulin controls blood glucose levels and is a fat storage hormone. When insulin resistance occurs, the risk of future complications such as diabetes type two increases, and more fat is stored therefore weight increases which perpetuates symptoms.
What are the Symptoms of PCOS?
There are many symptoms that people with PCOS can experience. These include:
– Irregular menstrual cycle – many women with PCOS may have fewer periods or miss them entirely.
– Hirsutism – some women will form more hair on the face, chin or parts of the body where men usually have hair.
– Acne on the face, chest and upper back.
– Thinning hair, or hair loss on the scalp.
– Weight gain or trouble losing weight.
Can You Get Pregnant if You Have PCOS?
Because having PCOS means that the ovaries’ function of releasing eggs is often affected, it can be harder than normal to get pregnant. This is why many cases of PCOS are diagnosed when a woman is having trouble conceiving.
Although PCOS is a leading cause of infertility, there are options available to women who are experiencing difficulties getting pregnant, such as fertility treatment. It is also possible to address hormonal imbalances through nutrition, which can greatly improve chances of conceiving naturally.
How Can Naturopathic Nutrition Help?
Underlying hormonal imbalances are widely believed to be reversible. Balancing blood sugar levels and focusing on adrenal health and stress can help to address insulin resistance. Studies have shown that lean women with milder symptoms of PCOS have less severe insulin resistance. Therefore addressing resistance to insulin will positively affect symptoms and enable the body to balance hormones more effectively, as lower levels of insulin mean lower production of androgens. Determining any nutrient deficiencies in the body such as Vitamin D, and implementing a hormone balancing diet and lifestyle can be highly effective.