If you’re reading this, you’ll probably already know that Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a VERY common condition that affects many women – around 1 in 8 women worldwide. It is characterized by hormonal imbalances that can cause a range of symptoms, including irregular periods, excessive hair growth, acne, and weight gain.
There are so many questions about PCOS, and many have been answered incorrectly over the internet leaving us all insanely confused! Through my 20 years of diving deep into research to fully reverse the condition, here are some common questions and answers that can help you better understand it and clear up any misconceptions out there.
Q: What causes PCOS?
A: The exact cause of PCOS is not known, but it is thought to be related to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Women with PCOS have hormonal imbalances that can lead to the development of follicles in the ovaries. These follicles however are not harmful or painful. It is the high androgen levels (testosterone) that produce the nasty symptoms. High insulin can then also lead to insulin resistance and inflammation, also contributing to the chaotic mess it creates in the female body.
Q: What are the symptoms of PCOS?
A: The symptoms of PCOS can vary from woman to woman, but some of the most common symptoms include:
- Irregular periods or no periods at all
- Excessive hair growth on the face, chest, stomach, or back (hirsutism)
- Acne or oily skin
- Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
- Infertility or difficulty getting pregnant
- Mood swings or depression
- Sleep apnea
- High blood pressure
Q: How is PCOS diagnosed?
A: There is no single test to diagnose PCOS, but your doctor may perform a variety of tests to evaluate your symptoms and rule out other conditions. These tests may include a pelvic exam, blood tests to measure hormone levels, an ultrasound to check for ovarian follicles and a glucose tolerance test to check for insulin resistance.
As it stands, you need 2 out of the 3 to be ‘officially diagnosed’ –
Irregular periods or none at all
High androgen levels (testosterone blood test)
Follicles (black dots) on ovaries seen on an ultrasound
However, even if you have one of these and some of the symptoms this absolutely shows you have hormone imbalances and many of the diet and lifestyle changes I make for my clients will also benefit you hugely!
Q: How is PCOS treated?
A: There is no ‘cure’ for PCOS as there is no direct synthetic pill to take that will make it go away in the medical world.
PCOS is a metabolic disorder and an inflammatory condition which means it must be treated HOLISTICALLY.
Birth control does not fix PCOS. It acts as a plaster over a wound. It will mask the symptoms for a while and once you come off it, symptoms return sometimes even worse than before.
Diet and lifestyle changes, stress management, and some supplements are all you need to heal PCOS!
Q: How does PCOS affect fertility?
A: PCOS interferes with ovulation, which affects fertility. Increased levels of androgens, such as testosterone, in women with PCOS can lead to irregular or absent menstrual cycles. You are not ovulating frequently or may not be ovulating at all if you are experiencing irregular or nonexistent menstrual cycles. If you are not ovulating, you are not having a baby!
This is why it is imperative to restore natural cycles and learn when you are ovulating to conceive.
Q: Does PCOS affect more than just fertility?
A: It’s vital to understand that PCOS can impact your general health for the rest of your life in addition to your fertility. Women who have PCOS are more likely to develop uterine cancer, obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a number of other diseases. It is crucial that you actually invest in your health and understand what you need to do to reduce these risks and heal PCOS for good.
Q: What diet is best for women with PCOS?
A: I don’t like the word diet as it screams ‘temporary’. PCOS needs a full lifestyle change and diet swaps to reduce symptoms.
Sugar, which serves as our body’s primary energy source and is processed by glucose in large amounts isn’t good for PCOS. Your insulin levels are impacted, which raises your chance of developing insulin resistance and diabetes.
Diet is one of the best methods to combat these changes. The goal is to follow a low-GI diet and focus on eating largely slow-release carbs. Fill your plate with anti-inflammatories such as salmon, antioxidants such as berries, carbs such as quinoa and sweet potato, and all the dark leafy greens.
Limit your intake of sugary beverages. Increase your intake of vegetables and protein, especially fish and chicken that are lean. For long-term health, it’s also beneficial to consume more healthy fats, including those found in walnuts and avocados.
Approach life with an 80/20 balance and you’ll be able to live a happy, healthy one foever!
Q: Can PCOS be prevented?
A: There is no way to prevent PCOS, but maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly may help reduce the risk of developing the condition or help manage the symptoms if you already have it.
Q: If I have PCOS, should I see a fertility doctor before trying to conceive?
A: A fertility doctor should be seen if you are attempting to get pregnant and do not ovulate regularly each month. Regular ovulation may typically be forced by altering one’s lifestyle and, if necessary, by taking medication. This enables conception to take place.
Q: How is ovulation stimulated?
A: Oral drugs like Letrozole or Clomid are frequently used to promote ovulation. At the start of your cycle, you take each of these medications for 5 days. To further increase conception rates, intrauterine inseminations (IUI) are frequently used in conjunction with these drugs. Your fertility specialist will talk to you about additional possibilities if these meds don’t help you get pregnant!
Q: Is PCOS curable?
A: PCOS is a chronic condition that requires ongoing management, but it is not curable. However, with proper treatment and lifestyle changes, many women with PCOS are able to manage their symptoms and lead healthy, fulfilling lives.
If you think you may have PCOS or are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with the condition, it’s important to talk to your doctor. They can help you determine the best course of action for managing your symptoms and improving your overall health and well-being.