What is PCOS and what do you do about it?

First things first- PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or also known as SteinLeventhal syndrome. It’s a hormonal imbalance that affects women and its characterized by the production of too many “male” hormones known as androgens.

Roughly 10% of women in the world that are child bearing age have it, that’s about 5 million women! Surprisingly 25% of them don’t even know they have it because it’s so difficult to diagnose the wide variety of symptoms that stems from PCOS collectively.

How do you know if you have it?

Well, let’s look at some common symptoms:

* Small cysts on the ovaries that resemble a “string of pearls”
* Insulin resistance
* High testosterone causing excessive hair growth, male pattern baldness, and acne
* Suppressed ovulation
* Excessive weight gain especially around the waistline
* Dark, thick patches of skin on the neck, arms, breasts or thighs
* Skin tags on the armpits or neck area
* Pelvic pain
* Anxiety or depression
* Sleep apnea

See why it’s often misdiagnosed? With the amount of symptoms, most physicians need only 2 or 3 symptoms to diagnose PCOS. High testosterone and hormonal imbalance being the main indicator, delayed ovulation and the string of pearl type cysts on the ovaries. A doctor will often order a lab called an AMH (anti-mullerin hormone) blood test to see how many eggs your ovaries are producing to verify the diagnosis. This is very helpful in the diagnosis because women with PCOS often have a high number of antral follicles, and as a results, an equally high level of AMH in their blood. The problem with this is that too much AMH can actually stop ovulation from occurring, actually halting the maturation of an egg midstream. This lets the physician know how to treat each patient with PCOS or how successful an IVF treatment will be.

So what if you have PCOS? How will you treat it?

PCOS cannot be cured, but it can be managed. Commonly, birth control pills are prescribed to regulate hormones and your cycle. If you are currently using birth control and want to control symptoms of high androgens, such as hair loss or facial hair, you may be prescribed Spironolactone. If you are not ready to use a hormonal birth control, you can look to natural ways of treating your symptoms such as weight loss, a healthy diet and exercise.

Some amazing whole foods to add to your diet that can combat inflammation, acne and regulate your hormones are:

* Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts
* Leafy greens
* Green and red peppers
* Beans and lentils
* Almonds
* Berries
* Sweet potatoes
* Squash and pumpkin

Lean proteins like tofu, chicken and fish reduced inflammation as well as:

* Tomatoes
* Kale
* Spinach
* Olive oil

You should avoid foods that are high in sugar and starch like muffins, bread, anything with white flour. Anything that is high in carbohydrates and low in fiber should be kicked from your diet! Daily activity, low sugar intake, and a low-inflammation diet may also lead to weight loss. Women may experience improved ovulation with weight loss, so women who are overweight and want to get pregnant may find physician-approved exercise and lifestyle changes very beneficial!

The bottom line

If you’re coping with PCOS, there are many proactive steps you can take to improve your daily life and not stress about your diagnosis. Remember, there are so many women out there just like you! We have to do things on a daily basis to take care of our bodies while we are here earth-side so we can have the most fulfilling day to day adventure. Do things to improve your mood, create a food log or calendar to keep track of meals, see a therapist or join a nutrition course at a local college! The best thing you can do is to talk to your doctor and find a plan that works best for you. Especially here at Highlands, we promise to work with you every step of the way because we are here for you, for life.