PCOS: The New Epidemic That’s Wreaking Havoc on Your Health
Thirty years ago, this syndrome was a rarity. Now it’s reaching epidemic levels. It’s called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and is responsible for menstrual abnormalities, ovulation cessation, facial hair, obesity, acne, and male pattern baldness in women age 12-45. It’s also one of the leading causes of infertility in women.
PCOS begins when fluid filled sacs form on the ovaries. When these sacs secrete the male hormone testosterone, irregular menstrual cycles and ovulation result. This testosterone is also the cause of facial hair and acne.
The disturbing news is that women often have to see up to 5 doctors before they receive a proper diagnosis. Part of the problem is that internists aren’t specialized in female reproductive disorders and gynecologists aren’t always up to speed on metabolic disorders, excessive body hair, and obesity. Only recently have the two groups of doctors gathered together to discuss what seems to be a growing epidemic.
What causes PCOS?
It’s difficult to say exactly what causes PCOS. Genetics may be a factor – women born into families with a history of PCOS have an increased risk of having it as well. Brothers of women with PCOS often have high levels of high testosterone DHEA, though they suffer no ill effects from it.
However, research indicates a major cause of PCOS is exposure of female embryos to environmental toxins that mimic estrogens. These hazardous chemicals alter developing embryonic tissues, especially the ovarian follicles rendering them dysfunctional. There is usually no sign of problems until puberty begins.
Lifestyle factors contribute to PCOS as well. Poor nutrition, little or no exercise, and stress can contribute to dysfunctional ovarian follicles. Stress alone can cause women to stop ovulating.
As with most conditions, diet plays a huge role in PCOS. A diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates cause insulin levels to peak. When insulin levels peak too high too often this can lead to the stimulation of androgen receptors on the ovaries, which leads to excess hair on the face, legs, and arms, thinning hair on the head, and acne. Remained unchecked, this kind of diet leads to obesity, which can lead to even more problems such as diabetes and heart disease. These conditions are not uncommon in women with PCOS.
How to treat PCOS.
The conventional treatments consist of birth control pills, synthetic estrogens, and androgens. Sometimes drugs that address insulin resistance are prescribed.
But there are much safer, effective, and less expensive ways to combat the cause of PCOS rather than treating the symptoms. Some doctors feel natural progesterone should be the basis for treating PCOS. 15 to 20 mg of progesterone cream can help balance hormone levels, which will help control the excessive hair. This doesn’t happen over night so it may take up to 6 months to see results.
Then nutrition and exercise needs to be addressed. Staying away from sugar and refined carbohydrates is the best place to start. With a proper exercise program and healthy diet, progesterone can go a long way to battle the root cause of PCOS.
Any women suffering with irregular periods, new facial hair, and unexplained weight gain should talk to her doctor. Blood tests can check for increased testosterone levels and insulin resistance. A vaginal ultrasound can locate and identify cysts. The good news is once you know what you’re dealing with you can take the necessary steps to correct the disorder.