What is PCOS?
PCOS stands for polycystic ovary syndrome and is one of the most common endocrine disorders. Currently, PCOS affects 4-12% of women worldwide. Currently, 5 million women in the US have PCOS. This number is probably higher since PCOS is often misdiagnosed or not recognized altogether.
Symptoms of PCOS:
- Irregular periods or none at all
- Infertility – due to ovulation problems
- Hirsutism (excessive hair growth)
- Weight gain
- Thinning or loss of hair
- Oily skin + acne
- Polycystic ovaries
- Hyperandrogenism (high testosterone levels)
The majority of the treatment for PCOS centers around increasing ovulation or regulating menstrual cycles, normally through the use of pharmaceuticals. However, the central issue for women with PCOS is hormone imbalance. Rebalancing hormones is critical to correcting PCOS in order to regulate menstrual cycles and ovulation. A deep dive into a women’s hormones should be the first step in helping a woman with PCOS. A full hormone panel will look at testosterone, progesterone, estrogen, and cortisol levels. Perhaps more important than the hormone levels is understanding how these hormones are being processed in the body.
Understanding WHY the hormones are not balanced is the ultimate goal, not just seeing WHAT hormones are off. This is where most conventional doctors stop. They see where the imbalance is and then just try to correct the imbalance with pharmaceuticals instead of trying to get to the root.
Common root issues with PCOS:
- Hormone imbalances
- Detoxification issues
- Blood sugar regulation
- Obesity (this one can be complicated though)
PCOS can also lead to other complications such as diabetes from insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome which further compromise the reproductive organs. Women with PCOS have a 50 to 70% chance of developing insulin resistance. This is why obesity in women with PCOS is not necessarily a risk factor but can actually by a symptom! Simply losing weight is NOT the answer.
PCOS and obesity are partially intertwined for women because 75% of women that are obese/overweight have PCOS. Obesity, as it relates to those with PCOS and those without, plays an important role in infertility. Obesity can lead to insulin resistance and even Type II diabetes if not corrected. Insulin resistance and diabetes both can complicate fertility as well as conception.
Obesity diminishes a person’s chances of conceiving. Women that are overweight or obese have higher levels of androgens, estrogen, and leptin which leads to menstrual-cycle irregularity in 30 to 47% of overweight/obese women. Many studies have been conducted looking at how weight reduction can improve fertility by re-regulating hormones in both men and women. However, I do not believe that getting a woman with PCOS to “just lose weight” is going to truly get to the root issue.
A Different Approach:
Instead of using pharmaceuticals or telling a woman to “just lose weight”, what if a doctor spent the time to truly sit down with her and LISTEN. What if a doctor looked past lab tests and BMI scores, and looked at the patient for who she is.
- What’s her background?
- What’s her current environment?
- Where does she work/ what does she do?
- What does a typical day of eating look like?
- What are her stressors?
- Has there been excessive chemical exposure?
- Are there underlying imbalances?
- Does she have support?
How best can I support this WOMAN? Not a woman with PCOS, not a woman with fertility issues, but this WOMAN who is different than all other women because she is 100% her.
This is how I approach PCOS and any other issue. I look at the person, not their diagnosis, not their symptoms, but them as a unique and individual person. Because that woman is not a collection of symptoms or a diagnosis, she is a person that is wanting to live a full life. She is a person wanting to have a baby. She is a person wanting to regain her energy and excitement for life. She is a person that is tired of being dismissed.
Are you that woman? Are you wanting someone to listen to you, to help you, to care for you? If that’s you, please reach out so that I can help you.