” When I found out I had Poly-cystic Ovarian Syndrome I cried in relief. For the first time in years I knew it was not my fault I could not loose this weight. Since I was a teen I had always had very painful periods, fainting, hypoglycemia, and I never really grew breasts in a family where that seemed to be the norm. By the time I was in my mid-twenties I started gaining about 20 pounds a year I could not loose. I lived a very active lifestyle, ate sparingly, and so I assumed I wasn’t disciplining myself enough. Doctors only told me I needed to loose weight and I was anemic, mostly due to the heavy bleeding.
At 26 years old PCOS hit me hard. I had dark swollen patches under my arms, no periods, terrible fatigue, constantly craving sweets, having to shave my face, and still fighting it by exercising aggressively. It took my doctor two more years to finally do a simple ultrasound and confirm the diagnosis. If they had done this when I was 18, I would have never gained the weight and be much happier to this day. Now it is a fight for me to regulate my endocrine system so I CAN become healthy again and do the things I enjoy doing.”
What PCOS Is
Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome is a metabolic condition that studies claim plagues up to 5% of women in the world. It represents a huge number of women who have be struggling with the main attributes: male-pattern weight gain (belly/apple-shaped) and infertility. Because so many doctors today focus on weight and loosing weight and don’t examine their patients hands-on, PCOS often does not come to light till a woman finds herself unable to get pregnant or extremely suffering from acute forms of the disfiguring symptoms.
Thus the other symptoms of PCOS are key in combination. The key component is ovarian cysts which are easily seen by a quick and painless ultrasound. In the case of PCOS when a woman ovulates the egg follicle becomes a cyst. This happens over and over again till a “string of pearls” forms around the ovaries. Also PCOS ovaries develop a tough milky coating around them which is also easy to see lapriscopically and feel the enlarged ovaries.
Symptoms (can be a mix):
Male-Pattern (apple-shape/belly fat) Obesity
Exercise and Diet Resistant Weight Gain
Insulin Resistance and/or Diabetes: Weight Gain, Sugar/Carb Cravings, Hypo/Hyperglycemia, Diabetes, Mood Swings
Hyperandrogenisim: Acne, Skin Tags, Male-Pattern Hair Growth (Chin, Cheeks, Chest), Hair Thinning, Hair Loss, Clitoromegaly, Aggressiveness, Rough Voice, Lack of Breast Development
Infertility due to anovulation, Missing Periods, or Miscarriage due to lack of progesterone.
High Blood Pressure
Mental: Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar-like Symptoms
Because of the social stigma of being overweight and masculinized, many aspects of PCOS tend to be socially embarrassing and not easy to mention. And most doctors do not tell you is that PCOS effects are very similar (though less dramatic) to women taking anabolic steroids. This is important to know because PCOS mainly means your body has more testosterone while it is untreated.
However to just be told “loose weight and you will get better” is completely ignoring the endocrine imbalance that makes women with PCOS gain weight and be unable to loose the weight. This is because insulin resistance caused by PCOS makes it so your body not only is not properly dealing with carbohydrates but it also creates a chemical/hormonal imbalance that makes you crave sweet things. A woman with PCOS suffers from this because not only does she feel attracted to carbohydrates, the carbohydrates only recreate a viscous cycle of low and high blood sugar that leaves her both feeling exhausted AND starving while still not loosing weight.
There are many other physical symptoms that include possibly having an larger than average clitoris, increased libido, male pattern facial and body hair, and male-pattern baldness/hair thinning. Other signs are decreased breast development, dark velvety skin patches (agarica nigrans), and skin tags.
Symptoms also occur in the reproductive system. First being missing or absent periods, heavy periods,
and anovulation. These can be followed by heavy periods due to missing periods and unexpected spotting and bleeding. As well if pregnancy occurs miscarriages happen due to the lack of progesterone to support maintaining the pregnancy.
Why PCOS Happens
“The medieval physician Moises Maimonides (1135–1204 A.D) noted that. ”. . . there are women whose skin is dry and hard, and whose nature resembles the nature of a man. However, if any woman’s nature tends to be transformed to the nature of a man, this does not arise from medications, but is caused by heavy menstrual activity” (Fin Liber Comm. Epidemirum VI, 8) (3).
Most directly, the celebrated renaissance surgeon and obstetrician Ambroise Pare (1510–1590 A.D.) observed, ”Many women, when their Æ'” ””¯Æ'” ””¬’owers or tearmes be stopped, degenerate after a manner into a certaine manly nature, whence they are called Viragines, that is to say stout, ormanly women; therefore their voice is loud and bigge, like unto a mans, and they become bearded” (The 24
th Book of the Generation of Man) (4)
According to recent research PCOS has existed for a long time. In fact the research dates it all the way back to Ancient Egypt. So it is not a modern syndrome at all. In fact researches theorize that PCOS is a natural way for women’s bodies to deal with times of stress and famine. Simply the female fetus or the female child is exposed to starvation, stress, or terror and it creates an environment that triggers PCOS effect in our genetics. The female body becomes more male and more thrifty with it’s calories. Basically it took a female gatherer and changes her the hormones and the body to that of a male hunter. Then it economizes her reproduction so she does not have to worry about loosing resources to a child and strangely enough, allows her to have the traits that in ancient times, will protect the tribe and feed them.
When the researchers put it like this, it seems tremendously useful in past society. As well it seems a remarkable example of useful genetic trait. But in modern society with western ideals of gender roles and of physical attractiveness, it seems to have no place and more like a disfiguring disease.
It also begs the question, what sort of stresses are triggering this reaction in our modern lives? Starvation comes to mind first off. With an insane focus on weight gain during pregnancy, are women starving themselves and in turn setting their female babies up for PCOS? Could it be that as children, PCOS is triggered by neglect, starvation (extreme dieting), over-exercising, or abuse? Could PCOS be triggered by reproductive effecting childhood illnesses? Or use of drugs that effect the reproductive system? Whatever the case finding out how modern woman’s PCOS is triggered is the next step for prevention.
” Medical treatment of PCOS is tailored to the patient’s goals. Broadly, these may be considered under four categories:
Lowering of insulin levels
Restoration of fertility
Treatment of hirsutism or acne
Restoration of regular menstruation, and prevention of endometrial hyperplasia and endometrial cancer.” -Wikipedia
Notice the above mentions nothing about loosing weight. That is because weight gain is a SYMPTOM not a treatment. Again this is an old idea that many doctors have not learned about yet. Yes loosing weight will help but it cannot happen till you get the underlying imbalance corrected. Once you do that and feel good again, you can work on living healthy which leads to natural weight loss.
Birth Control Pills: These will regulate your periods and prevent endrometriosis since you need to have a period every three months. But just taking birth control pills won’t do the trick.
Progesterone: To be used if you are trying to restore your fertility and maintain pregnancies with a doctor’s supervision.
Metformin-type Drugs: You need something to help with the insulin resistance that is causing all this trouble. Metformin is inexpensive, easy to use, and its worst setback is making you a bit sick while you get used to it. It also can restore your ability to have a normal metabolism and gets rid of sugar cravings and hypoglycemia. It’s main drawback is that it depletes the body of vitamin B unless you compensate.
Vitamins/Supplements: Multivitamins with Chromium, D-chiro-inositol and Myo-inositol are showing promise in research studies apparently.
Herbs: Fenugreek, Chasteberry, Saw Palmetto, White Peony, and Milk Thistle (all under a herbalist’s advice) show up in many natural treatment systems for PCOS.
Thus if you have the above symptoms AND you are dealing with issues of diet and exercise resistance weight gain you should find a good doctor with knowledge of PCOS and ask for an ultrasound. Then treatment can begin to help you loose weight, have more energy, and have children naturally.
Find a good doctor who treats you like a client. You are paying your doctor to serve you and if they do not listen or seem to have little knowledge or mistreat you because you are overweight you should take your money elsewhere. We do not pay to be mistreated.
Take things slow. Finding out that “you” and your willpower are not the source your weight gain or physical deficits is empowering.
Research the current offerings for treatment. There are herbal/nutritional systems and standard traditional medications.
Uninformed doctors may steer you from proven treatments. Make sure you know your stuff and go to another doctor if they are not updated on their profession.
Get treated! Do not put it off.
If you see friends with these signs or younger teens struggling with subtle versions of these symptoms, make sure to get them help as soon as possible.
Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome Sources:
Ricardo Azziz, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., Daniel A. Dumesic, M.D.,and Mark O. Goodarzi, M.D., Ph.D.
” Polycystic ovary syndrome: an ancient disorder?” from Reproductivefacts.org