PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) is a hormone imbalance that affects 5-10% of women of reproductive age. Most women with PCOS have multiple small cysts that develop on their ovaries, but the diagnosis and treatment of this disorder focuses on hormone disruption.
There is variation in the symptoms experienced by women with PCOS, but symptoms can include:
- Infrequent or lengthened menstrual periods
- Obesity/difficulty losing weight
- Thinning hair on the scalp
- Body and facial hair growth/thickening
- Fertility problems
- Emotional disruption
Oddly, about 20% of women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome don't exhibit the namesake cystic ovaries.
How Hormone Levels Change with PCOS
The hormone disruption of PCOS looks like a circle of hormone dominoes; one imbalance creates another, which creates another. Each woman with PCOS will have different levels, and a different experience, but these general trends pervade:
- Lowered progesterone
- Elevated Androgens (Male sex hormones like testosterone)
- Increased insulin production with accompanying insulin resistance
In general, PCOS development does seem to be hereditary. If the women in your family have PCOS you are more likely to have it yourself.
There is also a correlation between PCOS and body weight. Overweight and obese women are more likely to develop PCOS, and women with PCOS are more likely to be overweight. The good news about this correlation is that it works in reverse as well. PCOS can be managed effectively, in many cases by maintaining a healthy body weight.
The Insulin Connection
While not confirmed, it's suspected that insulin is the first piece of the PCOS hormone puzzle.
Insulin is a hormone that allows cells to take in sugar and use it as energy. Blood sugar rises with food consumption, and insulin allows the body to absorb it, and keep blood sugar at proper levels. Women with PCOS are insulin resistant, which means that their bodies have to create more insulin to produce the same results.
Insulin resistance is potentially problematic on its own, and can eventually lead to the development of diabetes. But in the case of PCOS insulin resistance starts a chain of hormone imbalance.
In addition to helping the body absorb sugar in the blood, insulin prompts the production of androgens like testosterone by the ovaries. That change disrupts the normal production of progesterone and estrogen by the ovaries.
Luckily, the body can convert some of the overproduced androgen hormone into estrogen, so women with PCOS rarely exhibit lowered estrogen levels. But the hormone disruption that remains is behind the symptoms of PCOS.
PCOS can be disruptive, but in many cases can be treated effectively. Weight management will always be a crucial component of managing PCOS, and cannot be overstated. A healthy body weight can truly be the difference.
Likewise, diet is a huge part of PCOS management. The importance of a healthy diet in achieving a healthy body weight is obvious, but dietary consideration goes further for PCOS sufferers. Because insulin resistance is so fundamental to PCOS hormone disruption, minimizing insulin necessity can go a long way.
By eating a low-carb (low sugar in particular) diet, the need to produce is reduced, minimizing the disruption posed by insulin resistance.
Because every woman that has PCOS will have low progesterone levels, a great progesterone supplement is a must have. For women with PCOS, we recommend using our Progesto-Life cream.
DIM (Diindolyl methane) is also a great option for reeling in excess estradiol and estrone. DIM promotes the metabolism of estrogen through the body’s natural mechanisms. This impressive function is a natural byproduct of consuming this natural ingredient, which is found in vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower.
If you’ve tried to get relief, but struggled, consider the possibility that you’re estrogen dominant. This condition is more and more common in modern women. You need to know about it if you’re going to treat your symptoms effectively.