Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) & Polycystic Ovaries (PCO)
PCOS is one of the main reasons I have droves of Women, both young and middle-aged, coming into the clinic to help with the sometimes horrible side effects of this condition. An important thing to remember is that PCOS is not just one simple diagnosis. It is quite complex and if you have been given this diagnosis by your Doctor then you are likely to have been told to just stay on the Pill. Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s clear up all misinformation about this condition:
What is the difference between PCOS and PCO?
PCO refers to an ultrasound scan image of the ovaries that is shown to be polycystic (ovaries containing many partially-formed follicles). You can also have a singular cyst that grows on the ovary, which for some women can be excruciating if it gets to the point of bursting. On an Ultrasound the ovaries can look very lumpy and “cystic” and so the name appeared.
PCOS is a more complicated metabolic disorder associated with unbalanced hormone levels. PCOS is not one disease, but more a collection of symptoms that are put under the one umbrella. The symptoms can be different for every woman, however the main point is that you are likely NOT Ovulating regularly or at all. You may have been told you have “cysts” on your Ovaries, however this commonly causes a misconception that you have big cysts growing on the outside of your ovaries. ‘Polycystic’ translates to ‘many cysts’ which actually refers to there being many partially-formed follicles on the ovaries. These rarely grow to maturity or produce eggs that can be fertilised, causing anovulation (or no Ovulation). Cysts from PCOS may also continue to grow until they reach bursting point, however this is less common. Sometimes it is difficult to see the cysts on a scan, but blood tests and your symptoms can still diagnose you with PCOS. Like I said….complicated.
Symptoms of PCOS
- No periods at all, long gaps between periods (sometimes years) or it can be very irregular periods that are hard to predict.
- Failing to ovulate means that you are often deficient in Estradiol (your main powerful Estrogen) and Progesterone (my personal favourite hormone). This can cause a lot of mood changes, Depression, Anxiety, low Libido and Fatigue.
- Often there is higher than normal levels of Androgens (such as Testosterone and DHEA) which can cause symptoms such as hair loss and Acne on face, chest and back.
- Excess hair growth – often dark hairs on the face and body.
- If you have insulin resistance you will find that you don’t process carbohydrates or sugar very well. This can cause weight gain and sugar cravings
The different types of PCOS
Insulin-Resistant PCOS – when you become desensitised to the hormone Insulin which causes a lot of issues with weight gain, acne and absent/irregular periods.
Adrenal-type PCOS – when stress overrides your cycles and stress hormones cause havoc.
Post-Pill PCOS –After stopping the Pill your periods disappear and often mimic PCOS.
Not really PCOS-PCOS – The type of PCOS that isn’t really PCOS. You might have all the symptoms but they could be caused by other issues like under-eating food, not enough sleep, nutrient deficiencies that cause the ovaries to malfunction.
Here is a few things to remember:
- But one thing you must remember is that you CANNOT diagnose PCOS via an ultrasound alone. You must have the blood tests to confirm elevated hormone levels (such as high testosterone, Androstenedione or DHEA). Many people are not diagnosed correctly due to the improper tests being run.
- It takes 100 days for the Ovarian cycle to fully start and finally finish with the matured follicle (egg) being released. That means what you do NOW is affecting your cycles in 3 months time.
- Because of this, it takes time to fully balance out your cycles. There are no quick fixes. But the positive is that you will see changes as each cycle goes by and you do not have to wait for 3 months to see any changes in how you feel. Complete resolution can take a little while as the key ingredients are absorbed and taken to where they need to be but trust us, it is worth the wait!
- If you are experiencing Amennorhea (absent periods) then this can take longer to bring your periods back. It all depends on your triggers but you need to have your periods back in order to have good health. Periods are an important sign of how your cycles are working.
- Healthy, Strong Ovulation is the Queen of your Health!
- Taking the Pill will not solve your period problems. It just hides them for a while. Pill bleeds are not real periods, they are a side effect of withdrawing off the synthetic hormones every 3 weeks (for most standard pills).
- The Pill will suppress high levels of Androgens (male hormones) which means they can calm the Acne, but they also further suppress Estrogen and you won’t have any chance to make Progesterone (this is only made when you ovulate) whilst you take it. This explains why so many women comment on losing their libido and having “flat moods” on the Pill.
How we approach PCOS at MKNH:
We need to first determine the potential cause of your PCOS so we can best figure out a plan to address it. This usually involves assessing your blood tests and going through a detailed analysis of your hormonal cycles and symptoms. If you are not having any periods are all, then getting those cycles back is the first step, then regulating them to a more consistent pattern is the next step. Restoring regular ovulation is the fastest way to improve all of your overall symptoms.
We believe in a getting you back on track for a healthier, happier and more energetic you in the safest way possible.