September 13 2021
Polycystic ovary syndrome is a condition that affects the hormonal levels of a woman, directly affecting the ovaries. It results in enlarged ovaries with small-sized multiple cysts on their outer side. During this condition, male hormones are produced more than the normal or adequate levels in the body, which causes a hormonal imbalance. This imbalance in the hormone levels causes many problems, like delayed or skipped period cycles, difficulty in conceiving, increased PMS symptoms, etc.
Three main features that characterize PCOS are cysts on the ovaries, irregularity in menstrual cycles, and high levels of androgens (male hormones). It may also lead to chronic conditions or diseases like diabetes and heart diseases, and may also cause hair growth on the face and some parts of the body. The treatment includes diet and lifestyle changes along with medications (birth control pills and diabetic medications- to ease the hormonal imbalance).
What happens in PCOS?
PCOS affects women from the age of 15 to 44 years. It is a common condition, affecting many women around the globe. It may also be present in women who have not been diagnosed yet. Estrogen and progesterone, the hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle of a woman, are affected by this condition along with the ovaries (the organs that produce these hormones). The ovaries are responsible for releasing the female gametes or ovum, each month for fertilization purposes. This process is called ovulation and is controlled by two hormones- follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH- it stimulates the ovary to produce a follicle) and luteinizing hormone (LH- it activates the ovary to release the ovum).
During PCOS, many cysts, which are sacs filled with fluids, are observed around the ovaries. However, these cysts are eggs that never got mature enough for ovulation, which is why the follicles (cysts) appear like cysts. Because of lack of ovulation, there is an alteration in the patterns of hormone levels; estrogen and progesterone get lower whereas androgen levels are higher than the usual levels which affect the menstrual cycle resulting in irregular periods.
What are the causes of PCOS?
The root causes of PCOS are still not known, the healthcare professionals believe that relatively higher levels of male hormones (androgens) are responsible for this condition, as it doesn’t allow the ovaries to prepare and produce ovum for ovulation. Genetic factors, insulin resistance, and inflammation, however, have been linked to excess production of androgens.
- Insulin resistance: insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas which regulates blood sugar levels, i.e. it helps the human body to utilize sugar from food. Around 70 percent of the women affected by PCOS experience insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a condition in which the body isn’t able to use insulin efficiently, which results in an increased demand for insulin. This triggers the pancreas to prepare more insulin than the normal levels which cause increased production of androgens in the ovaries. This condition is usually caused by obesity, which may also cause type-II diabetes.
- Inflammation: women affected by PCOS often increase the levels of inflammation, which may also be caused by obesity. Research has suggested that excess inflammation is linked to higher levels of androgens.
- Genetics: genes may also be a reason that triggers PCOS. Researchers believe that if you have a genetic connection with this condition, you’re at a higher risk of developing it.
What are the symptoms of PCOS?
- Acne: androgens (male hormones) can trigger oiliness on the skin, which is often associated with acne breakouts on the skin of any part of the body.
- Weight gain: getting overweight is a commonly experienced symptom by women who are affected by PCOS. Around 80 percent of the women, who have PCOS, are overweight.
- Irregular period cycles: lack of ovulation in the body prevents the shedding of uterus lining each month, which is why irregularity in period cycles is observed.
- Bleeding: since the lining of the uterus gets thicker over time (due to lack of ovulation), so, when you get periods (if affected by PCOS), you may experience heavy bleeding.
- Hair growth: PCOS also causes hair growth on the face, chest, and belly. More than 70 percent of the women who have this condition, experience hair growth on these parts of the body.
- Hair fall: PCOS may also cause hair to get thinner and fall out.
- Acanthosis nigricans: this is a condition in which dark and velvety patches of skin on creasy parts like the neck, groin, under the breasts, etc. PCOS may be a reason for this darkening of the skin.
Prevention of PCOS
Other than prescribed medications, there are some natural ways of preventing this condition, which mainly include diet and lifestyle changes. They include:
- Maintaining a healthy weight: reducing or maintaining a healthy level of body weight decreases insulin resistance and helps in the regulation of periods. Women, who are overweight and have PCOS, can ease the symptoms and may even prevent the condition by reducing body weight to a healthy level.
- Exercising and stress management: exercises are important for treating most health conditions. Light and aerobic exercises can be practiced for better results, i.e. swimming, aerobics, walking, yoga, etc. HIIT (high-intensity interval training) and running may also help treat and prevent PCOS. Stress management on the other hand can relax your mind and help in the regulation of cortisol, the primary stress hormone. This can help in treating PCOS.
- Take a balanced diet: taking adequate amounts of proteins and carbohydrates can treat and prevent PCOS, as, carbohydrates can improve insulin sensitivity, and taking proteins might help regulate the production of insulin. So, it is advised to have a diet balanced with all the nutrients if you have PCOS.
- Supplementation: if you have PCOS, considering some supplements like iron, evening primrose oil, multivitamins that might help balance hormones. However, it is advised to talk to a doctor before taking them.
Alvizia’s evening primrose oil, or aleneve, an active source of gamma- linoleic acid, is a dietary supplement used in various skin diseases, hair loss, and menopausal health issues.
Cold-pressed and available in a pack consisting of 60 soft gel capsules, it is ideal for women’s health as it may treat hormonal or cystic acne, scleroderma, osteoporosis, etc. It consists of linoleic acid and gamma-linoleic acid, which are the components of myelin. Hence, it is considered good for neuronal health.