Polycystic ovaries are different from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or polycystic ovarian disease (PCOD). PCOS or PCOD refers to the combination of menstrual irregularities and ovarian cysts.
Ovarian cysts are not something new. They have been around probably as long as women have been around. Since the advent of ultrasonography (ultrasound), doctors have become a lot more adept at diagnosing ovarian cysts. Many women – perhaps even up to 15% of normal, healthy women – have cysts around their ovaries.
Ovarian cysts don’t usually cause a lot of problems. When ovarian cysts become larger, more frequent, or increase in numbers, and there are menstrual irregularities, then you have PCOS or PCOD.
Ovarian cysts are very, very small. Women with PCOS often had menstrual irregularities right from menarche (the beginning of menstruation). If they carry a little extra weight and they have menstrual irregularities, often the cysts stay quite small. Over time they develop an excess of male hormones (androgens), which tend to keep the ovaries quite small. Women with PCOS tend to have problems with two hormones: luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). The result is too much LH and not enough FSH. In combination with the androgens, the abnormal levels of LH and FSH keep the ovarian cysts small, interferes with ovulation, and cause menstrual irregularities.
Signs and symptoms of PCOS include the following:
· Erratic menstrual cycles
· Excess weight before menstruation
· Hirsutism (male-pattern hair growth)
In medical clinics that treat PCOS, the focus tends to be on the hormone progesterone. The goal is to mimic a natural cycle. Steps are also taken to protect the endometrium (lining of the uterus) from high levels of estrone (E1), which is a result of the high androgen levels. Even this weaker estrogen can contribute to breast cancer or gynecological cancer. Doctors are very careful about not allowing high estrogen levels to continue. Doctors may use other hormones to keep the estrogen levels in check.
Doctors may also prescribe the fertility drug, Clomiphene, for women with PCOS who have been unable to conceive. A five to ten-kilogram weight loss can also improve fertility in women with PCOS by up to 70%.
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Weight loss is essential for the management of PCOS. If you’re carrying some extra weight and have irregular menstrual cycles, weight loss is a priority. Don’t drink alcohol if you have menstrual irregularities because of the caloric content. Drinking a couple of glasses of wine each day while having PCOS is not a wise thing to do. High alcoholic intake will lead to the apple-shaped body associated with PCOS.
When your weight is too high, you’re also at risk of developing insulin resistance. If that happens, your body pumps out more and more insulin to manage your blood sugar. You will end up with excessive blood sugar levels and could develop diabetes. Up to 80% of women with type II diabetes have an ovarian cyst problem.
Losing even five to ten pounds of excess weight will help normalize your cycle: the less excess body weight you carry, the less chance of developing cancer and other serious diseases.
Fiber if a vital addition to the diet if you have PCOS. Fiber will help keep you from getting overly hungry, and it also improves your bowel function. Fiber delays gastric emptying and plays a role in estrogen detoxification. Proper bowel movements help to pull out estrogens and their breakdown products, which lowers their risk of stimulating the growth of cancer cells.
I recommend exercise for people with any kind of weight problem, endometriosis, or PCOS.
Detoxification is very important, but do not do detox until the bowel is working normally. Make sure you see a healthcare professional to customize your detoxification protocol for your specific health problems.
In summary, my suggestion for anyone with PCOS is to improve the way you eat, improve the bowel function, lose excess weight, and I’m confident your menstrual cycle will start to become more regular.
In many cases, if you improve your lifestyle and diet sufficiently, you won’t have to take medications for PCOS anymore. Many patients will also find themselves able to have successful pregnancies by making the changes I’ve suggested.