What exactly is PCOS? | Why does PCOS happen? | PCOS symptoms | The science behind PCOS | PCOS treatment
For many ladies out there, weight loss is all about managing raging hormones. Quite literally! Weight gain happens to be one of the most unsightly and heart breaking side effects of a hormonal problem called polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
We are sure, most of the women reading this would have nodded their heads in understanding. This is because PCOS happens to be one of the most common hormone problems believed to be afflicting anywhere from 2% to 26% of women aged 18 to 44 years .
Yes, you are not alone in this fight.
However, the irony is, no matter how prevalent, very few know what PCOS is all about! We are here to take you through this information and also what helps in PCOS treatment.
A warning, though, the following paragraphs could have an overdose of science but we will try to simplify the entire thing for you!
What exactly is PCOS?
Simply put, women with polycystic ovarian syndrome have high blood levels of male hormones. This results in irregular periods and development of multiple cysts (bubble-like extensions) in the ovary.
The literal translation of PCOS (poly cysts: Many cysts in the ovary) reads that.
Why does PCOS happen?
The most painful question ever! Blame the genes say the researchers. Apart from genetics, PCOS also has environmental reasons for development. Toxins, infectious agents, and even obesity could worsen PCOS .
“Did you know, obesity also begets PCOS? The reproductive and metabolic features of PCOS can sometimes be reversible with dietary and lifestyle modifications.”
What do PCOS symptoms look like?
We don’t mean to scare you but PCOS could increase your risk of developing other disorders. Apart from that, PCOS happens to be one of the common reason for infertility.
Other symptoms of PCOS could include excess body hair (scientifically termed as Hirsutism), acne, pelvic pain, dark patches on the skin due to insulin resistance .
The science behind PCOS
So we all sort of know that there is a hormonal cocktail going on in PCOS. However, what exactly transpires is still shrouded in mystery. Let us help in shedding some light on the physiological process behind polycystic ovarian syndrome in a stage-wise manner .
Stage 1: How does the female hormone estrogen get produced.
The primary function of the ovary is to produce the female hormone estrogen. Interestingly, estrogen is produced by converting the male hormone androgen. The key hormones which bring about this important conversion are Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH). This is under normal conditions, not in PCOS.
Stage 2: When the hormones go askew.
The amount of male hormone secretion and their conversion to estrogen is dependent upon the LH to FSH ratio. When this ratio gets skewed, then there is an excess of male hormones in the blood. The ovary reacts to the male hormones by forming cysts thus PCOS develops. Genetics seem to play a role here.
Stage 3: Some cancers can release an excess of male hormones too.
Now, this male hormone can be produced externally by some cancers too. It leads to increased levels of male hormones in the blood aggravating the cysts in the ovary.
Stage 4: Body’s defense mechanism to control excess hormones.
Our body is wired in a way that it helps counter any processes that go out of the way. In the light of excess male hormone, the body produces a protein which acts like a sponge, mopping the excess up.
“Surprise, surprise! The amount of this protein seems to be dependent on a person’s weight!”
Excess body weight seems to reduce the amount of this sponge protein thereby increasing the intensity of the Polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Stage 5: The incriminating role of insulin
Didn’t we mention early on about the dark skin patches due to insulin resistance? In our body, insulin acts like a growth hormone; creating fat stores (weight gain) and general growth. When the body is already battling with excess male hormones, insulin acts like a multiplier significantly increasing its production!
“Moral of the story: Pre-existing diabetes could worsen PCOS symptoms significantly. Alternatively, PCOS could also put you at a risk of diabetes.”
PCOS treatment. Yes, there is one!
There are various treatments for PCOS, many of them involving drugs to control the production of male hormones. Doctors will also prescribe diabetic medications to reduce the levels of insulin in the blood. Weight loss has also shown to significantly improve the symptoms.
Did you know, food holds tremendous power to help manage those erratic hormones? A PCOS diet could is pretty close to the weight loss diet wherein you would have to restrict the amount of sugar (important due to the insulin connection) and fat.
Healthy foods for PCOS include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, sprouted pulses among others. Yes, it is time to understand this fact and start consuming healthy foods.
“Much awaited question: Why is losing weight so difficult in PCOS?” Well, the answer lies in excess insulin levels that is always putting the body into a fat storage mode!”
Now, armed with knowledge, we hope you approach this hormonal condition with a different mindset and gain control of your body weight as the first step towards treatment.
Recommended read: How healthy is your body to house a baby?