Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common endocrine system disorder among women in which the ovaries stop working properly. In this condition a woman’s level of the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone are unbalanced.
This is the major cause of growth of ovarian cysts (benign masses on the ovaries). These ovarian cysts are egg-containing follicles that have not developed correctly as a result of which a number of hormonal abnormalities occur. PCOS is a major health problem, affecting an estimated 1 in every 5 women of childbearing age.
Symptoms Of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Symptoms of PCOS will vary from women to women, not all women will have all of the symptoms. Each symptom can vary from mild to severe. Common symptoms include;
- PCOS is the leading cause of infertility in the females. Difficulty in getting pregnant due to lack of ovulation or in some cases repeated miscarriages.
- Half of the women will face weight gain problems and obesity as well as difficulty in managing weight.
- Having irregular menstrual cycle because your ovaries don't regularly release eggs. Pelvic pain may occur along with heavy bleeding during period. It may also occur when a woman isn’t bleeding.
- Hair loss from the scalp and unwanted hair growth (hirsutism) on the face, chin or parts of the body where men usually have hair.
- Hormonal changes in women's body related to androgens can cause acne problems. Development of skin tags, darkened patches of skin or oily skin is also related to PCOS.
- Having PCOS can increase the mood swings, leads to depression and anxiety, in some cases cause sleep apnoea.
- Women suffer some serious health issues later in life such as heart diseases (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke) and type 2 diabetes.
Causes of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
While the clear-cut cause of PCOS is unknown, some factors may play a major role, these are;
Excess of Insulin
Excess of insulin signals the ovaries to release higher levels of androgens which hinder the development of follicles and interrupt the normal ovulation. On the other hand, insulin resistance can also lead to weight gain, which may eventually increase your risk not only for PCOS symptoms like infertility but also support an increased risk of diabetes, several cancers, and heart disease.
Polycystic ovary syndrome sometimes runs in your family due to heredity factor. If someone's mother has PCOS, then there may be a 50 percent chance of it being passed on to the daughter. Type 2 diabetes is also common in families of those with PCOS. However, there is not yet enough scientific evidence to prove that the condition is inherited. Moreover, the specific genes associated with this condition haven't yet been identified.
Women with PCOS are found to have an imbalance of hormones. These women have an overproduction of androgens, which affects the development and release of eggs during ovulation and causing lower-than-normal levels of estrogen. It makes harder for the ovaries to release fully grown (mature) eggs. Another abnormality of hormone is raised level of luteinising hormone (LH), which is involved in activation of the ovaries to produce hormones and is released from the pituitary gland in the brain.
PCOS may cause low level of chronic inflammation in the body. This type of low-grade inflammation activates polycystic ovaries to produce androgens.
Dietary Management for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Diet plays a vital role in the management of PCOS, not only for weight management and weight loss but to regulate insulin levels as well.
Low GI (Glycemic Index) foods can improve and help balance insulin levels. Low GI diet can help regulate the menstrual cycle. These are also helpful in reducing the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome.
PCOS patients who need to lose weight must take lean protein in the diet. Lean protein sources like tofu, chicken, white meat poultry, and seafood don’t provide fiber but are very good filling and a healthy dietary option for women with PCOS. Organic lean cuts of meat should contain fewer hormones and pesticides and are not genetically modified. Protein also helps stabilize blood sugar.
Make sure you remove the junk food from the diet.
Make sure you remove the junk food from the diet.
Unsaturated fats are necessary for controlling the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) especially Omega 3-Fatty Acid are vital in a PCOS diet as they help maintain the cell wall, which absorbs the nutrients we need. Excellent sources of Omega 3 include flaxseed, walnuts, sardines, and salmon. EFAs also help to rebalance hormones, management weight and can help to stop infertility. ‘Healthy’ fats can include oily fish (salmon or mackerel), avocado and olive oil.
Option for PCOS diet are healthy carbohydrates which is important for low Glycemic Index values that takes longer to break down and digest, causing the slow and consistent release of blood glucose in the body. Low GI foods also benefit in keeping you filled for longer and prevent cravings. Legumes, beans, Oatmeal, barley, lentils and non-starchy vegetables and carrots have low GI values.
Fruits with a low GI include cherries, plums, apricots, prunes, and grapes. Include green leafy vegetables in your diet. It is good for losing weight and also helps to control Polycystic Ovary Syndrome naturally.
Natural Treatment for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Natural Treatment of polycystic ovarian syndrome focuses on controlling symptoms and managing the condition to prevent complications but there is no cure.
Apple cider vinegar can be used to push out anti-glycemic effect when ingested on a daily basis. This can manage insulin levels in the body, helps to control the symptoms of PCOS. Take 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar and a glass of warm water. Mix the apple cider vinegar in water and drink this first thing in the morning.You can also slowly increase the frequency to 2-3 times in a day (before meals).
Aloe vera lowers the blood cholesterol levels leading to restoration of the ovarian steroid status. This improves ovarian function and helps to cure PCOS symptoms. Drink a glass of aloe vera juice daily in the morning, before breakfast.
Cinnamon is a very effective natural treatment for PCOS symptoms. It is good for increasing insulin sensitivity, boost calorie burning, lowering lipid and cholesterol levels in the body and also normalize menstrual cycle. Take 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder and 1 tablespoon honey. Mix these two ingredients and ingest it. Repeat this once daily to cure PCOS symptoms.
Flaxseed can be used to decrease androgen levels. It contains lignans that increase the production of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) that binds testosterone in the blood and prevent it from creating an imbalance of hormones in the body. It helps slow down glucose metabolism and reduce cholesterol levels. It contains omega-3 fatty acids which helps to reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure and lower the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease.
Spearmint tea can also deal with treating PCOS symptoms due to its anti-androgenic properties. It will reduce the testosterone level in the body which helps reduce hirsutism or excess body hair and increases luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) levels. Take a cup of water. Add one teaspoon of dried spearmint leaves. Soak it for 5-10 minutes. Strain the tea into a cup and drink this twice daily for a few weeks.
Fenugreek promotes glucose metabolism in the body, resistance, improresistance, insulin balance in your hormones. It is a commonly used South Asian spice. Take 3 teaspoons of fenugreek seeds and soak in water overnight or a minimum of 6-8 hours. Take a teaspoon of the soaked seeds with some honey and ingest it in the morning before breakfast and then 5-10 minutes before lunch and dinner. Do this everyday to see the results.
Holy basil leaves or tulsi can help treat and reduce the symptoms of PCOS due to its anti-androgenic properties. It helps to regulate the insulin level. Intake eight to 12 holy basil leaves daily in the morning. It can also be used as addition in salad and for garnishing purpose.
Weight loss can help treat the hormone changes and health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. A overweight person is unable to fight PCOS symptoms.
Regular exercise can help treat PCOS symptoms effectively. Jogging, running, swimming, cycling, weight training is the best exercises for women.
Other clinical treatments are;
- Doctors recommend birth control for hormonal and menstrual regulation.
- A diabetes medicine called Glucophage (metformin) may also be recommended to help prevent type 2 diabetes.
- A pelvic laparoscopy may be done to remove or alter an ovary to treat infertility.
- Doctors may also suggest treatments for abnormal hair growth such as Spironolactone or flutamide pills or Eflornithine cream.
If you are coping with PCOS symptoms, you may feel frustrated at times. Consult a qualified health care professional for personalized medical advice and have patience, all things are difficult before they become easy.