The Facts About Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Updated on September 6, 2018
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Victoria is a stay-at-home mom, author, blogger at Healthy at Home, and educator. She currently lives in Colorado with her family.

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Ever heard of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)? If you’re a woman who has had trouble getting pregnant, you might have. Just about everyone else? Probably not.

PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome, is one of the most common causes of female infertility, affecting 6% to 12% (as many as 5 million) of US women of reproductive age. The scary thing is that many have PCOSbut don’t even know it. In one study, up to 70 percent of women with PCOS suffered with the symptoms but hadn’t been officially diagnosed. PCOS isn’t a new condition. Italian physician Antonio Vallisneri first described its symptoms in 1721.

I’m sure you have at least one woman in your life, if not many, that can say she has been diagnosed with PCOS, and it is something that causes them a great deal of problems. So what is it, what causes it, and is there some way to get rid of it? All of those questions and more will be addressed in this article for you—with help from some amazing references.

If you are the one that suffers from PCOS, it is even more critical that you check out the information below. If there truly was a way to help, without all of the crazy medications, and you had hope for no longer having to deal with this again in the future, would you be interested? Of course you would! Then let’s get started by talking about what PCOS is…

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What Is PCOS?

PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome, is a hormonal disorder characterized by a hormonal imbalance that causes problems in one or more of a woman’s ovaries, possibly even keeping her from getting pregnant.

In a healthy woman’s body, the ovaries release eggs to be fertilized by a man’s sperm. The release of an egg each month is called ovulation. Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) control ovulation. FSH stimulates the ovary to produce a follicle—a sac that contains an egg—and then LH triggers the ovary to release a mature egg.

In PCOS, many small, fluid-filled sacs grow inside the ovaries. The word “polycystic” means “many cysts.” These sacs are actually follicles, each one containing an immature egg. The eggs never mature enough to trigger ovulation. The lack of ovulation alters levels of estrogen, progesterone, FSH, and LH. Estrogen and progesterone levels are lower than usual, while androgen levels are higher than usual. Extra male hormones disrupt the menstrual cycle, so women with PCOS get fewer periods than usual.

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What Are the Symptoms?

Women with PCOS are often insulin resistant, meaning that their bodies can make insulin but can’t use it effectively, increasing their risk for type 2 diabetes. Women with PCOS have higher levels of androgens (male hormones that females also have), which can stop eggs from being released (ovulation) and cause irregular periods, acne, thinning scalp hair, and excess hair growth on the face and body.

Signs and symptoms of PCOS often develop around the time of the first menstrual period during puberty. Sometimes PCOS develops later, for example, in response to substantial weight gain. Signs and symptoms of PCOS vary. A diagnosis of PCOS is made when you experience at least two of these signs:

  • Irregular periods. Infrequent, irregular or prolonged menstrual cycles are the most common sign of PCOS. For example, you might have fewer than nine periods a year, more than 35 days between periods and abnormally heavy periods.
  • Excess androgen. Elevated levels of male hormone may result in physical signs, such as excess facial and body hair (hirsutism), and occasionally severe acne and male-pattern baldness.
  • Polycystic ovaries. Your ovaries might be enlarged and contain follicles that surround the eggs. As a result, the ovaries might fail to function regularly.

PCOS signs and symptoms are typically more severe if you're obese.

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What Causes PCOS?

PCOS has been around for hundreds of years, but for some reason, doctors still say they cannot figure out what is causing it. The truth is that they may simply not want to tell you for one reason or another. One may be that if you no longer have it, you will no longer need the medications that they are being paid to prescribe you. Conspiracy theory? Maybe. However you’ll want to check out the findings from these various studies before doubting me.

According to one study, there is a pretty serious link between PCOS and Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs), in particular Bisphenol A or BPA. Substantial evidence from in vitro and animal studies incriminates endocrine disruptors in the induction of reproductive and metabolic aberrations resembling PCOS characteristics.

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife. Endocrine disruptors are found in many everyday products– including plastic bottles, metal food cans, detergents, flame retardants, food, toys, cosmetics, and pesticides.

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Research shows that endocrine disruptors may pose the greatest risk during prenatal and early postnatal development when organ and neural systems are forming. For instance, Paolo Giacobini at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research and his colleagues have found that the syndrome are triggered before birth by excess exposure in the womb to a hormone called anti-Müllerian hormone.

From animal studies, researchers have learned much about the mechanisms through which endocrine disruptors influence the endocrine system and alter hormonal functions. Endocrine disruptors can:

  • Mimic or partly mimic naturally occurring hormones in the body like estrogens (the female sex hormone), androgens (the male sex hormone), and thyroid hormones, potentially producing over-stimulation.
  • Bind to a receptor within a cell and block the endogenous hormone from binding. The normal signal then fails to occur and the body fails to respond properly. Examples of chemicals that block or antagonize hormones are anti-estrogens and anti-androgens.
  • Interfere or block the way natural hormones or their receptors are made or controlled, for example, by altering their metabolism in the liver.

And here you can see that the big companies know about the damage these products are doing to our bodies, especially if we’ve been exposed before birth:

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical produced in large quantities for use primarily in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. NTP Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction completed a review of BPA in September 2008. NTP expressed “some concern for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures to bisphenol A."

Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) is a high production volume chemical used in the manufacture of a wide variety of consumer food packaging, some children’s products, and some polyvinyl chloride (PVC) medical devices. In 2006, NTP found that DEHP may pose a risk to human development, especially critically ill male infants.

Phytoestrogens are substances occurring in GMO in plants that have hormone-like activity. Examples of phytoestrogens are genistein and daidzein, which can be found in soy-derived products.

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Is PCOS a Serious Disease?

Women with PCOS can develop serious health problems, especially if they are overweight:

  • Diabetes—more than half of women with PCOS develop type 2 diabetes by age 40
  • Gestational diabetes (diabetes when pregnant)—which puts the pregnancy and baby at risk and can lead to type 2 diabetes later in life for both mother and child
  • Heart disease—women with PCOS are at higher risk, and risk increases with age
  • High blood pressure—which can damage the heart, brain, and kidneys
  • High LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and low HDL (“good”) cholesterol—increasing the risk for heart disease
  • Sleep apnea—a disorder that causes breathing to stop during sleep and raises the risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes
  • Stroke—plaque (cholesterol and white blood cells) clogging blood vessels can lead to blood clots that in turn can cause a stroke

PCOS is also linked to depression and anxiety, though the connection is not fully understood.

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Is There a Cure for PCOS?

Absolutely! There are plenty of stories and tutorials for you available online from people that have been there and have naturally gotten rid of their PCOS. The common denominators among them all?

Getting rid of the products, foods, and items that are filling your body with the hormone disrupters in the first place. Ironically, getting rid of all refined flour and sugars, and dropping processed foods from your diet seem to be the cure for many problems, like hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia and fibromyalgia. (I know because I was there personally.)

But it doesn’t stop there. Non-stick cook pans, plastic food storage containers, plastic dishes, commercial cleaning and bathing products, prescription medications, and pesticides used on commercial produce are just a few of the places that these hormone disruptors can be found that you can get rid of in your home as well.

Check out some of these great stories from women who cured their PCOS naturally:

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How Can I Prevent It?

If you truly want to prevent PCOS from ever being a factor in your life, you’ve got to cut it out from the roots. Start with eliminating any hormone disrupters in your life. Consider switching to glass food storage, stainless steel cooking pots and pans, glass or ceramic dishes, and stainless steel drinking glasses. Think about either making your own cleaning products and bath products (for which I have a ton of great recipes), or simply buying clean versions from your local health food store.

The next step is getting rid of all processed foods and refined ingredients like sugar and flour. It takes some time but really isn’t that difficult. Think about not having to avoid meat, dairy, carbs or desserts anymore! When you eat whole foods without all of the dangerous chemicals, preservatives and other toxic substances, you don’t have to worry about what you’re eating anymore. I’m not talking about limiting your food intake, but expanding it!

And obviously you should be more aware of your physical exercise and sleep needs and keeping stress out of your life as much as possible, which may mean just learning how to handle it differently. I have articles to help you in all of these areas!

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PCOS is a serious problem affecting millions of women in the Unites States, and yet not only is it preventable, but it’s curable. You just have to be willing to make some better, healthier choices in your life, the first being to get rid of all of the man-made chemicals you’re ingesting one way or another. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the huge difference it’s going to make in so many areas of your life. I am a living representation. I was told that I would never have children, and here I am with two kids and another possibly on the way. Fingers crossed.

Good luck on your journey! You can do it and I’ll be here to help!

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    © 2018 Victoria Van Ness

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