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The Facts About Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

A woman needing information about Polycystic Ovarian SyndromePolycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is an all too common problem that affects over 1 in 10 women over the age of childbearing. It’s associated with insulin resistance, metabolism problems, and hormonal imbalances and can affect your overall health as well as your fertility. The symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome can be debilitating and even embarrassing in some cases, which will only add to the problems this syndrome causes.
Some experts believe that the PCOS rates may be even higher than previously thought among young women. This may qualify PCOS as an epidemic and underline the importance of learning about polycystic ovary syndrome causes and remedies.

About the Female Reproductive Cycle

When you’re healthy, the hypothalamus regulates the hormone output of the ovaries and synchronizes the menstrual cycle. At the end of the cycle, the hypothalamus secretes the gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which stimulates the pituitary gland in the brain. This releases the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). These hormones will then in turn cause the production of estrogen and stimulate the maturation of eggs in the follicles.

The first follicle that ovulates will release its egg into the fallopian tube so the egg can travel to the uterus. Once inside the uterus, the egg will quickly transform into a corpus luteum, which is a factory for making progesterone. This raises the body’s progesterone levels and stimulates the uterus lining. This shuts down ovary production and prepares the uterus for fertilization. If fertilization does not take place, the corpus luteum will lower estrogen and progesterone production. This will thus cause the uterine lining to shed and cause menstruation. As hormone levels drop, GnRH rises and the cycle starts all over again.

Is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome a Disease?

PCOS is a disorder that occurs when the menstrual cycle is disrupted in some way. The cause of polycystic ovary syndrome is usually hormonal imbalance. This causes problems in the ovaries so that the egg isn’t formed properly or doesn’t release correctly. When the egg isn’t released, the follicle it’s in becomes a cyst and doesn’t produce the progesterone the body needs. This lack of progesterone is detected by the hypothalamus, which continues to try to stimulate the ovary by increasing its production of GnRH. This in turn increases the pituitary production of FSH and LH.

This hormonal overload stimulates the ovary to make more estrogen and androgens, which stimulates more follicles toward ovulation. If for some reason these follicles are also unable to produce a mature egg as well, the menstrual cycle is dominated by increased estrogen and androgen production without progesterone. This can bring on additional cysts in the follicles and PCOS.

If you have PCO you will probably have multiple cysts throughout your ovaries. You may also suffer from some of the following symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome:

  • Anovulation or lack of ovulation
  • Menstrual abnormalities
  • Infertility
  • Hirsutism (facial hair)
  • Male pattern baldness
  • Acne
  • Obesity.
  • Insulin resistance
  • Higher incidence of Type II diabetes
  • Unfavorable lipid patterns (usually high triglycerides)
  • Low bone density.
  • High levels of circulating androgens, especially testosterone.

Examples of symptoms and more about Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

How Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is Diagnosed

There is a lot of concern about how polycystic ovary syndrome is diagnosed. This can be a very involved process as there is no single test to identify it. If you visit your doctor with some of the common symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome, they may do the following:

  • Perform a complete health check.
  • Ask about previous symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome.
  • Ask about your family history of fertility.
  • Blood tests
  • Physical exams
  • Ultrasound

PCOS is often diagnosed when there is severe menstrual cycle disruptions, ovaries on the cysts as seen through ultrasounds, and other symptoms related to testosterone dominance.

Common Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Causes

There can be a variety of factors that disrupt the menstrual cycle and cause PCOS. Dysfunctional follicles that won’t release the egg is a common cause of PCOS. This can be caused by:

A. Xenobiotics

Environmental pollution may be a key cause of polycystic ovary syndrome as it may cause something known as xenobiotics. This occurs when female embryos are exposed to pollution while still in the womb. This pollution can act like estrogen on the developing baby’s tissues.

When a female embryo develops in the womb, 500 to 800 thousand follicles are created in the embryo, each enclosing an immature ovum. These ovarian follicles are extremely sensitive to the toxicity of environmental pollutants. When a mother is exposed to these chemicals, there is no apparent damage. However, a baby is more vulnerable to these toxins. The toxins may damage its ovarian follicles and make them dysfunctional. This will not be apparent until the baby reaches puberty, where symptoms of incomplete ovulation or insufficient progesterone production will become obvious.

B. Stress

Besides xenobiotics, another factor that can contribute to dysfunctional follicles is stress of any kind. Stress stimulates high levels of cortisol production throughout the body, which have been known to shut down the menstrual cycle.

C. Medications

There are some medications that are common polycystic ovary syndrome causes. Birth control for instance can shut down normal ovary function. Unfortunately, when you’ve been taking birth control for a long time, it may not properly recover when the pills are stopped. Drugs like Prozac can also impair the functioning of your hypothalamus, which may affect the menstrual cycle.

D. Diet

A woman who is stressed and looking for information about Polycystic Ovarian SyndromeBy far the biggest lifestyle contributor to PCOS is poor diet. Many young women with PCOS eat a diet that’s high in sugar and refined carbohydrates. These foods cause an unhealthy rise in insulin levels. According to Jerilyn Prior, M.D., insulin stimulates androgen receptors on the outside of the ovary, causing typical symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome such as excess hair on the face, arms, or legs, thinning head hair, and acne. A poor diet will also lead to obesity in the long run along with resistance to insulin, which will further worsen the PCOS. The high androgen levels that occur as a result of a poor diet may also play a role in blocking the release of the egg from the follicle.

Women who were exposed to xenobiotics as babies in their mother’s wombs may already have problems with their menstrual cycle. And this problem will be exacerbated if your diet is high in sugary foods and low in nutrition. Since this is exactly the type of diet favored by teens and young women, it’s easy to understand why there is so much PCOS in this age group. Fifty years ago, the average person ate one pound of sugar a year. Today the average teenager today eats one pound a week! Other staples like pasta, white rice, or potato and corn chips also act on the body much the same way as sugars do.

Medical Remedies for PCOS

There is a lot of debate about how to address PCOS. There are only two mainstream remedies at the moment and neither is particularly successful. One is to use drugs such as birth control pills, hormone pills, androgen blockers, synthetic estrogens or pills that inhibit hormone production. The other way that this problem is address involves using medications that are meant for Type II diabetes and to lower insulin resistance. These medications may cause slight improvement, but this is often temporary. It may also cause side effects that will result in additional stress and damage to your body.

The best way to address the causes and symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome is to address the underlying causes. You can’t just try to supplement the hormones without addressing the underlying cause of the imbalance. And the same goes for the insulin resistance as well. A more holistic approach is needed if you’re going to recover from PCOS and get back your reproductive health.

Natural Remedies for PCOS

One of the most effective ways to correct PCOS is to use supplementation. This involves normal physiologic doses of progesterone to encourage the levels of this hormone to rise each month during the luteal phase. This should help to rebalance your reproductive processes. Make sure that you consult with a trained medical professional before you try any of these strategies. They will help to identify the problem accurately and help you avoid side effects from any remedies you try.

PCOS patients often need to use 15 to 20 mg of progesterone cream daily from day 14 to day 28 of their menstrual cycle. This dosage can be adjusted if your cycle is longer or shorter than the usual. If you notice that your facial hair and acne are disappearing, this is a sign that the medication is working. It will usually take at least 6 months for the progesterone cream to take effect.

Once the symptoms of PCOS fade, it is possible to gradually reduce the dosage and to keep a lookout for PCOS symptoms. If the symptoms reappear, the regular dosage should be restored and progress monitored again.

Some other natural remedies that can help include:

  • Improving your diet.
  • Reducing your intake of foods that can exacerbate androgen dominance.
  • Lose weight.
  • Get into an exercise routine.

Why Haven’t Doctors Figured This Out?

Doctors are still learning about Polycystic Ovarian SyndromeThere are several reasons why doctors don’t recognize the role of progesterone deficiency in PCOS. The most common reason is that they may not be aware that the hypothalamus responds not only to the rise and fall of estrogen, but also to the rise and fall of progesterone. So, if there isn’t enough progesterone in the body than the hypothalamus will struggle to keep the menstrual cycle healthy and natural.

Unfortunately, standard medical tests usually indicate that a woman with PCOS has plenty of estrogen. And if the woman is still having periods, the doctor will assume that ovulation is still occurring and that progesterone is being produced. This is an assumption that can be very dangerous for the lives and fertility of many women.

The odds of a woman having estrogen dominance and progesterone deficiency rises to 50 percent in the female population by age 35, yet doctors rarely measure progesterone concentrations. They may fear giving progesterone because of all the side effects caused by synthetic progestins, and may not be aware that natural progesterone, unlike synthetic progestins, is remarkably free of side effects when given in normal physiologic doses.That’s why it’s essential that you shop around for a medical professional who can help you design a PCOS recovery program that nurtures your body and addresses the underlying causes as well as the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome.

The Takeaway

PCOS is a troubling problem that will seriously impact your overall health and your fertility. So, if you experience any common symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome, then it’s important that you seek professional help as soon as possible. This will not only improve your health, it will markedly improve your quality of life as well. If you’re suffering from PCOS, here are some quick tips that may help:

  1. Reduce foods that increase your estrogen intake such as dried fruits, soy products, and certain types of legumes.
  2. Ask your doctor about physiologic doses of progesterone.
  3. Establish a regular, modern exercise program that makes you feel good rather than wipes you out.

If you need to know about about Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, then contact Dr. Lam’s team today on +1 (626) 571-1234 to discuss your symptoms and your options. You can also ask us a question through the Ask The Doctor system by clicking here.

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