PCOS: The Basics

Updated: Oct 22, 2021

PCOS is running ramped in the United States these days. Before we jump into diagnosis and natural approaches behind PCOS, let's take a second to cover the basics:


What is PCOS?

PCOS stands for Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. In other words, a syndrome related to cysts on ovaries. During a healthy menstrual cycle, one follicle develops into an egg that is released once a month:

  • Follicular Phase: Ovary develops a follicle that secrete increasing amounts of estrogen

  • Ovulation: Egg released leaving corpus luteum behind

  • Luteal Phase: Corpus luteum produces progesterone to increase endometrial growth

  • Menses: Endometrium sheds

In the case of PCOS, a single follicle rarely develops into egg that is released:

  • Follicular Phase: Ovary develops a follicle that secretes increasing amounts of estrogen

  • Anovulation: Egg is not released so no corpus luteum is left behind to secrete Progesterone.

  • Anovulatory bleed: Endometrium sheds due to excess estrogen (this is not a real menstrual bleed)


What are the common signs and symptoms of PCOS?

  • Elongated menstrual cycles (<35 days) generally scanty but intermittent heavy menses are common

  • Male pattern hair growth: Jawline, chin, upper lip, nipples, lower abdomen, thumbs and toes

  • Acne

  • Hair thinning

  • Darkened skin at skin folds (nape of the neck, elbow creases, knuckles)

  • Stubborn weight gain

  • Infertility

  • Pregnancy complications (gestational diabetes, preterm delivery, preeclampsia)

  • High levels of DHEA, testosterone, cholesterol, LH, and blood sugars

  • Low levels of progesterone and FSH

  • "String of pearls" on a pelvic ultrasound


Pearls on a blue cloth


Why Me?

Honestly, we're not 100% sure. There are several factors contributing to why PCOS is on the rise:

  • Genetics

  • Hormone imbalance

  • Insulin resistance

  • Low grade inflammation

  • Obesity


Can You Cure PCOS?

PCOS is termed a chronic condition. Meaning, symptoms can be managed and mitigated but must be continually addressed to prevent longterm complications such as diabetes, obesity, infertility, and high blood pressure. We want to stress here that if you have been diagnosed with PCOS, it's not your fault. And it's not the end of the world. In the naturopathic world, we take it as a nudge to promote an anti-inflammatory lifestyle and an opportunity to treat your body kindly.


Join us over these next few weeks as we dive into the nitty gritties of PCOS.


Until next time,


Dr. Chelsea Leander ND, RH (AHG)





References:


  1. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gynecology-and-obstetrics/menstrual-abnormalities/polycystic-ovary-syndrome-pcos?query=pcos

  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4341818/#:~:text=It%20is%20often%20called%20the,the%20field%20of%20PCOS%20research.

  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22147920/

  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22147920/

  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21151128/


Disclaimer:


This information is generalized and intended for educational purposes only. Due to potential individual contraindications, please see your primary care provider before implementing any strategies in these posts.


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