You know the worst thing about having PCOS? It is the god-awful time it took me to get diagnosed correctly. My personal struggle with PCOS started when I was around 15 but it took a decade before I was correctly diagnosed. PCOS was unheard of back then. No one knew the direct relation between insulin and PCOS which was probably one of the foremost reasons why I wasn’t diagnosed earlier on. I’ve endured the obvious side effects that accompany PCOS – acne, weight gain, hair growth on places I’d rather be hair-free and hair loss in places I’d rather have luscious growth. Essentially all the horrific pains a teenager would’ve preferred not experiencing. This coupled with my love for food, kinda worsened matters. But more on that later.
The second worse thing about PCOS is the modern medicine industry’s life mission to suggest drugs for every ailment without suggesting lifestyle changes. Don’t get me wrong, I do pop the occasional medicine to kill a headache – but you wont see me pop a paracetamol at the drop of a hat. Moderation is key. The one medication I remember being prescribed a lot of was birth control pills which was later replaced by metaformin. I wasn’t advised on lifestyle changes. Nah uh. Here’s a pill that will mimic your hormones into believing its ovulating and you will have to pop it for the rest of your life. It felt more like a death sentence but what does an 18-year-old know? I did as I was told. I started having regular periods and assumed I was ‘cured’.Did that nip the problem in the bud? Nope. It offered a temporary fix but as we all know if you can’t address the root of a problem, a temporary fix will only address the problem superficially.
Cut to me moving to Dubai and my body stopped ovulating again. Funny enough, when I asked one of the doctors who was treating me if should cut out sugar. Her response was ‘Will you be able to’ instead of ‘You need to’. What is it about modern medicine that teaches us that the only solution to an ailment is either via a scalpel or a pill. It pretty much underestimates our body’s great ability to heal itself.
Now that I’m *ahem* older and have learnt to understand my body and the ailments it suffers from, there are ways and means I’ve adopted to help control my PCOS.
When something can be explained in a simple way, why does the medical community use so much of medical jargon that overwhelms the average person. Someday I hope to produce a book called ‘Dummies guide to heal yourself’ (if it doesn’t exist already that is).
Till then read on.
What is PCOS?
According to dummies.com, Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) often appears to be a collection of unrelated symptoms affecting your menstrual cycle, fertility, appearance, and weight. But when you put the puzzle pieces together, you can see not only how the symptoms relate to one another but also how simple lifestyle changes can have a positive impact on them. Unlike many disorders, PCOS can improve if you take steps to manage the causes. Recognizing the symptoms of PCOS early and working on improving insulin resistance through diet and exercise can help prevent complications of PCOS, including infertility.
What’s the connection between PCOS and insulin?
During digestion, the carbohydrates are broken down into glucose – a simple sugar, in our body. Insulin is a hormone naturally produced by the Pancreas in our body to convert glucose into energy. The more sugar/carbs you eat, the more insulin is produced to control the sugar. High level of insulin increases the production of male hormones (androgen) which then leads to irregular periods, obesity, acne and excess body hair.
What is insulin-resistance?
There comes a point, when the body stops reacting to the insulin and this imbalance is called ‘insulin resistance’. If insulin cannot perform the way it should i.e. regulate your sugar levels, your blood sugar increases which then leads to diabetes, obesity and PCOS amongst other ailments.
What’s great about the above sentence is that unlike the death knell that was my previous gynaecologist – PCOS can be controlled but it cannot be cured. Quote unquote – I remember being petrified during a sonography session when the same gynaec told me ‘I cant find your ovaries’. Clearly someone skipped ‘Bed-side manners’ class during medical school.
I realized thereon that I had to switch to a healthier remedy and lifestyle change to fix PCOS. None of my gynaecs ever suggested that which again makes me question the allopathic medical industry. But I’ve learnt this has to do more with lack of information that ignorance. PCOS is a relatively modern disorder so needless to say most of the older doctors did study about it in medical school and hence have no idea how to treat it.
What symptoms are associated with PCOS?
- Abnormal menstrual cycle: When you have PCOS, your periods may be heavier, lighter, irregular, or absent altogether. However, you may have completely normal periods and still have PCOS.
- Weight gain: In women with PCOS, weight gain is mostly due to high levels of insulin circulating in the blood. Cells normally absorb glucose with the help of insulin. When cells don’t respond normally to insulin, your body produces even more insulin, to “force” the cells into responding. When insulin levels rise, other hormonal changes can lead to increased appetite and decreased fat burning, which lead to weight gain.
- Acne and oily skin: Women with PCOS tend to have higher levels of androgens (male hormones), which cause acne and increased skin oiliness.
- Excess hair growth: Your body may be hairier in certain places (such as your chest, thighs, face, and back), a side effect of androgens.
- Hair loss: The hair on your head may thin if you have PCOS, another side effect of higher androgen levels.
- Sleep problems and fatigue or exhaustion: These symptoms can be due to fluctuating hormone levels and increased anxiety.
- Depression, anxiety, irritability, and mood swings: These symptoms are probably due to disrupted hormone levels.
- Fertility problems: The hormonal imbalances that come with PCOS can disrupt ovulation.
- Metabolic syndrome: Also known as syndrome X, metabolic syndrome is a cluster of symptoms, including insulin resistance (where insulin produced by the body doesn’t work efficiently), high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. It can lead to diabetes and heart disease.
PCOS cannot be cured. If any of the doctors you’re consulting with, have claimed they can magically cure you of this ailment, I’d suggest you stop consulting them. PCOS can be controlled but it cannot be cured. That doesn’t mean that you can’t lead a normal life. It simply means you just have to make a couple of lifestyle changes to help control PCOS. Now that you have a better understanding of PCOS, the next step is knowing how you can control it naturally which can be read in this post.
How did your PCOS get diagnosed? Let me know in the comments section below.