Women’s Health – Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS  affects  4 – 7% OF WOMEN.  It is characterised by ovaries containing multiple cysts (polycystic ovaries, signs of excess body hair; male pattern baldness; abnormal, irregular or scanty periods and metabolic syndrome (high insulin, obesity and hypertension)).  Polycystic ovaries can be 2-5 times the normal size, as follicles fail to ovulate and develop into cysts with a thickened white capsule. 

PCOS is the most common cause of infertility from lack of ovulation in women of reproductive age.  Other signs and symptoms associated with PCOS include:

  • Symptoms of hyperandrogenism such as a deepening of the voice and male-pattern baldness
  • Infertility due to failure to ovulate
  • Obesity with related metabolic syndrome, non-insulin dependent diabetes, hypertension and/or dyslipidaemia
  • Sleep apnoea
  • Acanthosis nigrans (i.e. diffuse velvety thickening and hyperpigmentation of the skin on skin folds, nape of the neck)
  • Acne, oily skin, seborrhoea
  • Prolonged periods of PMS-like symptoms
  • Chronic pelvic pain
  • Hypothyroidism

These symptoms are a result of the biochemical and endocrine changes that occur in a woman with PCOS.  In PCOS, the woman’s pituitary function favours synthesis of luteinising hormone (LH) over follicle stimulating hormone (FSH).  In the ovaries, increased LH stimulation causes the theca cells to increase androgen production (typically male sex hormones e.g. testosterone and androstenedione).  At the same time, low FSH fails to stimulate the ovarian cells to convert androgens to oestrogen.  This leads to a failure of follicular maturation, low ovarian oestrogen production and a failure to ovulate, often resulting in absent, infrequent or scanty menstruation.  The increased androgens, in turn, influence the development of masculine characteristics, such as excess hair or male pattern baldness, and contribute to the development of metabolic syndrome.

Obesity is present in nearly half of all women with PCOS due to increased peripheral insulin resistance and high insulin production.  Obesity amplifies the hormonal abnormalities of both PCOS and metabolic syndrome causing increased insulin resistance.  Elevated insulin levels then further increase LH effects on ovarian function, exacerbating symptoms.  This becomes a vicious cycle!

In PCOS the Syndrome exacerbates obesity, and the insulin-resistant obesity further exacerbates PCOS.  In support of a return to hormone balance it is important to address the menstrual irregularities; health and function of the reproductive system; support to re-establish and maintain blood glucose levels; support for appetite control and review of dietary patterns; ensure cholesterol is within normal limits; and support healthy liver detoxification which further assists in balancing hormones.  The most beneficial support for PCOS includes individual assessment by one of our dedicated Naturopaths.  Although PCOS has a “name” there are many layers and each woman has her own unique set of underlying drivers, whether it be hypofunctioning thyroid, insulin resistance/blood sugar irregularities, inability to metabolise and detoxify fats, or dietary and appetite challenges.  Call Nurtura Health for an appointment and we can support you to regain healthy ovulation.   

 

 

Watch this space for future posts on other conditions in more detail!

Disclaimer:  The advice on this website is of a general nature only and Nurtura Health expressly disclaims all liability arising out of the improper use of the information provided.  Nurtura Health actively discourages any self-diagnosis or self-medication.  Please consult your health practitioner regarding these important health issues.  All rights reserved.