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Be Proactive about PCOS
a blog by Brea Johnson, MS, RD, Pulling Down the Moon, October 8, 2010
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) usually produces symptoms associated with hormone imbalance such as weight gain, insulin resistance, acne, facial hair growth and irregular periods. While PCOS can be difficult to diagnose, simple blood tests to check hormone levels that your fertility doctor may order include:
- insulin resistance (blood glucose and insulin levels, sometimes a glucose tolerance or insulin tolerance test)
- androgens, such as testosterone and androstenedione
- estrogen and Progesterone
- thyroid hormones
- adrenal hormones, such as DHEA, and
Most often in PCOS, abnormal levels of the above hormones can trigger the classic PCOS symptoms, cause anovulation or irregular periods and lead to infertility.
Hormone balance actually starts in the womb when reproductive organs are developing. Your mother’s exposure to hormones — from food, the environment, cosmetics and chemicals can all impact your hormone balance. These chemicals, which act similar to hormones, known as xenoestrogens, can continue to have a lifelong impact on your hormones, even affecting the onset of menstruation somewhere between age 10 and 14. The menstrual cycle then becomes a natural monthly detoxification where we shed not only the uterine lining but also many metabolized hormones that have been circulating throughout our body.
Missed periods are often the first sign of PCOS, but if it happens at a young age, doctors are likely to prescribe the birth control pill to regulate the cycle and lessen many of the common symptoms such as acne and hair loss. Most women may not realize they have PCOS until they go off the birth control pill, don’t get their period and can’t get pregnant after many months.
While the birth control pill makes women think they are getting a period every month it still prevents the body from ovulating — so it is neither treatment nor a cure. Because the body is not ovulating, there is less exposure to natural progesterone (although there is exposure to synthetic progesterone) and more exposure to estrogen — leading to continued hormone imbalances.
There are many nutritional changes that can help with hormone balance and PCOS — including strengthening digestive health and balancing blood sugar. If you have PCOS or suspect you have PCOS, it’s optimal to try to regulate your periods without the birth control pill for at least six months prior to trying to conceive.
At Pulling Down the Moon, we use this six-month period to optimize diet, reduce/manage stress and make other positive changes to prepare for baby. And you don’t have to walk this path alone — a skilled nutritionist, yoga teacher and a good reproductive endocrinologist will be an invaluable addition to your team.
Be Present, Be Positive, Be PCOS-Proactive!