PCOS or polycystic ovary syndrome: treatment and symptoms

SOPK ou syndrome des ovaires polykistiques : traitement et symptômes

What are the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome?

Polycystic ovary syndrome, more commonly known as PCOS affects one in seven women in France and is the leading cause of infertility worldwide.

It is a pathology of the endocrine system that can be defined as a set of symptoms related to anovulatory menstrual cycles (absence of ovulation) and a high level of androgens (male hormones).

Its main clinical features are irregular or absent periods, infertility, excess weight and hyperandrogenism.

Irregular periods can be complicated to manage for many women, which is why we recommend using our menstrual briefs that will be adapted to your irregular cycles.

In addition, many patients with polycystic ovaries have features of metabolic syndrome, such as visceral obesity, hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance.

But the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome don't stop with the body. Women are also affected in their mental and emotional functions: depending on the study, between 27% and 50% of women with PCOS report being depressed, compared to about 19% of women without PCOS.

What is the diagnosis for PCOS?

Based on recommendations issued by the American Society of Endocrinology in 2013, the diagnosis of polycystic ovary syndrome should be made when at least two of the three Rotterdam criteria are found, namely:

  • clinical hyperandrogenism(acne, hirsutism, androgenic or biological alopecia);
  • anovulatory cycles (absence of menstruation or irregular periods);
  • polycystic ovaries.

The importance of each of these criteria in the clinical picture of PCOS is subject to debate. In particular, they may lead to the diagnosis of a woman with irregular menses and polycystic ovaries but no androgen excess.

Thus, it is quite possible to have PCOS with a normal ultrasound, while polycystic ovaries on ultrasound do not necessarily mean a diagnosis of PCOS.

Approximately 20-30% of women of childbearing age have polycystic ovaries, but only half of these women have signs or symptoms of PCOS. Among "normal" women, experts believe that they may control symptoms associated with PCOS through factors such as diet and exercise, and may be at risk of developing PCOS if these factors change.

Diet as a treatment for PCOS?

Lifestyle changes (diet, exercise, stress management, sleep, environment) are essential to any natural management strategy for PCOS or as a complement to medical management.

Diet is a key element in any PCOS reversal strategy.

First and foremost, what you need to remember is that polycystic ovaries are caused by the following two actions

  • an elevated level of androgens (including testosterone), which are the ones responsible for the majority of our symptoms by interacting with all of our other hormones;
  • Chronic low-grade inflammation, which is one of the metabolic risk factors associated with PCOS. If you are experiencing bloating, low energy, brain fog, anxiety or painful joints, inflammation is most likely the cause.

Anything that causes inflammation contributes to insulin resistance. In a vicious circle, excessive insulin production is associated with increased inflammation in the body, which can contribute to the development of multiple pathologies such as type 2 diabetes, cancer or neurodegenerative diseases.

The good news is that diet can allow us to act on these mechanisms.

What to eat when you have PCOS?

The intestinal microbiota is one of the most popular topics in scientific research. Indeed, the 100,000 billion bacteria it contains can control our inflammation and are partly responsible for the proper functioning of our immune system.

Not only that, but our liver and adipose tissue receive signals from the microbiota that allow them to balance themselves and function better. In addition, recent research shows that anxiety or stress can be linked to microbiota imbalances.

The first measure to take to promote a good intestinal microbiota is to limit sugar. Refined sugars are indeed linked to a significant depletion of nutrients in the body, disruption of the gut microbiota and exacerbation of inflammation. They also affect our stress levels, mood and energy.

Your digestive health can also be helped by a diet rich in prebiotics, which feed good gut bacteria, and probiotics, which contribute to a healthy balance of gut flora.

Beyond the intestinal microbiota, it can be useful to avoid foods and/or elements known to be among the causes of inflammation.n addition to the gut microbiota, it may be helpful to avoid foods and/or elements known to cause chronic inflammation such as sugar, refined carbohydrates, food allergies or sensitivities, trans fatty acids, omega-6 from certain vegetable oils, environmental toxins, stress or an imbalance in the gut flora.

Changing your diet to improve or even reverse your PCOS requires not only protecting your gut, but also optimizing your nutritional status. This means adopting a rich and varied diet, unprocessed, favoring whole foods and good fats. It also means consuming proteins and vegetables that are low in starch. Finally, the consumption of carbohydrates must be reasonable.

It is a matter of adopting a common sense diet, calibrated for the specific needs of PCOS.

PCOS: The importance of diet

The principles described above are intended to explain why certain food choices are better than others when you have PCOS. To be easy to adopt, these changes must make sense.

Meals are a time for socializing, sharing and exchanging, which we sorely need to maintain a balanced psycho-emotional state. Changing your eating habits should therefore not become a source of constraint, stress or frustration.

In addition, women with PCOS suffer from eating disorders at a much higher rate than the general population. This may be related to the hormonal imbalances characteristic of PCOS, which lead to both increased appetite and impaired impulse control.

When implementing changes to reverse PCOS, it is therefore important to ensure that a good relationship with food is maintained.

In conclusion, learning to manage PCOS is a gradual process. So listen to your cravings, be kind to yourself and above all, be flexible.

Author Clara Stephenson is the founder of theThe Nativesplatform, which aims to provide women with polycystic ovarian syndrome a set of resources to promote their hormonal balance and fertility. You can also find her on Instagram@the_natives.

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