- Women's Health
What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?
Diabetes, PCOS and Cinnamon
Cinnamon may help diabetes, so it could help PCOS. Find out more about diabetes and the health benefits of cinnamon.
What is a Polycystic Ovary?
The ovaries are two small glands on either side of the womb responsible for releasing eggs and hormones. For most women the ovaries cause no problems. Each month one of the ovaries releases an egg. A finely balanced cocktail of the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone, together with a tiny amount of testosterone, are also manufactured.
For some women, the ovaries don't function perfectly, although it uncertain why. There does appear to be a genetic element. Women with a family predisposition to Type 2 diabetes may be at risk. Another risk indicator has been identified in the male line; early male pattern baldness in the family seems to be a risk factor. Very recent Australian research has discovered a link between parents' cardiovascular disease and their daughters' PCOS.
It is estimated that up to 25% of women have polycystic ovaries. These women have many (poly) cysts on the surface of their ovaries. Some of these women (but note not all) also go on to develop further symptoms, known as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). Current estimates are that 10% of women develop PCOS.
The Definition of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
For PCOS to be diagnosed at least two of the following conditions must be present:
- Multiple cysts on your ovaries - more than 12.
- Ovaries producing a raised level of testosterone (the male sex hormone)
- Irregular, particularly light or absent periods
Hence, you should not assume that irregular periods, taken on their own, mean that you have PCOS. SImilarly, you may have multiple cysts on your ovaries and yet not have PCOS.
How can you tell if you may have PCOS? The tell-tale signs are shown below.
A Healthy Diet for PCOS
The symptoms of PCOS range from the deeply embarrassing to the seriously depressing. Generally, PCOS causes problems associated with the failure to ovulate and another set of problems due to the increased production of testosterone.
- Failure to ovulate will cause irregular, infrequent or absent periods. This in turn will lead to problems conceiving.
- A raised level of testosterone often causes an excess of hair growth, particularly on the face, neck and chest. Conversely, it may also lead to thinning hair on the scalp. Acne may also become an issue.
- In addition, weight gain around the middle appears to afflict a significant number of women with PCOS.
If you find yourself identifying with any of these symptoms, see your medical practitioner. A blood test and an ultrasound scan can confirm a diagnosis.
Potential Long Term Health Issues with PCOS
Most young women are concerned only with the immediate effects of PCOS. However, beyond the distressing symptoms there are longer term issues to be addressed.
Manage PCOS with Exercise
Verity is the UK's PCOS Charity
- Home | Verity - PCOS Charity
Verity - the UK charity for women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
Change your Lifestyle to Manage your Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
At the moment there is no cure for PCOS. You should consult your doctor who may be able to prescribe medication for the various symptoms. You can also take an active role in managing the problem yourself by making adjustments to your lifestyle.
One major issue with PCOS is weight gain and obesity. Women suffering with PCOS are often insulin resistant, which plays havoc with their blood sugar and leaves them at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Dieting can help stabilise the blood sugar, but which diet?
If you search the Internet you will find several sites offering PCOS diets - you generally have to subscribe or buy an e-book. Other people suggest popular diets like the Atkins Diet. However, according to researcher Dr Samuel Thatcher, author of PCOS book, "The Hidden Epidemic", the type of diet is immaterial. PCOS sufferers need to find a sensible, healthy diet that they can commit to long term. Basically, it's the diet we all know we should eat anyway: more fruit and vegetables, less processed carbohydrates and sugars. Don't try to dump the carbs completely - it's the route to failure. Our bodies need carbohydrates to feel satisfied.
In addition to dietary changes, those with PCOS should exercise to shift weight. It need not be anything drastic, some regular brisk walking would be beneficial.
Finally, be kind to yourself. Depression and low self-esteem can often accompany a diagnosis of PCOS, hardly surprisingly. Make sure you take care of yourself and actively take a role in managing your PCOS, preferably in partnership with your doctor. Taking action will in itself make you more positive and give you back control.
You should always consult your medical practitioner before embarking on a new course of exercise.
© 2011 Judith Hancock