Polycystic ovaries is common in 1 of 5 women however, what causes PCOS is still foreign. It is a condition of having multiple small cysts on the ovaries. It is usually diagnosed when periods are irregular or completely absent, or when a woman is unable to conceive. Other common symptoms include acne, facial hair growth, low sex drive, thinning of hair, weight gain, difficulty in losing weight, and some mental health disturbances.
It can be caused by more than one thing at once and this can be very overwhelming. When I was diagnosed last year, I was just told to lose weight to help regulate my periods and take antibiotics to help with my acne. The antibiotics had awful side effects and the weight would not budge no matter how much I exercised.
After lots of research, the main things that came to my attention that I could relate to were these main factors:
*I was vegetarian from 8 years old until 24. Mainly using soy meats to replace meals. Soy, flax and other phytoestrogens resemble (but not chemically the same as) estrogen in the body. This leads to confusion in the endocrine system and BREAST CANCER.
*I used Soy milk from early years until mid 20’s due to being lactose intolerant. Long term consumption from early years is linked to decreased fertility and possible thyroid problems in male and females!
*I struggled with bulimia from 14 until 24. Starving my body all day then having ridiculous binges late at night on vasts amount of chocolate and sweets. Then consuming a ridiculous amount of laxatives to clear out all the food. I would flood my body with blood sugar late at night and my pancreas would release insulin to transport the sugar in the blood to fat cells to be stored as energy. Spiking my sugar levels from huge binges would have caused an insulin resistance meaning that my fat cells can no longer “hear” this signal, so my body keeps creating more and more insulin in an effort to get the signal “heard” so that the sugar is removed from the blood to be stored. When insulin levels get higher due to the resistance, testosterone production increases, which causes hormone imbalances. This will lead to the development of the cysts on the ovaries and excess facial hair.
*Over exercising, I would train 3-4 hours a night after work or twice a day before bingeing in the evenings. I was doing hours and hours of cardio. The body will feel as though it is being starved and can shut down reproduction especially as I would be exercising on little food from the day until the night time binge. If the body feels in threat, it will choose to store food as fat actually causing fat gain despite the never ending hours of cardio training.
*Stress. If the body is under any sort of emotional or physical stressors (over exercising, bingeing, restrictive eating control) the body will choose to release stress hormones rather than sex hormones. Stress hormones elevate male sex hormones which then trigger PCOS.
*Being on the contraceptive pill throughout my teens and early 20’s. Research seems to show that it can be coming off the pill that can cause PCOS. The liver, hypothalamus and pituitary gland all need to readjust to natural hormone production. This process can take a very long time and will very often cause the symptoms of PCOS. However my periods were already irregular prior to starting the pill.
Too be honest I had abused my body for many years and all these factors have probably contributed to my PCOS. My periods would disappear for 6 months at a time when my body weight was under 50kg but as the weight would go back on, they would come back slightly more frequently. I was always fighting to keep weight off that would so easily come back on. I could put on 7kg in a week but could also lose that in another week by taking diet pills to remove my appetite. My metabolism was destroyed! Currently my weight sits around 60-64kg and seems to be in a happy state here. It took a lot of getting used to as I was always trying to maintain 50-55kg but it just does not suit my body. I am a much saner and happier women now that I eat regularly and exercise to suit my body rather than doing hours and hours of cardio.
Other factors to take into consideration for causes of PCOS:
*Environmental toxins: Most non organic fruits and vegetables are covered in chemicals that act as phytoestrogens in the body. Over time, specifically when young, they can have a major impact on the reproductive systems. It is best to eat organic, peel vegetables or to wash them with organic soap. You can also wash them with vinegar for a few minutes as the vinegar will bind to some of the toxins to help remove them off the skins.
*BPA: A polymer leached from plastics that can disrupt the reproductive system. This affects both females and males. Try to drink from glass bottles and use glass Tupperware or BPA free Tupperware. Also directly linked to breast cancer (in men and women!)
*Body applications: Parabens are phytoestrogens (cancer causes) and are most common elements of lotions, shampoos, soaps, and any products applied to your skin including makeup. Check the ingredients list and anything with parabens will be there in black and white! Even present in common children’s skincare. I always opt for paraben free these days for me and Paul!
*Dairy: Pregnant cows produce Insulin Growth Factor-1 (exact same structure to IGF-1 in humans). Women with PCOS already have higher levels of IGF-1 and our ovaries are already going into overdrive. Plus the added antibiotics given to the cows can further imbalance our hormones! Giving up dairy is highly recommended, especially in PCOS. You will notice a reduction in inflammation in the stomach, reduction of IBS and overall fat loss. There are lots of alternatives to get your calcium: kale, broccoli, okra, horseradish, watercress, cabbage, celery, parsnips, and red kidney beans. Plus lots of dairy free alternatives such as rice milk, coconut, hazelnut and almond milk.