Mind & Body
Learning to Thrive with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
5/1/2019 1:00:00 PM

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome


If you’ve seen the hit movie, The Greatest Showman, you’ll recall the charismatic character, "the bearded lady.” What if that lovable hairy face and plump body were the result of an untreated endocrine disorder? What if the bearded lady actually had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)? 


This condition, also known as Stein-Leventhal syndrome, is a hormonal imbalance that affects less than 20% of women of childbearing age. PCOS is characterized by the production of too many androgens ("male” hormones) and carries with it a higher risk of complications if you do desire to become pregnant. There is no cure for PCOS and it often gets missed because of the difficulty in making a diagnosis. Symptoms can be attributed to other disorders and are not correlated if women don’t include relevant info on a case history to help connect the dots.


SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF PCOS:

irregular menstrual cycle (either heavy bleeding with or absence of periods)

"string of pearl” cysts on the ovaries

difficulty getting pregnant or carrying pregnancies to term

pelvic pain

excessive acne related to hormonal imbalance

hirsutism (excessive body and facial hair) due to increased testosterone

male pattern baldness in females due to excess testosterone

weight changes (obesity, sudden weight gain or difficulty losing weight)


Depending on which issues are most important to you and which symptoms are most bothersome, you may seek treatment from the specialist who best fits your needs for that phase of life (ex. acne reduction=dermatologist; hormonal imbalance/insulin resistance=endocrinologist or nutritionist; irregular periods or fertility issues=OB/GYN).  However, most women with PCOS find the best management involves a team of medical professionals in addition to making healthy lifestyle changes.  


When symptoms of the disease are not properly managed, women with PCOS are at greater risk for developing:

Type 2 Diabetes

Hypertension 

Heart disease

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Mood disorders

High cholesterol

Stroke

Endometrial cancer 



Dr. Janna Flint-Wilson, a pediatric endocrinologist in Lafayette, sees many young women from SWLA. She offers this advice: If you are coping with PCOS, being proactive and establishing healthy habits at a young age can reduce the severity of the symptoms. After ruling out other disorders, patients often begin with a regimen of Metformin to assist with regulating insulin levels and work up to a therapeutic dosage to prepare for child-bearing years. Most patients will continue on medication throughout adulthood. However, the medication alone will not resolve all the symptoms. Like many disorders, PCOS, responds positively to proactive lifestyle choices that include a healthy diet, adequate exercise and stress reduction. 


Managing Life with PCOS


Pregnancy and PCOS

Dr. Brad Forsyth, an OB/GYN specialist in Lake Charles, says this condition often makes it more difficult to become pregnant. Once pregnant, there is higher risk for complications during the pregnancy, labor and delivery such as preeclampsia, miscarriage, gestational diabetes, or premature delivery. Your doctor can help develop a plan and manage symptoms for the health of both mom and baby. 


Exercise

According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise and increased physical activity helps lower blood sugar levels in women with PCOS. Increasing your daily activity and participating in a regular exercise program (30 min a day/5 days a week) can effectively reduce insulin resistance, prevent or reverse type 2 diabetes and keep your weight under control. As an added benefit, exercise can help alleviate stress, calm your mind and positively impact your mood. Find something you love such as yoga, ballet, spin class, kayaking, or hiking and get moving!


Diet

Since insulin resistance and weight gain are common with PCOS, a diet high in fiber, low in added sugars and low in saturated fats is optimal. Look for foods with a low glycemic index such as legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and vegetables. Spices such as cinnamon and turmeric and other anti-inflammatory foods such as berries and leafy greens may also help. Reducing processed foods and meats, sodas, dairy and juices, while increasing plant-based proteins is also beneficial.


Medications

Dr. Kerri Davis-Fontenot, a local dermatologist, reports she will often see females seeking treatment for acne. Upon review of case history and noted symptoms, PCOS may be the underlying condition. For hormonal-based acne, she finds success with spironolactone (androgen blocker) to decrease the symptoms of PCOS. Additionally, birth control pills (prescribed in collaboration with an OB/GYN) are very effective for this disorder. Clomid (a common fertility drug) may help to regulate your cycle/increase chances of getting pregnant. Metformin also is commonly prescribed to help induce ovulation in addition to controlling blood sugar.  Some medicines may not be used while pregnant or breast-feeding, so communicate openly with your doctors.


Stephanie Karpovs is a local feeding therapist and wellness coach who lives with PCOS.  Her journey with PCOS began as a pre-teen, although she was not diagnosed until her mid-twenties. She has battled infertility and insulin resistance, and enjoys coaching people to use food as medicine for symptom relief.  

Posted by: Stephanie Kestel Karpovs | Submit comment | Tell a friend

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