The struggle with PCOS is real……very very REAL!
The very first time i heard of this spirit-killing acronym was back in 2013 when this totally random doctor i happened to visit told me to ‘go back home & search about PCOS’.
That marked the beginning of those zillions of searches about PCOS that followed till date. Out of all the dreadful thoughts making way into my brain, my biggest concern was how come i had NEVER in my 2.7 decades of life heard of a condition which is sooo common and estimated to make one in ten women of child-bearing age suffer from it? According to PCOS Foundation, more than 50% of women with PCOS remain un-diagnosed. This startling figure should give you enough food for thought for next time you encounter somebody stigmatizing a woman for not conceiving within days of getting married, mocking a woman with excess weight or masculine type hair or labeling a woman ‘badtameez’ for ‘supposedly’ behaving incoherent as she faces a mega level stress, anxiety & depression courtesy PCOS. There are also those interesting, orthodox views regarding superstitions like ‘kisi ki nazar lag gayi’ (evil eye) or ‘kisi nay kaala jaado kara diya baitee/ bahuu pay’ (black magic). It’s about time we realize that sometimes people have intimate battles which don’t necessarily surface out.
Did you know that PCOS is the most common cause of infertility among women, contributing towards whopping 70% of female infertility cases?
So what is PCOS?
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.
That’s what the acronym stands for. Simply put, it’s an endocrine (hormonal) system disorder in women, where the sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone, are out of balance. Another factor which leads to PCOS among women is the over-production of male sex hormones ‘androgen’.
PCOS happens in women due to an imbalance in female sex hormones and an over-production of male hormones.
Symptoms of PCOS
This hormonal imbalance causes HAVOC inside your body resulting in some gruesome outcomes like facial hair, obesity, the most horrible form of nodular acne, irregular periods & ovulation leading to infertility, ovarian cysts, stress & depression etc.
Not all these symptoms have to be present simultaneously. For instance, many women suffering from PCOS are rather skinny or have never had ovarian cysts.
In addition to these, researches show that many women with PCOS have Insulin resistance (excess of insulin inside your body) which leads to over-production of Androgen resulting in PCOS. Insulin is a hormone produced by pancreas, and it helps in breaking down the glucose (sugar) in our blood to be used as an energy by our body. Being insulin resistant means the insulin becomes less effective in performing this breaking down procedure, hence leaving high level of Glucose in our blood. This slow metabolic condition with excess sugar streaming all over our body can lead to Type 2 Diabetes.
Women suffering from PCOS go through symptoms like facial hair, obesity, acne, irregular periods leading to infertility, ovarian cysts, stress & depression and insulin resistance, which can lead to Type 2 Diabetes in the long run.
PCOS can change your life dramatically, leaving you very very stressed. All these symptoms in your life not only leave you with low energy but with low self-esteem too. I used to think PMS (fluctuating hormones before periods) is just a fancy excuse to brush off general moodiness and crankiness until i ended up with PCOS myself. That’s where i realized how hormones have the power to REALLY mess up with your moods. I really wish there is more awareness on these issues among our women and men alike, so that we end up being more empathetic and supportive towards each other, because like i said, the STRUGGLE IS VERY REAL and you never know who is battling with what inside.
Researches show that 40% of the Diabetes or Glucose intolerance cases among women between the age 20-50, have PCOS too. (PCOS Foundation)
What happens inside my body because of PCOS?
Low quantity of Progesterone (female sex hormones) & High number of male hormones androgen in the body affect the ovulation process during your menstrual cycle. Ovulation is when the egg is released from the follicle in the middle of your cycle and reach your uterus (womb) hence, leading to your chances of conceiving if it gets fertilized. Imbalance in aforementioned hormones hinders ovulation. The captured eggs (inside follicles) turn into small cysts in your ovaries, called ovarian cysts.
This imbalance is the reason why you end up having those other PCOS symptoms too. So in a nutshell,
Insulin Resistance > ANDROGENS/ Low Progesterone = Acne, No Ovulation, irregular periods, Infertility, Weight Gain, Facial Hair (Hirsutism), Depression/ Stress/ Fatigue
So who’s the bad boy here?? Too much of MALE Hormones ANDROGEN! (Perhaps too much of everything ‘MALE’ is destructive for women *sigh* :p )
Why do i have PCOS?
Well, this is still a MYSTERY! Sherlock Holmes type, trust me.
Although PCOS has been around since 75 years, the only major connection the researches have been able to find is with Genetics. Yes, that means if somebody in your family has had PCOS, chances are you can get it too. This goes for insulin resistance too. However, interestingly some women with PCOS swear by not having any PCOS case in their families. Such cases make it all the way more confusing and mysterious.
Other contributing factors could be environmental toxins & chemicals which contribute towards disturbing the hormones. This is why doctors advise to use organic, chemical free, preservatives free & unprocessed food.
How do i pull through LIVING with PCOS?
Now that’s a million dollar question, as most of the stuff is easier said than done with the pressures of PCOS.
Amidst all the PCOS drama you go through, the harshest and bitterest reality is that there is no specific cure for PCOS. But the good news is that you CAN minimize it’s long term effects by making healthy lifestyle changes. I personally believe that no matter how little the outcomes of PCOS show in your life, if you have been diagnosed it is BEST to start making changes NOW. The later it gets, the more difficult it becomes to change your habits and find the energy to carry on. PCOS sucks the energy out of you BIG TIME. If remained uncontrolled, it can lead to serious health conditions like Diabetes, Blood pressure, heart diseases, endometrial cancer etc.
As a personal preference, I am not in favor of medicines as a treatment ‘for the long run’, although you can take them as prescribed. Most of the times, you are given birth control pills to regulate your cycle and help control acne. This might work great if you are NOT planning to conceive but otherwise it won’t work for you. Progesterone based pills Provera can be given to balance out the hormones and regulate the cycle too. But, based on my personal experience, your cycle becomes more irregular once you quit all these pills. I have only taken these medicines twice for a very short span of time and I recall messing up with my ‘otherwise regular’ cycle both the times, and i think it’s a sheer luck that i conceived after quitting the second time. It gives me shudders when i hear about PCOS leading to the difficulties in conceiving. But of course, there is no greater plan, than God’s plan so HAVE FAITH! 🙂
For insulin resistance, medicines like Metmorfin (Glucophage) are prescribed which can help control insulin & eventually balance out the production of androgen. For fertility related issues, completely different treatments can be prescribed e.g Clomid can help ovulate, or procedures like IVF can be used for conceiving. Which procedure is best for you is usually best determined by your Doctor, seeing your symptoms and preferences.
My FAVORITE remedy for battling PCOS is changing your lifestyle 180 degrees. It is a bitter pill to swallow but yes, you have a different life now. Your body is different from how you have always seen it to be. Lazying around the house all day munching on all those carbs, fats and processed food in the world won’t help you much now. Stressing over your physical, mental or emotional health and being sleepless will only add fuel to the already blazing flame. Procrastinating will only lead to the deterioration of your condition. How you have lived must be Ctrl + Alt + Deleted and a new fresh start must be kicked off with.
What is required out of you is an attitude change, a solid commitment, an extraordinary positive perspective and a new lens towards your life. Welcome your new life with a red carpet.
Steps towards a Healthy Lifestyle
1- Eat healthy like a Paranoid. Find reasons to ditch carbs & sugars, use them for treats once a while. Avoid canned food, processed stuff & junk food. Choose organic options wherever possible, full of grains, fruits, veggies & lean proteins. AND WATER!
2. LOVE your EXERCISE! Take out at least 30 minutes for exercise everyday. Not only will it help you reduce weight and balance out those hormones, it will rejuvenate you and kick away the stress, anxiety & depression. I feel like a wreck on days when i miss my exercise. Think Yoga & meditation and stuff that connect you to nature like Hiking.
3. TALK. PCOS can leave you totally shattered, with zero self-esteem courtesy all the weight gain, deformed body, acne and facial hair. On top of that, not many will understand your condition & preferences on choosing to live differently now, as talking about gynecological issues is still such a taboo in our society. This can lead you even more demotivated. The best way is to TALK to a professional, seek counselling if you need it (for stress, anxiety & depression or otherwise) or confide in someone who can help support you in your goals. Stay away from toxic people spreading negative vibes, you are already dealing with too much.
4. Narrow down your focus. Show an OUT door to every ‘feel bad activity or people’ from your life to regain your confidence and focus.
5. QUIT SMOKING – Cigarette or Sheesha or whatever you smoke! There are toxins that mess up your hormones like anything. Researches reveal that women who smoke are at a high risk for PCOS.
6. SLEEP WELL – Did you know that sleeping produces those hormones which control your hunger? All that binge eating in the middle of the night, make sense now. Similarly it is related to all other hormones in your body that can give way to PCOS. Sleep at least 6 to 8 hours.
And most of all BEST OF LUCK in your battle towards PCOS.
I really hope you liked my side of PCOS story. I have tried to back my personal experience with a lots of research and tried to make it simple and easy for you to understand so that you don’t lose yourself in the middle.
In case you are looking for some motivation to lose some weight and follow a healthy lifestyle, this one lady is doing an AMAZING job with a closed facebook support group called FAT TO FAB WITH ASMA MOIN. You can find PCOS friendly, free of cost and super easy to use diet plans. The group is exceptionally energetic with members from all over the world keeping the pace going. I highly endorse! 🙂
Below are some good reads in case you want to dig out more.
Here’s to a healthy life!
Happy Fighting! 🙂