PCOS AND ITS IMPORTANCE
Polycystic ovary syndrome, most often referred to as PCOS, is a medical disorder that affects women of child-bearing age and can lead to infertility and other damaging side effects.
PCOS usually begins developing in adolescence, before a girl even reaches the reproductive age where PCOS wreaks the most havoc and does the most harm. It’s a disorder of the endocrine system, which carries chemical messages and hormones to the glands that need them. The ovaries are one of those glands in a woman’s endocrine system.
Sadly, PCOS is one of the top causes of infertility in women, and it’s also one of the most under diagnosed infertility disorders that a woman can develop.
Based on clinical numbers and reported cases, 20% of women currently of child-bearing age suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome. This number is huge and shocking on its own, but it becomes even more alarming when you learn that an estimated 70% of PCOS cases are undiagnosed and untreated.
This whopping 70% undiagnosed number is why every woman should at least understand what PCOS is, how it can harm them, and why talking to your doctor about it is a good idea.
Aside from causing infertility, PCOS’s chemical and hormonal imbalances can lead to a lot of other health problems:
Difficult losing weight
Loss of libido
Hyperandrogenism (masculinization due to increased testosterone)
Body hair growth (due to hyperandrogenism)
And obviously, all of this, and the chemical imbalance, can lead to depression.
The truth is, PCOS is inheritable and it can strike any woman, regardless of her lifestyle choices.
But the parallels between PCOS and the health problems associated with poor lifestyle choices have led to promising conclusions. Those health problems that come as a result of over-eating, type 2 diabetes, and obesity can all be helped and nearly reversed by going low-carb.
This has led researchers to the notion that low-carb dieting can do the same for PCOS and the studies have been remarkable.
Low-carb dieting does work for helping to reverse polycystic ovary syndrome.
HOW DOES ALL THIS WORK? HOW CAN LOW-CARB HELP?
First we need to put on our mortarboard thinking caps so we can feel the science.
Now let’s delve into the physiology a little bit, so we can understand how low-carb helps. Know the issue, so you can correct the issue.
What’s at the root of all this?
Hormones. Remember up above when we learned that PCOS is an endocrine disorder, and the endocrine system delivers hormones and chemical messages to the body’s glands? That’s what the biggest issue in all this comes down to.
Women with PCOS fail to release an ova on schedule every 28 days because their ovarian follicle, responsible for releasing the egg, doesn’t receive enough FSH telling it to do so. Instead, it receives too much luteinizing hormone, which stimulates the production of androgens, which are essentially testosterone and other male hormones.
Without the FSH hormone, the eggs don’t mature and they end up stuck in the follicle where they turn into cysts.
Not helping matters, those androgen hormones further suppress ovulation, compounding the problem and forcing the tubes to collect cysts over time.
The other hormone that women need in this situation that PCOS sufferers get in far too small a supply is SHBG, binding globulin which binds to the testosterone in the blood and keeps it from going haywire and running rampant in a woman’s system. Without the binding globulin, the testosterone rises, causing further infertility, body hair growth, pattern baldness, and other problems women aren’t supposed to get.
This abundance of testosterone is where hyperandrogenism or masculinism come from.
But wait, there’s one more. Up to 65% of women with PCOS also have insulin resistance, much like a type 2 diabetic, and this is the reason why 80% of those women are obese and suffer the same side effects as people with diabetes.
This obesity is due mainly to the PCOS, and then compounded by the fact that it’s much more difficult for women with PCOS to lose weight, which can lead to a worse diet and the depression that leads to overeating and bad health habits.
All of this seems very daunting and scary. And to be honest, it is scary. But it doesn’t need to be.
Low-carb for the win
Doctors who work with PCOS and lead the way in its study have said the first step in correcting it is making the lifestyle changes that lead to healthier choices. Before we even get to the diet, there are other factors that need to be addressed to increase the positive effects of a low-carb PCOS diet.
1. Chemicals that disrupt the endocrine system need to be eliminated or severely limited.
Bisphenol A (BPAs) found in plastics like water bottles that can leech into your liquids.
Sodium fluoride found in high concentrations in many tooth pastes. It’s a good idea to switch to a fluoride-free toothpaste.
4-Methylbenzylidene, a UV blocker used in make-ups and cosmetics.
Nicotine, found in tobacco products
Perchlorate found in bleaches, fertilizers, and munitions.
2. Activity is another major piece of the PCOS puzzle’s solution. Sedentary women, as well as women who over-train, can make the symptoms of PCOS worse and negate any positive effects of a corrective diet.
3. Chronic stress can spike insulin production and cause overeating and insulin resistance which are big factors in how PCOS works to sabotage your body. Because no one can completely eliminate stress, it’s recommended that if you suffer from chronic stress that you take some time off, make sure you get enough sleep, and try to exercise.
Once these outside factors are addressed, it’s time to go low-carb.
Low-carb is proven to help people lose weight including the visceral fat that sits below the surface. Weight loss is the top recommended treatment for PCOS according to doctors. Since 80% of women with PCOS are clinically overweight or obese, and it’s been shown that the ill effects of PCOS are to blame at least in part for this, cutting down to healthy, manageable weight is a big step in controlling insulin and the hormonal levels that PCOS wreaks havoc on.
There are many strategies to lose weight, and the most obvious is to restrict calories to a ratio that amounts to more calories spent than consumed. That’s dieting 101. But like people with diabetes, PCOS sufferers can find calorie restriction troublesome and ineffective.
With insulin resistance constantly creating spikes in the blood and sending hunger signals to the brain, it’s very difficult to maintain a strictly limited diet when your body is fighting you.
Low-carb corrects for this by first stopping the insulin rollercoaster by stabilizing levels to a more consistent and tolerable level.
Low-carb eating also counts on healthy fats that leave a person feeling fuller for much longer. Whereas sugar and simple carbs are easily burned off, fats need time to digest and prevent your stomach from sending ghrelin to the brain, signaling hunger.
The best byproduct of low-carb living is that you naturally eat fewer calories without even trying, because you’re always full.
But here’s where the PCOS specific science of eating low-carb comes in.
Those hormones that were screwing everything up -the too much luteinizing that leads to raised testosterone levels and the too low FSH needed to mature the ova- their ratios were shown to drastically improve when women undertook the low-carb diet for just 24 weeks. Insulin levels dropped, weight was lost and the hormone signals from the endocrine system normalized!
And if you read just the last line of the RESULTS section in the linked study you’ll see that 2 women who were previously thought to be infertile became pregnant after undergoing the low-carb PCOS correction.
Women have a unique physiology and unique nutritional needs due to that physiology. It’s unfortunate that PCOS happens, and it’s alarming that so many women who have no idea they are afflicted with it. But now that you know more about it, talk to your doctor to see if you fit into the criteria that defines PCOS.
If you do, don’t worry, we now know it’s reversible and low-carb living along with niKETO are here to help.