September is PCOS Awareness Month. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a genetic, hormone, metabolic, and reproductive disorder that impacts women and girls. PCOS is the leading cause of female infertility. Women who have PCOS are at a greater risk for other serious health issues such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and endometrial cancer. There are four crucial things you need to know about PCOS if you suspect you have it or have recently been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome.
Know When to Talk to Your Doctor
Speak with your doctor if you are experiencing the following symptoms. They could be signs that you have PCOS. The doctor will likely conduct some bloodwork to verify a diagnosis. Until you get a diagnosis, though, keep in mind that symptoms are relatively unique to each woman’s specific case. For that reason, it’s a good idea to track your cycle and journal the symptoms you experience so that you can compile the most accurate picture of your health.
- Irregular menstrual cycles (this can be the absence of or missed cycles, as well as unusually heavy periods)
- Menstrual bleeding without ovulation
- Excess hair growth on the face, chest, belly, or upper thighs (this condition is called hirsutism)
- Severe, late-onset, or persistent acne (that does not respond well to usual treatments)
- Obesity, weight gain, or difficulty with weight loss, especially around the waist
- Pelvic pain
- Unusually oily skin
- Sections of thickened, dark, velvety skin (this condition is called acanthosis nigricans)
Know What to Eat for PCOS
If you have been diagnosed with PCOS or suspect that you have it, consider changing your diet. A critical part of changing your diet is planning for success by educating yourself on healthy choices and having those healthy options readily available for easy access.
Studies have shown that weight loss can be useful in managing the uncomfortable symptoms of PCOS. A diet low in calories and high in lean protein and fresh fruits and vegetables can impact your quality of life with PCOS quite positively. Additionally, keeping your dairy and carbohydrate intake to a minimum can help you lose weight, reduce excess testosterone, and improve insulin sensitivity.
Know What Your Body Needs
Managing your PCOS will be significantly supported by regular exercise. Keeping your body active can result in weight loss. Even a 5% loss can positively impact the symptoms you might be struggling with, including regulating your insulin levels and staving off heart disease.
Another benefit of regular exercise is that it may help you manage the feelings of anxiety or depression that are often common with PCOS patients. The release of “feel-good hormones” that come when moving your body will help you WANT to keep moving. If you can get active with a friend, all the better!
Know Where to Turn for More Information
There are several reputable resources to help you further understand PCOS. Here are a few we particularly like:
- Creating a Family’s PCOS Resource Page
- The National Institute of Health’s PCOS Resource Page
- The PCOS Awareness Month website
While there is no known cure for PCOS yet, science is making strides regularly on the causes and treatments. In the meantime, you can be your own best advocate by continuing to manage your health and seek further education that supports you and your unique symptoms.
Image Credits: Seattle Parks