We attended an amazing event run by ATMS PCOS Symposium and got to listen to five amazing speakers covering all aspects of PCOS.
PCOS is currently the most common hormonal condition women experience and with almost 1 out of every 10 women in Australia suffering from PCOS, it is likely that you will have or know someone who is currently living with it.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition in which ovulation is rare and tiny cysts (follicles) accumulate in the ovaries.
These follicles or ‘cysts’ contain eggs. Normally follicles would continue to grow and then go on to ovulate, but in PCOS the follicles stop growing and they secrete male hormones into the blood. The presentation of symptoms in PCOS varies quite significantly. Some women experience male pattern hair growth, a lack of periods or prolonged cycles, depression, weight gain and acne, while some women may have no symptoms at all and only realise when they have difficulty falling pregnant.
All of the speakers at the event agreed that unfortunately PCOS is being very poorly managed by the many of the medical community. It seems many patients aren’t being diagnosed correctly, whilst lots of patients, especially younger girls are believed to be being over-diagnosed.
PCOS can be quite a scary diagnosis, especially women who are having trouble conceiving. There are multiple associated conditions and complications that can arise down the track with PCOS, but this is only if it is neglected and poorly managed. What is important to know is that PCOS doesn't have to be a too much of a scary diagnosis. There is actually so much that can be done for PCOS patients, they just need a bit more help and to be willing to put the work in! If the condition is well managed, patients can go on to have perfectly healthy hormones, cycles and pregnancies.
The typical presentation of PCOS is of metabolic origin and is associated with insulin resistance. It can be corrected with weight management, a healthy diet, daily exercise, a good support network and some natural herbs and or supplements.
However, it is important to know that there are different subcategories of PCOS including post-pill, adrenal and inflammatory. This is where the over diagnosing can happen, as they are presenting the same as PCOS, but don't have the same metabolic origin and thus, treatment needs to be approached differently.
Of all the fascinating research presented at the seminar, something that really stood out for me was the role of endocrine disruptors in obesity. While obesity is certainly not a factor in all cases of PCOS, for many with PCOS, weight gain or an inability to maintain a stable weight can be a real problem. As you know I have been on the whole anti-endocrine disruptor bandwagon for a while now, but this really reminded me of why it is so important that we try and remove as much of the endocrine disrupting chemicals and products from our lives as possible.
The women's health specialist and fertility guru Leah Hechtman shared with us recent findings that demonstrate that endocrine-disrupting chemicals, termed “obesogens”, can promote Adipogenesis (the production of fat cells) and cause weight gain.
This happens due to interference in the hormonal control of fat tissue functions, and can, therefore, lead to inappropriate deposits of fat and, hence, obesity.
Obesogens may seem like a very foreign thing that you wouldn't have that much exposure to, but they include compounds that we come into contact with every single day. Some of the main ones to be aware of are:
Industrial and household products
Certain ingredients in personal care products.
While removing plastic Tupperware from your life isn’t going to mean you fall straight back into a regular cycle and wake up with the chiselled body you have always dreamed of, for women with PCOS (or any hormonal imbalance for that matter!) who are struggling with losing weight it may be a factor to consider. Obviously alongside a well-planned diet, daily exercise and a great support network!
I think it is important that we don’t live in a bubble and remove ourselves from everything, but where we can make better choices for our health and environment I believe we should.
So whether you have a PCOS diagnosis or not, make your one job this week to get rid of the endocrine disruptors in your life!