The exact type of a reproductive system ailment known as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) a woman has could determine the symptoms she’ll experience and the treatment options she can explore.
Believe it or not, the medical condition, while generalized as PCOS, has several different types each composing of different symptoms, and like the differences in symptoms, there are potential therapeutic protocols for each specific type.
What Is PCOS?
Defined in its simplest term, polycystic ovarian syndrome is a potential health and fertility-threatening disease affecting a woman’s ovaries and possibly other areas of her reproductive tract. Scientists believe significant hormonal imbalances or environmental factors precipitate the disease. Typically, this illness affects women of child-bearing age and strikes anywhere from five to 10 percent of females fitting this category.
The Major PCOS Categories
Polycystic ovarian syndrome breaks down into several different categories, which are medically referred to as phenotypes. Specific phenotypes include:
This form of the disease, sometimes scientifically classified as the insulin-resistant phenotype, and can typically be accompanied by hormonal imbalances as well, specifically the increase in testosterone. Women with this type of PCOS show significant resistance to the vital metabolic hormone, insulin, which means the body contains higher levels of insulin than normal – also known as hyperinsulinemia. These increased levels of insulin occur when the body fails to identify the presence of insulin, or become “numb” to the effects of insulin, causing the pancreas to pump out above needed insulin until the presence is finally registered by cells.
With this type of PCOS, the chemical irregularities often manifest in physical symptoms such as weight gain and the struggle to lose excess weight, sugar cravings, fatigue, and brain fog. When imbalances of testosterone and androgen levels occur, additional symptoms may include excessive hair growth, balding, skin problems like acne, wild blood sugar fluctuations, irregular periods, fertility issues, ovarian cysts, challenging pregnancies, and an increased risk of diabetes.
To help relieve symptoms of insulin resistant PCOS and balance fluctuating hormones and raised insulin levels, regular exercise, proper sleep, stress reduction and a low-sugar diet with proper supplementation to avoid deficiencies is key.
Non-Insulin Resistant PCOS Types:
This type of PCOS occurs as a result of an atypical stress response in the body that, rather than affect the androgen and testosterone levels significantly, primarily increase levels of cortisol and DHEA levels. Adrenal PCOS can also be identified by the lack of birth control related symptoms, and a lack of inflammation and insulin surges.
Remedies for adrenal PCOS include stress reduction, meditation and proper sleep, in addition to altered fitness routines that avoid high-intensity exercise, to limit cortisol spikes, and proper supplementation and nutrition to support the adrenal glands and nervous system.
With cases of inflammatory PCOS, sometimes referred to as hidden PCOS, chronic inflammation can lead the ovaries to produce an excess of androgens and a decrease in progesterone production, resulting in issues with ovulation and symptoms such as headaches, joint pain, unexplained fatigue, skin issues and digestive and bowel issues.
This type of PCOS is often identified by raised inflammatory markers on a blood test, such as a high CRP (C reactive protein) while glucose and insulin levels are within normal ranges.
Remedies for inflammatory PCOS are focused on gut health and balance of the gut microbiome by proper balance of digestive enzymes and reduced intestinal inflammation and the removal of key food triggers. Including natural anti-inflammatory foods such as omegas and antioxidants can be a good starting point for returning gut bacteria to a healthy balance.
Post-pill PCOS is just what it sounds like, this is the type of PCOS that occurs in some women after they stop taking the hormonal contraceptive pills due the fluctuations in hormone levels after stopping a regular hormonal treatment. With this type of PCOS, symptoms such as acne, irregular periods and hair growth are typically not present prior to beginning the contraceptive pill regimen but become present once stopping.
After coming off the pill, the body’s ovaries create a natural surge in androgens, leading to the typical PCOS symptoms, however in this type of PCOS there is no insulin resistance. To overcome post-pill PCOS, time is key as it can take a few months, up to a year or more for hormones to regulate again. Proper nutrition, healthy lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, proper sleep and stress management, and supplementation can help ease symptoms and return hormone balance to normal.
How Is PCOS Diagnosed?
Diagnosing the specific variation can present a challenge in some cases, and some women can find that the diagnosis of PCOS is multifaceted and frustrating. Typical diagnosis occurs when women begin noticing symptoms or fail to get pregnant. During a diagnosis, a variety of tests and exams are performed to rule out other conditions. These exams typically include a pelvic exam, which is performed to detect any masses or abnormalities in the reproductive organs. A transvaginal ultrasound, which is used to examine the ovaries and the uterus for unusual appearances such as the presence of cysts. In addition, blood tests are used to measure hormone levels and exclude other possible conditions, such as hypothalamic amenorrhea (HA), which can have similar to PCOS symptoms but has opposite LH:FSH ratios than that of PCOS ratios.
With the exception of post-pill PCOS, there is currently no cure for the condition, however there are a number of approaches for treating the symptoms of PCOS. Doctors typically gear therapeutic protocols toward remediating the underlying factors of whatever variation of the condition the patient has. However, there are several general treatment options that might offer relief, such as:
Correcting Insulin Sensitivity
When mild occurrences of sensitivity are present, keeping blood sugar levels from elevating might greatly accomplish the task. In some instances, certain medical professionals suggest a low-sugar diet and augmenting the diet with natural blood sugar-lowering products. In severe manifestations, and even for many doctors’ preference, the use of prescription medications might be requested for drastic lowering of the insulin levels in the body.
Avoiding the Ingestion of Toxins
Bad habits such as smoking, drinking alcohol excessively, and the exposure to a host of environmental toxins can precipitate the hormonal imbalances that might lead to polycystic ovarian syndrome, because of this it is advised to restrict exposure and remove certain habits that may be affecting symptoms or underlying conditions leading to PCOS.
Regardless of the type of PCOS you may have, heightened levels of tension and stress hormones can precipitate hormonal imbalances. Because of this, it is essential to practice stress reduction techniques to remove unnecessary stress from the equation of added risks.
Consuming a Balanced Diet
Eating healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, and products full of vitamins and nutrients can help promote both balanced blood sugar levels and hormonal concentrations. While there is no “PCOS-diet” to follow by the books, as some women have different food triggers and sensitivities than others, there are some PCOS-friendly diet tips and simple on-the-go recipes that can help women get on the right track when it comes to adjusting their food intake to ease their PCOS symptoms.
Using Natural Hormone-Balancing Products
For many women, the prescription route is one they prefer to avoid. In these cases, there are a number of natural products and ingredients, such as inositol, spearmint can help with their hormone-balancing properties, which can come into use.