PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome, not to be confused with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), is one of the most common disorders caused by hormonal imbalance. It is quite common: one woman in 10 is affected. It is one of the main causes of female infertility. It is also linked to an increase in cardiovascular risks, blood sugar management disorders such as diabetes and metabolic diseases. That’s how important it is to our health!
So what exactly is it? How can we cope with PCOS and live better with it? This is what we propose to discover in this article.
PCOS: what are the causes and manifestations of this hormonal imbalance?
The 2 major female sex hormones are estrogen and progesterone. In the case of PCOS, a third hormone comes into play: testosterone. Testosterone is the male hormone. All women, with or without PCOS, produce it. But when this hormone exceeds a certain level, the hormonal balance is upset. This is what happens with PCOS.
Under normal circumstances, the testosterone that we all produce is converted into oestrogen in a process called aromatisation. In PCOS, this phase does not work and the amount of estrogen is insufficient. Without oestrogen or with too little oestrogen, the peak of LH (the lutein hormone, the hormone whose peak tells the ovaries to expel the egg) does not occur. Ovulation therefore does not take place. The oocytes remain in the ovaries, or rather on their surface, forming small granulosities which have given their name to the pathology. Without ovulation or with poor quality ovulation, the production of progesterone will be prevented and the 2nd phase of the cycle will be disrupted: the endometrium, the layer of our uterus that is partially eliminated during menstruation, will not thicken or not thick enough and menstruation will be irregular or absent.
As we have seen, this hypersecretion of testosterone has important consequences on the course of our cycles. It also has repercussions that are often visible on the outside: hyperpilosity, particularly on the face, oily skin and acne, hair loss, or even excess weight.
The causes of this dysfunction are still poorly understood. Genetics play an important role, but endocrine disruptors have also been implicated in the occurrence of PCOS. There are also aggravating factors such as being overweight, especially on the stomach, stress, or thyroid disorders.
How is PCOS diagnosed?
PCOS is not always easy to diagnose. In order to be diagnosed, 2 of the following 3 criteria must be met:
- Clinical hyperandrogenism (i.e. visible to the naked eye such as acne, alopecia or thick facial hair) or biological hyperandrogenism (i.e. observed by blood tests);
- Absence of ovulation or poor quality ovulation;
- Presence of granulations on the ovaries on ultrasound.
However, the clinical symptoms can be different from one woman to another. In addition, as the sex hormones fluctuate during the month, several blood samples must be taken at different times of the cycle in order to draw conclusions. Finally, the small granules on the surface of the ovaries are the size of a pinhead and are not always clearly visible on ultrasound. This is why some women with PCOS, infertility or resistance to weight loss sometimes experience a period of medical wandering, although this is becoming increasingly rare.
Once the diagnosis has been made and medical treatment has been put in place and is being followed, you can also put in place good habits to improve your daily life.
PCOS: what diet is best for living with it?
The first change to make is to reduce the amount of sugar as much as possible, especially those with a high glycemic index. In concrete terms, we reserve pastries, sweets and other sweets for special occasions. If our intestines allow it, we swap all refined products (white flour, white bread, pasta, rice, etc.) for their wholemeal or at least semi-complete equivalents, and we cook them for a minimum of time. If you have a craving for sugar, accompany it with fat and/or fibre to limit the rise in blood sugar (a piece of fruit before a biscuit or almonds before chocolate, for example). And avoid juices, sodas, cocktails and sugar in hot drinks.
Adopt an anti-inflammatory diet by including fruit and 1 or 2 vegetables at every meal, preferably organic, and by eliminating processed industrial products and limiting dairy products to a minimum. Sprinkle your dishes with spices such as cinnamon, turmeric or ginger.
Focus on good fats (small oily fish such as sardines or mackerel, chia seeds, walnut, hemp and flaxseed oils, oilseeds, etc.) and on proteins by favouring white meats, fish, seafood and legumes (soaked before cooking). Good fats and proteins are the building blocks of your hormones and women often do not consume enough of them. So don’t skimp on quantity and quality.
Many scientific studies have shown links between microbiota quality and PCOS. So in addition to increasing your fibre intake with the foods mentioned above and reducing your sugar intake, take the time to chew well, reduce gluten and drink enough.
PCOS: regulate your stress to live better
Stress management is key to living better with PCOS. The more stressed you are, the more male hormones you make. In the case of PCOS, there are already too many.
So you should do physical activity (in moderation! because too much physical activity also leads to the production of male hormones), breathing exercises, creative and manual activities, outings in nature, massages and relaxation therapy. Cut yourself off from anxiety-provoking information and people as much as possible. Beware of stimulants such as coffee and alcohol and take care of your sleep.
Taking magnesium is often essential. Combined with adaptogenic plants such as rhodiola, ashwagandha, one of the key ingredients in the [MY] Female Balance product, or saffron, it will give you an essential boost to regain your serenity more quickly. You can find all these ingredients in the new [MY] Serenity Essentials.
[MY] Essentiels Sérénité is a vegan food supplement without phytohormones based on synergistic adaptogenic plants (saffron, griffonia, rhodiola) and 3 complementary forms of magnesium, to counter physical and mental fatigue linked to cycles. Anti-stress and anti-fringe.
Although the causes of the hormonal imbalance at the origin of PCOS are still poorly understood, this syndrome is not a fatality. You can take action on a daily basis by adapting your diet and protecting yourself from stress and getting rid of it when it is present. The result is a better balance and an improved quality of life!