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PCOS 101: The Causes, the Symptoms, and More

Here’s what you need to know.

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 116 million women worldwide are affected by Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). But what does PCOS mean for you if you’re diagnosed with it? To understand more, let’s first dive into the basics of the female reproductive system. 

An illustration comparing normal ovaries versus the ovaries of someone with pcos.

How Does the Female Reproductive System Work?

The female reproductive system performs a number of vital activities. The egg cells, known as ova or oocytes, are made by the ovaries. The oocytes are subsequently moved to the fallopian tube, where they may be fertilised by a sperm. The fertilised egg is then transferred to the uterus, where the uterine lining has thickened in reaction to the usual reproductive hormones. The fertilised egg can then implant into the thicker uterine lining and continue to grow once inside the uterus. If implantation fails, the uterine lining is lost as menstrual flow. In addition, the female reproductive system creates female sex hormones, which help to keep the reproductive cycle going.

A diagram illustrating ovulation

What Is Ovulation?

The follicle-stimulating hormone causes follicles in one of your ovaries to develop each month, between days six and 14 of your menstrual cycle. However, only one of the maturing follicles becomes a completely developed egg between days 10 and 14. A rise in the luteinising hormone on day 14 of the menstrual cycle leads the ovary to release its egg. The egg then begins its five-day journey to the uterus via a small, hollow structure known as the fallopian tube. The level of progesterone (another hormone) rises as the egg travels through the fallopian tube, helping to prepare the uterine lining for pregnancy.

What Is PCOS?

PCOS is a common health issue caused by reproductive hormonal imbalances. Your ovaries (which create the egg that is released each month) suffer as a result of this imbalance. With PCOS, the egg may not mature or may not be released like it should during ovulation. PCOS is therefore one of the most prevalent reasons for female infertility. Below is a comparison of a healthy ovary (left) versus a PCOS ovary (right). 

An illustration comparing normal ovaries versus the ovaries of someone with pcos.

What Are the Symptoms of PCOS?

PCOS can cause several symptoms, some of which you may disregard as minor, but if they collectively persist, they need to be addressed by a doctor. Women with PCOS may miss their period, have fewer periods (fewer than eight in a year), or their periods may come more often (every 21 days). Some women with PCOS even cease having menstrual periods. PCOS can produce excessive hair development on the face, chin, or other areas of the body where males usually have hair. This is known as hirsutism and up to 70% of women with PCOS suffer from it.

Acne

PCOS may bring on acne on the face, chest, and upper back.

Hair Loss

PCOS can lead to hair thinning or loss, akin to male-pattern baldness.

Weight Issues

PCOS can trigger weight gain or make losing weight difficult.

Skin Issues

PCOS can cause darkening of the skin in the neck creases, groin, and beneath the breasts. Skin tags, which are little extra flaps of skin, can also develop in the armpits or neck.

What Causes PCOS?

The exact cause of PCOS is not known. Most scientists believe that a variety of variables, including genetics, have a role. Other factors can include:

High Levels of Androgens

Androgens are commonly referred to as “male hormones”, despite the fact that all women produce modest levels of androgens. They regulate the development of masculine characteristics such as male-pattern baldness. Women with PCOS have higher levels of androgens than usual, which can hinder the ovaries from producing an egg (ovulation) throughout each menstrual cycle, as well as produce excessive hair growth and acne – all of which are symptoms of PCOS.

High Levels of Insulin

Insulin is a hormone that regulates how food is converted into energy. Insulin resistance arises when the body’s cells do not respond appropriately to insulin. This makes the insulin levels in your blood rise above normal. Many PCOS women have insulin resistance, particularly those who are overweight or obese, have poor eating habits, do not get enough physical activity, and have a family history of diabetes (usually Type 2 diabetes). Insulin resistance can progress to Type 2 diabetes over time.

Female doctor treating a woman.

Is PCOS Treatable?

There are several types of medicines that treat PCOS and its symptoms.

Birth Control

Hormonal birth control – including the pill, patch, injection, vaginal ring, and hormone intrauterine device (IUD) – is one method of birth control that can help manage PCOS symptoms. Hormonal birth control can help women who don’t wish to get pregnant by:

  • Increasing the regularity of the menstrual cycle.
  • Reducing the risk of endometrial cancer.
  • Aiding in the treatment of acne and the reduction of excess hair on the face and body. 

It’s essential to see your doctor before starting birth control that includes both estrogen and progesterone.

Anti-Androgen Medicines

These medications inhibit the action of androgens, which can aid in the reduction of hair loss, facial and body hair growth, and acne. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not authorised them to treat PCOS symptoms, although there have been patient cases where these medications have been beneficial. These drugs can also create complications during pregnancy; therefore, it is critical to consult with your doctor before using them.

Metformin

Metformin is often used to treat Type 2 diabetes and may benefit some individuals suffering from PCOS symptoms. It is not authorised by the FDA to treat PCOS symptoms, so see your doctor first. Metformin enhances insulin’s capacity to decrease blood sugar levels, and has the potential to lower both insulin and androgen levels. Metformin may help restart ovulation after a few months of usage, although it typically has minimal effect on acne and excess hair on the face or body. According to new studies, metformin may offer additional benefits such as decreasing body mass and improving cholesterol levels.

Myo-inositol

Previous studies have demonstrated that Myo-inositol is capable of restoring spontaneous ovarian activity, and consequently fertility, in most patients with PCOS. Some studies have also investigated the role of folic acid contained in the inositol preparation. The use of Myo-inositol and folic acid per day was shown to be a safe and promising tool in the effective improvement of symptoms and infertility for patients with PCOS, including improving oocytes. 

Folic Acid

Taking folic acid may help manage infertility rooted in ovulation problems for both women with and without PCOS. A study of over 18,000 women over an eight-year period indicates that having a high-quality multivitamin supplement containing folic acid may be beneficial. According to the data, using a supplement at least six times each week may lessen ovulation issues by 40%. Interestingly, the experts who led the study identified folic acid as one of the most plausible explanations for the patients’ increased fertility.

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Revitalise After Feasting: A Post-Thanksgiving Workout Regimen to Recharge Your Body

Revive, Recharge, Thrive

As the Thanksgiving feast fades into fond memories, it’s time to give your body the attention it deserves. In this post-feasting recovery guide, we’ll explore a tailored workout regimen designed to revitalise your body, recharge your energy, and counterbalance the indulgences of the holiday season.

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1. Wake Up the Body with Cardio Bursts:

Kickstart your post-Thanksgiving regimen with invigorating cardio bursts. Whether it’s a brisk morning walk, a jog, or a dance session, get your heart pumping and awaken your body from its food-induced slumber.

2. Core-Strengthening Pilates:

Engage your core muscles with a Pilates session to restore balance and stability. These low-impact exercises are perfect for toning and strengthening, providing a gentle yet effective workout for your post-feast body.

3. Yoga for Digestive Ease:

Explore a sequence of yoga poses designed to aid digestion and promote relaxation. Gentle twists and stretches will help soothe your stomach and release tension, leaving you feeling rejuvenated.

4. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT):

Inject a burst of energy with HIIT exercises to elevate your heart rate and boost your metabolism. Short, intense intervals followed by rest periods are an efficient way to burn off excess calories and jumpstart your fitness routine.

5. Mindful Cool Down with Stretching:

Wind down your workout with mindful stretching. Focus on areas that may have tightened during the holiday festivities, allowing your body to recover and preventing post-feast stiffness.

As you embrace this post-Thanksgiving workout regimen, remember that it’s not about punishment but restoring balance. This curated routine aims to invigorate your body, clear your mind, and set the tone for a healthy and active holiday season. So, lace up those sneakers, roll out the yoga mat, and let’s embark on a journey to revitalise and recharge after the Thanksgiving feast.

Frequently Asked Questions

How soon after Thanksgiving should I start this workout regimen?

The post-Thanksgiving workout regimen can be started as early as the day after the feast. However, listen to your body, and if needed, allow a day or two for digestion before engaging in more intense exercises.

Can I customize the workout routine based on my fitness level?

Absolutely! Tailor the regimen to suit your fitness level and preferences. Modify intensity, duration, or choose alternative exercises to ensure a comfortable and effective workout experience.

Is it necessary to follow the entire workout routine, or can I focus on specific exercises?

Feel free to adapt the regimen to your needs. While the full routine provides a well-rounded approach, you can choose specific exercises based on your preferences or focus on areas that feel particularly tight or in need of attention.

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