What do you know about Polycystic Ovary Syndrome? With around 1 in 10 women in the UK living with PCOS, if you don’t have it yourself, you probably have a friend or family member who does. Maybe you’re worried about PCOS and are forever googling 'what is PCOS disease?’ Or perhaps you’ve read about how Emma Thompson and Victoria Beckham both struggled to conceive because of it – yes, PCOS affects Oscar winners and Spice Girls too.
Most people have heard of PCOS and are aware it has something to do with cysts on the ovaries and can cause infertility. But for many of us, that’s about it. It's not surprising that women's health experts estimate around half of women with PCOS don't even know they have it!
September is PCOS awareness month, which aims to get people talking more openly about the syndrome. So we’re taking a deep dive into all things PCOS. From the tell-tale symptoms to look out for, to the best diet, supplements, and exercise to help manage it.
1. PCOS can affect anyone, regardless of shape and size, and there's no known cause:
Heard that PCOS only affects overweight women? Not true. Actually, PCOS is found in all women, from petite size 0s (hello again Victoria Beckham) to curvy plus sizes. It’s equally prevalent in women of all races and ethnicities and found across the world. In short, PCOS does not discriminate, so neither should we!
The exact cause of PCOS is unknown, but it’s often linked with having an excess of androgens, or male hormones. These extra androgens can stop you from ovulating and make your periods irregular. The follicles inside your ovaries grow and accumulate fluid, but then the eggs don’t get released and the immature follicles build up – the ‘cysts’ in the syndrome name.
Having more androgens is more common if you have insulin resistance, where your body is unable to use insulin effectively. This can disrupt your brain processes, hormones, and metabolic system, causing all sorts of problems, including PCOS. Like PCOS, there’s no known reason for insulin resistance, but genetics are thought to play a part in both conditions.
2. What is PCOS disease? Here are 6 main symptoms to look out for:
– Irregular or absent periods (less frequent than every 35 days)
– Excessive facial or body hair growth
– Difficulty getting pregnant
– Weight gain
– Thinning hair on your scalp
– Oily acne-prone skin
These side-effects usually kick in for most women in their late teens or early 20s. Some women with PCOS have all the symptoms, and others have none. So just because you’re experiencing any of them, doesn’t mean you definitely have PCOS.
If you’re in the process of trying to work out ‘what is PCOS disease’ and whether you have it, the best thing to do is contact your GP and get your hormones tested. The above symptoms MIGHT be a sign that you have excessive androgen levels and PCOS, but they could also be caused by lots of other things. A blood test will help you understand what’s going on with your body and help you get a diagnosis.
3: Yoga can help you manage PCOS:
Once you’ve got to the bottom of ‘what is PCOS disease’, you’ll be on the hunt for effective ways to manage it. Make sure yoga is top of your list. Why? Because as well as improving your general physical and mental health, it can also relieve PCOS symptoms.
Studies have shown that taking part in a slow, soothing yoga practice can actually lower your androgen levels. Less androgens means fewer and milder PCOS side effects. You’ll also feel less stressed, which helps reduce inflammation in the body – another PCOS trigger.
Two of the best yoga poses for soothing PCOS symptoms are Garland and Bow pose. They both stimulate your circulation, increase the blood flow to your pelvic region, and help strengthen your core. Namaste!
4. Got to grips with ‘what is PCOS disease’? Here’s what you should & shouldn’t eat:
If you’ve got PCOS you’re very likely to have insulin resistance, so you need to try and avoid refined carbohydrates, like starchy and sugary foods. Eat them and your sugar levels will spike, making the problem even worse and increasing inflammation in your body. Give white bread and pasta a miss, and swerve sweets, fizzy drinks, and sugar-dense desserts and cakes.
Instead, load up on high-fibre foods, like cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts), greens, peppers, beans, lentils, nuts, and sweet potatoes. More fibre will slow down your digestion and reduce the effect of sugar on your blood.
You should also include plenty of anti-inflammatory foods in your diet. Tomatoes, spinach, kale, almonds, olive oil, and fatty fish (like salmon and mackerel) can all help to reduce inflammation. And if you throw them all together, they’ll make a delicious salad too – yum!
5. Supplements can help you get on top of PCOS:
If you’ve researched ‘what is PCOS disease,’ insulin resistance will keep coming up. So, it makes sense to take a supplement that can help normalise your insulin levels AND improve your hormone balance, and metabolism. If only there was something that could do both… Spoiler alert, there is, and it’s called Myo-Inositol.
Even better, our Magna Calm patch contains the optimum daily dose of the most effective form of Myo-Inositol for treating PCOS. Plus magnesium – also great at helping reduce insulin resistance – and L-theanine, which can bring down excessive levels of androgens.
If you have PCOS, many gynaecologists also recommend taking vitamin D, and Omega-3, because they both have anti-inflammatory, metabolism-supporting effects. We have patches for both, and don’t forget you can wear multiple patches at once. Much easier than chugging loads of pills, and the peace of mind all the good stuff’s getting to where you need it. Win!
6. A healthy gut = fewer PCOS symptoms
Research has shown that women with PCOS often have IBS and less diverse gut bacteria. It's thought poor gut health can contribute to worse PCOS symptoms and disease progression. Studies have also shown that the higher the woman's androgen level is, the lower her gut bacterial diversity is likely to be.
Luckily, there are lots of simple steps you can take to heal your gut. Try eliminating foods that trigger gut inflammation from your diet. The usual suspects are gluten, dairy, and refined sugar, so start with these.
Eating plenty of probiotic foods like yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and pickles (maybe not all at once!) can also help. Probiotics introduce new bacteria into your gut and encourage diversity. Prebiotics, which provide your gut bacteria with something to munch on and multiply, are a good idea too. Celery, garlic, onions, oats, and bananas are all excellent prebiotics, and not too tricky to include in meals.
The right supplements can also help your gut. Collagen is a must because it provides the raw material your body needs to rebuild the cells in your GI tract. The Collagen Plus patch is here. A good multivitamin that contains vitamin D, B vitamins, and zinc, is also advisable, because these nutrients support the growth of good bacteria, AND stimulate gut repair. You’ll find the Multivitamin Plus patch here.
Studies have shown the right diet, exercise and supplements can have a significant positive impact on PCOS. Now you understand it better, you can stop asking Dr. Google: ‘what is PCOS disease’, put some of these tips into practice, and start to feel more like yourself again.