The most common endocrine syndrome that affects women of reproductive age, puberty to menopause, is known as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). It affects approximately 10 percent of women in the reproductive age group. For years, many people automatically assumed PCOS was purely an ovarian syndrome, due to its given term; however, it is now recognized as a systematic endocrine and metabolic disorder, as multiple risk factors are at work.
PCOS can be described as a total body endocrine syndrome. In fact, the abnormalities in the ovary are actually more the result of a bigger problem, rather than the cause. And although there is no set definition for PCOS, most endocrinologists would agree on a set of criteria necessary to make the diagnosis:
- The complete or almost complete lack of ovulation
- Increased androgen (male hormone) production, either facial hair and/or acne
- Hyperinsulinemia (insulin resistance with elevated serum insulin levels)
While it is clear PCOS is a complicated syndrome with many interactions combining to produce the clinical picture, it is also evident these interactions play off one another, creating a vicious cycle.
The PCOS Cycle
Any hormone problem that interferes with normal ovulation results in what is known as a "polycystic" ovary, which, regardless of the cause, will produce increased amounts of androgen. Conversely, increased androgen production interferes with normal ovulation. Evidence has also pointed to obesity as part of the androgen excess syndrome; overweight women produce increased androgens even if they have no underlying abnormality in the adrenal gland. It is not known for certain whether obesity is a cause or an effect or simply a part of PCOS.
Moreover, increased insulin found in women with PCOS stimulates ovarian androgen production; increased androgen production contributes to insulin resistance. Yet increased androgen production also leads to an increased body weight (obesity), which in turn contributes to insulin resistance. Women with PCOS who are not overweight also frequently have insulin resistance.
PCOS is an inherited, autosomal dominant trait, meaning if a woman has PCOS, it should be looked for in her mother, sisters and daughters. And, since it is autosomal dominant, male relatives can also carry the gene and can transfer the problem to their daughters. Having PCOS puts women at an increased risk of developing diabetes, coronary artery syndrome, lipid disorders (such as elevated cholesterol and high blood pressure) and possibly breast cancer.
Suggested Methods of Preventing PCOS Development
- Weight Loss
- Drugs (such as the anti-diabetic drug Metformin)
- Suppress ovarian function with oral contraceptives or other drugs
- Making an early diagnosis, which will prevent the development of a full-blown diagnosis
InfertilityPhysician.com February 4, 2005
This article certainly sheds some light on the complex concept of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). Fortunately, there are three steps women can follow in order to treat the syndrome without taking drugs like Metformin.
Step One: Reduce as much as possible your intake of grains and sugars. Your body has a limited storage capacity for carbohydrates, so when you eat more grains and sugars then your body can use they are rapidly converted, via insulin, into fat. Believe me when I tell you that you don't need many grains and for most of us any is too much. And since insulin resistance is a central issue in PCOS, cutting back on these foods will help control the disease for most women.
Additionally, if you are experiencing symptoms such as excess weight, low blood sugar and high blood pressure, chances are very good that the excess carbohydrates in your body are to blame. We all need a certain amount of carbohydrates, but through our addiction to grains, potatoes, sweets and other starchy and sugary foods, we are consuming far too many, forcing us to sacrifice our health.
Step Two: Eat a healthy diet based on your body's unique nutritional type. One of the most important factors in helping you achieve a healthy life is to have a diet based on eating the right foods for your specific genetic biochemistry.
Please understand that you have a unique nutritional type that is primarily based on the genes you inherited from your ancestors. Each type demands varying ratios of macronutrients (fats, proteins and carbohydrates) to function optimally. Your nutritional type will help you determine which foods are best for you and which to avoid. You can take your free test to help your better learn what foods you were designed to thrive on. It is important to understand though that nutritional typing is a process and that the key principle is to listen to your body. You could change your foods based on the feedback your body provides you until you are feeling absolutely terrific.
Step Three: Normalize your vitamin D levels to keep your menstrual cycles regular. One of the simplest and essential first steps is to have your vitamin D blood levels checked. It is important to receive adequate amounts of vitamin D, as it keeps your cell growth and activity in check. When your body is deficient in this crucial nutrient your cells can go haywire, become overly active or multiply too quickly.
Under summer conditions it is frequently possible to generate about 20,000 units of vitamin D by exposing your skin to the sun, and this is the ideal way to optimize your levels.
However, if you don’t have access to regular sun exposure, or alternatively a safe tanning bed, you can supplement with vitamin D3.
Based on the most recent research, the current recommendation for dosage is 35 IU’s of vitamin D per pound of body weight.
So for a child weighing 40 pounds, the recommended average dose would be 1,400 IU’s daily, and for a 170-pound adult, the dose would be nearly 6,000 IU’s.
However, it’s important to realize that vitamin D requirements are highly individual, as your vitamin D status is dependent on numerous factors, such as the color of your skin, your location, and how much sunshine you’re exposed to on a regular basis.
So, although these recommendations may put you closer to the ballpark of what most people likely need, it is simply impossible to make a blanket recommendation that will cover everyone’s needs.
Again, the only way to determine the correct dose is to get your blood tested since there are so many variables that influence your vitamin D status.
I recommend using Lab Corp in the U.S.
The correct test your doctor needs to order is 25(OH)D, also called 25-hydroxyvitamin D, which is the better marker of overall D status. This is the marker that is most strongly associated with overall health.
What should your vitamin D levels be?
Here again it’s important to realize the difference between what conventional medicine considers to be “normal,” versus what is optimal.
The “normal” 25-hydroxyvitamin D lab range is between 20-56 ng/ml. As you can see in the chart below, this conventional range is really a sign of deficiency, and is too broad to be ideal.
In fact, your vitamin D level should never be below 32 ng/ml, and any levels below 20 ng/ml are considered serious deficiency states, increasing your risk of as many as 16 different cancers and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, just to name a few.
The OPTIMAL value that you’re looking for is 50-65 ng/ml.
This range applies for everyone; children, adolescents, adults and seniors.
These ranges are based on healthy people in tropical or subtropical parts of the world, where they are receiving healthy sun exposures. It seems more than reasonable to assume that these values are in fact reflective of an optimal human requirement.
To find out more about vitamin D, please watch my one-hour, free vitamin D lecture.
So I hope you can now more fully appreciate that there are natural and safer alternatives to normalize this condition and one doesn't have to be a victim of their genes.