In the last 8 years I have come across more and more women who have been told that they have PCOS and they seek my help for weight loss. According to the vast majority of them, losing weight has become a harder struggle than ever since they started showing symptoms of this mysterious acronymed “illness”. I was very interested to see what the experts had to say about PCOS, so I interviewed Dr. Lubna Pal, Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences; Director, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Program. This was definitely one of the most informative and interesting interviews I’ve done so far. She helped me decode what she contends is a overused and misdiagnosed condition.
Here is some of the highlighted points of the interview
- How and why women are being misdiagnosed?
- How PCOS actually effects a women’s health from erratic periods to higher risk of cancer
- The truth of weight loss with PCOS
- Nutrient Related Causes and Treatments
- When should women seek fertility advice and help
What is PCOS?
According the Dr. Lubna Pal, PCOS is a collection of symptoms which can cause hormonal and metabolic dysfunction in women. Pal points out that it’s a diagnosis of EXclusion first and foremost. A doctor should exclude various other causes like thyroid condition before considering PCOS.
A woman with PCOS has two or more of the following symptoms
- Irregular periods
- Excessive Acne in Adults
- Excessive hair growth
- Hair loss (thinning hair, balding)
- Elevated Male Hormones
- “Full” Polycystic Ovaries
Dr Pal. points out the “S” means syndrom. This is not a disease or illness but rather a label for women who “earn it” with a combination of symptoms. She emphasises that PCOS commonly mislabeled and the term is overused BUT PCOS is very real for thousands of women. Unfortunately we live in a society of labels, she contends. Patients want to be labeled as something to explain their problems and Drs want to put a label on patients in an effort to satisfy them. This has lead to an overuse of the term PCOS and misdiagnosis.
However, Pal suggest if you are diagnosed with PCOS instead of being overwhelmed about “the label”, instead deal with the “bother” (i.e. symptoms) because many aspects of PCOS can be overcome and dealt with lifestyle changes.
Dr. Pal’s research has looked at Vitamin D connection in women with PCOS and how high dose supplementation improves several of the risk factors in obese women with PCOS including lowered cholesterol level, significantly improved blood pressure and reduction in inflammation markers. According to Pal when looking at Vitamin D deficiency in women with PCOS it’s unclear what comes first “The chicken or the egg”, but we do know there is a connection and obese women with PCOS have a greater risk of deficiency.
Vitamin D supplementation levels should be determined on an individual basis says Pal. Although the RDA recommendation is 600 IU a day, this is for a healthy individual, but if you currently have a deficiency with a level below 20 nanograms per milliliter, or below 10 as an extreme deficiency then you need to take much more initially and go to a maintenance dose after you bring your levels up, which should only take about 3 to 4 months of consistent supplementation. Vitamin D levels can be determined by a simple blood test ordered by your doctor.
Insulin resistance is a common problem among women with PCOS. Not as a direct result of PCOS but rather a side effect of the weight gain that often becomes a part of a cycle. She points out that there are natural supplements like Cinsulin that have been shown to improve insulin regulation and can be taken by people with insulin resistance.
Fertility is another concern among women with PCOS but Dr. Pal points out that the data on what percentage of women with PCOS actually have fertility problems are unclear. However, she had some very practical suggestions for women seeking fertility, including start getting healthy now, especially if you are young and need to lose weight. The first suggestions she has is to lose weight and optimize your vitamin D levels. Little as 5% reduction in weight can make a big difference in hormone levels and insulin regulation. Although having a vitamin D level of 20 is the minimum for bone health and, 30 for general health she recommends levels of 40-45 for women seeking fertility. Another recommendations Dr Pal had was controlling your stress level, which can interrupt mental cycle and ovulation.
The research backed, all natural supplement Pregnitude has been shown to help with fertility in women. It’s made from Myo-inositol which belongs to the vitamin B complex group and a naturally occurring substance produced by the human body from glucose. It has been shown to promote regular ovulation and support regular menstrual cycles.
Listen to the entire radio episode here