When I was diagnosed with PCOS, I distinctly remember not getting a clear answer to the question, “What is the cause of my PCOS?” until I went to a naturopathic doctor who did some blood work and dove deep into it.
PCOS is a syndrome with a few common symptoms, but the cause of them are different for every woman. Some cysters, women with PCOS, may have irregular periods or be lean while other cysters have regular periods are struggle with uncontrollable weight gain. PCOS looks different on everyone, so what works for one cyster might or might not work for another.
The most minor amount of excess stress hormones or the slightest bit of insulin resistance can be attributed to symptoms like irregular periods and anovulation. The good news is, you can totally reverse it. The secret is to figure out which hormones are high and how to reverse it in the first place.
What causes PCOS?
You don’t need to have ovarian cysts to have PCOS, even though it’s in the name. Cysts are simply a symptom of the hormonal and metabolic storm we call PCOS. They are egg follicles that weren’t released when ovulation was meant to happen. Rather, they remain ‘stuck’ on the ovary and appear as cysts. Sometimes they rupture, like mine, and send you screaming straight to the hospital.
In order to have PCOS you need to have high levels of androgens, like testosterone or DHEAS. These PCOS genes can turn on and off by environmental factors, which means that we need to find what these factors are to treat the root cause of PCOS.
What are the root causes of PCOS?
Remember, you can have multiple types of PCOS. Also, if one type goes untreated, it can lead to the manifestation of other types of PCOS. It’s best to treat them as soon as you learn what type you might be, even if you are on birth control.
Insulin resistance is found in 70% of women with PCOS. Insulin is a hormone that stores sugar in our cells to be burned for energy later. When our cells are resistant to it, insulin floats around in our blood stream and stimulates androgens such as high testosterone. Not to mention it reduces Sex Hormone Binding Globulin which is the sponge for excess hormones.
You may have heard about insulin resistance, or were given metformin and told to go on an extremely low carb diet. There are many ways to treat insulin resistance, and one approach is to try going gluten and dairy free- two foods that highly spike insulin levels or take Ovasitol, a supplement that helps heal insulin resistance.
Inflammation is a type of PCOS that most cysters have, and it occurs when your immune system is chronically activated. Studies show that inflammation can lead to insulin resistance. Inflammation can be triggered by inflammatory foods, like sugar, gluten or dairy, It can also be triggered by high stress hormones, environmental toxins, and poor gut health. Inflammation has been shown to increase androgens and stop ovulation even without insulin resistance.
Adrenal fatigue is the third most common cause of PCOS. Stress relates to both physical stress, like too much exercise, or psychological stress, like going through a difficult time in your life. With a lack of self care, stress can spiral and deteriorate our health. The brain stimulates the adrenal glands to produce stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol to fight or flee the situation. At the same time, the brain also produces androgens like DHEA-S and androstenedione. Our body is unable to make the hormones necessary to have proper metabolic function or menstruation, and we may find that our period is irregular, we’re gaining weight, we feel fatigued and our hair and skin health suffers.
Thyroid disorder is another root cause of PCOS. Oftentimes this is seen with a combination of the other types of PCOS. The thyroid weakens as our body is undergoing insulin resistance or chronic inflammation and many symptoms of thyroid disorder are similar to those of PCOS. It is important to get a full thyroid panel in order to rule this out when searching for the root cause of your PCOS.
What should I do now?
Now that you understand the different types of PCOS, you’re probably wondering what type you may have. Symptoms are a good indicator of PCOS but of course a blood test is necessary to be absolutely sure. You should try to get everything tested to make sure that nothing is missed.
Want to get started today? Take our short interactive quiz to find out what your PCOS type might be and take your next steps!