Article by Gynaecologist Dr Nitu Bajekal and Nutritionist Rohini Bajekal.
It almost certainly affects someone you know and care for. Despite this, most people have never heard of this common condition. Here are 10 things to know about PCOS:
1. PCOS is the most common hormonal or endocrine disorder with reproductive, metabolic, and psychological consequences. Depending on how hard one looks for the condition, up to 3 in 4 (75%) of those with PCOS remain undiagnosed. Think of PCOS as a close cousin of Type 2 diabetes.
2. To diagnose Polycystic Ovary Syndrome in adults, any two out of three of the criteria below have to be met (Rotterdam criteria).
3. The main driver of PCOS in the majority of people is insulin resistance with diet and lifestyle playing a pivotal role in women who are predisposed to developing the condition.
4. Infrequent periods or missed periods are the most common sign of PCOS (oligomenorrhoea/amenorrhoea) because of anovulation with excess facial/body hair (hirsutism), acne (often adult and/or cystic) and scalp hair loss (alopecia) being the signs of excess androgens (testosterone).
5. Other signs include unwanted weight gain (8 out of 10), insulin resistance, binge eating disorders, sleep disturbances (sleep apnoea, snoring), Acanthosis nigricans (darkened skin: behind the neck, underarms, groin), depression and anxiety.
6. PCOS is the most common cause of infertility because of a failure to release eggs regularly (anovulation) but most women will go on to get pregnant, with lifestyle changes and fertility treatment.
7. PCOS is a chronic condition so while there is no “cure”, making positive lifestyle changes can go a very long way in managing PCOS and its symptoms including insulin resistance, both in the short term and longer term. Lifestyle modifications can tackle the underlying insulin resistance. All national and international guidelines recommend lifestyle and behavioural changes to be the first line of management for PCOS, even before medications and supplements which may have a role to play in individual cases.
8. Here are the six core pillars that everyone should follow if they have PCOS.
9. Consuming minimally processed soya regularly (edamame and mature soya beans, soya milk, tofu and tempeh) has been consistently shown to help with the symptoms of PCOS including weight loss and reduction in waist circumference. Soya helps to counteract hormone disruption and improve many of the metabolic markers (insulin responses, insulin resistance, blood sugar levels and triglycerides) seen in the condition.
10. PCOS can be managed successfully with women living a full and happy life with the help of lifestyle changes with or without medication. Self-care is very important to be able to get control of your PCOS.