Hormones, Menstruation, PCOS, Reproductive Health

Healthy Happy Hormones: All About PCOS – Part 1

So Aunt Flo doesn’t always visit… and although you hardly ever miss her, her sporadic visits or lack-of can get downright annoying and worrisome after a while.

A woman’s body is naturally programmed to release an egg month after month. If this egg is not reunited with its pal, the sperm, then lovely Aunt Flo comes to visit instead. However, poor diet, toxins, and stress can cause traffic jams preventing Aunt Flo from making her planned visit. This type of hold-up can lead to reproductive issues like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, commonly known as PCOS.

This condition is a prominent hormone dysfunction that affects many women of reproductive age. In fact, statistics show that 1 in 10 women have PCOS in North America. (1) Should our health habits not change on a collective level, this number will undoubtedly increase in time.

What is PCOS?

PCOS is when numerous fluid-filled cysts develop on one or both ovaries and male hormones, called androgens, are disproportionately higher than normal (yes, we ladies have male hormones too).

While PCOS sucks, its symptoms aren’t so great either (in case you haven’t already noticed). Symptoms of PCOS include acne/oily skin, weight gain, male pattern hair growth (aka hirsutism), lower abdominal pain, irregular periods and infertility. Overall, its symptoms can leave you feeling pretty crappy and unattractive. (Who wants to be the overweight bearded lady who can’t have kids, right?)

However, PCOS can be a blessing in disguise. It’s your body telling you that something needs to change. It could be that your diet, your toxic environment or how you handle stress just isn’t working for you anymore. Knowing this, YOU have the power to dig deeper and use your PCOS diagnosis as a reason to improve your health.

The 4 Types of PCOS

As per Lara Briden, naturopathic doctor and author of Period Repair Manual, there are 4 types of PCOS. These are important to know because each type is caused by different factors. In order to properly treat your condition, it’s important to know which category you fall under. So here’s a brief summary of each and see which one best resonates with you.

1) Insulin-Resistant (Poor Blood Sugar Management) PCOS

This type of PCOS is by far the most common. Poor blood sugar management causes it. Women who consume a diet high in sugar and processed foods are prone to blood sugar issues. However, if sugar and processed foods aren’t really your forte, you’re not entirely in the clear for this one. Poor sleeping patterns, lack of exercise, and an unresolved magnesium deficiency can also contribute to blood sugar problems.

2) Pill-Induced PCOS or Post-Pill PCOS

The second most common type of PCOS is Pill-Induced or Post Pill PCOS. This is when a woman stops taking the Birth Control Pill (BCP) and later gets diagnosed with PCOS. Although this type of PCOS is not often recognized by the medical industry, it very much exists according to Dr. Briden. This makes total sense –if you really think about it. The pill alters the body’s original hormone levels in order to suppress ovulation… and when the body tries to bounce back, its hormones get out of whack. Surprised? Not really.

3) Inflammatory PCOS

Now this one can definitely overlap with some of the other types of PCOS and is also pretty common from what I’ve seen in practice. Inflammatory PCOS is caused by chronic inflammation. This means long-standing inflammation that’s causing continuous stress on the body. Unaddressed food sensitivities, food/environmental toxin exposure, and everyday stress are common causes for such inflammation.

4) Hidden-Cause PCOS

If none of the above categories applies, then it means there’s another less obvious cause behind the PCOS. It could be something as simple as consuming too much soy – which can mess up estrogen levels in the body. However, working with your alternative health practitioner is the best way to figure this one out. (2)

Now that you’ve read the summaries for each type of PCOS, which one(s) resonate with YOU the most? Are you consuming a diet high in sugar and processed foods? Have you ever taken the Birth Control Pill? Do you have any food sensitivities, like gluten intolerance? Hmmm.

This is all definitely food for thought. Stay tuned – and next time I’ll let you know what YOU can do to treat your PCOS and improve your health once and for all.

Much Love,

Ariane ‘xo

References:

(1) www.pcosfoundation.org

(2) www.larabriden.com

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Healthy Happy Hormones: The Basics of Your Menstrual Cycle

Ladies, it’s time to get on board with reproductive health and start taking better care of your baby-making system!

Why, you ask? Well for one – without it, you wouldn’t be the AMAZING woman that you are, and two – problems with it can lead to various health issues you’d wish you’d never have to deal with in the first place. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and Endometriosis are just a few examples.

So, to help you begin your journey to optimal reproductive health – the first thing you need to know is how the heck your menstrual cycle actually works! Only then can you truly take the necessary steps to bring your hormones, ovaries and other bits back into a healthy happy groove.

Here’s the low-down.

A woman is actually born with a lifetime of eggs stored in her ovaries. Once she hits puberty, one of her eggs (or sometimes more) is released each month until she hits menopause. At menopause, her ability to reproduce ends. On average, a women with a healthy reproductive system will release up to 500 eggs throughout her lifetime! (How CRAZY AWESOME is that?!)

The process to release an egg every month is typically a 28 day cycle, but can vary by a few days from woman to woman. This process is called a menstrual cycle.

There are 4 phases in a woman’s menstrual cycle.

  • Menstruation: If the egg has not been fertilized, the lining of the uterus is shed which results in a period. This is the beginning phase of the cycle, starting on day 1 of 28.
  • Follicular Phase: In this second phase, a hormone called Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) is released by the pituitary gland and prods the ovaries to produce a dozen or more follicles, each containing an immature unfertilized egg. Only 1 immature egg makes it to full maturity. Assuming the menstruation cycle is 28 days, maturity of the egg usually occurs around day 10. This results in the thickening of the uterine lining in preparation for possible fertilization (once the egg is released).
  • Ovulation: This usually occurs around day 14 of a 28 day menstrual cycle (usually 2 weeks before the next menstruation). A woman is most fertile during this time and may experience physical signs such as lower abdominal pain, mucous-like vaginal discharge, and a slight increase in body temperature. At this point, a spike in estrogen is prompted by the matured follicle. This leads the hypothalamus to release a hormone called Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone (GnRH), which stimulates the pituitary gland to start producing luteinising hormone (LH) and FSH. The increase in LH activates ovulation within the next few days. The egg is then released into the fallopian tube towards the uterus. If the egg is not fertilized within that next 24 hours, it simply dies.
  • Luteal Phase: This is the final phase of the cycle. The follicle (which originally housed all the immature eggs) turns into what is called a ‘corpus luteum’. This particular structure makes a hormone called progesterone when fertilization occurs. However, if fertilization does not take place – the lack of progesterone prompts the uterine lining to start shedding, which leads to menstruation…. and the cycle begins all over again.

Although a menstruation cycle may vary in length from woman to woman, the phases remain the same for all. If hormone levels start to change and fall out of sync with other hormones involved, possible problems with the reproductive system can start arising.

So now that you know the basics of your menstrual cycle – it’s time to go a little deeper on the subject of reproductive health. Within the next few weeks, we’ll review the possible problems that can occur if your hormones are not in check and what you can do to get them back on track.

Stay tuned for more coming soon. In the meantime, ♥ your ovaries baby!

Much Love,

Ariane ‘xo

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