I mentioned not too long ago that I never really address PCOS in my posts although it was one of the main reasons I started this journey. I thought it was about time I talked about it, how it's affected my life and how things have changed since I started trying to lose weight.
First of all let's start with what is PCOS?
PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and according to some studies it affects 5-10% of American women.
The Paleo Diet book actually gives a really nice description:
"Women with PCOS ovulate irregularly or not at all, and their ovaries produce high levels of male hormones such as testosterone. Women with PCOS are prone to obesity, excessive body hair, acne, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. They also have seven times greater risk of heart disease and heart attack than other women do... "
Growing up if I had a period twice a year that was a lot. I started growing facial hair soon after middle school/early high school. I soon after started getting this advanced (and incredibly painful) case of acne, which is it's own diagnosis. I am a pre-diabetic and of course my weight had been rising steadily for years.
So after years of random answers to all these questions, when I was diagnosed with PCOS everything finally made sense.... and scared me.
I learned the real name for my skin problem and PCOS together and BOTH symptoms pretty much said that one of the main causes for it was my weight. Pretty much if I were able to lose weight my symptoms would lessen or go away completely.
I learned about my conditions in October 2009. I started this blog December 2009. It took me two months to finally get the guts and strength to really start. I'm still working on it now.
Once I started really losing weight I noticed changes almost instantly. The first thing I noticed was that my periods started coming back. Believe me that when this happened it was a bitter-sweet feeling. Partly I knew it was a good thing knowing my body was regulating itself the way it should. I was UN-happy because it felt like I was learning how to deal with a period all over again. I simply wasn't used to dealing with pads, tampons, bloating and cramps on a monthly basis. Bleh~ LOL
As for the excessive body hair I was already hairy. I'm a hairy person. I have accepted that about myself. The only things that really killed me were that now I was growing hair in places a girl shouldn't. Places like; face, back, chest and worst of all I was losing the hair on top of my head! It's horrible seeing hair grow where it shouldn't and seeing my hair thin out like a man going through male pattern baldness. Sadly not much has changed in that department except that my hair seems to have slowed down, both the top of my head isn't losing as much hair at such accelerated rates and my body hair is ..well just there. No thicker or thinner than before. I've learned to deal with it.
Acne. This is the biggest difference. I have a case of acne that has a name so long I could never remember it. It pretty much has to do with the fact that I don't sweat well and that areas that are moist all the time like arm pits or rubbing inner thighs are prone to infection. It's incredibly gross and worst of all PAINFUL because the bacteria grows under your skin until it breaks open and oozes out. I have scars of the many years I've been dealing with that shit. Now that I've lost a considerable amount of weight my acne has stopped. Every once in a while I get some pimples. But that's just it. Just pimples. The same size as a zit in your face. That's absolutely nothing! You have no idea how HAPPY I've been with this improvement. If nothing else remembering the pain I was in with my acne, and how it limited my movements even, remembering that has helped motivate me to never go back to the weight I was before.
As for diabetes. My mother is a diabetic and the last time I checked I was pre-diabetic. Now my doctors have told me that being "pre-diabetic" is not a diagnosis it just means I'm at a VERY HIGH risk of getting diabetes. My sugar levels were dangerously high but not too high to be full diabetes. When I eat something too sweet I get major headaches. I also, rarely, feel shaky when I don't eat. Once I started losing weight my sugar levels have been pretty normal but I'm still at high risk. I have to remember that when my sweet tooth turns on and I over-indulge in sugary treats.
Since I started I've been getting yearly physicals to make sure things are ok and adjust if anything seems wonky.
As for heart disease. It's nothing new. Heart disease runs in both sides of my family. Both of my grandfathers died of heart attacks. I know that chances are heart failure would likely be a high probability of my demise. I still haven't felt many symptoms of heart problems and as far as I can tell I haven't had high blood pressure problems. I'm not going to wait for that to show up before trying to prevent it though. I've learned my lesson in letting things slide.
PCOS isn't too uncommon. But it can be dealt with. I'm proof that losing weight, although it's hard, greatly improves things.
I am still taking medication for my hormone imbalance and antibiotics for my skin. I'm waiting for the day when I can chuck the pills and instead would only reach for a pill bottle in the rare occasions when my crazy physical activities lead me to the advil. That's it.
Has anyone else experienced PCOS symptoms? If you think you may have PCOS I suggest you talk to your doctors and mention it. You never know. It might change your life.
It did mine.