Polycystic ovarian syndrome ( PCOS ) is most common hormone abnormality of reproductive aged women. It is characterised by menstrual cycle abnormalities, excess male hormone (androgen) levels, excess hair growth, scalp hair loss, acne, and obesity. 

PCOS is the most common cause of infertility in women - because it can prevent ovulation.

Causes of PCOS

The exact cause is unknown but PCOS likely results from a combination of factors, including genes and environmental factors.

Here are some factors that may contribute to or increase your risk for the PCOS:

1. Hereditary - Females who have a mother or sister with PCOS are more likely to develop PCOS than someone whose relatives do not have the condition. 

2. Certain Changes In Utero - Pregnant women with PCOS had an average 30% higher level of anti-mullerian hormone than those without PCOS. Anti-Mullerian hormone triggers the brain to release testosterone, which sets off a domino effect of hormonal imbalance that ultimately impacts the reproductive process.

3. Stress - In response to stress, the pituitary gland stimulated by the brain via the hypothalamus, secretes adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). ACTH then stimulates the adrenal glands to produce cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. In addition to these ACTH also stimulates the production of adrenal androgen hormones, including DHEA, DHEA-S, and androstenedione. DHEA functions as a precursor (Precursors are substances that are converted by the body into a hormone) to male and female sex hormones, including testosterone and estrogen. 

4. Insulin resistance - Insulin resistance means that body is less able to send enough glucose to the cells needing fuel throughout the body. The pancreas makes more insulin to compensate. Extra insulin triggers the ovaries to produce more male hormones. These  higher levels of androgens are interfere with normal ovulation, it will cause irregular periods or amenorrhea (the absence of menstrual cycles), infertility, and development of ovarian cysts for many but not all women, with PCOS. Obesity  is a major cause of insulin resistance.

Sign and Symptoms   

  • Irregular periods or no periods at all
  • Excessive hair growth (hirsutism) – usually on the face, chest, back  
  • Weight gain
  • Thinning hair and hair loss from the head
  • Acne and oily skin
  • Difficulty getting pregnant (because of irregular ovulation or failure to ovulate)
  • Mood disorder- anxiety, depression, poor body image, and even eating disorders
  • Tiredness and low energy, sleep apnea, insomnia

List of Foods to Eat & Avoid if you have PCOS

Foods to eat:

  • Natural, unprocessed foods
  • High-fiber foods
  • Fatty fish, including salmon, tuna, sardines
  • Avocados, coconut, dark red fruits, such as red grapes, blueberries, blackberries, cherries, and strawberries
  • Broccoli, cauliflower, tomato, spinach, pumpkin
  • Dried beans, lentils, and other legumes
  • Olive oil 
  • Nuts, including pine nuts, walnuts, almonds, and pistachios
  • Dark chocolate in moderation
  • Spices, such as turmeric and cinnamon

Foods to avoid:

  • Pastries and white bread
  • Fried foods, such as fast food
  • Sugary beverages, such as sodas and energy drinks
  • Sugary desserts
  • Pasta/ noodles  
  • Excess red meat