About one-third of women who are of reproductive age worldwide are diagnosed with PCOS. And there is a good percentage of women who experience PCOS symptoms yet are misdiagnosed or undiagnosed because they do not report these symptoms to the doctor. Common PCOS symptoms include:
- Irregular periods or heavy periods
- Hair thinning
- Hirsutism or excess facial hair
- Unexplained weight gain
There are many questions which revolve around PCOS- PCOS causes, PCOS symptoms and PCOS treatment. Arising from these questions are tons of answers and ideas floating over the internet, some of which are myths while some are facts indeed.
To make life easier for those with PCOS or for those who are curious about the disorder, we have compiled this guide and debunked the myths from the facts. Once a person suffering from PCOS gets a clearer idea about the facts, the PCOS treatment prescribed by the concerned gynaecologist becomes much easier to follow to achieve positive results. So if you are looking out for how to cure PCOS permanently, you have arrived at the right place!
MYTHS vs FACTS
Myth: PCOS is a lifestyle disorder caused by unhealthy eating habits and no physical activity.
Fact: Please don’t blame yourself for getting PCOS. While genetics may play a role in you acquiring the disease, as PCOS has been observed to run in the family's women (mother and sisters), the disorder itself is definitely not caused by your lifestyle. However, it is important to note that a poor and sedentary lifestyle and consumption of inflammatory foods may aggravate the PCOS symptoms and make it difficult for your body to respond to the prescribed PCOS treatment and restore the natural balance of hormones.
Fact: This is far from the truth. In fact, only 50% of women diagnosed with PCOS are reported to be obese. PCOS patients also fall in the normal weight category and experience other PCOS symptoms such as acne, hirsutism, irregular cycles, and anovulation (a condition when the ovaries do not produce eggs regularly).
Myth: Women with PCOS will not be able to conceive.
Fact: While it is true that anovulation is a PCOS symptom of 75% of diagnosed women, with the help of proper diagnosis and an effective PCOS treatment, most women with PCOS conceive either spontaneously or with the use of medications that induce egg release. A small percentage of PCOS patients who do not respond to these treatments opt for advanced treatment using technologies like IVF (in-vitro fertilisation) and/or IUF (intra-uterine fertilization).
Fact: While unwanted facial hair is a common PCOS symptom, it is not necessary to diagnose PCOS. This facial hair is common in areas such as the chin, upper lip and chest. However, not all women with PCOS experience this PCOS symptom. Some women have excess facial hair purely due to their ethnicity, and not PCOS. Other hormonal disorders like thyroid disorders and pituitary disorders can also cause hirsutism.
Myth: Having an irregular menstrual cycle means you have PCOS.
Fact: Indeed, irregular periods are one of the PCOS symptoms that provoke doctors to suspect PCOS; it is not necessarily an indicator of PCOS. Irregular periods can also be caused due to a variety of other reasons such as extreme weight loss, uterine fibroids, pelvic inflammatory disease, thyroid disorders and breastfeeding. To determine the exact cause of your irregular periods and rule out all these other causes, it is important to consult an OB/GYN, who will study your case and perform the relevant diagnostic tests.
Fact: Unfortunately, PCOS is one of those diseases in the world without a cure. Those diagnosed with PCOS are prescribed a comprehensive PCOS treatment, including medications and recommended lifestyle changes to manage PCOS symptoms. Lifestyle changes include healthy eating habits, avoiding junk foods that trigger insulin resistance, and avoiding inflammatory foods to heal the gut and regulate hormones. While a combination of medications can be used to boost your body’s slow metabolism, control weight, manage acne and hirsutism and balance your hormones. These PCOS treatments can help you on your PCOS journey and lead a healthier, balanced life. In fact, losing 2-5% of your body weight helps decrease testosterone levels by 21% and helps resume regular ovulation in your ovaries.
Other lifestyle modifications which are an essential part of PCOS treatment include getting adequate sleep of at least 8 hours a day, avoiding alcohol, smoking and reducing stress.
Myth: All women with PCOS have polycystic ovaries.
Fact: This is not true of all women. For a woman to be confirmed with a diagnosis of PCOS, any two of the three criteria mentioned below should be met:
Anovulatory infertility decreased flow during menses, excess facial hair, and polycystic ovaries on ultrasound.
Therefore, polycystic ovaries are not a mandatory PCOS symptom.
Fact: While searching ‘how to cure PCOS permanently’, many arrive at a conclusion to lose weight. While it is far from the truth, those women suffering from PCOS also know how difficult it is to lose weight for their bodies. This is because insulin resistance is observed as a PCOS symptom in most PCOS women, as a result of which the body’s metabolism is slowed down, and fat loss becomes slower, more time-consuming and harder process than most other women. To boost fat metabolism in women with PCOS, many expert nutritionists advocate intermittent fasting and a diet rich in fats (such as ghee, butter, and coconut oil) and protein but low in carbohydrates. The use of butter coffee (popularly known as bulletproof coffee) is said to have shown immensely great results in many women with PCOS symptoms.
In addition to diet, a moderate exercise routine, including cardiovascular exercises and bodyweight exercises, has improved the function of insulin in women who suffer from insulin resistance as a PCOS symptom. A combination of strength and interval training has led to considerable fat loss in women with PCOS.
Myth: Insulin Resistance causes PCOS women to gain weight
Fact: In reality, experts are yet to determine the exact correlation between PCOS and women being overweight. On the contrary, the PCOS symptom of weight gain can result in insulin resistance, but insulin resistance does not cause weight gain.
Myth: You will know when you have PCOS.
Fact: While women with PCOS experience PCOS symptoms like acne, irregular periods, and mood swings, these sets of symptoms can also be caused by stress. This is why a whopping 50%-70% of women with PCOS remain undiagnosed. Also, many women with PCOS are asymptomatic and don’t experience any obvious PCOS symptoms.
Myth: If you are not planning to conceive, you don’t need to worry about PCOS and leave it untreated.
Fact: The harsh truth is that PCOS patients are prone to long-term consequences such as an increased risk of diabetes mellitus, increased risk of glucose intolerance, increased risk of hypertension, lipid abnormalities, cardiovascular disease and endometrial carcinoma.
Therefore, undoubtedly, medical intervention is required, and one needs to consult an OB/GYN to get the recommended PCOS treatment based on their PCOS symptoms.
Myth: Birth control pills are the first step of PCOS treatment for every woman with PCOS.
Fact: Although hormonal birth control pills are commonly used to treat irregular menstruation cycles in PCOS patients, this is a temporary PCOS treatment and does not offer a long-term solution. Quite obviously, using birth control pills is not part of PCOS treatment for those women who wish to conceive. A more holistic approach and PCOS treatment plan are required to manage PCOS symptoms better, using a combination of drugs and lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise.
An anti-inflammatory diet is being tried and tested by many PCOS patients in their search for how to cure PCOS permanently. The diet consists of using anti-inflammatory foods such as fruits like grapefruit, mangoes, peaches, pomegranates, blueberries, bananas and apples. Dried fruits such as nuts and plums, vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower, fatty fish rich in Omega-3, whole grains such as oats, brown rice, barley and wholemeal bread, coffee, green tea, dark chocolate and seeds such as chia and flax seeds. As per research, these foods cause an anti-inflammatory effect on our gut, restoring metabolic effects of PCOS and thus preventing or limiting the onset of PCOS symptoms.
Myth: As long as you’re taking proper medication, you don’t need to aim for weight loss to manage PCOS.
Fact: While modern medicine or PCOS treatment addresses the immediate PCOS symptoms you are experiencing, adequate weight loss helps tackle the long-term consequences of PCOS. Therefore, always make sure to consult an expert nutritionist who specialises in metabolic disorders such as PCOS to help you lose weight in a sustainable and easier manner.
Stress plays an important role in PCOS. While initially, you may feel you are doomed for eternity and that your PCOS symptoms are here to stay, thinking positive is the first step toward the right PCOS treatment. Keep stress at bay to keep your PCOS symptoms away!Also read What Is PCOS? How To Cure PCOS Naturally?
Authored By: Divya Shankar
About Author: Divya Shankar is a multifaceted content writer with 7+ years of experience. She has exclusive writing expertise in ayurveda.