Many women silently suffer with polycystic ovarian syndrome because they think because their symptoms are common, that also means they are normal. It’s estimated that 6-21% of women of reproductive age have PCOS and that 50% of them aren’t properly diagnosed. (1) Not only does this mean that women are suffering, but it also means their health is in danger. PCOS is linked to an increased risk of infertility, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and more. Hormone imbalances can contribute to a wide variety of conditions because they are connected to every system in your body. It’s important to identify symptoms of PCOS.
PCOS and Hormone Imbalance
That’s what PCOS is. It’s a hormone imbalance. Many people think of cysts first because it’s right there in the name, but it’s not about the cysts. It’s about the hormones needed to make sure your body develops the follicle into an egg that releases properly. If you have low hormones, or none at all, your body isn’t going to be able to do this. Hormones are a way of communicating with the brain. As the egg develops, estradiol continues to rise until it alerts the brain that it’s time to ovulate. If estradiol is low, or high all the time, then the brain doesn’t know what to do. So, you might not ovulate, and if you do, it might be before the egg is fully developed. If the developed egg isn’t released, it can lead to cysts. It’s important to note that not all women get cysts.
Your hormones are always transitioning. It’s part of your cycle. When your hormones aren’t balanced it can leave you with symptoms that you might not recognize as being related to hormones. Those are the silent symptoms of PCOS that can leave you very sick. Every individual will have different symptoms manifest in the body, so if you have any of these make sure to get your hormones fully tested. All of your hormones! Many people still think that estrogen is just one hormone when actually it is an umbrella term for many. There is a lot of misconception around hormones because doctors will only test for hormones that have a drug to “fix” them. So, if you have these signs make sure you are being fully tested!
9 Symptoms of PCOS and Hormonal Imbalance
1 – Your Sex Drive is Higher than Your Guy’s
Ladies, this is a sure sign that something is wrong with your hormones (or maybe his). If you have a high sex drive all the time, that means your hormones are imbalanced. Women aren’t supposed to have a high sex drive every week of the month. Your hormones are supposed to change, or cycle!
2 – Feeling Fatigue
Sleep problems, including sleep apnea, are common in women with PCOS. If you are having trouble sleeping at night, or having trouble staying awake during the day, you might have PCOS. Hormone imbalance can set off a vicious cycle because lack of sleep can further mess with your hormones.
3 – Unexpected Hair Growth on Places Like Your Nipples
Ovaries usually produce small amounts of androgens, or male hormones, but some women with PCOS may experience higher levels. These higher levels can lead to hair growth in places women don’t expect it. Like the nipples, lip, chin, abdomen, and inner thighs.
4 – Your Period is MIA or Irregular
If your brain doesn’t know when to release the egg because of a hormonal imbalance, it won’t know when to shed the uterine lining either. If you haven’t had a period in a while, or it is MIA altogether, you need to get your hormones tested.
5 – You Have Really Heavy Periods
If you have infrequent periods, but your uterine lining is still building between periods, it can lead to very heavy and painful periods.
6 – Your Pants Are Tight Around the Waist
Have you noticed some weight gain? Imbalanced hormones can lead to insulin resistance and then insulin resistance can lead to weight gain. Insulin is the hormone that tells your body what to do with the sugar in your blood. 50-70% of women with PCOS have insulin resistance. If you are having problems losing weight, it might be your hormones.
Dr. Jason talks about what insulin resistance is in this short video:
7 – You’re Spending Time Trying to Hide Acne
High levels of androgens can also lead to increased acne. You weren’t expecting that cyst to show up on your face, but there it is. A warning that there may be an underlying hormonal problem like PCOS.
8 – The Big One is Cysts or Infertility
Many women with PCOS experience cysts or infertility. In fact, approximately 70-80% of women with PCOS experience infertility. (2) Each case of PCOS is unique and it’s important not to just follow a standard process. You need to find out how your body is responding to the hormonal imbalance.
Anxious, Depressed or Just Feeling Yucky
Well, if you haven’t been sleeping well and have heavy periods, you have a good reason to feel yucky. Anxiousness, depression, and other mood changes are closely tied to hormonal imbalances, like PCOS, because our hormones dictate so much of who we are.
What Can Contribute to PCOS and Hormonal Imbalance?
- Mental Stress: Mental stress is the biggest contributor to why transitional hormones are out of control today. Women need to find ways to reduce their mental stress to support their hormones.
- Endocrine Disruptors: These are chemicals that mess with your endocrine system and hormones. (3) They can be found in your shampoo, pans, laundry soap and other things you use every day. Many are found in chemical-laden products we use, but they aren’t all man-made. Soy is one too.
- Birth Control Pills: This is such a big endocrine disruptor that it deserves its own spot on the list. Hormonal birth control works by disrupting your hormones and can cause so many problems. Don’t use birth control pills!
- Inflammation: It’s hard for your hormones to transition properly with chronic inflammation. Inflammation can be caused by inflammatory foods and allergies. Be sure to get your food allergies tested and avoid inflammatory foods.
Are You Experiencing Symptoms of PCOS, or Hormonal Imbalance?
The first step is to get the big picture of how your female cycle is transitioning through the month. The only way to do this is to get tested, and work with a proficient provider. Some women with PCOS have high testosterone, but that’s not always the case. Some people have more pronounced symptoms than others, but all can be at increased risk for infertility, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and more. There is no magic drug, or herb, that will help everyone. Every individual is unique. Testing is the only way to take control of your hormonal health and you need to be sure you are being properly tested. You don’t have to suffer with the silent symptoms of PCOS.
Written by Dr. Patrick Flynn
Want to hear more about PCOS? Check out Dr. Patrick Flynn’s video: