Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) // The Basics & My Experience

PCOS is more common than you think! Learn how to get your period back without relying on birth control pills.

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Today I’d like to take a break from all things fashion and write about a topic that has personally affected me. I’ll share my experience before and after the diagnosis as well as how I got my period back naturally. Let me stress that this post isn’t written especially for women who are suffering from PCOS, it’s also for teen girls, brothers, husbands, fathers and boyfriends. If you have knowledge in this area, you can offer help to those who need it.

What is PCOS?

  • The cause remains unknown but it’s considered a hormonal issue.
  • PCOS affects approximately 10 million women in the world and it’s a leading cause of female infertility.
  • There’s no cure for PCOS yet but there are medicines and fertility treatments to help reduce symptoms and get women pregnant.
  • The hormones involved in PCOS are:
    • Androgens: Also referred to as “male hormones”, all females make androgens but higher levels are found in women with PCOS. Excess androgens cause acne, unwanted hair (hirsutism: excess hair growth on the face, arms, back, chest, thumbs, toes, or abdomen), thinning hair and irregular periods.
    • Insulin: Allows the body to absorb glucose into the cells for energy but those with PCOS aren’t responsive to insulin. This can cause elevated blood glucose levels, causing the body to make more insulin, which in turn triggers an increased production of androgens.
    • Progesterone: The lack of progesterone leads to irregular periods.
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Source: Verywell

Symptoms

According to PCOS Awareness Association, symptoms may begin to show soon after puberty. But for some, it’ll develop during the later teen years and early adulthood. Women with PCOS usually have irregular or missed periods because of the absence of ovulation.

Besides the symptoms caused by excess androgens, women with PCOS may also experience weight gain, fatigue, infertility, mood changes (i.e. mood swings, depression and anxiety), pelvic pain (may occur with periods/heavy bleeding or when a woman isn’t bleeding), headaches and sleep problems.

What is an ovarian cyst?

  • Cyst is basically a fluid-filled sac that can occur anywhere in the body.
  • The most common ovarian cyst is called a functional cyst and there are two types:
    • Follicular cysts: When an egg doesn’t get released, cysts develop due to the growth of follicle. Usually go away in 1 -3 months.
    • Corpus luteum cysts: Forms when follicle ruptures and releases the egg. When the follicle reseals and fluid starts to buildup, they can enlarge and cause pain, bleeding, or twisting the ovary. Fertility medicines can help promote ovulation but it could increase the chances of developing these type of cysts.
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Source: Jamaica Scientific Research Institute

PCOS diagnosis

Your doctor will ask questions to gather information about your health history (your family’s medical history), some of which include if you’ve experienced irregular/skipped periods, weight changes, hair changes and acne. Then a physical examination (weight and vitals), a number of lab tests (blood sugar and androgen levels) and a sonogram will be carried out to confirm the diagnosis.

Ladies, keep track of your menstrual cycle. The data can help you assess your health, plan your pregnancy and even help doctors with the diagnosis.

The Best Free Menstrual App

Which Period Tracker Is Best For You?

PCOS treatments

  • If you’re not trying to get pregnant, the standard treatment would be birth control pills. They help regulate period, improve excess hair growth and acne (by lowering androgen levels).
  • Metformin is not approved by the FDA but it’s commonly prescribed. It helps to lower elevated blood glucose levels, insulin levels and androgen levels. Women who use metformin may lose weight but it won’t help reduce unwanted excess hair.
  • Clomiphene is another commonly prescribed oral medication used to induce ovulation. Letrozole and gonadotropins (hormonal injection) are other options used for the same purpose.
  • Leading a healthy lifestyle can help overweight women regulate ovulation and periods. For some women it can be difficult because their bodies hold on to fat more easily than others, but achieving a weight loss of 5 – 10% is not impossible.
  • If you suffer from excess hair growth (hirsutism), spironolactone is an anti-androgen drug that is most often used.
  • Some women turn to vitamins, supplements and other complementary treatments. Popular ones include cinnamon, myo-inositol, vitamin D, B complex vitamins and acupuncture.
  • Note that what works for others may not work for you. Try one treatment for a substantial amount of time (3 months at least) and move on if it doesn’t work.
  • Don’t accept your doctor’s prescription without fully understanding the pros and cons. Ask your doctor why the prescribed drug is the best for you and what are the long term side effects. Do some research (please use trusted sites) to see what others have to say about the drug.

My Experience

Things started to change as I inch closer to young adulthood. My period was out of whack: sometimes it comes late, other times I have two periods in one month. I didn’t have cramps in the past but I was hit with the worst cramp on the day my family and I were supposed to fly to Europe for vacation. It was the worst day of my life. I couldn’t stand and I was getting cold sweats from the pain. My parents got me some Panadol and a few hours later, I was fine. There was still pain in my lower abdomen, but I got on the plane and made it to Europe.

Despite all of that, I didn’t go to the doctor. For the next few years, I continue to have really irregular periods and I would have really painful cramps once in a blue moon. And then, my period stopped coming in June 2016 and that went on for 6 months. I went to see a gynecologist at the beginning of 2017 and was diagnosed with PCOS. I was prescribed Yaz and was told to be on it for at least three months. Because I don’t want to rely on birth pills, I stopped taking Yaz after three months but my period didn’t come the next month. So I went back on Yaz but I was determined to find an alternative solution.

 

Based on my research, each woman adopt different set of habits to get their period back on track. However, the three main pillars that really helped are having a whole foods diet, incorporating a regular exercise routine and reducing stress on the body. I eat a whole foods diet during the weekdays but I find that I didn’t incorporate enough healthy fats into my diet. I also exercise 4 – 5 times per week, doing a combination of cardio and Pilates but none of those are low impact exercises. After a month on Yaz, I got off the pill again and decided to increase my intake of healthy fats and incorporate yoga into my exercise routine.

I stuck with the new routine but my period didn’t come for the next two months. So I decided to try herbal supplements. The staff at Green Earth recommended BioCeuticals FemmePlex and I immediately saw results. Although herbal pills aren’t harmful, I wanted to see if I could fix the problem purely through food. My diet is clean (have meat once or twice per week and no dairy) and I’ve increased my intake of healthy fats but the change wasn’t effective, so what am I missing? It turns out that the types of food you eat during your menstrual cycle play a huge role

How I Reversed My PCOS Symptoms With Holistic Practices In 4 Months” by Nicole Granato (Mind Body Green)

Natural Hormone Healing offers a range of recipes that helps balance the hormones.

I found a blogger who wrote a list of foods she ate at different phases of her menstrual cycle and I decided to give it a try. And guess what? I did get my period a month after following her list! Up until this day, my cycle is irregular but at least I got my period back without relying on birth pills or supplements. I couldn’t find the blog that provided me the list but I had it written down in my journal so I’ll share it here.

 

Menstrual Phase (3 – 4 days)

  • Eat low GI foods, foods high in zinc
  • Incorporate sea veggies (i.e. seaweed)
  • Eat more soups and stews, beetroot, mushrooms, kidney beans, black beans
  • Add miso to your diet
  • Have berries and watermelon more often

Follicular Phase (7 – 10 days)

  • Eat more steamed food
  • Load up on broccoli, carrots, zucchini, beans
  • Incorporate oats, rye, whole wheat and nuts into your breakfast
  • Add vinegar, pickles and fermented foods

Ovulatory Phase (3 – 4 days)

  • Load up on high fiber vegetables (have them steamed or raw)
  • Decrease grains
  • Eat more berries and nuts
  • Have some dark chocolate (1 – 2 squares per day is best, not the whole bar)

Luteal Phase (10 – 14 days)

  • Incorporate foods high in Vitamin B, calcium and magnesium
  • High fiber vegetables are still on the menu
  • Add ginger, sweet potatoes, squash and chickpeas to your diet
  • Have apples and dates for snack

In terms of my exercise routine, I still do Pilates, HIIT workouts and yoga but I’ve switched running for more weight lifting sessions. I recently also started meditating and I really enjoy having a calmer mind and body.

I know this is a long post but hopefully some of you will find this useful. Before I go, I’d like to stress that it’s important to educate yourself on PCOS if you have it. Strive for natural remedies and even if it takes a lot of trial and error, it will be worth it. Trust me, your body will thank you. Until then, do your homework, ask questions and be patient.

Take good care of yourself ladies!

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source: http://www.pcosaa.org/pcos-overview/

I Was Wondering About…{Albinisim}

A random encounter in the park sparked my curiosity for individuals with snow white hair and skin.

A few weeks ago, I bumped into two young ladies with albinism at the Royal Park and the first thought I had was “They’re so beautiful!”. I’m not sure when my first encounter with an albino occurred, but I’ve always been fascinated by them. That said, I never find out more about the condition.

But not this time.

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Source: Dailymail.com.uk

What is albinism and what causes it?

Albinism is an inherited condition caused by genetic mutations. Those with albinism possess a mutated gene that produce little to none of the pigment (melanin) that gives human skin, hair and eyes their color. For this reason, albinos tend to have light blue eyes, white hair and light skin. Since melanin is also crucial for the development of optic nerve, most albinos have to live with vision problems throughout their lives.

Now, you may have the perception that all albinos share the same symptoms. But that’s not the case. Albinism occurs on a spectrum and the condition can be mild or severe depending on which genes are mutated.


 

What are the types of albinism?

The two common types of albinism are oculocutaneous albinism (OCA) and ocular albinism (OA). While the former affects the eyes, hair and skin, the latter affects mainly the eyes. That’s why it’s common to see individuals with OA to have similar or slightly lighter hair and skin color compared to other family members.

OCA is inherited in an autosomal recessive manner. This means each unaffected parent (also known as carriers) carries one functional and one non-functional copy of the causative gene. If the couple decides to have a child, there’ll be a 25% chance that the child will be born with albinism, a 50% chance for it to be an unaffected carrier (just like the parents) and a 25% chance of being unaffected nor a carrier.

Below are four sub-types of OCA:

OCA1 – Caused by a defect in the tyrosinase enzyme. The two sub-types of OCA1 are OCA1a and OCA1b.

OCA2 – Most commonly found in Sub-Saharan Africans, African Americans and Native Americans.

OCA3 – Caused by a defect in the TYRP1 gene and those affected usually have reddish-brown skin, reddish hair and hazel or brown eyes.

OCA4 – Commonly found in East Asian descents.

 

For more details, click here.

Unlike OCA, ocular albinism is inherited in an X-linked manner. This is because the mutated gene that causes OA is located on the X chromosome. Males are more likely than females to get OA because they only have one copy of X chromosome in their sex gene. Females with one copy of the mutated gene typically don’t experience vision loss or eye abnormalities. However, they may still experience mild changes in retinal pigmentation.

According to Vision Australia, the common visual defect in OCA and OA include muscular hypoplasia (abnormality in the retina causing decreased clarity of central vision), Nystagmus (rhythmical involuntary to and fro movement of the eyes), photophobia (intolerance to bright light), refractive errors and Strabismus (turned eye).


Rare forms of albinism

  1. Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome (HPS): Has symptoms similar to OCA and those affected also have bowel and bleeding disorders.
  2. Chediak-Higashi Syndrome (CHS): Causes a defect in the LYST gene, which produces a protein called lysosomal trafficking regulator. Since lysosomes use digestive enzymes to break down toxic substances, prevent infections and recycle old cell components, individual with CHS are highly prone to infections.
  3. Griscelli Syndrome (GS): The rarest case of albinism (there have only been 60 known cases since 1978). Individuals with GS suffer from immune and neurological problems which contribute to a life expectancy as short as ten years.

Diagnosis, treatment and support

There are two ways to diagnose albinism. One is through genetic testing (the most accurate form of diagnosis) and the other is through doctor’s evaluation or an electroretinogram test (this measures the response of the light sensitive cells in the eyes). Since albinism is a genetic disorder, treatment is fairly limited. However, preventive measures can be taken to increase these individuals’ quality of life, such as using SPF, covering up while out and about and getting regular eye and skin checkups.

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Various organizations have also been established to provide specific support to those with albinism:

  • Albinism Fellowship of Australia: Main purpose is to provide support, education and fellowship.
  • Vision Australia: Supports education, employment, an active social life and aims to equip individuals with important skills.
  • The Steve Waugh Foundation: Supports individuals between ages 0-25 years through individual grants, research and awareness campaigns.

I hope I’ve covered the questions you might have regarding albinism. Before I go, I’d like to introduce the selective few who flourished in their respective careers.

Edgar & Jonny Winters // Musicians

Shaun Ross // Model

Salum Khalfani Bar’wani // Tanzania politician

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She’s the world’s first model with albinism.

Connie Chiu // Model & Singer

 

Michael Bowman // Actor

Stephen Thompson// Model

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References
http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/albinism/basics/definition/con-20029935
https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001479.htm
http://www.albinism.org/site/c.flKYIdOUIhJ4H/b.9253761/k.24EE/Information_Bulletin__What_is_Albinism.htm
http://www.visionaustralia.org/docs/default-source/eye-health/Fact-sheets/albinism-factsheet_v2_web-(accessible).pdf?sfvrsn=0
https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/gene/LYST
http://www.healthline.com/health/albinism#symptoms5
http://famewatcher.com/celebrity-albinos-famous-people-albinism.html
http://albinismaustralia.org/
http://www.visionaustralia.org/
https://www.stevewaughfoundation.com.au/