You’ve been experiencing irregular menstrual cycles, noticing some unwanted hair growth on your face, and now acne?! You’ve heard of PCOS before, but now you are wondering, “what are the first signs of PCOS? Could this be what I have?”.
Since PCOS is an umbrella term used to describe a collection of symptoms associated with certain hormone imbalances, your first signs of PCOS could range depending on the imbalance.
Keep in mind that not everyone experiences PCOS the same, and many PCOS symptoms could overlap with other health issues.
Let’s dive into what signs and symptoms can occur with PCOS and what you can do to manage it.
What is PCOS?
PCOS stands for polycystic ovary syndrome. Unlike its name, having cysts on your ovaries doesn’t mean you have PCOS, and not everyone with PCOS has cysts. Polycystic ovary syndrome is actually best defined as androgen excess (aka elevated “male hormone”).
PCOS is a complex endocrine and metabolic condition. It’s a hormonal disorder common among women of reproductive age. There are currently different standards for diagnosing PCOS, but it’s estimated that 15-20% of women have this condition. However, many women end up seeing numerous doctors before they are actually diagnosed.
Many women aren’t aware that there are actually 4 types of PCOS. That’s why PCOS is more of an umbrella term that encompasses these 4 types.
What are the 4 types of PCOS?
- Insulin-resistant PCOS
- Inflammatory PCOS
- Adrenal PCOS
- Pill-induced PCOS
When you are insulin resistant, it means you have too much insulin in your body. These high insulin levels are driving your androgens to increase. 70% of PCOS cases are insulin-resistant PCOS. The good news is that lifestyle modifications can diminish your PCOS and symptoms.
Make sure your doctor is actually testing the correct biological marker. Instead of testing for glucose, doctors should test actual insulin levels.
When you have chronic inflammation, it can signal your ovaries to make too much testosterone (an androgen). This is a contributing factor for every type of PCOS.
Chronic inflammation can occur from constant stress, poor diet, underlying diseases, environmental toxins, and even poor gut health.
In addition to PCOS symptoms, you may also struggle with common chronic inflammatory symptoms like:
- Brain fog
- Extreme Fatigue
- Joint Pain
This type isn’t as common, accounting for about 10% of cases. This is when your adrenal androgens such as DHEAS are elevated. This is mainly caused by constant and abnormally high levels of stress. If you have adrenal PCOS, you will have normal testosterone and androstenedione levels but just elevated DHEAS.
Have you been on the birth control pill for a while and finally decide to come off. But now, are you all of a sudden experiencing the first signs of PCOS? It’s likely that you have “Pill-induced” or “Post-Pill “PCOS.
This is common if you were taking birth control pills like a drospirenone or cyproterone pill (Yaz, Yasmin, Brenda, Diane). When coming off of these pills, it’s common for your androgen hormone levels to rise for a short period of time.
If this happens to you, please know that it’s only temporary and part of drug withdraw for a couple of months. You may want to consider supplementing with zinc, DIM, or licorice for the time being.
If your symptoms still occur after a couple of months, you could have one of the other types of PCOS.
What Are The First Signs of PCOS?
The first signs of PCOS can defer from one woman to the next. The first sign may become apparent at different points depending on the severity of your PCOS and type. However, here are the most common symptoms women struggle with.
Symptoms of PCOS
- Irregular periods
- Heavy periods
- Missed periods
- Excess hair growth (on your face, chin, back, or buttocks)
- Weight gain
- Male features
- Oily skin
- Thinning hair and hair loss from the head
Is PCOS serious?
If you ignore signs of PCOS, it could lead to more serious health issues ranging from type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, issues with the heart and blood vessels, infertility, and uterine cancer.
Can PCOS go away?
PCOS won’t just go away on its own. However, with changes like eating a well-rounded plant-based diet, aerobic exercise, and lifestyle behavior changes, PCOS symptoms can be reduced and even eliminated.
How to Treat the First Signs of PCOS
You want to treat PCOS, not just cover it up, right? The good news is that PCOS symptoms can be significantly managed and even diminished with changes in lifestyle behaviors and supplementation.
If you have insulin-resistant PCOS, you can reverse your insulin resistance with diet, exercise, and supplements, including magnesium and inositol.
Inflammatory PCOS can be managed by finding and avoiding a food sensitivity (like dairy or gluten), fixing any gut issues, or addressing chronic mast cell activation or histamine intolerance. Supplementing with N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) and zinc can help.
Reducing stress is another major factor that can help with symptoms since stress is a main culprit in increasing inflammation, overworking your adrenals, and contributing to your insulin resistance.
Here are some more tips to reduce your PCOS symptoms as soon as you experience your first signs of PCOS.
- Reduce processed foods
- Find out if you have a food sensitivity
- Check for gut issues (SIBO, Candida, Dysbiosis)
- Manage stress (yoga, meditation, breathing exercises)
- Avoid high sugar intake
- Be active (include a variety of workouts)
- Consume whole organic foods, especially cruciferous vegetables
Ready to rid your symptoms at the first signs of PCOS?
Get in contact with Dr. Lisa Ballehr. She is a functional medicine doctor in Mesa, Arizona, that gets to the root cause of your health issues.
Since many first signs of PCOS symptoms could be a result of many underlying factors, she will investigate if you have PCOS in the first place, what type you have, and will help you eliminate your symptoms based on evolutionary functional lab work and analysis.
You don’t have to struggle with PCOS forever. Fill out Dr. Ballehr’s FREE health assessment to get started today.