Is PCOS Disrupting Your Natural Menstrual Cycle?
Have you experienced missing periods associated with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome? You are not alone! Missed periods, or Amenorrhea, is a very common symptom of PCOS, along with other types of menstrual irregularities. Missing one period is not usually considered a major issue because most women experience that a few times in their lives; however, missing three periods in a one-year span is one of the criteria for diagnosing PCOS. A large number of women actually discover they have PCOS when they seek help for irregular or missing periods. Amenorrhea can be a major concern because absence of menstruation can create infertility issues.3 To avoid future distress it is better to try to correct your Amenorrhea by addressing PCOS and the conditions that influence its severity like Insulin Resistance.
Amenorrhea can be chronic or occur temporarily because of an underlying condition. It is classified as primary or secondary depending on when and how it manifests.
- Primary Amenorrhea: ?This is when menstruation does not commence by age 14 and secondary sex characteristics such as breast development are absent. Girls who develop normally but do not start their period by 16 also have primary amenorrhea.2
- Secondary Amenorrhea: ?The absence of period for three consecutive cycles in a woman who previously menstruated. Women who are on birth control, pregnant, or lactating are excluded from this classification.1
Your menstrual cycle is influenced by many factors, such as stress, diet, lifestyle choices, medications, and underlying conditions such as PCOS. Understanding PCOS and treating this condition can improve menstrual irregularities like Amenorrhea, as well as other symptoms.
Amenorrhea is a common symptom of
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Do you know you are missing your periods? Amenorrhea is a very common symptom of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome that can occur along with other menstrual irregularities.
What is a normal menstrual cycle?
Normal periods might not be part of your experience but it helps to understand a regular cycle to appreciate the impact of PCOS on your menstruation. The female reproductive system, especially in respect to your periods, is very complex, and hormones play a very large role in controlling the various processes. Every single month certain hormones signal one of your ovaries to release an egg for fertilization. These eggs grow in follicles on the ovaries, and as the egg grows the follicle fills up with fluid. When the egg is mature these follicles burst and the fluid drains away. This egg will travel to the uterus through the fallopian tubes. During this process hormones also prepare the uterus by building up the uterine lining for a potential pregnancy. This uterine lining will shed if the egg is not fertilized, thus beginning your period.
What is a PCOS-influenced period?
When a woman has PCOS her menstrual cycle can be disturbed by imbalanced hormones and various menstrual irregularities such as Amenorrhea can occur. With this condition the ovaries do not produce enough hormones to mature the eggs.2 This means the follicles start to grow and fill up with fluid but ultimately when ovulation does not occur (Anovulation) the follicles simply remain as cysts. When ovulation does not occur progesterone is also not produced, which usually contributes to Amenorrhea. PCOS can present with multiple, small fluid-filled ovarian cysts and an excess of androgens (male hormones), both of which make normal periods unlikely.
There are many reasons for this imbalance of hormones, but one condition that can influence PCOS is Insulin Resistance.3 Insulin is a hormone responsible for regulating your metabolism and high levels can affect many systems in the body, including the reproductive and endocrine system in women. Insulin Resistance is a condition that can be managed, which in turn can improve your PCOS symptoms. Amenorrhea is a common PCOS symptom that can be improved, but it also can be caused by other disorders and factors, so it is important to discover its underlying cause to initiate a course of treatment.
Other causes for Amenorrhea can include medications, structural issues in the reproductive system, lifestyle choices, and hormone imbalances. Some possible causes that should be ruled out are:2
- Birth control pills
- Intrauterine devices for contraception
- Low body weight
- Excessive exercise
- Hormonal imbalance
- Thyroid malfunction
- Pituitary tumor
- Premature menopause
- Cancer chemotherapy
- Blood pressure drugs
Risk factors and complications of Amenorrhea
Although most women experience some menstrual fluctuations in the course of their lifetime, if you only have nine periods in a twelve-month time frame then you are considered to suffer from Amenorrhea.3 There are some risk factors that can increase your risk of developing this menstrual irregularity. You could have a family history of Amenorrhea or conditions that cause this symptom to occur such as PCOS. It is important to question the members of your family on both sides to determine if this is the root of the issue. Your lifestyle is also an important influence on the development of Amenorrhea. If you have an eating disorder or exercise compulsively in excess you could start missing periods.2 Many women would be overjoyed not to deal with the monthly inconvenience of having a period unless they are trying to conceive. However, long-term complications of Amenorrhea can include infertility and osteoporosis, which are serious and often heartbreaking situations for women.4 It is better to work toward a regular menstrual cycle as part of an overall healthy body.
Coping with difficult menstrual problems?
Have you always had menstrual irregularities? Do you frequently experience no period at all along with a host of other symptoms? Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome can create a great deal of unpredictability in the menstrual cycle, including Amenorrhea.2 These missing periods attributable to PCOS likely occur due to hormone imbalances caused by high levels of androgens (male hormones). Girls as young as 12 years old can be diagnosed with PCOS, so Amenorrhea is sometimes not the first symptom of PCOS noticed before puberty. If you have PCOS you might realize your menstrual irregularities were present in early teens even if it was not recognized as a symptom at the time.
The main symptom of Amenorrhea is that you miss periods.1 However, Amenorrhea is not a disorder in itself but rather a symptom of an underlying condition, so the symptoms that present can also be associated with the base disorder. In the case of PCOS, absent periods can also be accompanied by:1
- Increased hair growth (hirsutism) or male pattern baldness
- Noticeable weight gain or weight loss
- Milky nipple discharge or breast tenderness
- Vision changes
- Oily skin
- Skin discolorations
What Are the Treatment Options for Missed Periods?
The treatment of Amenorrhea depends entirely on the underlying cause of the symptom. When PCOS causes missed periods there are several viable options for helping to regulate the menstrual cycle, which include hormone-influencing medications and insulin sensitizers that address the Insulin Resistance influence aspect of PCOS. Women with PCOS often consider treatments that reduce their androgen levels as well. It is important to study the benefits, side effects, and drug contradictions of each choice in order to make an educated decision concerning the best option for you
What are the recommended options?
- Oral contraceptives: ?This is a common option used to regulate the menstrual cycle, especially for women also trying to avoid pregnancy. These pills come in a variety of forms that have a combination of hormones, usually estrogen plus progesterone or just progesterone. If you are trying to reduce symptoms other than Amenorrhea, such as hirsutism or acne, then a pill without androgenic properties is the best choice. You should discuss with your doctor exactly what you wish to achieve by taking birth control pills before starting a cycle. Birth control pills are also thought to reduce your risk of certain cancers, like ovarian and endometrial cancer.1
- Metformin: ?Metformin (Glucophage) is a drug that was developed for type-2 diabetics to increase insulin levels while controlling blood sugar. Metformin also seems to help normalize male hormone levels and the menstrual cycle in some women.3
- Fertility treatments: ?Fertility treatments can be used by women who do not want to conceive (and those that do!) to treat PCOS symptoms centered on the menstrual cycle. Fertility drugs are designed to block estrogen, which can make the pituitary gland increase its production of the reproductive hormones FSH and LH. This can “jump start” menstruation and eliminate menstrual irregularities such as missed periods. Obviously, if you do not want to conceive, a method of birth control not contradictory to these drugs should be used to avoid surprises.4
- Male hormone blockers: ?These are sometimes taken in conjunction with oral contraception to reduce distressing PCOS symptoms associated with high levels of androgens. Birth control should be used with these blockers because they can cause birth defects in male fetuses. Some possible choices of male hormone blockers are flutamide, finasteride, and spironolactone.
Control Your PCOS With Natural Remedies
PCOS is a very complicated disorder that can create many different symptoms that in the past have been hard to diagnose and treat. There has been a great deal of research into Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome because it affects so many women (5-10 percent),2 and this research has changed the treatment options available to provide relief for countless women. Understanding the underlying factors of PCOS is crucial to managing the symptoms of the disorder, and there are many natural therapies that can address these factors. Amenorrhea, acne, weight gain, hirsutism, and other symptoms can all be improved with the application of natural treatments. Wonderful results can be seen when management of PCOS includes diet changes, exercise, and nutritional supplements.
What choices can you make to improve your PCOS symptoms? Diet is a crucial consideration when trying to manage PCOS symptoms and address Insulin Resistance problems. Food choices are intimately connected to exactly how much you weigh, and these choices can ultimately correct any excess weight issues as well. When women with PCOS lose weight their hormone levels often return to normal, ovulation is restored, and androgen levels drop, all of which improves the symptoms associated with the disorder.2 A healthy diet for PCOS should include foods that are wholesome and help you maintain blood sugar levels. Fresh vegetables and fruits, lean protein, whole grains, and healthy fats are the key to delicious meals and optimum nutrition.
What other diet factors are PCOS friendly?
There are no set rules for a PCOS diet, but following a few guidelines can improve your symptoms. Try to incorporate these guidelines whenever possible without completely disrupting your lifestyle. Food should be fun and tasty despite diet restrictions!
Some important PCOS diet guidelines are:
- Reduce saturated fats
- Limit dairy products, especially full fat items
- Combine carbohydrates with lean protein each meal or snack
- Spread out meals and snacks evenly throughout the day
- Drink 8 glasses of water per day
- Reduce or eliminate sugar
- Limit alcohol and caffeine
- Avoid artificial sweeteners and preservatives whenever possible
- Choose the best quality foods from reputable stores
Exercise is a wonderful way to feel better and since there are so many options for this activity you will never get bored. Exercise can help you maintain your weight, or lose weight as well as limit the influence of Insulin Resistance on your PCOS. It is always a good idea to consult your doctor before jumping into an exercise regime, especially if you were previously inactive or have other health issues. Take care not to go overboard as well and don’t exercise too strenuously because more than 8 hours of intense exercise can cause Amenorrhea.2 Some wonderful exercise choices include walking, running, swimming, yoga, weightlifting, sports like soccer or tennis, skiing, or even ballroom dancing. Find something you enjoy and get moving!
Many women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome are missing essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and enzymes needed for hormonal health. This lack can be addressed with a great balanced diet but sometimes nutritional supplements 5 are needed to fill in the gaps.5 Taking a few targeted nutritional supplements can go a long way to improving PCOS symptoms in general, as well as problems like amenorrhea and menstrual irregularities.
Nutritional supplements to consider for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and period problems include:
- Stinging Nettle – can help normalize or increase the sex hormones in the body by increasing sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG).5
- Licorice – helps regulate hormones, can reduce androgen levels, and can improve the LH to FSH ratio.
- Chaste Tree Berry – can normalize the hormones important during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle as well as prolactin levels.5
- Flaxseed – helps increase SHBG and assists with metabolizing estrogen in the body.5
- Peony – influences low progesterone, reduces elevated androgens (testosterone), and modulates estrogen and prolactin.
- Magnesium – helps balance blood sugar levels.
- Chromium – Used to regulate blood sugar, cravings, and weight loss.
- Zinc – helps with blood sugar balance and thyroid health.
- Amino acids L-arginine and N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) – help restore ovarian function and improve insulin sensitivity.
- D-chiro-inositol – promotes insulin sensitivity.5
When in doubt it is always good to take a good multi-vitamin to cover your needs.
- Lawrence M Nelson, MD, MBA. Amenorrhea. emedicine health. [Online] 03 14, 2012. [Cited: 07 18, 2012.] http://www.emedicinehealth.com/amenorrhea/page12_em.htm.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. Amenorrhea. Mayo Clinic. [Online] 05 17, 2011. [Cited: 07 18, 2012.] http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/amenorrhea/DS00581.
- Amenorrhea. Medicine Net. [Online] [Cited: 07 18, 2012.] http://www.medicinenet.com/amenorrhea/article.htm.
- Debbie Bridges, MD . Infertility and Reproduction. WebMD. [Online] 03 12, 2010. [Cited: 07 18, 2012.] http://www.webmd.com/infertility-and-reproduction/guide/absence-periods.
- David L. Hoffmann BSc (Hons), MNIMH. Amenorrhea. Healthy.net. [Online] [Cited: 07 18, 2012.] http://www.healthy.net/scr/article.aspx?Id=1180.
The Insulite PCOS System is not intended to be medical treatment, nor is information on this website intended to be a substitute for the advice or care of a health-care practitioner. The Insulite PCOS System is a combination of nutritional supplementation and lifestyle programs intended to help individuals better manage their health and wellbeing. Consult a health-care practitioner before beginning the Insulite PCOS System. Because of ongoing research, clinical experience, and the rapid accumulation of information relating to the subject matter discussed on this website, the website’s users are advised to carefully review and evaluate the information on this website and continue to expand and broaden their knowledge of new information as it becomes available on this website and elsewhere. The use or application of the information contained on this website is at the sole discretion and risk of the user.
Since June 2008, Insulite Laboratories and Insulite Health has supported more than 2.4 million women through the Insulite PCOS System, through this website, through emails providing information and support, through consultations with our Consulting & Advisory Team, through telephone conference calls, through online webinars, through published articles, and most recently, through social media community building and support efforts. Insulite Laboratories and Insulite Health are singularly dedicated to improving the lives of women with PCOS and conditions resulting from Insulin Resistance.