PCOS: How to explain what you are going through to those you love

As I work through PCOS and Insulin Resistance, my hope is that along with sharing my journey, I can compile some of the best articles I find to make my blog a one stop shop for others looking for comprehensive info on PCOS, IR, and healthy living.

I don’t know about you, but I feel like PCOS has caused such a big lifestyle change, I am constantly trying to explain what is going on with me. Typically, I explain it in a way that my body takes carbs, turns them into fat, and then stores them for longer periods of time than other people. If we were in a zombie apocalypse and food was scare, I would be set. But as a 30-something woman living in LA, fat storage is not nearly as desireable.

Here is an amazing article from one of my favorite resources, PCOS Diet Support. This POV is for your partner, family and significant other. Here is an explanation of PCOS for our partners and significant others..something that makes PCOS easy to understand.

WHAT IS PCOS?

I have PCOS or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. I know that you think of it as “woman issues” but it’s important that you know what is happening with me and my body because it affects both of us and I’m really going to need your help in coming to terms with it, living with it and getting it under control.

So, I do have “woman issues”. Basically I don’t ovulate every month, which means that my cycle is very irregular. I also might have some cysts on or in my ovaries. The biggest thing, though, is that I don’t process carbohydrates properly and my body is over sensitive to insulin. This means that I produce too much insulin for the carbs that I eat. The insulin also makes my ovaries release too much testosterone (all women produce testosterone – I just have too much of it).

PCOS is pretty common. Every 1 in 10 women have it so I’m not abnormal or alone in it.

THE SYMPTOMS

The symptoms of PCOS are pretty rough for me to deal with and can make me feel unattractive. I sometimes struggle with my weight. It’s not for lack of trying, I promise! All of that insulin quickly stores my carbs as fat and makes it difficult for me to lose it.

I have hair where I really don’t want hair and I may lose some of my hair on my head. I also may have bad skin (think teenage boy acne). It’s that darn testosterone.

One of the hardest things about PCOS is that having babies might be a struggle. It’s not impossible by any means but might take longer than we’d like.

WHAT I NEED TO DO FOR ME

PCOS is not a death sentence and I’ve made a decision that although I have PCOS, it doesn’t have me. There are things that I can do to manage my PCOS and help with my symptoms.

The biggest thing I can do for me is to lead a healthy lifestyle, keep active and eat properly. This will make my symptoms easier to manage (exercise and diet are huge in dealing with the insulin which will help with the testosterone). The way I eat is not necessarily aimed at me losing weight (although it will help) but on getting healthy. So we can change the way we eat and get healthy together. There are also some supplements that I take regularly which have been really helpful in managing my symptoms.

I can get help from my doctor or endocrinologist (hormone doctor) and there are medications I can take.

If we’re not ready to think about a family, I can also take birth control, which will keep my symptoms in check for a while. As soon as I come off the pill, though, my symptoms will come back so birth control is a temporary fix and can have unpleasant side effects.

If we do decide to have a family and we’re struggling to, we can go to see a reproductive endocrinologist to look into fertility treatments. They’ll want to check you out too and treat both of us if need be.

WHAT I NEED YOU TO DO

The biggest thing I need from you is your love and support. There are times when living with PCOS is going to make me angry, depressed and feel unattractive. Please just love me through it.

I’m going to do everything I know to do to eat properly and exercise. Please help me by eating healthy too and being active with me. Let’s go for lots of long walks, take up mountain biking or ballroom dancing. If you do have treats (which you’re totally entitled to), please hide them from me so that I’m not tempted by them. Also, please share with them with me once in a blue moon because I also deserve a treat every now and then.

Bearing in mind what I said about feeling unattractive, when I’m having an “ugly” day (and they do happen), please remind me how beautiful I am. Encourage me to get my hair done, have a pedicure or a massage. Sometimes I get so caught up in the daily grind of work, keeping a home and our family, looking after my health, that I forget to take some time just for me. I need you to help me do that.

THANK YOU

It sounds a bit trite but thank you so much for taking the time to read this. It shows me that you want to understand what I am going through and want to support me and that means the world to me. Thank you for loving me in spite of my many faults (PCOS included) and thank you for choosing to walk this road with me. Having PCOS is not easy but with you by my side, it makes it a little more manageable!

You can find the full article here: http://www.pcosdietsupport.com/pcos-symptoms/pcos-explained-partner/

PCOS & Insulin Resistance: Fighting Fatigue

Lately it has been harder and harder for me to wake up. Initially, I assumed it was because I was taking on new responsibilities at work and the learning curve was taking a toll on my energy. As it as seemed that fatigue has not improved, I thought I would do a little more research on PCOS and Insulin Resistance to determine if they are contributing to this not so fun fatigue my normal energetic self has been encountering.

As I develop questions on why things are happening to my body while fighting PCOS and IR, my hope is to share my findings with you and make my blog a one stop shop for being the healthiest and happiest you can be. Since I have been feeling so tired, I started to do some research and compiled the best info I found in this post. I hope it helps those of you with PCOS/IR…and people who have just been feeling extra tired lately, too! Many of these symptoms can be due to fluctuating hormone levels and increased anxiety.

As it turns out, PCOS and fatigue are both linked to an imbalance of the endocrine system and are characterized by an excess of male hormones. Fatigue, a symptom commonly associated with PCOS, is also closely linked to the thyroid and adrenal glands. At the heart of both of these issues, however, is a disorder known as Insulin Resistance. Lucky for me…I have both IR and PCOS.

To add insult to injury, fatigue frequently causes women with PCOS to treat their low energy with carbs and caffeine, which dumps more glucose into the blood in a never-ending spiral of weight gain and increasing insulin and glucose levels. As fatigue and insulin resistance worsen, excess fat cells produce too much of another hormone, estrogen.

Here are some additional causes of fatigue and how to combat them. Here’s to hoping this will lead to a more energetic week next week!

Lack of Sleep: Obviously, the first sign that you are zapped of energy could be that you aren’t getting enough sleep. Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep nightly. My Endocrinologist prescribed me with Trazodone to help me sleep…I have noticed a big difference in how rested I feel and my husband says he has noticed I am not tossing and turning as much.

Poor diet: One of the most common causes of low energy can be from eating the wrong foods. Eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates and simple sugars will cause your blood sugar and insulin levels to skyrocket and then crash, leaving you ready for a nap. Start the day with a meal that contains at least 10 grams of protein (eggs or Greek yogurt are two good ones). Swap refined carbs for whole grain ones (try quinoa, faro, or oats) that won’t send your blood sugar into orbit. Over the last week, I have not been eating well due to the nausea, so perhaps this has been a big cause of my fatigue.

DehydrationStudies show that even mild dehydration can result in significant dips in energy levels. You need 6 to 8 cups of fluid each day for proper hydration (yes, this includes caffeinated coffee and tea) so drink up! I really have not been drinking all the water I should…I used to be really good at finishing at least one large water bottle a day at work, but lately not so much.

Exercise: Even if you are tired, exercising can give you more energy thanks to the secretion of feel good chemicals called endorphins. One study found that just 20 minutes of low-intensity aerobic activity three times per week decreased subjects’ feelings of fatigue by 65 percent. This 20 minutes of exercise is right in line with the 20 minutes prescribed by my doctor…I just need to make it happen.

Iron deficiency: If you experience heavy monthly bleeding, don’t eat animal products, or are an intense exerciser, you may be deficient in iron. Since iron’s main role is to transport oxygen, not having enough will make you feel exhausted and out of breath, even with minor exertion. Discuss getting your levels checked with your doctor before supplementing your diet with extra iron. My doctor did prescribe iron for me and even Vitamin C to help improve the absorption of iron. I also do not eat red meat or pork, so I certainly have iron deficiency in diet.

Hypothyroid: When the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones it can affect your energy levels. Ask your doctor for a full thyroid panel (TSH alone is not enough).

Gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease: A hallmark feature of someone with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity is fatigue or “brain fog” after eating foods that contain gluten. It’s recommended to be checked for celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder, before adopting a gluten-free diet, which can mask symptoms and prevent an accurate diagnosis.

Vitamin B12 deficiency: If you take birth control pills or metformin or eat a vegan diet, you may be deficient in Vitamin B12. A defiiency in B12 not only causes chronic fatigue, but permanent nerve damage. Ask your doctor to check your B12 levels. Since I am definitely on Metformin, it looks like I should be adding B12 to my daily vitamin regimen as well.

Depression: Depression and fatigue are a vicious cycle with each fueling each other. Being depressed can be like living in a constant fog. Lack of motivation and sleep disturbances can contribute to depression. Engaging in regular exercise can help boost mood. If you feel you are depressed, we recommend seeking treatment from a mental health expert.

Sleep apnea: Several studies have shown that women with PCOS suffer from a much higher rate of obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder that causes your airway to be narrowed or blocked. Even if you do get a sufficient amount of sleep, if you’re not oxygenating well, you won’t feel rested. This can account for the tossing and turning my husband has been tolerating for the last 9 years.

Now that I have a better understanding of these causes, it will make it that much easier to get back to my energetic, positive self again. I hope these tips helped you as well!

Here are some of the helpful articles that helped inform this post:

Insulin Resistance and PCOS: Medication

I am not a doctor. Or even close. But I have been blessed with amazing doctors who are helping me get my PCOS and Insulin Resistance under control.

PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS FEEDBACK IS NOT ADVERTISING…trust me, these drug companies have no idea about this blog. This post is just my pure, honest feedback on my medication.

That being said, I do want to say that the combination of medications I have been placed on (along with my 110g a day of carb diet) has turned my life around. I am currently down 11 pounds in 2 months and have regained a menstrual cycle…both of which seemed impossible 2 months ago.

Overall, I will say my side effects have been very minimal. It is hard to pinpoint what medication is causing these effects..but as you can see, the list is pretty short:

  • Nausea- this was probably the worst during the 1st month of medication. My doctor explained that PCOS was causing increased testosterone making my 30-year-old body think I was going through menopause. These medications helped balance my testosterone and estrogen levels, so body basically went from thinking I was in menopause to thinking I was pregnant. When I told my doctor of this side effect, he was happy to hear this because it meant the medication was working.
  • 2 periods per month – this one has been extra fun. My guess is that since PCOS stores up your eggs (since you are not regularly ovulating), I am thinking that now my estrogen levels are normalizing, my body wants to ovulate as much as it can. This is definitely something I plan to discuss with my doctor in my upcoming appointment. This side effect could be considered a benefit for anyone trying to get pregnant!
  • We are not trying to get pregnant, but if we were…my doctor mentioned all these medications are OK for pregnancy except for the diuretic (Spironolactone)

Here is a rundown on the medications I am prescribed based on info I compiled from Drugs.com. Please check out the links at the bottom of the article for risks and side effects…AND PLEASE DISCUSS THESE OPTIONS FOR YOU WITH A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL AS I AM NOT A DOCTOR.

My doctor said that while medications help, diet is the most important factor in managing Insulin Resistance and PCOS…so more info to come in later posts on healthy, low carb recipes I love!

Metformin (Primary use for me: Type 2 Diabetes treatment)

 Metformin is an oral diabetes medicine that helps control blood sugar levels. Metformin is for people with type 2 diabetes and sometimes used in combination with insulin or other medications, but it is not for treating type 1 diabetes.

Spironolactone (Primary use for me: diuretic)

Spironolactone is a potassium-sparing diuretic (water pill) that prevents your body from absorbing too much salt and keeps your potassium levels from getting too low.

Spironolactone is used to diagnose or treat a condition in which you have too much aldosterone in your body. Aldosterone is a hormone produced by your adrenal glands to help regulate the salt and water balance in your body.

Spironolactone also treats fluid retention (edema) in people with congestive heart failure, cirrhosis of the liver, or a kidney disorder called nephrotic syndrome. This medication is also used to treat or prevent hypokalemia (low potassium levels in the blood).

Trazodone (Primary use for me: taken at bedtime to help me sleep)

Trazodone is an antidepressant medicine. It affects chemicals in the brain that may become unbalanced and cause depression.Trazodone can be used to treat major depressive disorder.

Propanol (Primary use for me: beta blocker taken as needed when PCOS/IR causes rapid heartbeats from stress)

Propranolol is a beta-blocker. Beta-blockers affect the heart and circulation (blood flow through arteries and veins).

Propranolol is used to treat tremors, angina (chest pain), hypertension (high blood pressure), heart rhythm disorders, and other heart or circulatory conditions. It is also used to treat or prevent heart attack, and to reduce the severity and frequency of migraine headaches.

Here are the resources I used to help inform this article:

Blogging while working is TOUGH: 4 Survival tips for balance

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.” ~Thomas Merton

So…what’s up, friends? It has been a while. I promise I didn’t want to breakup with you…this breakup is about carbs, not my followers!

It has become painfully clear that blogging and working makes for a very difficult life balance. I found that my time with my husband and pups was getting majorly impacted and if it wasn’t that, then my sleep hours took a hit.

Like most things you love…I felt like something has been missing these last couple weeks without the happiness that writing to help others was giving me. With the hope to keep my account of my carb breakup in tact, here are some helpful tips and tricks to keep the blog going. For all you writers out there…hope this is helpful for you too!

1.) Carry a notebook with you. Sometimes you can get an idea for an excellent post when you are at work, hanging out with your friends or when you just woke up. While you won’t always have the opportunity to write this post right away you can jot it down in an old-fashioned notebook or even on your smartphone. When it is time for your next blog posts you will have an excellent idea waiting for you. I have found keeping a running list of upcoming topics has also been helpful

2.) Develop a routine that is non-negotiable. So much of my life is focused on schedules and deadlines. While I hate to hinder my passion for writing, I need to realize that to have balance…a set schedule for blogging will be key. My hope is to make this time either Friday afternoons (I am lucky enough to work for a company with early release every Friday) or Sunday nights. Since life is a moving target, I will be flexible with when I will write…but will commit to 2 hours at least every week

3.) Schedule daily posts. Once the content is written over the weekend, schedule the posts throughout the week so they are up and running without distracting from my day job.

4.) Work on your dream every day, knowing there are no guarantees and that it may take a long time to make the kind of progress that allows you to devote your full-time energy to your passion.

Here are some awesome articles from other bloggers on how to balance writing and working:

PCOS 101: How I found out about Insulin Resistance and the start of a health transformation

As women, we spend the majority of our lives trying NOT to get pregnant. We have countless ways we do this and countless nights we lose sleep thinking that these ways aren’t enough as we anxiously await our “Aunt Flo” to come visit. The feeling of complete relief of getting that “visit” after her “flight was delayed” washes over us and all is good again.

Last summer, I waited for this feeling of relief for my period to come for days. Not just a few…for nearly 160 days I waited. Like many women with PCOS, I was on birth control for 10 years (Minastrin 24 Fe) which masked the symptoms of PCOS. From research I have found, many women with PCOS had delayed revelations they had PCOS due to a birth control pill.

Ironically, Minastrin was prescribed to me because it works well for women with migraines and for me, the migraines were caused by PCOS. There are all sorts of chicken before the egg metaphors I could make, but I will simplify by saying that getting off the pill was what let me know for sure I had PCOS. To be honest, going off the pill was a complete fluke due to an insurance blip, but it ended up being the best thing that could have happened to me.

Since I know this is not an option for most, here is a helpful article on how to diagnose PCOS while on a birth control pill: http://www.livestrong.com/article/213652-how-to-diagnose-pcos-while-on-the-birth-control-pill/

If you think you might have PCOS, here is a helpful guide I found on Pinterest for PCOS symptoms:

PCOS

If any of these symptoms describe you, you should go to your OBGYN as soon as possible. Here is an account of what I experienced that fateful day I found out I had PCOS. I have provided details and tips in the hope it will make your visit that much easier.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor and each doctor is different…my hope is this will be a piece of a puzzle to help women get healthier and happier:

1. To pee in a cup. Because that’s how OBGYN’s roll.

2. A verbal exam with your doctor. Be sure to tell them in detail all of the symptoms you have been experiencing. For me, my highlights were the missed period.

3. An ultrasound – this part was probably the hardest for me. My husband was planning to go to the appointment with me, but since I assumed my period was delayed due to the amount of time I was on the pill, I didn’t think I would need him there for a standard visit. I was wrong.

There was no physical pain with this, but actually seeing an ultrasound of my ovaries, then seeing them filled with cysts was terrifying…especially because I was not sure what to expect. Here is a medical drawing of normal ovaries vs. ovaries impacted by PCOS:

Normal Ovary and Polycystic Ovary

Many of us have very negative connotations with the word cyst…I can tell you firsthand that when this fear washes over you, feel it. I am all about being true to yourself and your emotions…even if that means a good, old-fashioned ugly cry.

Once you have started to process the emotions, “keep your chin up” as my beautiful Grandmother used to always say. PCOS IS TREATABLE (for those of you who are new to my blog, I truly hate the triple emphasis in the workplace. It is very rare ALL font treatments are needed, so if I use it in this blog, it means I am REALLY  excited and passionate about the point.)

4. Once we saw the cysts, my doctor wanted to be certain that it is in fact PCOS. She said to diagnose, they typically like to confirm 3 signs: Missed period, ultrasound, and then blood work.

As you will learn from my journey, I am TERRIBLE with needles (triple emphasis was definitely need for this point. I mean, truly.) We went back to the blood work room and about 3 viles of blood were taken.

INSURANCE TIP: One important thing to note that I learned the hard way (after many painful calls back and forth with insurance) is that you need to ask your technician to file the test to the lab as testing for PCOS, NOT for infertility. I remember getting the bill from the lab that was hundreds of dollars. To pour some more salt in the wound, reading the words “INFERTILITY” really did not help at all. I later found out if the test had been filed under PCOS, I would have been saved all this pain and time.

Since I have difficult veins and overall fear of needles, this process was much harder for me than it probably is for most. I remember the technician tried to draw blood in the typical inside elbow joint location with no luck saying my veins weren’t cooperating. Enter: uncontrollable tears. I kept thinking to myself, “Great, not only are my cysts not working, but now my veins aren’t either. My body is just a screw up.”

Looking back, I can tell you that this was a knee jerk reaction, but I did tell you that having no experience what to expect, emotions were heightened for me. I wish there was someone there that would have shared that 1 in 10 women experience PCOS which equates to about 5 million women as young as 11 years old. I wish there was someone there to tell me that it is  CURABLE AND NORMAL

My hope is that my account of what I experienced will help you or someone you know start rocking down that path of good health and healing.

Now that you have heard my account, here is a quick 101 on PCOS:

Polycystic (pah-lee-SIS-tik) ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a health problem that can affect a woman’s:

  • Menstrual cycle
  • Ability to have children
  • Hormones
  • Heart
  • Blood vessels
  • Appearance

With PCOS, women typically have:

  • High levels of androgens (AN-druh-junz). These are sometimes called male hormones, though females also make them.
  • Missed or irregular periods (monthly bleeding)
  • Many small cysts (sists) (fluid-filled sacs) in their ovaries

What causes PCOS?

The cause of PCOS is unknown. But most experts think that several factors, including genetics, could play a role. Women with PCOS are more likely to have a mother or sister with PCOS. Even though she wasn’t diagnosed, we are pretty sure my Mom had PCOS.

A main underlying problem with PCOS is a hormonal imbalance. In women with PCOS, the ovaries make more androgens than normal.  High levels of these hormones affect the development and release of eggs during ovulation.

Researchers also think insulin may be linked to PCOS. Insulin controls the change of sugar, starches, and other food into energy for the body to use or store. Many women with PCOS have too much insulin in their bodies because they have problems using it. Excess insulin appears to increase production of androgen. High androgen levels can lead to:

  • Acne
  • Excessive hair growth
  • Weight gain
  • Problems with ovulation

You can check out my 101 on Insulin Resistance here: https://mycarbbreakup.wordpress.com/category/intro-to-insulin-resistance/

So how is PCOS treated?

Once I received my blood work results and received confirmation I had PCOS, I made an appointment with an Endocrinologist. Insulin Resistance is so commonly mis-diagnosed as depression, anxiety, and obesity that an Endocrinologist is really your best bet to get proper medication.

I can tell you that after just one month on the medication prescribed to me by the Endocrinologist, I received my period for the first time in 4 months and was down 10 pounds. More to come on medication and healing!

Here is a great chart on living with PCOS from @HarmonyWithPCOS

PCOS rules for healthy lifestyle #changinghabits #healthylifestyle #health Embrace a new, healthier lifestyle. www.kangabulletin...

Here are some of the great references I used to inform this article. Happy reading!