The Short Story on Skin Problems and PCOS.
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Hormones, Hirsutism, and Healthy Hair!
No matter the time or place—the era, the culture, the civilization—women tend to take great pride in their hair. Indeed, for women in many different cultures, their hair is among their chief sources of pride, one of the focal points of female beauty. That’s why, when something goes wrong with a woman’s hair, it tends to be more than a little vexing. Certainly, we all know how annoying a bad hair day can be. But of course, there are times when the problem is much more, and it isn’t simply annoying, but rather a full-on medical problem. When it comes to hair growth women expect a full, healthy head of hair while having little to no growth in other areas. However, for women suffering from PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) or sometimes called, PCOD (Polycystic Ovarian Disorder), unusual hair growth issues are all too common. This condition, called hirsutism, deeply affects a woman’s experiences of her body in a negative way.4
Excess hair growth, known as hirsutism, and even hair loss on the head, are the most common and most distressing hair symptoms of PCOS. PCOS is a distressing and relatively common problem, affecting 5-10 percent of women in the reproductive age group.5 Excess hair growth often occurs in a masculine pattern, and can grow thicker on the face, arms, legs, torso, and pubic region. The underlying cause is high androgens. However, women suffering from hirsutism experience more than a physical reaction. They also need emotional support and an effective treatment. A healthy lifestyle, including a good diet, frequent exercise, and nutritional supplements and/or pharmaceutical treatments can help treat PCOS and its symptoms, like hirsutism.
Of course, you might know there are other PCOS symptoms besides hirsutism. PCOS (or PCOD) is most commonly associated with infertility, and in some cases with obesity or excess weight gain caused by many factors, including polycystic ovaries resulting in an ovarian cyst (or cysts). These are very troubling, very serious, and very real symptoms, but the effect of PCOS on a woman’s hair, in addition to being embarrassing, is also a very similar matter, and one that points, ultimately, to a very serious underlying cause.
Your first question might be how a condition like PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) can affect the hair on a woman’s head. After all, what do the ovaries have to do with a woman’s lovely locks? There are two misconceptions present here, however. The first is that PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) is fundamentally a condition of the ovaries. In truth, it’s really a hormonal imbalance. And the second misconception is that it only affects the hair on a woman’s head; sadly, the effects of this syndrome are so numerous it can lead to either hair loss or hair growth, and not just on the head but all over the body.
Indeed, one of the things that make the condition so hard to diagnose, let alone treat, is the fact that it presents in so many different forms. One woman might complain of losing her hair, and the next might say she is growing too much hair in unexpected places. The sad truth is that both male pattern baldness and hirsutism, or the growth of excessive facial hair, are both very common symptoms associated with PCOS.
But how is it that PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) has such dramatic effects on the hair—and is there anything that can be done about it? The fortunate news is that this condition can be manageable, but eliminating one of its underlying causes means first understanding what, precisely, this condition entails.
PCOS: Affecting the Whole Body?
You would be wrong in thinking that PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) is primarily an ovarian issue, despite what its name suggests. This just isn’t the case at all. In truth, the condition is present on the hormonal level; indeed, it is the most common of all women’s hormonal conditions, with roughly 5-10 percent of women of childbearing age suffering from it.1
An underlying factor of the syndrome is something called Insulin Resistance, a very serious condition that can yield a wide range of problems. What it means, basically, is that the body loses its ability to respond properly to glucose in the bloodstream. The body, and particularly the ovaries, perceives an increase of insulin and the result is to produce high levels of different hormones, including the sex hormones. This imbalance of hormones is what leads to the range of symptoms associated with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), and, when untreated, Insulin Resistance can also develop into more serious conditions like obesity and diabetes.
It is the abundant production of male sex hormones, like testosterone, that leads to many of the symptoms of this condition. For instance, you can probably imagine how too much testosterone might lead to an irregular or absent period, or to anovulation. In addition, increased testosterone levels can lead to a variety of commonly “male” hair problems, including male pattern baldness and hirsutism.
Hirsutism, or Frazonism, is another very serious effect of this disorder. Basically, it refers to a production of excess hair on the body and face. Women suffering from it often find themselves with hair growing on their faces, necks, backs, chests, abdomens, and upper lips. It is certainly a very distressing condition, stimulated by the increased levels of testosterone—and it can also provide early warning of more serious health problems down the road.2
But how do you know you truly have hirsutism?
Women who suffer from PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) will want to check themselves for hair growing in any of the places mentioned above, especially if you’ve never grown hair there before. You will also want to see if the hair is coarse and pigmented—that is, more prominent and visible than the other hair on your body. These are both indicators of hirsutism.
And hirsutism can also provide an indication of a more serious problem, virilization; the symptoms of this condition include:
- Deepening of the voice
- Increased body hair, or baldness
- Decreased breast size
- Enlarged clitoris
Naturally, these are all very serious and embarrassing medical problems, especially when PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) lies at the heart of the problem. What women afflicted with any of these symptoms will want to know, of course, is how these symptoms can be abated.
The short answer is there are plenty of ways to deal with the symptoms, and they offer varying degrees of efficacy—but of course, what you will really want to do is treat the underlying cause of the problem, and there is only one way to do that.
Treat the Cause Not Just the Symptoms?
A better way to deal with this problem is to treat not just the symptoms, but also the very cause of the problem—which is to say, Insulin Resistance. This way you will be cultivating an altogether healthier life that will offer lasting relief from the symptoms of hormone imbalance. And the best news is you can move toward reversing Insulin Resistance through entirely natural means. It’s simply a matter of improving the healthiness of your lifestyle.
Did you know that factors in Hirsute patients with PCOS include different clinical characteristics from those that are non-hirsute? PCOS / Hirsute patients reported higher in terms of BMI (body mass index), LH (luteinizing hormone), FSH (follicle stimulating hormone), estradiol, and tT (total testosterone) levels.3 That’s why it’s so important to start with your diet.
By losing weight, boosting your metabolism, and increasing your consumption of nutrients, you can make huge progress in the battle with Insulin Resistance. Begin with proteins; you will want to make sure you’re getting one with every meal. Be certain they are lean proteins, too, and not fatty meats. Boosting your intake of vegetables and fruit is also crucial. Drink water and avoid coffee and related stimulants. Also, try to stick with whole grains, and to steer clear of refined sugars, processed foods, and foods with sugar added.
The flipside to nutrition, as you can probably imagine, is exercise. The more you get, the better off you’re likely to be. However, a good rule of thumb is that even half an hour a day, five days a week can work wonders for those suffering from PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). Exercise brings with it numerous advantages, of course. For one thing, you are losing weight. You’re also burning calories and boosting your metabolism. You are getting healthier altogether, which can be quite effective in reversing the symptoms of Insulin Resistance. By doing so, you can affect your insulin in a very direct and positive way, since doctors say that physical activity can actually increase our levels of insulin production.
Dealing with Symptoms, or Treating the Cause
Women dealing with hirsutism will find there are many remedies available for them, including over-the- counter creams and other medications. In addition, there are always courses of action such as waxing, shaving, and plucking. Depending on the degree of your hirsutism, some of these options might prove somewhat effective, yet the relief they offer is likely going to be temporary. Meanwhile, very serious hirsutism is often dealt with by means of laser hair removal, but this, too, is not necessarily reliable or lasting.
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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.
This website has been written by the research team at Insulite Health, a division of Insulite Laboratories. The members of the Insulite Health research team are experts in dealing with issues related to Insulin Resistance. Click here to learn more about the research team at Insulite Health.
This website is published by Insulite Laboratories. For more than a decade, Insulite Laboratories has been an authority on health conditions relating to Insulin Resistance, including PCOS. Find us on Google+