Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a disorder wherein the body produces an abnormal amount of androgens and insulin. Androgens are considered predominantly a male sex hormone that is usually in women in small amounts. With PCOS, you may have several symptoms (i.e., acne, facial hair, PMS, weight gain, etc.), and you may or may not have ovarian cysts, but you can have endometriosis, and there is a series of other symptoms you may have. One symptom of PCOS is your thyroid will not be working like it should, and it will not show up on a standard thyroid test.
PCOS does need to be treated properly and not with birth control. Birth control is a band-aid that helps some symptoms, but it is not a treatment. In fact, birth control can make PCOS worse over time. Most of the PCOS patients we see come in undiagnosed.
In 2018, when Medical Weight Loss and Hormone Clinic offered a thyroid package on the Facebook page, many patients came into the clinic with questions and weight issues. The package included lab work, education on what types of thyroid issues you could have, weigh-ins, vitamin injections, doctor’s visits, body fat analysis, and a weight loss program. About 80% of those who participated in the program also had undiagnosed PCOS.
Many people know about thyroid symptoms, like fatigue, hair loss, being cold; however, they think they cannot lose weight because of the thyroid. The thyroid is often a contributing factor, but the thyroid is only a portion of the factors for weight gain.
What Else Causes Weight Gain?
PCOS is a weight-gaining condition for 90% of the women who have it. It causes difficulties for the body to use the hormone insulin. Insulin is produced in the pancreas. The problem is in the pancreas and its overproduction of insulin that causes problems with weight gain. When trying to understand PCOS and its relationship to insulin, there are two factors to consider. One is insulin resistance or the metabolic syndrome that happens when hormones drop, usually with age or with a hysterectomy. Metabolic syndrome causes belly weight.
The second factor, or PCOS insulin resistance, is genetic and often shows up in junior high. You can also have belly weight depending on what ethnicities you come from, but PCOS often causes you to gain weight in the butt and thighs and eventually in the belly. However, you can have both areas of weight gain later in life.
Insulin resistance is one factor in weight gain.
For example, when you eat a carbohydrate, that carbohydrate turns to glucose in your bloodstream. Glucose is the energy you use for brain and body functions.
There are tons of receptors on a red blood cell, and these receptors are what insulin uses to move glucose into your cells. If your hormones are low or you have PCOS, these receptors start to bend or break, leaving the cells unavailable.
As an illustration, say you have oatmeal for breakfast, and this turns into glucose. Your pancreas releases the hormone insulin that takes the sugar or glucose and tries to put it into the cell to burn as energy. It cannot do its job because receptors are not available. The receptors are oversaturated, broken, or bent. Since insulin cannot move the sugar into the cell, the sugar is stored in the belly as fat. This process of turning glucose sugar into fat takes a little time, so while that is happening, the body thinks that since sugar levels are not dropping and you are not burning the sugar, that you need more insulin. The body tells the pancreas to produce more and more insulin. Now that the pancreas has produced three or four times more insulin than you need, you will store fat at a higher rate.
When you have PCOS (Insulin resistance), insulin hormones cannot get sugar into the cells, and fat begins to be stored at a high rate in the butt and thighs.
Metabolic syndrome (Insulin resistance) gives you belly fat; PCOS gives you butt and thigh fat. These are not mutually exclusive, however. You could accumulate fat in the belly, butt, and thighs.
Hyper insulin makes you feel tired. Hyper insulin fatigue and low thyroid fatigue feel the same. For example, insulin’s job is to transport sugars. If you have three or four times more insulin, you crave three or four times more sugar. You are not hungry and can go all day without eating because you do not process the sugar, making sugar levels stay the same in the bloodstream and without dropping. A few other side effects are arm numbness, feet tenderness, and high tolerance to caffeine and medications.
Metabolic syndrome (Insulin Resistance) happens with age. The receptor sites are bent or broken because hormone levels are low. A good (optimal) level of hormones in our body protects the receptor sites on our cells, preventing insulin resistance and weight gain.
We treat Insulin Resistance for weight loss with natural medication, or you can manage your carbs and protein. As you lose more weight, however, receptors become more sensitive. You do not have to stay on medication.
If sugar levels do not penetrate the cells, then insulin will store it as fat, and sugar levels stay high. The pancreas produces more insulin since it thinks you are eating more carbs. The “Metabolic Syndrome” is based on diet. PCOS is different.
Those with PCOS produce too much insulin all the time. PCOS producing too much insulin is like a leaky faucet. You cannot turn it off, and it still runs. The pancreas produces too much insulin no matter what you do. This type of metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, is a malfunction of the pancreas.
Note: The hyper insulin problem causes abnormal amounts of androgens and causes ovarian cysts, not the ovaries. In other words, all of this originates as a function of excess insulin and an inability of the cells to accept sugar. The specific PCOS diagnosis means the cysts or potential cysts created on the ovaries are an extension of excess insulin.
If you are confused about why you are gaining or losing weight unnaturally, it can be diagnosed, discussed, and treated at Medical Weight Loss and Hormone Clinic in South Ogden. You need to give us a call so you can live with a feeling of confidence and take care of your weight issues.