Is PCOS an Autoimmune Disease?
PCOS is the most common cause of infertility in women. Poly-cystic Ovary Syndrome is associated with cysts on the ovaries, but isn’t always the case. Women with PCOS often have irregular periods, or no periods at all, and often do not ovulate. High insulin, or insulin resistance is usually present.
PCOS is not an autoimmune disease, but is rather a sign of imbalanced metabolism. PCOS usually (but not always) comes from a combination of factors that lead to a lack of ovulation. These factors include
- Insulin resistance, which leads to increased production of testosterone, and other androgens
- Sluggish metabolism
- Slow liver detox pathways. The liver must clear out discarded hormones, as well as environmental toxins. If liver detox pathways are not working well, hormones will not be cleared well.
- High blood sugar and/or insulin.
Ovulation is a miraculous process that requires a very delicate symphony of hormones, working in careful balance. An imbalance of one of these hormones can derail this process. If ovulation does not occur, the egg will not be released, and the corpus luteum will not be formed. The corpus luteum is supposed to make progesterone, to balance the production of estrogen and testosterone (and to prepare the uterus for possible pregnancy).
The most common offender is insulin. If insulin is too high, it will cause increased luteinizing hormone (LH), stimulating excess hormones production, including testosterone and DHEA, and cause the ovaries to be excessively stimulated, resulting in abnormal follicle growth.
What if you eat healthy? You have normal blood sugar? You’re not overweight? Being a normal weight doesn’t mean your metabolism is healthy. If you feel healthy but were diagnosed with PCOS, you should seek help from a qualified practitioner. Other factors should be considered, including genetics, toxic exposures, sleep, and stress management.
Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (non-classic) is sometimes misdiagnosed as PCOS, and is treatable. So ask your doctor to check for this. This condition can be easily ruled out with a genetic test.
Frequently, women are prescribed hormonal birth control to manage the symptoms of this condition. This is symptom management, and can exacerbate nutrient deficiencies.
In a future blog post I will discuss natural treatments options.