Missing or very irregular periods.
These are the two most common symptoms of PCOS, high prolactin levels (Hyperprolactinemia) and Premature Ovarian Failure, which are all increasingly being seen in younger women.
Here are some crazy stats on PCOS, Hyperprolactinemia and Premature Ovarian Failure:
- 5-20% of women worldwide have PCOS or PCOS symptoms
- 1-3 of every 100 women between ages 30-39 and 1 in 1000 women between the ages of 15-29 have Premature Ovarian Failure (whoa!). This is according to 2015 stats.
- Hyperprolactinemia is not as common but I am hearing from more and more women who are experiencing it
So here’s what’s up. All three of these conditions can cause ovulation to falter or stop completely, and your periods to become irregular, lighter or to disappear completely. This is not okay by any means and should be addressed asap.
Definitions of PCOS, Hyperprolactinemia and Premature Ovarian Failure:
- PCOS: this is when your ovaries stop working the way they should. Instead of releasing an egg each month they either release an egg more sporadically or stop releasing eggs at all. This leads to irregular periods or no periods at all.
- High prolactin levels: when prolactin levels are high, (this is only normal after pregnancy), they prevent ovulation from occurring and periods become irregular and disappear. If you have high prolactin levels, and you have not been pregnant, please read this post.
- Premature ovarian failure: POF occurs when your ovaries stop functioning the way they should before the age of 40 – meaning they don’t produce eggs as they should and ovulation falters or fails to happen completely.
Hormonal imbalances associated with PCOS, Hyperprolactinemia and Premature Ovarian Failure:
- PCOS: high insulin, which can lead to high levels of androgens (male sex hormones like testosterone) and high estrogen, along with low progesterone.
- High prolactin levels: this can be caused by a pituitary tumor but also by higher levels of estrogen and/or low levels of thyroid hormones.
- Premature ovarian failure: high FSH levels, low estrogen and low progesterone, low thyroid hormones
What causes PCOS, Hyperprolactinemia and Premature Ovarian Failure?
- PCOS: food that is not right for your metabolism leading to insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes and obesity. Underlying genetic factors – research shows that a woman with PCOS has a 40% likelihood of having a sister with the syndrome and a 35% chance of having a mother with the disorder. Also, chronic psychological stress is a huge factor because many women with PCOS have an issue with the hypothalamus where it stimulates the ovaries to produce too many male sex hormones. As in your ovaries are producing too much testosterone and not enough estrogen. Excess prolonged stress can mess with the functioning of the hypothalamus and pituitary gland and if you are genetically predisposed to PCOS then this could be a problem for you.
- High prolactin levels: As I said above, this can be caused by a pituitary tumor, a low functioning thyroid (hypothyroidism), higher levels of estrogen due to diet and environmental toxins, certain medications and chronic psychological stress. The stress part is important again here because the pituitary gland is in your brain, and of course your brain is the first line of defense when it comes to external sources of stress. Needless to say, any kind of chronic stress can affect the functioning of the pituitary gland.
- Premature ovarian failure: there are a number of causes but chemotherapy and radiation are high on the list, as are other environmental toxins like pesticides and other everyday chemicals. Additionally, things like viruses, autoimmune disorders, low thyroid function, low nutrient diets and eating disorders as well as chronic psychological stress.
What are the symptoms associated with PCOS, Hyperprolactinemia and Premature Ovarian Failure?
- No period for 3 months or more, or very irregular periods
- Needing the pill or progesterone to force your body to have a “period”
- Lack of ovulation or sporadic ovulation
- Infertility – because of lack of ovulation
- More acne than you’ve ever experienced in your life
- Hair loss on your head or hair growth on your face (oh the injustice of it all)
- Your sexy underwear stays in your drawer thanks to a non-existent sex drive
- Or worse… when you do have sex, it hurts like hell
- Low or no fertile cervical fluid – yes, sometimes your underwear can be too clean
- Your energy is so low you can’t get out of bed easily or even get through the day without caffeine or sugar
- Depression or mood swings that disrupt your relationships and your life
I consider these three conditions to be very serious. If you suspect that you have any of them or a combination of them, then I suggest you see a functional medicine doctor or naturopath who is going to look at your body in its entirety, and help you get to the root cause of the problem.
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