Slightly off my usual fitness and training posts, however I felt it was time to discuss an issue that is important to me and something I have struggled with for the past sixteen years.
Polycystic Overy Syndrome (PCOS).
At the tender age of 16 I was diagnosed with PCOS. Having to go through the variety of tests at such an age was completely terrifying and rather embarrassing. Can you image – being sixteen, not knowing what this “PCOS” was or meant and being sent to the maternity ward of your local hospital for a scan? Being surrounded women in their twenties, thirties and forties looking at you, knowing that they thought you were a knocked up teenager? Horrifying! Plus, with an absent Mother to join me on such appointments it was a pretty scary ordeal to face alone. But I did and after many, many tests and specialists; it was confirmed – I has PCOS and the Doctors did nothing further, other than put me on the Pill. I was told at the time I don’t need to see them again until I wanted to discuss children. At sixteen; that meant nothing to me. So with the Doctors not being too concerned and no further support offered I went on my merry way.
My teens were spent not thinking about it at all, in my twenties I started to think about it a little more and event went so far to by some support books so I could spend more time reading about what I face. Safe to say the books went un-touched and gathered a great deal of dust sitting on the shelf. However, it has only been in my thirties that I have really started to realise I need to pay much more attention to the condition.
This is for a number of reasons. Firstly, as I have got older I have discovered that a number of friends and even my sister also suffer from the same thing – so it is a lot more common than i originally thought. Secondly, now that I am in my thirties one of the side effects of PCOS is really starting to get to me…..The struggle with weight loss.
You may be thinking, “What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome”? PCOS, as it is known, is a common condition that effects the way in which a Woman’s ovaries work. The main features of this condition are Irregular Periods, excess androgen (high levels of male hormones in the body – JOY) and Polycystic Ovaries (ovaries become enlarged and contain follicles which surround the eggs).
So what does this mean? It means that someone with PCOS will have some or all of the following symptoms:
- Irregular Periods
- Fertility Issues
- Excessive Hair Growth
- Weight Gain
- Thinning Hair
- Acne/ Oily skin
- Thinning hair loss from the head
Plus further down the line PCOS suffers have greater risk of developing more serious conditions like Type 2 Diabetes and High Colesterol.
So we get all the fun!
I have lots of friends who struggle with different symptoms. The most heart breaking being the infertility issues. For me, that doesnt cause too much concern. I knew my chances were very small early on, so I have dealt with that and enjoy my childless life.
My biggest problem with PCOS is the weight gain, or in my case the inability to loose weight; despite constanty training and leading a relatively healthy vegetarian diet.
So after reading several books, which I found rather useless, I started researching online and stumbled upon PCOS Diet Support. This site was founded by someone who had PCOS. So unlike the many books I read, most likely written by someone without the condition, it was refreshing to hear from someone with experience.
I discovered an article written here about having PCOS and eating Gluten foods. I suppose it is not that much of a shock to find out that the two do not mix. Accoring to research Gluten Free diets are highly recommended for someone with PCOS. Gluten foods play havoc on an already inbalanced hormonal system, could possibly cause a spike in insulin levels and if Gluten intolerant could contribute to Insulin resistance.
So, in order to get my insulin levels right and in the hope of being able to control my weight better I have made the decision to change my eating habits and remove gluten from my diet.
Although I have never been a big pasta or bread person there are so many foods that contain gluten that I never realised. This week has been a big learning curve for me. The obvious foods have not been a problem, but as a vegetarian I was shocked to discover that most Quorn products (from which I get most my protein from) contain some form of gluten. A lot more attention is going to have to be paid to food packets in order for me to be able to change my eating habits and be as Gluten Free as I can possibly be.
I know it is going to be difficult, but luckily I have a few friends who are already Gluten Free and have made the change. So all I can do is follow advice I have been given and read the labels of everything I buy.
I am hoping to make some serious progress in the next few months and I will be sure to document it when I can.
Wish me luck!