One of 20 North American women suffers from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) that often causes obesity, large bones and muscles, hair to grow on faces and bodies, male-pattern baldness, acne, irregular periods. It is a common cause of infertility (24) and it increases their chances of developing diabetes (12), heart attacks, strokes (1) and uterine cancer. A study from Italy shows that polycystic ovary syndrome can be cured with the diabetic medication, metformin (Glucophage), and a low-refined-carbohydrate diet (26). We have known about this condition for more than 200 years, but only in the last few years have we have found a cause and cure.
Exciting research shows that drugs and diets to treat diabetes (23) and drugs to block male hormones can protect these women from developing diabetes, heart attacks, obesity and masculinizing traits such as hair on their bodies, acne, and large muscles and bones and that progesterone can protect them from uterine cancer (13,14,15,16).
A woman is born with about 4 million eggs. In a normal woman, each month one egg ripens and pops off the ovary to travel into the uterus. Women whose eggs ripen, but do not pop off the ovaries, have polycystic ovary syndrome. Their high insulin and male hormone levels cause the ovaries to make male hormones (9) that cause acne and dark body hair (2). Glucophage and Actos are drugs that result in lower insulin levels and therefore, lower blood levels of the male hormone, testosterone (7,21). So does a diet that favors whole grains and restricts foods made with flour or sugar, such as bakery products and pasta. Drugs that block male hormones also reduce masculinizing traits, lower cholesterol (10) and help the eggs to pop from the ovaries (3,4), but drugs to treat diabetes may be more effective (5,6). These women also are at increased risk for developing uterine cancer, so they are often prescribed birth control pills that contain progesterone and should try to lose weight when overweight.
If you think that you may have this condition, get a sonogram of your ovaries. Even if you don't have cysts, you could still have PCOS. Then you should avoid all bakery products, pastas, sugar-added foods and drinks, and fruit juices; and eat root vegetables and fruits only with meals. Base your diet on a wide variety of WHOLE grains, vegetables, beans and other seeds. Also check with your doctor to see if you are a candidate for Glucophage before each meal.
1) Birdsall MA et al. Annals of Internal Medicine. January, 1997
2) NEJM, 1996(August 29);335(9):617-623.
3) Finasteride (5 mg daily) or flutamide (259 mg twice daily) for 6 consecutive months. L Falsetti, D Defusco, G Eleftheriou, B Rosina. Treatment of hirsutism by finasteride and flutamide in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Gynecological Endocrinology 11: 4 (AUG 1997):251-257.
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