Study Says PCOS Affects Your Mental Health: Here's What You Can Do

depressed womanPolycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that affects as many as 5 million women in the U.S. and can cause benign masses in your ovaries, as well as acne, weight gain, and fertility issues. But new research shows that that's not all this medical condition does! PCOS can also lead to anxiety and depression.

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If you have PCOS, your body makes slightly more androgens (like testosterone) than other women who don't have the condition. That can cause your periods to be wonky and your skin to break out, and can even spur growth of excess facial and body hair. It can also cause problems with insulin, which can lead to -- you guessed it -- diabetes.

Sixty percent of women with PCOS also have a mental health problem, be it anxiety, depression, or an eating disorder. They're also at greater risk of suicide.

Swedish researchers have figured out that when females (or males) are exposed to high levels of testosterone while in utero, they're more likely to develop anxious behavior during childhood.

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All that testosterone apparently does a number on baby's amygdala, too. We'll skip the hardcore science-y details. Suffice to say that it interferes with neurotransmitters that have the ability to regulate anxiety.

This news isn't surprising, says Sara Gottfried, MD, the New York Times best-selling author of The Hormone Reset Diet and The Hormone Cure. "Anxiety correlates directly with androgen levels."

So, what can you DO with this info?

Well, for starters, "realize that your mental health symptoms are biological in origin, which means the solution can be biological as well," says Dr. Gottfried. "In other words, it's not you, it's your hormones, and we can correct them naturally."

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Dr. Gottfried recommends eating more low-carb veggies like broccoli and less starchy carbs. Avoid sugar, sugar substitutes, and dairy. Eat more "clean" protein.

You can also talk to your doctor about inositol supplements. One study showed that a specific form of a naturally occurring nutrient called D-chiro-Inositol "cut testosterone in half in eight weeks," says Dr. Gottfried.

And remember, "your genes are not your destiny," adds Alisa Vitti, HHC, AADP, functional nutritionist, author of WomanCode, and founder/CEO of FLOLiving.com. "Your hormones are not a set-in-stone sentence, and the hormonal soup you were cooked in will only affect you as far that you live and eat in a way that exacerbates your predisposition."

Vitti's fitting words of wisdom: Don't focus so much on the fact that you have PCOS, but the process by which you improve your health.

 

Image © Aldo Murillo/iStock

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