PCOS: The causes and consequences with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

PCOS causes and consequences copy

PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome, is the most common female hormonal imbalance today. PCOS has far reaching consequences, including an increased risk of autism in offspring. The good news it may be reversible through diet and lifestyle changes.

PCOS is a condition in which an imbalance in estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone causes cysts to grow on the ovaries. While this can be painful, the consequences of PCOS can be severe, including a 60 percent increased risk in giving birth to a baby who will develop an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

What helps manage PCOS will help manage Hashimoto’s. Research shows a strong link between PCOS and Hashimoto’s.

The symptoms of PCOS with Hashimoto’s

Consider the symptoms of PCOS, below, which reflect how pervasive this disorder is on the body as a whole, especially when you have Hashimoto’s.

Here are some symptoms:

  • Infertility
  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Acne, oily skin, or dandruff
  • Obesity and excess weight, usually concentrated around the abdomen
  • Male pattern baldness
  • Dark, thick patches of skin on the neck, arms, breasts, or thighs
  • Skin tags
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Sleep apnea

PCOS causes male attributes

The hormonal imbalances associated with PCOS cause higher levels of the male hormone testosterone. This in turn leads to the development of such male attributes as male pattern balding, facial hair growth, deepening voice, and perhaps a more aggressive or indifferent personality.

These hormonal imbalances also worsen Hashimoto’s.

What causes PCOS when you have Hashimoto’s?

It’s no accident that symptoms of PCOS are similar to those of high blood sugar and diabetes. Although genetic predisposition plays a role in PCOS, the diet and lifestyle factors that cause insulin resistance (high blood sugar) and type 2 diabetes also cause PCOS: a diet high in sugars and processed carbohydrates, lack of plant fiber, overeating, and lack of exercise.

The upside to this is that switching to a whole foods diet that is free of sugar, lower in processed carbs, and high in vegetables and adding in daily physical activity can help reverse not only high blood sugar but also PCOS. For younger women this paves the path to a smoother transition through perimenopause and menopause, a period in life that can be made miserable by blood sugar imbalances.

The approaches to manage high blood sugar and PCOS are vital to managing Hashimoto’s as well.

The vicious cycle between PCOS and blood sugar

Standard lab markers that can identify PCOS include a fasting blood sugar of over 100 and elevated triglycerides and cholesterol, especially if triglycerides are higher than cholesterol. Not surprisingly, these are also markers found with insulin resistance, or pre-diabetes. These are red flags with Hashimoto’s too.

Insulin resistance is a condition in which the body’s cells become less sensitive to insulin due to a high-sugar, high-carbohydrate diet, over eating, and sedentary lifestyle.

This leads to high testosterone and PCOS in women (and elevated estrogen in men).

Unfortunately, elevated testosterone causes cells to become more resistant to insulin, thus creating more testosterone in a vicious cycle.

These factors also trigger or exacerbate Hashimoto’s.

If you would like advice on managing PCOS and Hashimoto’s, ask my office for advice on functional medicine strategies to balance your blood sugar and hormones.

Joni Labbe

About Joni Labbe

Dr. Joni Labbe is a board-certified clinical nutritionist specializing in science-based nutrition with a focus on women's health issues. She has successfully helped pre-menopausal and menopausal women regain and maintain their health since 1995. Dr. Labbe is the author of the Amazon #1 Best Selling book Thyroid & Menopause Madness and It’s Not Just Menopause: It’s Your Thyroid. She is also a professional speaker, radio personality, fitness expert, and former host of “Healthier Way With Dr. Labbe.” Dr. Labbe is one of the country’s leading authorities on thyroid disorders, including Hashimoto’s disease. Dr. Labbe has also authored numerous articles and blogs on health, nutrition, and thyroid health, as seen in Naturally Savvy, Thyroid Nation, and Fox News. She is a Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist, Doctor of Chiropractic, and has post graduate training in Functional Neurology, Functional Endocrinology, Functional Blood Chemistry Analysis, and earned a Diplomate and Fellow in Nutrition from the American Association of Integrative Medicine.

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