We've said for years that PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) is a disorder that is more extensive and systemic than a problem with your ovaries.
There have been several research reports in the last couple of years to raise this issue. Most recently, a report from the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University said that polycystic ovary syndrome should have two names, to better reflect the different aspects of this disorder.
They suggest that one disorder continue to be called PCOS. This would be primarily a reproductive disease.
The other disease -- still unnamed -- would be primarily a metabolic disorder.
So if you're unsure what PCOS actually is, so is the medical profession.
They also said that it is a disease "that can affect women across the lifespan." So it's not a temporary problem that just goes away.
Now that this disease is up for redefinition, I'll throw in my two cents' worth, based on a decade of exposure to this topic.
Source: Dunaif A et al, Renaming PCOS - A Two State Solution. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2013 Sep 5. [Epub ahead of print]
We think it's a modern-day environmental disease. That is, a disease caused by factors in your environment. These factors had their main impact while you were developing as a young human being, from the moment of conception until puberty. However, these factors continue to have an effect on you as an adult.
And finally, components of this disease are "trans-generational", that is, they are carried from mother to daughter to granddaughter.
This would help to explain why polycystic ovary syndrome is so devilishly difficult to identify and to treat.
And -- by "modern-day", we mean our environment since 1920, which is less than 100 years ago. Since then, there was been an unprecedented degradation of every aspect of our environment.
But whatever name we give to this disorder, it does not tell you what the problem is or how to solve it.
OK, if we think PCOS is an environmental disorder, what might it be in your environment that is causing the trouble?
Our hunch is that the primary factors are diet, environmental chemicals and other environmental poisons.
Our diet today is nothing like it was in 1920. Back then, there were very few processed foods, foods were grown locally and consumed locally, there were no chemical pesticides and herbicides, no chemical fertilizers, no mass production of animal foods, no soft drinks, and no McDonalds.
And just coincidentally, PCOS was not even described as a disease until 1935.
The other primary cause is, we think, "endocrine disrupting" and other environmental chemicals. Since World War II, there has been a massive and cumulative buildup of chemicals and toxicants everywhere in our environment -- in your food, water, air, home, and every product you come in contact with -- literally everywhere. You mother was exposed, you are exposed and your future daughter will be exposed. There could be at least 400 chemicals that are suspected to disrupt your hormone and other bodily functions, plus another 80,000 chemicals that we don't know much about in terms of how they affect your health. At this moment, some number of these chemicals are floating around in your body or stored in your fat cells.
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