PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome it is a disease that affects 1 in 10 women. According to Mayo Clinic PCOS “is a hormonal disorder common among women of reproductive age. Women with PCOS may have infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods or excess male hormone (androgen) levels. The ovaries may develop numerous small collections of fluid (follicles) and fail to regularly release eggs” (Mayo Clinic). There are considered to be four different types of PCOS. The first is insulin-resistant and recognized as Type 1 PCOS.
The symptoms for this are weight gain, ovulatory interruptions, facial hair, hair loss, and acne. It also means that those with this kind of PCOS had a more significant potential for developing diabetes and increased testosterone levels, which the insulin resistance causes. Type 2 PCOS is non-insulin resistant, and the symptoms are usually that they have a Vitamin D or Iodine deficiency, hormone-disrupting toxins, thyroid disease, and adrenal stress. Then there is non-traditional PCOS 1, non-traditional PCOS 2, and Idiopathic Hirsutism which are rare forms of PCOS that present with regular ovulatory patterns, and range from standard testosterone levels to increased levels as well as insulin resistant to noninsulin resistant.
Since it affects 1 in 10 women, there are many women it causes in college, and some may just not know until later. Being affected by PCOS is hard to deal with because for most people that have it the recommended steps are to become gluten-free, to workout every day, and to take medication specified by your doctor. Now I know from experience that all of that is super hard. I barely remember to take my birth control pill on let alone medications. I have never in my entire life been allergic to food, and so having to go from being able to eat WHATEVER I wanted to gluten-free has been the biggest struggle of PCOS. So here are a few things that I have begun to do, and I hope it helps all those other college students affected by it that are having as hard of the time as I am!
1. Join Facebook Support Groups
There are many support groups to choose from, and some may tailor to your needs better than others! Here are a few of the ones I’ve noticed on Facebook with the most members.
PCOS Support Group
PCOS & TTC Support Group
Dieting has been the #1 hardest thing I’ve had to overcome, and I still haven’t. For those who can easily go gluten-free, props to you, and I praise you! Those who can’t and have a difficult time I feel your pain, and you are not alone! Being a college student and having to go gluten-free means no bagels, or late night pizza runs after a night of drinking so much BEER! (yes, beer has gluten in it). My tip to you is to start with a low-carb diet. Cut out gluten as often as you can for 3 weeks, and then cut it out more and hopefully, you will hit a point where you no longer crave or want it. I also believe that if you cheat once after going gluten-free for awhile you should be fine, but I’m not a doctor so don’t quote me!
3. Mental Health
Studies have found that specific mental health diseases are more likely in women with PCOS than those without it. Make sure that you are aware of these things and make sure that if you start to feel anything like depression, high anxiety, and a possible eating disorder than you talk to someone and try to get help. Dealing with all of these can be so hard in college because still to this very day mental health isn’t spoken about much and needs to be brought to more awareness!
4. Bring Awareness
I had no idea what PCOS was until I was diagnosed with it, and that seems to be what I hear all the time is that people had no idea what it was until they or someone close to them had it. As those who have it, we should bring some awareness to it in college because it affects 1 in 10 women and there must be more people that have it at a university than just you. I mean there are so many factors in PCOS from the pain of bursting ovaries to your hormones being on the fritz. That I think professors and students should be more aware of what it is.
5. Try and Get a Support Group Together on Campus
I know that this one is a challenge because you have no idea who has it, and who doesn’t! I hope that by bringing PCOS to light more than this will change and those who have it will start supporting one another. In my opinion having someone who shares the same thing and is going through the same thing, as you will help you more than anything. It will also give you someone to talk to who actually understands.
6. The Gym is Your Best Friend
I have noticed such a change in everything by going to the gym every day. My weight is normal, my acne isn’t bad, and my hormones are pretty evened out from it. That is going to be your best friend, the gym will suck at first but all I have to say is get into a routine and all will be better.
Those are all the tips I have for conquering it in college so far. I hope to be able to do a better job this year than I have in the past. I have noticed that it seems to be more difficult here in college than it does in your teen years or maybe even after college! I know from experience that it is difficult but just keep pushing through, and know that you aren’t alone in it even if it feels that way sometimes!