I recently wrote a guest post for a truly inspiring woman in the PCOS community : PCOS Diva, Amy Medling. She asked me to write on PCOS and the Adrenals and I was absolutely thrilled with the topic choice because I think it’s so crucial to overall hormonal health in the disorder. It’s really quite fascinating how the adrenals do function quite differently in women with PCOS. Enzymatically, there are differences in the production of male hormones from the adrenal glands. 50% of all of the male hormones in the female body are produced in the adrenals, and as such, in women with PCOS, this can create a significant number of the problematic symptoms. Elevated androgen levels result in acne, male pattern hair growth (hirsutism), male pattern hair loss, and delays in ovulation or late/absent menstrual cycles. Another aspect of interest that I detailed was that women with PCOS produce higher levels of cortisol (the stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands) than women without the disorder. Women with PCOS are also much more likely to suffer with anxiety or depression, and I’m sure that the cortisol connection plays a role in this.
Cortisol and blood sugar are related as well. Cortisol levels jump up when the blood sugar drops rapidly, and this is common in states of insulin resistance like many variants of PCOS. As such, it’s really important for women with PCOS to have their adrenals assessed properly with a diurnal (4 point) salivary cortisol test, and then to receive targeted therapy to improve adrenal health. Stress management techniques are also key for women with PCOS.
In addition to keeping insulin levels under control and getting 8 hours of sleep per night, I recommend that women with PCOS complete 30 minutes daily of any of the following to reduce the effects of stress on the adrenal glands:
- Deep breathing exercises
- Guided visualization
- Massage therapy