Hormone imbalances can play a huge role in adult onset acne, especially in women. Often times it is characterized by cystic, painful nodules around the chin and jaw areas. These nodules will flare up around the time of your menstrual cycle and then linger long after. If you’ve experienced irregular menstrual cycles, random facial hair, fatigue, head hair loss, pelvic pain, weight gain and acne, then all signs may be pointing in the direction of (PCOS) polycystic ovarian syndrome. I strongly urge any female client who’s had persistent acne through their teens and past the age of 25 to get tested. One study found that 27% of women with acne were diagnosed with PCOS.
What is it?
PCOS is a metabolic disorder that alters the endocrine system. “Poly” means many, and “cyst” means egg. The name of the disorder translates simply: several immature eggs are being produced in the ovaries. As part of a healthy cycle, one egg is produced at a time, matures and gets released. It either becomes fertilized or imbeds itself in the lining, resulting in a period. This doesn’t happen when you have PCOS and causes disruption to ovulation. Many times, insulin resistance is at the root of this disorder, which is why many women who have this condition can develop diabetes. The pancreas produces insulin but the cells don’t use it efficiently, so too much sugar builds up in the blood. When there’s excess insulin and sugar in the blood, this increases testosterone production in the ovaries and in turn causes excessive facial hair growth and acne.
If you have some of the symptoms listed, it would be smart to get your hormones checked. You can do an easy saliva test which measures androgen/testosterone levels. A pelvic ultrasound can give further insight and assess the number of follicles on each ovary.
The good news: PCOS is a cyclical condition, meaning it can change greatly depending on how you treat your body each month! Genetics play a role, of course, but making proper diet and lifestyle changes can have a profound influence on how those genes are expressed, and can improve or even reverse the cycle! Incorporating a diet low in sugar, grains, dairy and no soy will help reset biochemical pathways, regulate hormones, and slow down sebum production which feeds the p. acnes bacteria. Consistent exercise can help tremendously by switching insulin receptor sites “on” so that the body regulates blood sugar correctly. Natural supplements such as Vitex, maca, licorice root, and fish oil have been shown to help a lot, too.