The second most common type of PCOS is caused by high levels of stress hormones, or adrenal PCOS.
In the last section, we learned that excess insulin causes your ovaries to produce higher amounts of testosterone.
This is the most common root cause of PCOS and accounts for at least 80% of PCOS cases.
In adrenal PCOS, the problem isn’t in your ovaries but in your adrenal glands.
High levels of stress triggers your brain to secrete adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH).
The ACTH triggers your adrenal glands to secrete cortisol, adrenaline, and another hormone called dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) to help us respond to stress or danger.
When stress continues for a long time, both cortisol and DHEAS levels continue to rise, leading to Adrenal PCOS.
DHEAS is a member of the androgen family, like testosterone, and causes very similar symptoms like acne, hair loss, and hair growth.
Research shows that at least 20-30% of women with PCOS have adrenal androgen excess.54
While the research in this area is still in its infancy, several studies suggest there may be a genetic link between women with adrenal androgen excess,54 meaning certain Cysters are more likely to develop this form of PCOS.
You might experience a similar amount of stress to your friend or partner, but find that while they can carry on relatively unscathed, your PCOS symptoms flare up like they’re
going out of fashion.
When I mention “stress” I have likely conjured up an image in your mind of the overworked business woman with an overflowing inbox and looming deadlines.
Or maybe an exhausted mother stuck in traffic with screaming children in the backseat.
The reality is there are many “stressors” that can trigger this increased production of cortisol and DHEAS.
Psychological stress like that described in the scenarios above is very real in our modern world and absolutely contributes to stress hormone production.
However, other areas you may not have considered that could be contributing to your PCOS symptoms include: poor sleep, chronic infections, loneliness, restrictive dieting, over-exercising, autoimmune disease, and over-consumption of stimulants like caffeine.
Even if you don’t feel “stressed out,” you may be hypersensitive to a regular level of stress hormones.
In the opening chapter of this book, we looked at an interesting study that showed that stress experienced during puberty can contribute to the development of PCOS later in life.
Dealing with higher levels of stress in this critical development window likely “hardwires” your brain to be overly sensitive to the effects of stress later in life.
This might be relevant to you if you had a significant loss or traumatic event occur during adolescence, or engaged in extreme dieting or exercise at this time.
Take the quiz below to rate the likelihood of high stress hormones being a root cause of your PCOS.
Each time you answer yes, give yourself one point.
If you said yes to six or more of the points above, there’s a high chance stress hormones are a driving force behind your PCOS.
If you aren’t sure or would like to confirm this with testing, see below for the best tests to confirm this.
Free 3 min Quiz