A local beauty queen is gearing up for the Miss Houston pageant. 17 year old Tara Stanley's ultimate goal is to become Miss Texas Teen and onto Miss Teen U-S-A. However, she has a medical condition that has made it incredibly difficult to get as far as she has. She's using her celebrity to spread word of the most common hormonal problem for women, which is PCOS.
"It means polycystic ovarian syndrome. The key thing, it's a syndrome, and not all women have the same symptoms. The classic ones are irregular cycles, hard to get pregnant, facial and body hair, oiliness of the skin, and a lot of women start having weight gain, even young women, because of insulin resistance," says Dr. Randall Dunn, who is a Reproductive Endocrinologist with Fertility Specialists of Houston and is also affiliated with Woman's Hospital of Texas.
"When I first got diagnosed, my doctor told me, I had the possibility of not having children and I was prone to obesity. That was scary! No girl wants to be told those things," says Tara. Extreme weight gain is what prompted Tara to seek help her freshman year. "The more I trained and was eating well, I wasn't able to get weight off - my mom realized something was going on," says Tara. She has relied on her mom to help her through the tough times. "It was really difficult watching her get bigger. She's working with a trainer and a nutritionist and she's still getting bigger - I'm going - what's going on?
Being a competitive dancer that's harder on her knees, ankles, back - it was frustrating knowing she had dreams and goals, trying to help her achieve those goals, but also concerned about her health," says her mother, Sharolyn.
Tara unexplainably gained thirty pounds in three months. "After I found out I had PCOS, I thought I wasn't going to be doing any more pageants, knew it was going to affect me in the weight area, but knowing I can do it and go out on stage and rock my walk in a bathing suit, it's definitely something really awesome," says Tara.
Tara tried the normal protocol for PCOS. She says her doctor prescribed high-estrogen birth control pills and Metformin, a diabetic medication. The side effects were too much for Tara, so she's controlling her symptoms with a special diet. She's getting meal plans from www.pcosdiva.com.
"The difference in Tara on this meal plan in just these three months is huge!," says Sharolyn. Plus, her menstrual cycles have been regulated, while on the diet. The plan has Tara cutting out gluten, dairy, soy, and refined sugar from her diet. Dr. Dunn says reducing those carbs helps with the insulin resistance. "Women who have PCOS are making more male hormonal activity from their ovaries. These little cysts are active hormonally and making male hormone, and that makes insulin action less efficient," he explains.
Dr. Dunn warns of other severe problems, sparked by PCOS: infertility, heart attack, strokes, hypertension, and high cholesterol.
"I think it's so important for girls to realize what this disease is and the symptoms, because most people think it's normal things that happen in your teenage years and it really isn't. So if you even have some sort of idea that it might be going on, you definitely need to be checked out. The earlier you find out, the easier it is - so much better," encourages Tara.
Dr. Dunn says there's not a test that can give you an accurate idea if you suffer from PCOS. You just have to look at the symptoms. He says three things have to take place to control it:
1. The types of foods you eat (he touts a low-carb diet to treat the symptoms)
2. Portion control - people with PCOS should never over-indulge, because large portions raise insulin levels.
3. Exercise regularly.
He also says prescription drugs for insulin resistance (i.e.: Metformin) can help some women with PCOS, especially if they're trying to get pregnant.
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