What the heck is PCOS?
Do you have an unpredictable menstrual cycle (and know you’re not pregnant)? Have you put on a little weight around your midsection? Been breaking out like a teenager? Having trouble getting pregnant? It’s easy to blame stress; however, these can be symptoms of something much bigger – polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
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PCOS has been recognized and diagnosed for over seventy-five years, but more than HALF of women who have PCOS have been undiagnosed. It has been estimated that approximately 1 in 10 women in their childbearing age are affected by PCOS, and half of those women don’t know it. Not only that, but PCOS is responsible for 70% of infertility issues in women who have difficulty ovulating. Those numbers are huge!
What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome, also known as Stein-Leventhal Syndrome, is one of the most common hormonal endocrine disorders among women of reproductive age. Polycystic means “many cysts,” and PCOS often causes clusters of small, pearl-sized cysts in the ovaries. The cysts are fluid-filled and contain immature eggs. Women with PCOS produce slightly higher amounts of male hormones – known as androgens – which contribute to some of the symptoms of the condition.
Symptoms of PCOS include, but are not limited to, the following: infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods, excess hair growth in unexpected places (around your nipples, inner thighs, belly), acne, weight gain (specifically around your stomach/abdomen), thinning hair on your scalp, and infertility.
Unfortunately, the exact cause of PCOS is unknown and, because the symptoms of PCOS are seemingly unrelated to one another, the condition is often overlooked and undiagnosed. However, early diagnosis and treatment is important as it has been linked to an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
How does PCOS affect my fertility?
To understand how PCOS affects your fertility, you must first understand how ovulation works. Your eggs are produced in your ovaries which contain tiny fluid-filled sacs, called follicles. As the egg grows, the follicle builds up with fluid. Upon maturation, the follicle breaks open, releases the egg, and the egg then travels through the fallopian tube to the uterus for fertilization.
In women with PCOS, the ovaries don’t produce all of the hormones needed for an egg to fully mature. The follicles may start to grow and build up fluid; however, ovulation does not occur and your body does not produce progesterone. Without progesterone, a woman’s menstrual cycle is irregular, or sometimes even absent.
What can I do to treat my PCOS?
The bad news: there is no “cure” for PCOS.
The good news: you have plenty of options when it comes to managing and preventing further PCOS symptoms and related illnesses! Research into the nutritional approach to PCOS has revolutionized the treatment for this problem and, as such, lifestyle and nutrition changes should be the first steps in managing your symptoms.
Blood Flow & Proper Oxygenation
A major problem associated with PCOS is a rise in high muscle sympathetic nerve activity. This constricts the body’s blood vessels, which can increase a woman’s chances of developing diabetes and high blood pressure, two key contributors to heart attack or stroke. To increase blood flow in your body follow these suggestions:
- Water: Drink at least ½ your bodyweight in ounces of clean, filtered water per day. Do not drink out of plastic water bottles. Purchase a water filter for your home, and then use glass or stainless steel refillable water bottles. The AquaCera HCP Counter-Top Filter System is one of my favorites!
- Exercise: Exercise, exercise, exercise! Seriously. We can’t say that enough. Because weight gain is a common symptom of PCOS, shedding those excess pounds is incredibly important in managing your symptoms. As women with (PCOS) lose weight, hormone levels start to return to normal. Find something that you love – whether it be hiking, yoga, cycling, tennis, whatever! – get out and do it, and do it often. Along with the weight loss comes a remarkable change in ovarian function. In one study, 82% of the women who were not previously ovulating showed improvements, with a number of successful pregnancies during the study, even though many of these women had a long-standing history of infertility.
- Acupuncture: In treating PCOS with acupuncture, needles are placed along the acupuncture meridians related to the reproductive system. This helps stimulate the organs, improve blood flow, normalizes hormone levels and promotes the proper functioning of the reproductive system. Studies have shown that regular electro-acupuncture treatments lead to more regular menstrual cycles, reduced testosterone levels, and reduced waist circumference.
Nutrition & Lifestyle
What you eat directly affects not only your well-being, but also your hormones. To start with, restrict or completely eliminate the following from your diet to optimize hormonal balance:
- Cigarettes and Alcohol
- Sugar & Artificial Sweeteners
- Refined Grains
- Non-Organic Animal Products
- Vegetables Oils
- Processed Foods
- Trans Fats
- GMO Foods
Instead, focus on eating real, whole, fresh food that you cook yourself. You want to eat lots of clean proteins, healthy fats, and tons of vegetables. Be sure to incorporate the following into your daily diet:
- Wild-caught Fish & Seafood: salmon, mackerel, herring, halibut, shellfish, oysters, cod, tuna, flounder, sardines, hake, skate, trout, red snapper
- 100% Grass-fed and grass-finished meat: beef, wild game, bison, lamb, pork, pasture-raised: duck, goose, Cornish game hen, pasture-raised, organic chicken and turkey
- Fats & Oils: Grassfed butter or ghee, egg yolks from pastured chickens, animal fats from clean animals (lard, tallow, duck fat, bacon grease, etc), wild caught fatty fish and seafood, raw & unrefined coconut oil
- Fruits: Focus on the low-sugar fruits including all kinds of berries, nectarines, plums, apricots, cantaloupe, grapefruit, lemons and limes
- Vegetables: kale, spinach, Swiss chard, lettuces, broccoli, cabbage, kale, turnips, arugula, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, watercress
There is a wide range of supplemental nutrients that may help you alleviate the symptoms of PCOS! There a TON of options when it comes to supplements, but I’ve narrowed down my top 5 for you:
- Designs For Health Sensitol: Sensitol™ is a unique formulation comprised of two naturally occurring isomers of inositol: myo-inositol (MI) and D-chiro-inositol (DCI) – along with alpha lipoic acid, designed to support normal insulin function and cellular metabolism. Inositol restores ovulation, improves insulin and glucose signaling and helps with other aspects of PCOS. Inositol also improves egg quality.
- Designs For Health N-Acetyl Cysteine: Excessive levels of oxidative stress impede normal ovarian function and new research suggest that women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) have higher levels of oxidative stress which may exacerbate havoc wreaking symptoms on the ovaries. By replenishing glutathione stores and neutralizing the effects of oxidants, NAC has been proven to significantly reduce hirsutism, improve insulin sensitivity, balance hormonal parameters (hyperandrogenism) and improve ovulation rates.
- Designs For Health Chromium Synergy: Chromium Synergy is a synergistic formula of nutrients for optimal insulin function and blood sugar control. It combines the best chelated minerals from Albion Advanced Nutrition in a base of cinnamon powder to assist insulin receptor function and cellular glucose uptake. Chromium is an extremely important mineral if you have PCOS. It helps to encourage the formation of glucose tolerance factor (GTF) which is a substance released by the liver and required to make insulin more efficient.
- Designs For Health Magnesium Buffered Chelate: Many women with PCOS exhibit symptoms of insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, risk factors that raise the risk for heart disease and other problems like diabetes and stroke. Low magnesium levels are often associated with diabetes, and some research indicates that a dietary supplement of the mineral may improve insulin sensitivity, a factor in the development of type 2 diabetes and PCOS.
- Designs For Health Vitamin D Supreme: Vitamins D and K are essential for optimal bone and arterial health and for maintaining the immune system in proper balance. Studies have shown that women with PCOS with supplement with Vitamin D saw improvements in BMI, menstrual abnormalities, and other symptoms related to PCOS.
- Designs For Health GlucoSupreme: GlucoSupreme is ideal for supporting healthy insulin and glucose levels. This unique, synergistic formula combines standardized herbs and other botanicals that are shown to support healthy blood sugar through various mechanisms, including cinnamon, corosolic acid from banaba, isoflavones from kudzu, and ginsenosides from ginseng. It also contains berberine (Berberis aristata), a compound highly regarded for its efficacy in supporting healthy blood glucose regulation and insulin sensitivity.
In a nutshell
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common hormonal endocrine disorders among women of reproductive age.
- The exact cause of PCOS is unknown; however, early detection is essential in preventing further complications.
- While there is no official “cure” for PCOS, health and lifestyle changes can help in the management of PCOS symptoms, including infertility.
I’d love to use this space as a forum of sorts, providing inspiration and community among my readers, so … I want to hear from you!
Do some of the above listed symptoms sound familiar? Have you been tested for PCOS?
Have you tried acupuncture as a treatment for PCOS?
What’s your favorite way to sweat it out? Exercise is mega important in treating PCOS, so I want to know what keeps you active!
Spread some hormonal lovin’! Sharing is caring, and I bet the women in your life would love to read this too :).
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