I knew the diagnosis before we even shook hands. Her facial hair, the acne, and the overall shape of her body were the main giveaways. When I looked at the forms that she had filled out before her appointment and saw that she had checked the boxes for infertility and irregular menstrual cycles…I was even more confident. The diagnosis was PCOS, which is short for polycystic ovarian syndrome. Today’s article discusses this condition and the fundamentals of a natural treatment plan for PCOS.
5 Changes to Make Right Now if You Have PCOS
Five million women in the United States are impacted by Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a condition affecting women of childbearing age. PCOS is both a gynecologic and endocrine disorder that disrupts the balance of reproductive hormones including estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. (Yes, even healthy women have testosterone too.) This hormonal imbalance results in clusters of ovarian cysts, menstrual cycle irregularity, fertility problems and other physical symptoms such as fatigue, bloating, acne excessive facial/body hair and insulin resistance to name a few.
PCOS is a puzzling disorder that does not impact everyone in the same way. Research on this condition has shown genetic, epigenetic, endocrine, metabolic and environmental factors play a role in the development of PCOS. There is still a lot to be uncovered about this condition, but it is thought that women are more likely to suffer from PCOS if their mother or sister also suffers.
If you have been diagnosed with PCOS, there are a number of lifestyle changes that you can make to help alleviate symptoms and reduce the severity of the condition.
Stay Active and Fit
Staying active will help improve insulin sensitivity which improves metabolism and helps with weight loss. For the greatest impact, a variety of exercise types are encouraged including resistance training and aerobic workouts. Research shows that people who participate in regular resistance training show better improvement in insulin sensitivity than those who participate in aerobic exercise alone. It is important not to overdo exercise as this causes adrenal burnout which can lead to inflammation and worsen PCOS symptoms. Regular brisk walking, swimming, yoga, and pilates are recommended along with gentle weight lifting. Aim for 30 minutes a day of exercise, at least five days a week.
Take It Easy On The Coffee
Some health experts feel that caffeine can make the symptoms of PCOS worse. One study in Fertility and Sterility showed that drinking two cups of coffee daily increases levels of estradiol, a natural estrogen. Drinking 4-5 cups of coffee a day produces 70% more estrogen in the follicular phase of a menstrual cycle. This can substantially impact hormonal balance.
Eat foods with a low glycemic index
The glycemic index is the measure of a food’s impact on blood sugar after it is eaten. The higher the number, the faster the food sends blood sugar skyrocketing. Eating foods that have a dramatic impact on blood sugar can have a significant effect on PCOS symptoms. These foods include anything that contains refined sugar, simple starches, and processed/fast foods. Foods with a low glycemic index don’t cause serious spikes in blood sugar and include whole grains, brown rice, non-starchy vegetables, lentils, and dairy.
Balance Proteins and Carbs
People with PCOS usually have an overproduction of the hormone androgen which can impact the development and release of eggs during ovulation. There is a connection between excess insulin (the hormone that helps to convert sugar and starch into energy) and higher than normal levels of androgen.
Eating equal amounts of protein and carbohydrates helps to keep insulin levels even and maintains healthy hormones. Whole grain and sprouted grain products contain more protein and fiber, making them a wise choice. Stay clear of processed carbohydrates such as white flour and white rice that can spike insulin levels and have very little nutritional value.
Fiber is also important and getting enough helps to manage PCOS because it slows down the digestion of sugars. This reduces the insulin spike, improves healthy estrogen metabolism, which lowers estrogen levels. Some of the best sources of fiber include broccoli, leafy greens apples, whole grains, and celery.
Lack of sleep can worsen the symptoms of PCOS as it is associated with elevated insulin resistance and difficulty losing weight.
Insufficient sleep has also been linked to a greater intake of bad carbohydrate foods. Women with PCOS have higher rates of sleep apnea which contributes to fatigue. If you have difficulty falling asleep at night try a few of these tips:
- Sleep in a cool and dark room
- Keep to the same sleeping and waking schedule
- Put electronics away at least an hour before bedtime
- Drink chamomile tea before bedtime
- Use an essential oil diffuser with lavender in your bedroom
- Invest in a good mattress
-The UpWellness Team