What is PCOS? Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a hormonal imbalance or endocrine disorder. PCOS is common; research suggests it affects one in eight women and teenagers. PCOS may be difficult to diagnose because of its varied collection of symptoms that may be similar to those of other disease. PCOS symptoms are caused by changes in hormone levels. Polycystic, means many cysts, clusters of small cysts in the ovaries. The cysts are fluid filled bubbles or follicles that contain eggs that have not been released during ovulation due to the hormonal imbalances. PCOS develops when the ovaries overproduce androgens, a 'male hormone'. Androgens interfere with ovulation and normal egg development.
What are the symptoms?PCOS symptoms may vary from woman to woman. Some of the most common symptoms are:
- Irregular, heavy, painful menstrual periods or no periods
- Weight gain
- Acne and oily skin
- Hairsuitism (excessive body hair)
- Alopecia (thinning of the hair)
- Irregular ovulation
- Sleep problems, anxiety, mood swings due to disrupted hormone levels
- Insulin resistance
- Polycystic ovaries (ultrasound testing)
- Irregular production of Folicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Luteinizing Hormone (LH)
Women with PCOS are at increased risk of developing:
- Insulin resistance
- Cardiovascular disease (heart disease, high blood pressure)
- High cholesterol
- Fatty liver
- Metabolic syndrome: cluster of symptoms including Insulin Resistance, High Blood Pressure, and High Cholesterol
Treatment of PCOSSimple lifestyle changes and early treatment can help control the symptoms and prevent the long term problems of PCOS.
- During teenage years irregular periods and acne are usually early signs of PCOS. The most common treatment for these symptoms is the Oral Contraceptive Pill (OPC).
- Metformin or thiazolidenediones is the primary treatment of insulin resistance with little little success. Dietary changes are the best strategies for long term success.
- Encourages lifestyle changes
- Reduces androgen excess
- Helps regulate and balance hormones
- Reduce weight and insulin resistance
- Promotes Ovulation
DietBy nourishing your body with a healthy diet and balancing blood sugar levels you will be able to minimise symptoms or avoid PCOS.
Foods to include:
- Follow a Low GI diet
- Increase Essential Fatty Acids from oily fish like Sardines and Salmon
- Increase whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat
- Drink a minimum of 2 litres of spring or filtered water per day
- Include nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruit
- A High Protein diet is typically associated with excellent weight loss results in insulin-resistant and PCOS women.
- Increase fibre intake
- Add more fruits, vegetables
Foods and lifestyle changes:
- Avoid chemical preservatives, artificial sweeteners, additives and coloring
- Avoid trans fatty acids
- Reduce salt intake
- Avoid sugar
- Reduce alcohol consumption
- Avoid tea and coffee
- Avoid Refined carbohydrates
- Limit processed foods
- Stop smoking
Herbs and Supplements that are beneficialThe goal for PCOS is to reduce inflammation, promote regular ovulation, balance hormones and blood sugar levels.
- Chromium - enhances the action of insulin and may improve blood sugar control
- Vitamin D deficiency is very common in women with PCOS. Supplementing can help restore normal menstrual cycles and it plays important role in glucose metabolism.
- Essential fatty acids - helps with weight loss and hormone balancing
- Hormone balancing herbs can help normalise ovulation and improve timing of the menstrual cycle
- Adaptogens are herbs that improves resistance to stress and can have regulatory effects on blood sugar.