Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) effects 12%–21% of Australian reproductive-age women, being more common among those who are overweight. And it is estimated a whopping 70% of Australian women with PCOS remain undiagnosed (March W 2010.) PCOS is a hormonal condition, 'Polycystic' literally translates to 'many cyst'. These are partially formed follicles on the ovaries that contain an egg.
Women with PCOS may experience common symptoms:
- Irregular menstrual cycles – menstruation may be less or more frequent due to less frequent ovulation,
- Amenorrhoea (no periods) – some women with PCOS do not menstruate, in some cases for many years.
- Adult acne.
- Growing hair in unexpected places IE facial hair or body.
- Losing hair from places you want it, IE your scalp.
- Infertility (difficulty in becoming pregnant)
- Mood changes – including anxiety and depression
- Obesity or weight gain.
- Sleep apnoea.
- Pre-diabetic or have type 2 diabetes.
Time to check in:
If any of this is resinating with you or perhaps certain symptoms have increased it may be time to get checked. It's best to check in with your doctor or endocrinologist for a blood test to check your hormones levels. Once you get results, the doctor may also suggest a vaginal ultrasound to get a closer look at your ovaries and check for cysts, even though not all women who have PCOS develop ovarian cysts.
Unfortunately there is very little focus on lifestyle and prevention and their isn't a standard treatment for PCOS. It is very individualised but today we are going to still look at some of the many natural ways to heal!
Food is medicine:
Although their is a lack of research supporting the role of diet in PCOS, clients can still have profound effects when changing their diet. Changing the diet to a specific PCOS diet may not just reduce symptoms but can assist in weight loss (for those that are overweight) and help with prevention of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and impaired fertility (Hetchman, 2014.)
Some of the do's:
- Reduce inflammation by enjoying lots of plants, good fats and animal proteins.
- Insulin resistance is a key feature in PCOS so following a low GI diet is recommended (Marsh K 2005).
- Drink plenty of water
- Drink 2 cups of fresh spearmint tea during follicular phase of the menstrual cycle to help block testosterone.
- Stress management practises are imperative. Yoga, breathing, meditation, sufficient sleep and rest.
- Exercise daily for 30 minutes to help reduce stress.
- You may consider supplementation with a B complex, EFA's, probiotic and Magnesium (dosage will differ per person)
Some of the don'ts:
- Avoid or keep caffeine to a minimum. Caffeine may impact negatively on reproduction.
- Avoid alcohol, smoking and recreational drugs
- Sugars in all forms, even natural need to be kept to a minimum. No more than 2 pieces of fruit daily for example.
- Avoid refined carbohydrates in order to reduce insulin resistance by stabilising blood sugar levels.
I hope this information can be used as a starting point if you or someone you know is experiencing PCOS. Please share this with anyone who needs it. Food is medicine and can do incredible things for our body.
For more information or help overcoming PCOS through nutritional and supplementation please click here.
My initial consultation involves an in-depth look into your history and condition. This will go from up to an hour. It is then followed with a plan on the best way to move forward from a nutritional and lifestyle perspective based on your personal experience.
- Teede HJ, Misso ML, Deeks AA et al. 2011, ‘Assessment and management of polycystic ovary syndrome: summary of an evidence-based guideline’, Medical Journal of Australia, vol. 195, no. 6, pp. s65–s112.
- Sirmans SM, Pate KA 2013, ‘Epidemiology, diagnosis, and management of polycystic ovary syndrome’, Clinical Epidemiology. vol. 18, no. 6, pp. 1–13.
- Setji TL, Brown AJ, 2014, ‘Polycystic ovary syndrome: update on diagnosis and treatment’, American Journal of Medicine, vol. 127, no. 10, pp. 912–919.
- March WA, Moore VM, Willson KJ et al. 2010, ‘The prevalence of polycystic ovary syndrome in a community sample assessed under contrasting diagnostic criteria’, Human Reproduction, vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 544–551.
- March W, Moore V, Willson K, et al. The prevalence of polycystic ovary syndrome in a community sample assessed under contrasting diagnostic criteria. Hum Reprod 2010; 25: 544-551.
- Marsh K, Brand Miller J. The optimal diet for women with polysistic ovary syndrome. British journal of nutrition. 2005