PCOS: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Grab a cup of warm ginger and lemon tea and lets talk about PCOS.
This is something that resonates with me since I fall somewhere on the “PCOS spectrum”. I typically don’t talk about my own health struggles, but I am seeing more and more PCOS in practice so I feel like it is time to say something. Although my symptoms have been mild compared to others, its been an ongoing balancing act. Struggling to lose weight and taking supplements on a daily basis to help manage acne and hair loss. Hopefully if you or someone you know has been diagnosed with PCOS, you can share this with them and it can offer them some hope. There is so much you can do to help balance the negative symptoms associated with PCOS both naturally and pharmaceutically.
What is it?
PCOS is a common endocrine (“hormone”) disorder affecting about 1 in 10 women and it is the leading cause of infertility (difficulty conceiving) in the United States.
Symptoms associated with PCOS include, but are not limited to:
- Unwanted dark hairs
- Thinning hair (male pattern baldness)
- Weight gain
- Irregular cycles
- Increased body odor
- Decrease in breast size
- Darkening of the skin (primarily on the neck)
- Mood instability
The two most common hormonal imbalances seen with PCOS include increased androgens (testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and dihydrotestosterone (DHT)) and insulin resistance. These hormonal imbalances cause low progesterone and irregular cycles/infertility.
What causes it?
The exact cause of PCOS remains unknown; however researchers believe environment and genetics play a role. There seems to be a connection between autoimmune disease and PCOS indicating that PCOS may be an inflammatory condition.
How do you manage it?
Although there is technically not a “cure” for PCOS, there are several ways to naturally manage PCOS and reverse the disease process. Because PCOS is associated with insulin resistance, diet and lifestyle are crucial to prevent adult onset diabetes. Here are some ways to naturally help manage PCOS and all the unwanted symptoms.
- Eat a whole foods diet. Check out this blog on mindbodygreen that helps outline an anti-inflammatory, whole foods diet. The biggest goal is to reduce sugar and avoid processed foods whenever possible. The fewer ingredients in your food the better. Know what you are putting in your body!
- Exercise. Regular exercise and strength training can greatly help with PCOS. Muscles require glucose for energy; therefore resistance training helps lower blood sugar levels. High intensity exercise and overtraining may not be the best for those with PCOS because it increases cortisol levels and can further cause hormonal imbalances. I typically recommend a good blend of strength training, pilates, yoga, barre, power walking, and spin.
- Avoid toxins. Our environment is FULL of endocrine disruptors (ingredients that cause hormonal imbalances). Its time to clean up our life. Get rid of plastics and switch to glass. Purchase the dirty dozen organic. Switch to clean beauty products; check out Environmental Working Group for health ratings on your favorite products.
- Inositol: great for blood sugar stability and fertility. I recommend 2,000 mg (2 grams) twice a day.
- Omega 3’s: help with inflammation. I recommend around 2,000-3,000 mg per day or 2 of these soft gels daily.
- Probiotics: helps with gut health (the gateway to your health) and hormonal imbalances.
- NAC: precursor of glutathione, one of the most potent antioxidants for detoxification. I recommend taking 600 mg twice a day.
- Vitex or chasteberry: A “progesterone mimicker”, which helps with fertility and mood stability. I recommend 500 mg (or 1 of these capsules) at night.
If natural remedies do not help manage your symptoms, it may be time to see your healthcare provider. Medications often prescribed for PCOS include spironolactone, metformin, and/or birth control.
I’d love to hear your story!
In good health,
Kristin Oja, DNP, FNP-C, CPT