1/ What is PCOS?
A hormonal imbalance, in which the ovaries and adrenal glands produce more male sex hormones (androgens) than necessary.
A complex cascade effect of this hormone imbalance can result in cyst formation on the ovaries, but confusingly, women with PCOS can have all the symptoms and not the cysts.
2/ What causes PCOS?
PCOS is multifactorial. There have been several risk factors that have been identified:
- Genetics – women with mothers/sisters with PCOS are more likely to have PCOS
- Insulin resistance – High levels of insulin (needed to remove sugar from the blood into stage/use) can lead to an increase production of androgens.
- Autoimmune thyroid conditions
3/ Symptoms of PCOS:
- Infertility (PCOS is the most common cause of infertility)
- Irregular/absent menses
- Hirsutism – increased hair grown (face, chest, back)
- Ovarian cysts
- Obesity, difficulty losing weight.
4/ PCOS – Diet and Lifestyle Guidelines:
In those that are overweight/obese, losing as little as 2-5% of body weight can improve metabolic health (reduce insulin resistance) ad reproductive health (decrease androgens) by up to 70%.
A healthy BMI between 18-24.9 will assist with the efficacy of other PCOS treatments prescribed by your practitioner.
Implementing a low GI (replacing simple carbohydrates with complex carbohydrates) has shown to regulate blood sugar levels ands reduce insulin resistance.
A high protein/lo GI diet will assist with weight reduction/maintenance.
Eat 5-6 small meals daily to boost metabolism and regulate blood sugar levels (be mindful of portion size!)
Foods to avoid:
- Dairy – shown to increase testosterone (androgen)
- Soy products – implicated in anovulation (estrogenic)
- Saturated/hydrogenated/trans fats – such as vegetable oils, margarine will increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes (increased risk with PCOS).
Foods to include:
- Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) – shown to assist with hormone balance, weight management and fertility
E.g. avocado, salmon, nuts and seeds, olive oil
- Organic meats – lean, great source of protein. Organic sources will ensure no contamination with chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides that will contribute to hormone dysregulation.
- Green leafy vegetables – increase iron, calcium, magnesium and B vitamins, all of which play a role in blood sugar regulation, metabolising fats and sugar, regulation mood/stress reduction and healthy thyroid function.
Exercise: 3-4 times weekly for an hour
Regular exercise reduce insulin resistance, lowers cholesterol (commonly elevated in PCOS), increase endorphins (improving mood and reducing stress), improves sleep, reduces risk of cardiovascular disease ands helps with regulation of hormones (reduces fat stores thus reducing oestrogen production).
Stress (in particular the stress hormone cortisol) has a direct link to hormone imbalance associated with PCOS.
It is important to be have ‘tricks and tools’ available to you, so you can use them when you encounter a stressful situation (which we are all at some stage!)
- Breathing techniques – when you are feeling stressed, pay attention to your breath and practice taking three deep breaths.
- Exercise (see above)
- Meditation – has shown to increase GABA (the neurotransmitter that is responsible to reducing anxiety and increasing feelings of wellbeing) Join a group, look up a clip on you tube or download an app on your phone.
These guidelines are intended to support the personalised treatment protocol that we create together.
There are so many options for you, don’t give up!
Yours in health,