One of the most common conditions affecting woman of a reproductive age is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, often shortened to PCOS.
With a broad range of symptoms, this is a difficult condition for GP’s to diagnose and often leads to misdiagnosis.
Below we explain what might be happening and how you might be able to begin to address your health.
- Hair loss or hair growth in places such as face, chest and back
- Irregular periods
- Difficulty conceiving and absence of ovulation
- Cysts on the ovaries (a characteristic of PCOS but not always present)
- Weight gain, and difficulty losing weight
Diagnosis usually involves blood tests of the main sex hormones LH, FSH, progesterone, oestrogen, testosterone, blood sugar marker and thyroid hormones. An Ultrasound is also a consideration but even if cysts are found this doesn’t always conclude PCOS as a diagnosis.
If you have any of the above symptoms, it may be worth a visit to your GP to see if this diagnosis can be confirmed.
Standard ‘treatment’ through a GP will often involve tackling each symptom using medications such contraceptive pills, diabetic medications to regulate hormones, fertility drugs, and other hormone blocking drugs to address hair growth and acne.
Unfortunately, none of these address PCOS, as the root cause is rarely investigated…and identifying the root causes of any symptom or disease is essential to overcome these symptoms, and support chronic conditions.
The adrenal glands are mainly responsible for producing stress hormones. Overproduction of these stress hormones will reduce the production of sex hormones because your body prioritises stress responses over conceiving. Both reproduction and digesting food will not be a priority for the body when under physical or emotional stress.
The thyroid is an important gland for producing and signalling the production of hormones.
If the thyroid is not functioning as it should, this can block production of the necessary hormones needed for ovulating.
Weight issues and/or Insulin Resistance
This is a common cause and one that can be addressed with the right dietary and lifestyle guidance.
Adipose fat tissue produces enzymes that unbalance hormone levels, starting a cascade of issues. Losing body fat is a great starting point to address this issue.
A diet that is high in processed foods, white flours, refined grains and sugary foods and drinks increases the amount of glucose in the blood stream.
The pancreas secretes insulin to reduce these high levels, but when levels are continuous and repetitive over time the cells in our body start to ignore the insulin and this is known as insulin resistance.
The result is too much sugar and glucose in the blood and too much insulin.
This is the road to type 2 diabetes and potentially diabetic medication – which comes with a whole host of side effects and health impacts.
Inflammation (especially in your gut!)
Inflammation damages your hormone receptors and suppresses ovulation. Therefore, if you suffer from bloating, irregular bowel movements or other IBS symptoms, the inflammation in your gut needs to be addressed in order to balance your hormones.
Nutritional Therapy Aims
- Establish the root cause of your issue, with the use of specific and thorough functional testing.
- Decrease any excess body fat around the middle (to reduce the hormone production from adipose tissue)
- Decrease insulin resistance (limiting sugary foods, incorporating exercise, and providing a list of useful foods, spices and supplements to minimise excess amounts of insulin)
- Support the liver. The liver is vital for breaking down and clearing hormones out of the body (we would recommend liver supporting foods and reducing the burden on the liver will be important)
- Address stress – we’ll always recommend lifestyle medicine to reduce the impact stress has on the body. Stress leads to inflammation, and together we will discuss ways to reduce this.
- Getting everything moving – encouraging frequent healthy bowel movements, ensuring hormones are excreted efficiently.
If you have any IBS symptoms, we recommend taking a stool test to check for underlying infections. Working with a qualified Nutritional Therapist to rebalance the gut and reduce inflammation is a good idea.
If you are overweight or have poor circulation, we recommend a full thyroid test (to check TSH, T4, T3 and TPO antibodies). Your GP may do this for you, but it may not be an expansive test of all hormones or you can order a test through our private Labs.
Useful Foods for PCOS
Replace your sugary snacks with protein rich ones. Avoid ‘low fat’ products that are laden with sugar.
Low GI carbs
Opt for ‘slow release’ carbohydrates such as whole grains, brown rice, sweet potatoes, quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice pasta, and soba noodles.
Fat’s don’t make you fat! Your hormones depend on fats to function. Include olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, avocado, and oily fish.
Meat, fish, seafood, full-fat dairy (if not eliminating), pulses and legumes such as lentils and chick peas.
Aim for 10 a day; all kinds, all colours, and organic where possible!
Works in the same way as metformin to balance your blood sugar. Sprinkle it on yoghurt, use it in curries, and in hot drinks.
Many women who have adjusted their diet and lifestyle, addressed inflammation and incorporated supplements for additional support have overcome this condition. If you would like some support with PCOS, or you suspect a hormone imbalance is hindering your weight loss – get in touch.