Infertility is on the rise lately and at a startling rate. I am sure we all know of one, two, or more women in our lives that are suffering from the inability to get pregnant or hold a pregnancy. This can be very stressful and can cause issues in relationships with partners and our relationship with ourselves. My heart goes to all the women and couples suffering; I would like to walk this path with you. I want you to know you are not alone. I hope that my information brings you light and helps you to understand what one of the major contributing syndromes to infertility is and know that it is possible to reverse it.
What is PCOS?
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a hormonal, metabolic, and reproductive disorder that affects women. While the root cause is still not verified, one thing we do know is looking at insulin resistance as the possible root, and the biggest player has been most beneficial in treating and reversing. Insulin resistance is a condition where your body is having a difficult time processing (resisting) your insulin levels. It is the leading cause of female infertility. THE LEADING CAUSE! PCOS affects at least 1 in 10 women (it is believed that 50 percent of women with PCOS go undiagnosed).
If not addressed, PCOS is also known to lead to other serious conditions, including metabolic syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes; both are created again by insulin resistance. Fifty percent of women with PCOS will develop Type 2 Diabetes by age 40! See why this is so important to our health to focus on? Insulin can also create elevated levels of androgens (testosterone and DHEA), this is why you might see unwanted hairs on your face, back and chest, acne, male pattern baldness, and mood swings.
We want to catch PCOS early by being aware of our symptoms and listen to our bodies. Symptoms are your body’s language; we cannot ignore or underplay them. We have learned to turn off our ability to listen; we have lost touch with ourselves. We have got to get back to our natural innate selves. No one knows your body better than you. PCOS is a syndrome, a collection of symptoms that are in a disease state. Many symptoms come with PCOS, and not all need to be experienced to validate having PCOS.
So what are these symptoms our body is messaging? What should we be aware of? The symptoms can appear in any combination of the following:
· Irregular or non-existent periods, not ovulating
· Difficulty getting pregnant
· Loss of hair or thinning hair on head
· Excessive hair growth on face, neck, back or chest
· Extra weight around the waist
· Weight gain
· Oily skin and acne, body acne on back and chest
· Mood swings
How Do We Address or Treat These Symptoms?
“Being healthy is multifunctional, and so is the development of imbalance which leads to dysfunction, onto syndromes and eventually disease. “ – Aviva Romm, MD
Right now the treatment for PCOS is pretty minimal. Most treatments involve prescribing Metformin, a blood sugar stabilizer, and that is it. While Metformin is a great drug that certainly has its place and will stabilize the blood sugar, it is just a band-aid, we need to focus more in-depth on the underlying causes:
1. Mismanaged blood sugar
2. Over-exertion of the adrenal glands
3. Gut health imbalance
4. Environmental toxins
Balance Your Blood Sugar Levels:
This is where you want to start, and this is what will make the greatest impact on your symptoms and your overall health. Food is medicine when it comes to PCOS and blood sugar/insulin imbalance. Getting your blood sugar and insulin under control is critical for ovulation, for lowering your androgen levels and creating a healthy gut microbiome.
Consuming a diet full of healthy fats, nutrient-rich vegetables, complex carbs, and well-sourced quality proteins will keep your blood sugar stable. This is similar to a Paleo-style diet but with quinoa, beans, and buckwheat added in.
Try not to overdo it on animal meat protein as it can promote insulin resistance and inflammation. Keeping to the rule of 4-6 ounces at your largest meal, this tends to be the size of your palm. Try adding other sources of protein such as beans, lentils, gelatin, and collagen. Ditch your caffeine! I know, I know… but caffeine is a stimulant that can have a major negative effect on your hormones and adrenal glands. Typically I am not a fan of overcomplicating how we eat by measuring or timing foods, as it tends to add stress to eating, but when addressing insulin resistance eating on a schedule will help to not stress your body with a big blood sugar drop. Try to eat breakfast within two hours of waking, and not eating a dessert for breakfast like muffins, waffles, or pancakes. Time your lunch to be within four hours of breakfast and dinner to be no later than 7 pm. It is a great idea to have a snack in between lunch and dinner. Carry snacks with you everywhere you go. If you are hungry, you eat. Every meal and every snack should have an adequate amount of protein and fat for sustaining you and have a good serving of vegetables. You want to aim for eating at least one pound of vegetables mixed with low sugar fruits like berries a day. Eat the rainbow! Your vegetables should be in all the beautiful colors mother earth has given us. Avoid pesticides when it comes to your produce, especially on items you eat the skin. And remember to cut out sugar, white flour products, fruit juice, and sodas. Even dumping dairy at this time is a great idea as dairy is lactose and lactose is a sugar that can cause inflammation.
We typically think of exercise as being very good for us, but with PCOS exercise can increase insulin sensitivity so you will want to focus on strength training and slow movement restorative exercises like yoga, hiking, and pilates instead of cardio that will raise your cortisol levels that can disrupt blood sugar levels.
You want to strength train 2-3 days/week to regulate hormones. Bonus: strength training promotes healthy strong bones.
Sleep! Sleeping helps to reset insulin sensitivity and reduces inflammation aim for 7-9 solid hours a night.
Work on your breathing techniques. Deep diaphragmatic breathing can help lower your stress and your blood pressure. An easy way to instantly relax and get some good deep breaths is to lay on your back with your legs elevated at a 90 degree, calves resting on something with your back flat without curving in your lower lumbar, you might have to adjust your hips to let this happen. Take a slow deep breath in through your nose and focus on that breath flowing down into your diaphragm, passing your lungs. Place one hand on your diaphragm and one on your chest. Try to feel that your chest is not rising, but instead, your diaphragm is.
Meditation is another great source for resting our bodies, and meditation can look any way you want it to. Taking 5-10 minutes a day by yourself to just clear your mind. Doesn’t that sound dreamy to us moms?
Balance Your Hormones:
Avoid exposure to environmental toxins that disrupt our endocrine system. Learning about the chemicals in our everyday products will help you to understand what you are putting on and in your body. Try to drink from glass containers and store your food in glass dishes like pyrex, choose foods that are not in soft plastic wrapping whenever possible. Use only environmentally friendly cosmetics, body products, and household cleaners. I suggest always wearing gloves when working with cleaning products even if they are said to be safe. Fluoride in your toothpaste can harm your thyroid, and perfumes and scents can create negative responses in your adrenal glands. Make sure to have one or two bowel movements a day, if not, increase fiber intake or reach for magnesium citrate. Daily Bowel movements are necessary to properly eliminate excess estrogen; if you are not eliminating daily, then the estrogen will be reabsorbed through your intestines and cause estrogen dominance. Consuming Flax Seeds daily will help lower your androgen levels naturally as well as provide fiber and finally consider taking a daily probiotic.
Vitamins and Supplements to Help Support Therapeutically:
We always want to be food-focused when considering optimal health, our foods should provide us with everything we need, but there are times when we are in desperation for the power, and quick relief supplements can provide to us. Consider taking the supplements for 6-12 months consistently with a blood sugar balanced diet and controlling your stress.
Again, we are looking at many different symptoms that would require different supplements, finding a few that help each symptom would be in your best interest. Overloading your body with too many supplements can just be too daunting, plus you’ll save a lot of money refining your list down.
Inositol is a great supplement for blood sugar balance. Inositol is naturally found in legumes, the reason I mentioned keeping them in your diet with the paleo-style of eating, chromium picolinate, cinnamon, and alpha-lipoic acid are all fantastic supplements for lowering insulin resistance.
Vitex, Black Cohosh extract, and the combination of Peony and Licorice are beautiful hormone balancers, while adaptogens like ginseng, Ashwagandha, Rhodiola, and maitake mushroom support your adrenals. There are so many more supplements, but I wanted to highlight ones that I have found successful in treating PCOS.
I hope that all of this information helps you to understand PCOS whether you have been diagnosed with PCOS or are battling some of these symptoms. Also, I would like to say that the diet and lifestyle suggestions will help tremendously with any hormonal imbalance you might be experiencing.