Polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS is becoming more and more common with 1 in 7 women of reproductive age diagnosed with the condition. It can be a scary diagnosis with the increased risk of infertility, increased susceptibility for weight gain, increased risk of anxiety and depression as well as a higher risk of developing diabetes.
So what is PCOS? PCOS is a hormonal condition leading to the ovaries developing small cysts from the eggs which do not fully mature in the ovaries. All this means is that ovulation does not occur and the associated increase in progesterone post-ovulation doesn’t happen, whilst oestrogen and testosterone continue to be produced. This leads to unbalanced hormones which can result in a number of concerns for individuals.
Women with PCOS commonly complain of the following:
- Development of infrequent and irregular periods, often during adolescence;
- Sudden weight gain in adolescence or early adulthood;
- Excessive facial and/or body hair (hirsutism);
- Acne and oily skin;
- Scalp hair loss (androgenic alopecia);
- Infertility; and
- Continuous weight gain, particularly abdominal (central obesity), or trouble losing weight.
In a bid to assist women manage PCOS, there are some conventional medical interventions available. Some of the latest research from Monash University, released in July this year, contained the following advice to manage PCOS:
- Aim for a healthy lifestyle and, if needed, a 5-10% weight loss of overall weight
- Consider taking the oral contraceptive pill
- Consider Metformin
- Laser, electrolysis, waxing or threading for hair removal
- Consider planning your pregnancy/s prior to age 35years.
However, what was immensely upsetting to me about these treatment methods was there was no mention about balancing the woman’s hormones naturally or about any form of alternative treatment. The oral contraceptive pill simply masks the woman’s natural hormones and yes, reduces some of the symptoms, but DOES NOT solve the underlying problem. The same goes for Metformin, a diabetes drug. There are alternative ways to solve weight gain and insulin issues, which are far less harmful to the body than taking Metformin.
So, if you or a female in your life thinks they have PCOS or have recently been diagnosed, question your doctors first and seek second opinions before starting their treatment methods. Acupuncture, seeing a herbalist, meditation, nutrition and naturopathy can all assist in healing you from the inside out rather than masking what is going on.
Some clients prefer a natural, holistic method of treatment, which is where I can assist. When clients come to see me with PCOS or unbalanced hormones, the 5 things I work with them on are:
- Ditch soy products and plastics. Both plastics and soy can mimic oestrogen in the body, particularly processed soy products. Consistently heating food up in plastic containers assists in the release of osteogen-mimicking molecules which are delivered to our bloodstream and stop our naturally formed oestrogen from doing their function. Also avoid drinking water from plastic bottles that have been sitting in the sun.
- Increase protein and don’t be afraid of fat. Ensuring you consume at least 1g per kilogram of body weight. If you’re 70kg that means you need 70g of protein daily. Our hormones are actually made up of fats and proteins so we need plenty to assist our fertility. Oily fish, eggs, avocadoes and olives all nourish the reproductive system.
- Stay hydrated and allow (some) alcoholic drinks. Drink plenty of good quality water, preferably filtered. Allow yourself some alcohol, although don’t drink alcohol excessively. Some studies have shown that more than 2 glasses per week can impact ovulation.
- Get plenty of sleep. Having a regular sleep cycle – particularly between the hours of 10pm – 6am – helps adjust hormones to optimal levels.
- Eat as fresh as possible and consider organic food. A nourishing diet is key to hormonal health. Including a large range of colourful fruit and vegetables are important to ensure we get all our vitamins and minerals. Eating these fresh and seasonally is important. Where possible, choose organic foods, as they help to reduce your exposure to pesticides and chemicals, which can play havoc with our gut, weight, and in turn our hormonal health.
During the month of September, all clients of Health Space can have the opportunity enter them and a friend to WIN a free nutrition consult, month of sauna, 2 weeks of a detoxification supplement program, and gut health ebook. Enter your name and your friends name in clinic, or at this link.
Emma is a nutritionist, exercise physiologist and manager of corporate health at Health Space. She has a strong passion for holistic health and healing the body at the root cause of the issue, and her preferred areas of treatment are hormonal conditions, digestive and gut health, food intolerances and allergies, and veganism / vegetarianism. If you are interested in discussing your health concerns with Emma, contact the Potts Point clinic on 02 8354 1534.