A Cure For PCOS?
What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common endocrine system disorder among women of reproductive age. It is a condition where the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone are out of balance. Women with PCOS are producing too many androgens, such as testosterone.
Symptoms of PCOS usually become apparent in your late teens or early twenties. Women with PCOS will not have all of the symptoms, and each symptom can vary from mild to severe. Many women only experience menstrual problems and/or are unable to conceive.
- Irregular periods or no periods at all
- difficulty getting pregnant (because of irregular ovulation or failure to ovulate)
- excessive hair growth (hirsutism) – usually on the face, chest, back or buttocks
- weight gain and/or trouble losing weight
- thinning hair and hair loss from the head
- oily skin or acne
- Dark patches of skin on the back of your neck and other areas, called acanthosis nigricans (a-can-tho-sis ni-gri-cans)
If PCOS is not treated or managed, the following conditions are likely to develop:
- Sleep apnea
- Depression and anxiety
- Abnormal uterine bleeding
- Cancer of the uterine lining (endometrial cancer), caused by exposure to continuously high levels of estrogen
- Gestational diabetes or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Cholesterol and lipid abnormalities, such as elevated triglycerides or low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the "good" cholesterol
- Metabolic syndrome — a cluster of signs and symptoms that indicate a significantly increased risk of cardiovascular disease
- Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis — a severe liver inflammation
Will There Be A Cure For PCOS?
PCOS affects 5%-10% of women of reproductive age. While PCOS is a common endocrine disorder there is no cure and many women also go undiagnosed and untreated.
PCOS is a condition in which a woman's hormones are imbalanced. While the type and cause of a woman's PCOS may differ, the problem is a hormone imbalance and in order to treat the hormone imbalance, you have to get to the root cause and find out what is actually causing the hormone imbalance. Therefore, it is not about treating the symptoms such as losing weight, you have to treat the root cause.
Causes of Hormone Imbalance
- Insulin Resistance
- Inflammation (caused by, stress, environmental toxins, foods such as dairy, gluten)
- Birth Control Pill
- Eating disorders and being in a calorie deficit
- Not eating enough starchy carbohydrates
- Thyroid disease
- Iodine deficiency
There is no cure for PCOS. No magic pill or potion that can be taken and PCOS will just disappear. A popular treatment option recommended by Doctors, which I have previously followed and do not agree with, is the Birth Control Pill. A problem with the birth control pill is that it does not actually treat PCOS, it merely masks the symptoms.
Doctors, unfortunately, do not know anything else apart from the Pill and suggesting you lose weight to treat your PCOS.
Doctors prescribe the Birth Control on the notion that it helps to balance your hormones. The Birth Control Pill contains artificial hormones, which can help you to have a 'period'. However, the 'period' in reality is not real, it is a fake. It is actually a breakthrough bleed, which happens once you stop the pill for a week. The Pill does not necessarily help you balance your hormones.
What Do You Need To Do?
If PCOS is a hormone imbalance, that obviously means you need to follow an approach that will helps to rebalance them and this is something you can do naturally yourself.
How Do you Balance your Hormones?
Firstly, let's identify what hormones are. Hormones are chemical messengers in the body, there are many hormones, and they all have various roles in the body. However, their job is to control major bodily functions, such as reproduction, to hunger and mood.
Estrogen (or estradiol) is the primary sex hormone for women. This is the hormone that causes puberty, regulates the menstrual cycle, and prepares the body and uterus for pregnancy. During menopause, estrogen levels begin to decrease causing the common uncomfortable symptoms.
As I mentioned above, PCOS is an endocrine disorder, and endocrine glands make hormones. The major endocrine glands are the adrenal glands, pancreas, pituitary, pineal, thymus and thyroid. Women produce hormones in their ovaries.
Food and Your Hormones
The food we eat can harm us, but it can also heal us. Our diet and lifestyle play a crucial role in how our body functions. These chemical messengers (our hormones) are sensitive. You need to take care of your hormones. Changes in your diet and lifestyle can lead to changes in your body, such as your hormones.
As you can see from above, the causes of hormone imbalances are mostly caused due to poor diet and lifestyle. Therefore, if your hormone imbalance is caused as a result of poor diet/nutrition or a stressful lifestyle, improving both your diet and lifestyle can help to reverse the problem. Seems legit, right?
I am a firm believer in the power of food and exercise. The quote of I always find myself referring to is-
"Every time you eat or drink, you are either feeding disease or fighting it.” ~ Heather Morgan
Fats. When I talk about fats, I mean the 'healthy fats', monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. One of the six key roles of fats in the body is to help manufacture and balance hormones. High-fat diets increase the number of estrogens in the blood, and when women adopt low-fat diets, their estrogen levels drop.
Furthermore, studies show a low-fat diet can cause problems with fertility and ovulation.
Do not be afraid to eat fat. The fat you eat is not that fat that you wear.
Sugar. Sugar is known to increase blood sugar levels and in turn, lead to spikes in insulin. Insulin is released by the pancreas when we eat, however, carbs specifically sugar stimulates more of a release. If you suffer from insulin resistance (insulin resistance is when the cells in the body have trouble absorbing glucose in the blood and in turn there is a buildup of sugar in the blood), your ovaries begin to produce a lot of androgens.
It is vital that you take control and balance your blood sugar levels. Balancing your blood sugar levels and managing your insulin levels is one of the most important steps when it comes to reversing your PCOS.
Avoid extreme low carbohydrates diets. Our hormones need carbohydrates.
Reducing your carb intake too low or eliminating carbohydrates from your diet is not good for your thyroid. It is vital for women especially that we eat carbohydrates for our fertility/menstrual health.
Your hypothalamus loves carbs/glucose; it is one of the key regulators of your hormones and it signals to your brain and ovaries that you are being fed. The hypothalamus produces the Thyrotropin-Releasing Hormone; a low Thyrotropin-Releasing Hormone is the cause of irregular menstrual cycles.
Many women with PCOS are also insulin resistant. A popular path to go on in order to manage insulin resistance is to eliminate carbohydrates entirely. While you may think you are treating it, you have not healed it by getting to the root cause.
You do not have to eliminate carbs, simply opt for better carb options, complex carbs such as quinoa and buckwheat. These types of carbs have a low Glycemic Index and in turn, will not increase your blood sugar levels or your insulin.
Stop dieting and restricting. Restrictive diets are the worst for our hormones. Our bodies are clever they know when there is a severe restriction of energy. Once the body detects this energy restriction reproductive hormones are affected, your menstrual cycle, sex drive, but also your bones and heart.
Our body undertakes these responses in order to save energy. When your body is in a starving state it shuts down reproduction as there are not enough calories for one person let alone two. Your body is more focused on saving energy for survival.
Caffeine. Caffeine is not the best for your adrenals. Drinking coffee stimulates the release of both cortisol and adrenaline. Your body switches to the 'fight or flight' mode. The burst of adrenaline is great for performance. However, the problem is that over the use of caffeine can cause you to burn out, which results in adrenal fatigue. Every time you drink caffeine you force your adrenal glands to secrete even when they do not really have much-left give. Eventually, your body crashes and over time, you begin to feel even more tired and fatigued.
When it comes to reversing you PCOS, it is all about making healthy food choices to ensure good nutrition. It is important to be mindful of what you are eating. Think about how particular food affects your body.
Stress Management. Stress causes inflammation in the body and is turn a cause of PCOS and hormone imbalances. Managing your stress is so crucial for reversing PCOS. High cortisol affects any progress you make with regards to balancing your hormones. Chronically high levels of cortisol cause problems with regards to sex hormones and endocrine glands such as thyroid hormones work in the body.
Exercise regularly. Exercise not only helps with weight loss, but it can also help with other PCOS symptoms such as stress and anxiety. Exercise does not have to involve an intense gym session, it can be yoga, walking, swimming, dancing. Although, there is research indicating how resistance training can be a great form of exercise for women with PCOS and insulin resistance.
As I said, it does not have to be intense or every day. If you can exercise 3-4 times a week that is just fine.
Do you only have 30 minutes? That is perfect! Any time that you do have to allocate to exercise is all that matters.
We need to stop assuming exercise is just when we want to lose weight. Exercise is so much more than that. It is about getting your body to move and for you to step away from the stressors of daily life.
A holistic approach must be taken, in which all of the above factors are taken into consideration. It is difficult to restore hormone balance without making changes to most, if not all of the components. You cannot expect to balance your hormone only through a healthy diet but you are constantly stressed.
Hey there! I am Despina Pavlou, founder of PCOS Oracle and online coach. I want to share with you the diet and lifestyle changes I made to naturally reverse my PCOS and achieve hormonal balance. I believe using my holistic approach you too can take back control from PCOS.