There are a number of health conditions that can affect women’s reproduction and overall health, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of them.
About one in ten women of childbearing age has PCOS, which is a complex disorder that can affect a woman's menstrual cycle, ability to have children, hormones, heart, and even their appearance.
Commonly characterized by irregular periods, thinning hair, weight gain, acne, increased facial hair, insulin resistance, ovarian cysts and high estrogen levels, PCOS is the leading cause of women’s infertility. Believed to be caused by genetics or excess male hormones called androgens, new research indicates that blood sugar imbalance, insulin resistance and inflammation are key factors in developing the condition.
The good news is that there are many ways to treat and prevent PCOS. While it can feel scary and overwhelming to receive a PCOS diagnosis, there are simple steps you can take to optimize your wellness, such as:
- Stocking up on supplements. There are tons of natural supplements that can help bring your body back into balance and optimize your health, such as folate and vitamin B12 to support normal menstruation and fertility, healthy blood sugar balance, and reduced serum testosterone in women with PCOS. Two specific nutrients - have been clinically shown to support a normal menstrual cycle and ovulation in women with PCOS. They have also shown to improve glucose tolerance and reduce increased levels of testosterone in those with PCOS.
- Getting iron levels tested. Many women with PCOS experience heavy bleeding during their menstrual cycle, which can lead to anemia. Get your iron levels tested to ensure you’re getting enough, and if you’re low, purchase an and up your intake of iron-rich foods, such as spinach, swiss chard and lentils.
- Optimizing liver health. Women with higher levels of inflammation caused by a poor diet, environmental toxins and stress can all lead to excess burden on one of our main detoxification organs – the liver. Our liver is one of the most important organs in the body for detoxification. Keeping the liver healthy and supporting its ability to break down hormones efficiently is essential for treating PCOS and reducing excess androgens and estrogens. I recommend eating liver-enhancing foods, such as dark leafy greens and cruciferous veggies like broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts and cauliflower. I also suggest taking to support liver health, which contains effective ingredients that support healthy liver detoxification, which in turn promotes healthy hormone balance. and sulforaphane support healthy liver detoxification and in turn eliminate the build up of elevated estrogens and androgens.
- Incorporating healing herbs and spices. I recommend upping your intake of cinnamon to balance insulin resistance, turmeric to reduce inflammation and adaptogenic herbs like maca, ashwagandha, rhodiola and holy basil to help your body balance its hormones. Add these herbs to your morning smoothie, homemade goods, or night time tea for an easy way to incorporate them into your daily routine.
- Adopting an anti-inflammatory diet. Reduce your intake of processed foods, refined sugars, dairy, gluten, caffeine and alcohol, and increase your consumption of whole foods, specifically dark, leafy greens, fish, fruit, veggies, and olive oil.
- Managing and reducing your stress. Stress can cause inflammation in the body, and as discussed previously, inflammation can create a burden on the liver. Do your best to manage the stress you currently have in your life, or reduce it as much as you can. I recommend incorporating daily self-care practices, such as yoga, meditation, exercise, time in nature, or creative outlets to help nourish yourself. Even if you have a busy schedule, start simple by taking ten minutes a day to do something kind for yourself. I can’t emphasize enough how important self-care is if you want to optimize your health and wellness
If you have questions or concerns about treating or preventing PCOS, please visit your local naturopathic doctor.
Have a happy and healthy October!