September is PCOS Awareness Month, and since this is something I see a lot in my practice, I want to delve in and not only explain what it is, but also give some real solutions for reversing. A whopping one in ten women of reproductive age have PCOS, so it definitely deserves attention.
The Many Faces of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
A syndrome, by definition, is a collection of criteria, that, when someone meets a certain number of these, is given the diagnosis. There are misconceptions about what it looks like and who has it. The main sign is, like in the name, multiple cysts on the ovaries detected with ultrasound. However, not everyone with PCOS has this. Elevated androgens (i.e. testosterone), which can cause abnormal hair growth on face or body, head hair loss, and acne. And irregular periods or no periods. Some also have weight gain around the middle. Again, some PCOS patients have some of these symptoms, while others don’t. Not everyone with PCOS is overweight, and not all have acne or hirsutism. Diagnosis is based on at least two of the above symptoms.
What is PCOS Really?
As a natural health practitioner – we always ask why. A conventional medical diagnosis often just describes the problem, but doesn’t explain it. Luckily, quite a bit of research since this syndrome rose in prominence in the 90’s has pretty much identified what goes wrong in these women’s bodies. Here’s the gist:
- This is a metabolic syndrome. Insulin Resistance is a major factor. Blood sugar disregulation leads to…
- Inflammation – nowadays everything is attributed to chronic inflammation, but it’s true, this is a basis for many chronic illnesses because of….
- Stress overload – Chronic stress is not what we’re designed for. Fight or flight was supposed to be something that turns on in emergencies and turns off the majority of time. Now many of us have a broken autonomic nervous system switch that keeps us fight or flight most of the time. The result is overproduction of cortisol, which negatively impacts our sex hormones. See my other blog.
Bottom line: chronic stress, inflammation, and dysregulation of blood sugar is a recipe for hormonal imbalance, weight gain, etc.
What Causes Insulin Resistance Contains Clues for Treatment
By realizing the underlying causes of Insulin Resistance we can begin to create a treatment plan to address and reverse the upsets to the biology.
- SUGAR! Yup, a diet with too much simple carbs, refined carbs, including sugar, will directly mess with metabolism and create inflammation. This is the #1 most important thing we have control to change for the greatest impact. Overall a diet that balances healthy fats, complex carbs, and quality protein is crucial for overcoming PCOS.
- Low muscle mass – 85% of energy that we derive from food, aka glucose – goes to feeding our muscles. If there’s not a lot of muscle, then the energy/glucose will be redirected to storage in the liver or fat tissue.
- Nutrient deficiencies – metabolism and hormone production from cholesterol requires numerous vitamins and minerals and essential fatty acids. Drugs, poor diet, and stress can deplete these, while some can be used therapeutically, such as .
- Sleep deficiency – I know that lots of people lack quality sleep. It seems to be something that is sacrificed or difficult to obtain for some.
The built in treatment
The above 4 points form a foundation for what needs to be addressed and changed in order to allow PCOS patients to reverse the disorder.
- Switch from sugary and refined carbs to complex carbs that will not spike blood sugar or require overproduction of insulin. Fasting for 12 of every 24 hours at least 4 times weekly helps the brain to use sugar more efficiently.
- Resistance training exercise – research shows that high intensity interval training, the Peak 8 plan, and similar systems burn fat and build muscle better than other types of exercise. You gotta get out of breath and sweat but you don’t have to be at it for more than 20 minutes to get the positive impact.
- Supplementing several nutrients depending on the individual is important. This is something to discuss with your practitioner to customize for you, since PCOS takes so many variations.
- If you don’t get good enough sleep due to poor habits, please reflect and reprioritize. If you lack good sleep due to insomnia, seek help.
What if You’ve made all these changes and still can’t get pregnant or Resolve Symptoms?
While lifestyle modifications are essential, this alone may not be enough for some PCOS patients. The power of East Asian Medicine includes techniques that work deep in the mind-body to further repair and restore hormonal health. I develop a treatment plan incorporating acupuncture, nutritional therapy, lifestyle counseling, herbal medicine, and emotional healing to address the underlying imbalances. It’s so effective because I assess each patient individually, and tailor the plan to each woman’s unique needs. Health is never one dimensional, healthcare shouldn’t be either.
Please call or text 630-335-1069 to find out more or to schedule a free consultation.