What is PCOS?
PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome) is the most common hormonal disorder in women of reproductive age and affects and estimated 116 million women worldwide. It affects hormones, fertility, skin, cardiovascular health, and metabolism. PCOS is a syndrome, rather than a disease, as there is a wide range of ways that PCOS can present and a variety of factors that characterize it.
PCOS is a chronic disorder that raises women’s risk of infertility, diabetes, and depression. Yet despite how many women it affects all over the world, to this day it remains misunderstood, misdiagnosed and often ignored.
Symptoms of PCOS
PCOS has a myriad of symptoms, ranging from hair loss on her head, unwanted excess hair growth on her face/belly/back, chronic fatigue, infertility, recurrent miscarriage, headaches and weight gain.
To be diagnosed with this condition, however, a woman with PCOS must have two of it’s three key features: small ovarian cysts, elevated levels of testosterone, and irregular or missed menstruation periods.
A woman may recognize her period is out of whack or irregular, but unless she is evaluated by an expert complete with a pelvic ultrasound and blood panel she may not be aware she actually has PCOS nor understand what it takes to effectively manage it.
The profound effects of diet and lifestyle as a natural treatment of PCOS
Living with PCOS can be depressing, overwhelming, and heart-breaking. But given things only get worse the longer we leave them what better choice to make than to face it head on and take control of the situation.
Your genes may have dealt you a crappy hand of cards, but you’re the one that gets to play your hand. Rather than becoming a victim of this disorder, embracing a PCOS friendly lifestyle truly is the best way forward.
Nutrition, exercise, and stress management are three proven lifestyle interventions that reduce, or even eliminate the adverse symptoms of PCOS.
Making positive changes to your diet and lifestyle is one of the most powerful things you can do to regulate hormones naturally. Decreasing excess sugars, processed foods, saturated fats, dairy, processed meats as well as boosting vegetable and lean proteins are the key steps to balancing blood sugar, and reducing chronic inflammation.
In short, the best “diet” to follow is the low-glycemic-index Mediterranean Diet and the key is to avoid any foods you may have sensitivities to.
Self care: a crucial ingredient to overcoming PCOS
Our hormones also play an important role in our mood as well as the other physical difficulties. Looking after our mental and emotional health is an essential part to managing PCOS.
Why is this so important? If you do not take time out for self-care, then you cannot successfully implement the lifestyle interventions that can help you overcome PCOS.
Self care strategies that can help turn PCOS around:
- Eating 3 healthy meals each day
- Taking supplements religiously
- Getting 7-8 hours of restful sleep each night
- Regular exercise: whether it’s HIIT exercises, cardio, strength training, or yoga move that bod daily
- Taking a mental time out: meditation, walk on the beach, puppy play dates, weekly long hot baths with essential oils
- Read any book for 30 minutes each day that’s not on a screen. An actual book with pages to turn with incorporate more of the 5 senses in
- Creative outlets: journaling, artwork, drawing, doodling, singing, and dancing can scratch the creativity itch
- Reduce/avoid trash-TV and negative social media outlet time that further elevate stress levels
- Take a leisurely stroll through botanical gardens. Time spent in natural environments reduces stress and decreases blood pressure while activating the 5 senses: sight, smell, sound, taste and touch.
Integrative Functional Medicine and Acupuncture Benefits
Outside of proper nutrition, regular exercise and self-care, adding a Functional Medicine expert and Acupuncturist to your team are top of my list for treating chronic health disorders of all types with integrative health care.
A conventional medicine approach commonly utilizes medications to suppress hormones levels such as Metformin and hormonal Birth Control, rather than actually fixing the hormonal dysfunction.
Functional Medicine and Acupuncture approaches chronic conditions with a wholistic approach to identify and correct underlying variables such as nutrient deficiencies, heavy metals and non-metal toxin burdens, gut health, outlying hormone levels including thyroid, cortisone, progesterone and estrogen imbalances.
Research shows acupuncture is an effective alternative treatment for PCOS as it is effective in increasing blood flow to the uterus and ovaries, decreasing cortisol levels, helping with weight loss, and improving insulin levels.
If you have been diagnosed with PCOS, or think you may have it, I encourage you to seek out the medical assistance of your health care practitioner for evaluation and care.
You can manage it. You can feel better. You can take back your health. With a few lifestyle and nutritional changes, as well as adding self-care practices, you can be well on your way to feeling better again.