Approximately 5-10% of females of reproductive age are affected by PCOS or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. The underlying cause is unknown, however there is an increased risk for those with genetic pre-disposition. PCOS results in a hyper-secretion of androgens from the ovaries causing an arrest of follicular development and cyst formations in the ovaries.
It is associated with insulin resistance, decreased fertility and hyper-androgenism levels in women of child-bearing years. Most patients with PCOS visit Naturopathic Doctors to treat two main issues:
2) hair growth and acne
PCOS can be complex and difficult to treat. It can cause a lot of stress and psychological frustrations. PCOS can be diagnosed whenever two of following three criteria are present without alternative explanations:
- Oligo-ovulation or oligomenorrhea (irregular/ abnormal menstrual cycle)
- Hirsutism (ie. irregular hair growth, deepening of the voice, breast size reduction) and/or hyper-androgenemia
- Polycystic ovaries, usually detected by pelvic ultrasonography
- Also, exclusion of similar diseases such as adrenal hyperplasia or hyper-prolactonemia
Obesity and insulin resistance is a common finding of people with PCOS. Weight loss, especially abdominal obesity, is key to managing most PCOS cases, insulin resistance and to decrease risk of cardiovascular events.
A 5% reduction in body weight can decrease androgen levels enough to see significant improvements in PCOS symptoms. To help manage PCOS, maintain a balanced diet of:
- fresh vegetables and fruit
- healthy oils (fish, olive, grape seed, coconut)
- lean meats (fish, chicken, turkey)
- fibre sources (ground flax seed)
- be active in preparing your food instead of going out to eat
- ask your health care practitioner about supplementing with chromium, inositol, and vitamin D3
Exercise is an important aspect to combine with a conscious diet to maximize healthy weight loss. It is always important to train safely, yet also effectively. If you are new to exercise start slow and progress… but the most important thing is to START!
Here is a list of simple ways for a busy person to incorporate movement into their day:
- take the stairs (get off the elevator a few floors before yours and walk the rest)
- park farther away, or better yet walk/ ride a bike/ take the TTC and lower road pollution and congestion at the same time
- walk with co-workers/ friends during lunch/ breaks
- get up from your desk every 1 hour (it will also improve your productivity)
- and the best way, get a well educated personal trainer who can advise you on preventative, rehab, aerobic and resistance training exercises that are individualized to your level and needs.
If you suspect that you may have PCOS symptoms, please consult your Medical or Naturopathic Doctor for proper diagnosing and laboratory tests.
It is never too late to adopt a healthy lifestyle, both physically and mentally. Your health is in your hands.
Do you have questions or comments? Please share them below.
Prousky, J. Principles & Practices of Naturopathic Clinical Nutrition. CCNM Press, 2008.