Natural Solutions for PCOS!
by: Julie Merrick ND BHlthSc
Polycystic ovary syndrome is a common hormonal and metabolic disorder. Its name implies the presence of many small cysts on the ovaries, however, a woman can still have the condition without having any cysts. The cysts themselves are just one of the many symptoms that can occur, along with acne, hirsutism (excess hair), hair loss, irregular cycles and fertility problems, weight gain or trouble losing weight, sugar cravings, fatigue, mood swings, skin tags, and dark patches of skin around the armpits or skin folds.
If not managed, PCOS can lead to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol, obesity, stroke, endometrial cancer, and pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes. It is imperative that the condition be managed effectively to prevent these complications.
One of the underlying factors in PCOS is Insulin Resistance, a problem in which the body becomes less responsive to the hormone insulin. High insulin levels stimulate male hormone production from the ovaries, contributing to PCOS symptoms.
Natural medicine can be very successful in dealing with this condition. There are six main areas that need to be addressed; Diet, Nutritional Supplementation, Exercise, Lifestyle, Detoxification, and Attitude. In addition to these, there are many other specific natural treatments that can be used to deal with PCOS.
Women with PCOS should follow a low GI (glycaemic index) diet, which helps to normalise your blood sugar and insulin levels, and allows you to burn more fat. The type of fat eaten is important too, good fats need to be favoured over saturated and trans fats. Good fats are in foods like avocado, fish, olive oil, nuts, and seeds. Water intake should be about six to eight glasses a day, and high fibre foods such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes should be eaten regularly.
It is also important to eat foods that are as natural as possible to reduce the toxic load on the body, and determine any foods that are causing allergic or inflammatory reactions in your body and adjust your diet accordingly. A naturopath can assist you with organising various testing procedures or supervise an elimination diet.
2. NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTATION
Although a healthy diet is essential, most people can't get an optimal amount of nutrients from their diet alone. The nutrient content of soil is being depleted, green harvesting occurs, food is stored for long periods, and processing of foods is common. All of these factors reduce our nutrient supply.
These three nutritional supplements help form a strong foundation for health, providing the nutrients that are most lacking in modern diets:
• Good Quality Multivitamin & Mineral formula – to provide a wide spectrum of nutrients that are needed each day for supporting cell function and structure.
• Essential fatty acids – Omega-3 and omega-6 fats must be obtained from the diet. Most people consume enough omega-6 in their diet, but not enough omega-3. Fish oil or flaxseed oil is a source of omega-3 fats.
• Glyconutrients – there are eight glyconutrients needed by cells to make structures such as glycoproteins. Glycoproteins have many functions, including allowing cells to communicate with each other. Supplementation helps to improve cell to cell communication which allows the body to function optimally.
It is important to be more active every day. The main thing is to GET MOVING! Make sure you do something you can do consistently over the long term. Exercise can help with managing insulin resistance, as well as burning more body fat.
Some healthy lifestyle tips are:
• Don’t smoke, and avoid or reduce the amount of alcohol you drink,
• Get adequate sleep, and get checked for sleep apnoea if you snore or feel sleepy during the day.
• Learn how to manage stress. Stress can contribute to many PCOS symptoms. Try meditation or relaxation techniques to help you balance your mood.
• Get support. When dealing with PCOS, you need to know you are not alone. Talk to others in the same situation as you, and feel the relief this brings.
We are living in a chemical world, and this toxic overload can disrupt normal hormonal balance in the body, especially in genetically susceptible women. Toxic overload along with modern diets and stress affects the health of the many organs including the digestive system which can lead to what’s known as ‘leaky gut syndrome’. This sets off inflammation in the body, which is a known contributing factor to PCOS.
Following a lifestyle that reduces exposure to chemicals is important, and a properly and professionally designed detoxification program is an important part of taking control over PCOS for the long term. Many patients improve dramatically after detoxification, as it reduces the inflammatory load on the body and helps restore normal digestive and immune function.
The way you think has an effect on what happens in your life and how well your body functions. Our genes are controlled by our environment, including thoughts. Although it is hard to be positive when you have annoying symptoms and feel like your body has let you down, the more you focus on positive things, the more positive things tend to enter your life. Before you go to bed each night, think of three things you are grateful for, and dwell on the positive feelings these thoughts bring.
SPECIFIC NATURAL TREATMENTS:
Some beneficial natural treatments for PCOS are:
• Peony and Licorice – For symptoms relating to excess testosterone such as acne and hirsutism.
• Acacia and Hops – This herbal combination available from naturopaths can be very effective for insulin resistance, high triglyceride levels, and inflammation.
• Chaste Tree (vitex agnus castus) – .Vitex can be very effective, but is not for everyone. It is most effective when PCOS is accompanied by low progesterone levels, and high prolactin.
• Gymnema – Useful for reducing sugar cravings.
• Alpha Lipoic Acid – Useful for insulin resistance, and as an antioxidant.
• Magnesium - Supplementation may help with blood sugar balance, anxiety, mild depression, cramps, and spasms.
• Chromium – Involved in the function of insulin.
• Antioxidants – These reduce the effects of free radicals on the body. Free radicals damage cell structures, and contribute to cell dysfunction as well as the aging process.
• Acupuncture – Many women have found this beneficial in dealing with PCOS and infertility.
Remember – the human body is intelligent and it is more able to function as it was designed, when it receives support through proper nutrition and lifestyle, supplementation, and a positive attitude!
Julie Merrick is a naturopath, author, and PCOS specialist who practices in a busy wellness centre in Australia. She is the author of the ebook 'POWER over PCOS' and 'The Ultimate PCOS Success System' multimedia pack, available at http://www.pcossuccess.com .
Julie also publishes a free PCOS tips newsletter. Subscribe at http://www.poweroverpcos.com .
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