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I’ve mentioned in the past how I have PCOS and how changing my diet to the Paleo Diet lead to a lot of amazing benefits such as weight loss, regular mentrual cycles and improved moods in this post. I also shared in this post how I also live with Hirsuitism which means I know my way around hair removal products. Anyhow, I thought it was time to create a move details post sharing what natural rememdies have worked me in the past.
What Is PCOS?
PCOS, which is short for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, is the most common endocrine disorder in women of childbearing age. Despite the name, women with PCOS don’t have actual cysts on their ovaries. Instead, immature eggs (ova) fail to release during menstruation. The follicles continue to grow and appear to be cysts on ultrasound scans even though they actually aren’t cysts.
What Causes PCOS?
PCOS is due to a hormone imbalance in women. Doctors do not know its exact cause, but there are a variety of factors that cause hormone imbalances that eventually lead to a woman developing PCOS. However, in my opinion, it is likely not just one factor but, rather, a combination of several factors that determine if a woman will suffer from PCOS or not. Below are some of the factors that are commonly thought to create hormone imbalances that later become PCOS.
- Insulin resistance is the most popular condition that doctors view as the cause of PCOS. Insulin is a hormone that allows your body to use glucose (sugar) for energy and released when glucose levels are high. Insulin resistance is when cells cannot properly absorb glucose, which causes a buildup of sugar in your blood. Increased insulin signals the ovaries to release testosterone, which can cause a hormone imbalance due to the excess testosterone.
- Inflammation is when the body’s immune system starts to attack its own muscles, joints, and tissues. As such, low-grade inflammation is thought to cause insulin resistance and hormone imbalances.
- Dramatic weight loss can trigger hormone imbalances, which then can lead to PCOS. This is due to the body’s natural instincts to shut down hormone production due to a perceived starvation.
- Being overweight and underweight are also thought to be causes of PCOS. Being overweight can cause inflammation, and being underweight can cause pituitary production to shut down. Both result in hormone imbalances that can lead to PCOS.
- Over-exercising, much like dramatic weight loss and being underweight, may result in the body shutting down hormone production because of perceived starvation. However, it varies from woman to woman as to how much exercise qualifies as too much exercise.
- Stress that is either either physical, such as over-exercising and inflammation, or emotional, such as job dissatisfaction and divorce, can cause hormone imbalances within a woman’s body. During times of stress, a woman’s body will produce more testosterone (male sex hormone) and rather than estrogen and progesterone (female sex hormone). As a result, when a woman has more testosterone than estrogen and progesterone, it becomes likely that she will develop PCOS.
Symptoms of PCOS include but are not limited to:
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Missed periods
- Excessive or heavy menstrual bleeding
- Alopecia (balding)
- Mood disorders, including anxiety and depression
- Hirsutism (excessive body hair) – You can read about my experience with PCOS and hirsutism here.
- Ovarian cysts
- Sleep disorders, including insomnia and sleep apnea
- Acanthosis nigricans (darkening of the skin in the armpits, back of the neck, or groin)
- Recurrent miscarriages
Natural Treatments for PCOS:
- Eat foods that are low on the glycemic index. Foods that are low on the glycemic index (GI) are carbohydrates that are slow to breakdown in the body and don’t create dramatic spikes in insulin levels, which can aggravate the symptoms of PCOS. Foods that are low on the glycemic index include broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, mushrooms, and red peppers. Click here for a list of low GI foods.
- Eat a moderate amount of protein. While a moderate amount of protein can reduce the symptoms of PCOS and help prevent later recurrences, a high amount of protein can do just the opposite and exacerbate the symptoms of PCOS. Therefore, it is recommended that a woman consumes between 0.50 and 0.75 grams of protein per pound of lean body weight every day.
- Consume foods with omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids decrease inflammation, reduce testosterone levels, and help to balance overall hormone levels. The best source of omega-3 is fermented cod liver oil. However, cold-water fatty fish, such as wild-caught salmon, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines, are also good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Exercise regularly. Moderate exercise is often recommended to help treat the symptoms of PCOS. The best form of exercise for women with PCOS is walking. However, jogging, swimming, biking, pilates, and resistance training are all effective forms of moderate exercise. It is recommended that a woman with PCOS should exercise five days a week for 30 minutes.
- Make time for restorative mind-body therapies. Yoga, meditation, hypnosis, guided visualization, biofeedback and aromatherapy have been shown to reduce PCOS symptoms since they decrease stress hormones as well as lower blood pressure. Of course, any activity that you find relaxing, such as gardening or reading, can be just as effective in reducing overall stress.
- Cut back on caffeine. Caffeine can greatly increase estrogen levels. Even just two cups of coffee can cause the production of 70% more estrogen during the follicle phase of a woman’s menstrual cycle, which makes it even more difficult for a woman with PCOS to conceive. Therefore, it is recommended that caffeine should be limited to no more than 150 milligrams, or approximately 8 ounces of coffee, per day.
- Drink apple cider vinegar daily. Raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar (ACV) helps to lower insulin, which, in turn, helps to keep testosterone levels low. In addition, it helps to balance hormones and regulate menstrual cycles. Simply mix up to two tablespoons of raw unfiltered ACV in a large glass of water and drink two or three times a day. If you are new to ACV, you should probably start with one teaspoon of ACV and gradually increase the amount. Never drink ACV without mixing it in water!
- Eat anti-inflammatory foods. Since inflammation is one of the causes of PCOS, consuming anti-inflammatory foods can help to alleviate its symptoms. The best anti-inflammatory foods are: wild-caught salmon, bone broth, coconut oil, blueberries, green leafy vegetables, beets, bok choy, celery, broccoli, pineapple, walnuts, chia seeds, turmeric, and ginger.
- Eat foods rich in B12 and Folate, Calcium, Chromium, Iodine, Magnesium, Vitamin D, and Zinc. Many women with PCOS often have vitamin and mineral deficiencies that affect hormone regulation and/or insulin levels. Of course, obtaining these vitamins and mineral from food sources is preferable but supplements are also an excellent option. B12 and folate work in tandem and supplements must be taken together in order for each to be effective. The best sources for B12 are wild-caught salmon, snapper, grass-fed beef, grass-fed lamb, raw cheddar cheese, raw swiss cheese, and full-fat grass-fed cottage cheese (questions about paleo and cheese? Read this). The best sources for folate are asparagus, beets, broccoli, grass-fed calf’s liver, mustard greens, parsley, spinach, and turnip greens.
Calcium: basil, broccoli, collard greens, kale, kelp, oregano, spinach, and Swiss chard. Chromium: apples, asparagus, bananas, broccoli, green beans, mushrooms, onions, and oysters. However, it is recommended that a person should take a chromium picolinate supplement since very little amounts are found in food.
Iodine: cod fish, pastured eggs, wild-caught salmon, scallops, shrimp, sea vegetables, and strawberries.
Magnesium: almonds, avocados, bananas, dark chocolate, dark leafy greens (spinach, romaine lettuce, etc), pumpkin seeds, and walnuts.
Vitamin D: cod liver oil, pastured eggs, portobello mushrooms, wild-caught salmon, and wild-caught tuna. Of course, sunshine is the best source of Vitamin D.
Zinc: oysters, grass-fed beef, lobster, crab, shrimp, and pumpkin seeds.
- Use herbs and supplements to help minimize PCOS symptoms.
- Organic cinnamon helps to reduce blood sugar and to regulate menstrual cycles in women with PCOS.
- Turmeric helps to reduce inflammation.
- Bay leaf helps to reduce blood sugar.
- Peony and licorice root work in tandem with each other and help to reduce blood sugar and reduce testosterone levels.
- Maca helps to balance estrogen and progesterone and is known as a fertility superfood.
- Eat organic produce as much as possible. Conventional (non-organic) fruits and vegetables are usually grown from GMO (genetically modified organism) seeds and covered in pesticides. Both of these have hazardous effects on a person’s body, including disrupting hormones that can worsen the symptoms of PCOS. Click here for a list of produce that should always be purchased organic as well as produce that doesn’t need to be organic. In addition, it is recommended that you wash and peel all non-organic produce. Soaking non-organic produce in vinegar for a few minutes is another great way to remove toxins and pesticides from the skin of produce.
- Remove as many environmental toxins from your daily life as possible. It’s a sad fact that we live in a toxic world. From the air we breath to the products we use on our skin, our daily lives are filled with countless toxins. The most prevalent toxin is BPA, which is also an endocrine disruptor that negatively affects hormone balance. To avoid BPA exposure as much as possible, use glass storage containers, canned goods that are BPA-free, and handle store receipts as little as possible as they are covered in BPA. In order to avoid exposure to other hormone disrupting toxins, use as many natural or organic home and beauty products as possible, such as makeup, deodorant, laundry detergent, lotions, soaps, etc. After reviewing several beauty brands, I highly recommend 100% Pure and here is a list of my favorite products from them. Also, don’t forget about the toxic exposure of chemicals from mattresses. Here is another indepth review of a brand I recommend.
Do you have PCOS? What has worked for you?