COS was first described by Stein and Leventhal in 1935, who found an association between amenorrhea, hirsutism, and obesity with polycystic ovaries (Miri et al, 2014). It is a common, yet complex endocrine disorder (Schmidt et al, 2013). PCOS is a clinical ‘syndrome’, with a collection of signs and features rather than one single test, ‘in essence the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’. However, clinic features include menstrual irregularities or infertility, hirsutism, male-pattern balding, acne, ovarian enlargement and signs of insulin resistance (Jamieson, 2006).
The NHS (2015) says there is no cure for PCOS, but the symptoms can be treated. The NHS (2015) suggest that if you have PCOS and are overweight, losing weight and eating a healthy diet can help reduce some symptoms. This is because being overweight can exacerbate insulin resistance and thus the symptoms of PCOS. For overweight women with PCOS, weight loss alone can regulate the menstrual cycle. Even a small weight loss can regulate the menstrual cycle, improve cholesterol and insulin levels which relieves symptoms such as excess hair growth and acne (TACOG, 2015).
Medications are also available to treat symptoms such as excessive hair growth and irregular periods. The oral contraceptive pill (OCP) is the most common tablet given by conventional doctors to deal with these symptoms (Arentz et al 2014).
As well as the above, insulin-sensitising drugs are available (the most common one is metformin), which stabilise glucose levels and relieve the individual of many of the symptoms (including acne, weight loss and regular periods) (NIH, 2014). However, these insulin-sensitising drugs have got many cited side-effects including nausea, vomiting and gastro-intestinal disturbances (Arentz et al 2014).
The above medical approaches only deal with the symptoms, with support from nutritional therapy, I would be looking at the root-cause of the pathology. Although the symptoms of PCOS might be similar the root-cause can be down to multiple reasons. These reasons include; insulin-resistance PCOS, post-pill PCOS, inflammatory PCOS, adrenal PCOS or hidden cause PCOS (Briden, L 2017) . Given the vast array of differing diving forces behind this condition means that the way to support your body back into balance would be very different. Therefore, the recommendation to support PCOS below are very general as the type of PCOS has not yet been determined…
- Ensure protein and healthy fats with each meal
- Stop snacking – there is research to suggest that snacking actually increases insulin resistance, therefore I suggest trying to reduce/ stop snacking to improve your insulin sensitivity (Davis and Clark, 2015).
- Support digestive system by balancing gut microbiome, therefore the assimilation of nutrients and hormonal regulation and return of periods (Enders, 2015)
- Introduction of probiotic foods (fermented foods) and potentially a high dose probiotic.
- Replace dairy produces with non-dairy alternatives – The reason I suggest this to the clients is because of the way commercial milk is produced includes cattle being pumped with hormones (if and when they get ill). When the animals are pumped with hormones these hormones then end up in the consumer’s milk and hinder our own hormone regulation (Fox et al, 2015).
Support detox pathways (primarily bowel, liver working optimally) to ensure excess androgens and other hormones are not reabsorbed and systemically circulated throughout the body.
- Start each day with a glass of warm water and lemon. Drink this throughout the day.
- Bitter herbs and food to detox liver
- Ensure sufficient fibre is obtain from the diet, at least 30-40 grams a day to ensure the excess androgens do not reabsorb in the colon, causing more unwanted symptoms. Adequate fibre can be a challenge, I often recommend incorporating psyllium, flaxseed and chia to help you achieve your target.
*article first appeared on Rosie Tadman’s website