Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a very common condition describing a set of symptoms that can include missing or delayed ovulation, excess androgens (acne, facial hair, hair loss), weight gain, insulin resistance and infertility. As well as these distressing symptoms, long-term PCOS can increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
You may have had an ultrasound to see if you have multiple cysts on your ovaries. These are caused by undeveloped follicles that have not properly matured enough at the time of ovulation to allow the egg to break through. Although PCOS is named after these cysts, it’s actually not a prerequisite for a diagnosis of PCOS, and equally you may have cysts showing up but not have PCOS as your ovaries change every month. Either way, it’s important to get some tests done to confirm that you actually have PCOS.
The many factors behind PCOS
- Stress – excess stress hormones can interfere with ovulation by suppressing oestrogen and progesterone. Cortisol also increases insulin (see above!).
- Insulin resistance – a diet high in carbs and sugar over the long term can cause the insulin receptors on your cells to shut down, allowing higher levels of insulin to be released by the pancreas. Too much insulin can:
- interfere with ovulation
- stimulate your ovaries to make androgens instead of oestrogen
- trigger your pituitary gland to make too much LH (luteinizing hormone)
- reduce SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin), which increases free testosterone
- Weight gain – fat tissue produces an enzyme called aromatase, which increases androgens, so the more overweight you are, the more testosterone and androgens you are likely to be producing.
- Inflammation (especially in your gut!) – inflammation damages your hormone receptors and suppresses ovulation. If you have any gut issues you may have inflammation happening, so sorting out your digestive health may help with your PCOS.
- Low thyroid hormones – if you don’t have enough active thyroid hormone, your ovaries might not have the energy they need to ovulate. Low thyroid also stimulates the production of prolactin (a hormone produced during breastfeeding that stops you getting pregnant).
- Nutrient deficiencies – specific nutrients are needed by your ovaries to function properly (releasing that follicle at ovulation). These include iodine, selenium, vitamin D and zinc, and deficiencies can interfere with ovulation and cause symptoms.
Your 5 step PCOS plan
- Balance your blood sugar – the quickest thing you can do for PCOS is to get off the blood sugar roller coaster as this causes the over production of insulin. Choose;
- low GL carbs – whole grains, brown rice, sweet potatoes, quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice pasta…
- healthy fats and protein at each meal – olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, avocado, oily fish…
- try to leave 4-6 hours between meals (no snacking unless you get dizzy/faint)
- ditch the sugar and white carbs!
2. Manage your STRESS – getting your cortisol under control will help with all of your other hormones ! Prioritise switching off DAILY. If you don’t have time for meditation which is one of the most effective ways of doing this, then just make sure you do 10 minutes of deep breathing every day. Take magnesium and vitamin C to support your adrenals.
3. Reduce Inflammation;
- Go gluten and dairy free for 4 weeks to see if you have a sensitivity (which can cause inflammation)
- Take a good quality fish oil supplement (EPA/DHA)
- Get tested for any underlying gut infections if you have digestive symptoms – do this through a qualified health practitioner
4. Up your nutrients – eat plenty of organic real food, colourful veg, healthy fats and protein. I’d recommend you take a quality multivitamin with good levels of B vitamins, zinc, iodine, selenium and add in a Vitamin D3 supplement.
5. Get your thyroid tested (properly!) – especially if you have other symptoms such as weight gain, fatigue, low mood, brain fog, hair loss, brittle nails., etc. Ask your doctor for a full thyroid panel including free T4, free T3 and antibodies. Or work with a practitioner who can do this for you.
You can have PCOS at any age and for many reasons, but if you do these 5 steps you'll have a great chance of beating it naturally.
I hope that has been useful. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions.
PS Whenever you’re ready… here are 4 ways we can help you balance your hormones:
1. Grab a copy of my book
“It's not you, it's your hormones – the essential guide for women over 40 to fight fat, fatigue and hormone havoc”. Click here
2. Join the Hormone Connection Facebook group
It’s our private Facebook community where you get daily access to me and the team, plus a whole load of super supportive like-minded women. Click here
3. Find out more about the 30 Days to Happy Hormones online programme
If you're ready to take action and need a structured plan to get you there, along with a supportive community and coaching, this could be the programme for you. Click here
4. Apply for a free Discovery Call with me or one of the team
If you’d like to speak to us about your own personal hormone issues OR how we can help support female employees at your organisation… just send me a message and I'll send you a link to our bookings calendar to arrange a call. Click here