Women's Health | August 1, 2016 | Author: Naturopath
Chances are you or someone you know is suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome. It has recently been shown to affect an alarming 12 to 21% of Australian women who are of reproductive age. This is equivalent to about 1 in 5 women. Even with the large amount of women affected by PCOS, 70% of these women are still undiagnosed.
PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. It is a condition that includes irregular or infrequent ovulation cycles, non-existent ovulation at anticipated times, and/or excess testosterone in the body. Dagnosis is by taking a medical history, physical examination, blood tests and ultrasound. In order for PCOS to be diagnosed, a person must present with at least two of the following three criteria:
Oligoovulation is when a woman has infrequent or irregular ovulation cycles. More specifically, this would be defined as cycles that are 36 days or longer or less than 8 cycles a year.
Anovulation is when a woman does not have an ovulation when it would normally be anticipated.
Hyperandrogenism is when there is excess testosterone in the body, which can result in very oily and acne prone skin, male pattern hair growth, and female pattern balding, among other things.
Polycystic ovaries means there are multiple cysts surrounding the outside of the ovaries at one time, and the ovaries are usually larger than normal
These are just the criteria used to diagnose PCOS. There are many other symptoms of PCOS including weight issues, fertility problems, insulin resistance, mood changes, anxiety, depression, sleep apnea and more.
Diabetes has been recently discovered to also be of great concern to women with PCOS. Monash University in Australia recently concluded a study, which showed that women with PCOS can be five times more susceptible to developing type 2 diabetes.
The researchers studied over 6000 women who were between 25 and 28 years old for a period of nine years, and 500 of these women had PCOS.
Over the course of the nine year study, the researchers found that the women with PCOS were three to five times more susceptible to developing type 2 diabetes, even if the women were not obese. The researchers suggest that women with PCOS need to be screened for diabetes many years earlier than the recommended 40 years old.
The first line of treatment is to implement lifestyle management for weight loss, prevention of weight gain, and for overall health benefits. Women that are overweight can reduce their insulin levels, improve their menstrual function, reduce their testosterone levels, improve their acne, and improve other symptoms of PCOS just by losing as little as 5% of their total body weight, regardless of the diet used to lose the weight.
Unfortunately, there is no particular diet that will prevent all of the symptoms of PCOS. A systematic review of five different studies of subjects following different diets used to treat PCOS was published recently.
The current guidelines issued by the Center for Research Excellence in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome in Australia recommends that women with PCOS should:
A short term diet will not lead to the health benefits that women with PCOS strive for.
There is more research that needs to be conducted on the appropriate macronutrient compositions in the diet to effectively treat PCOS but there have been study's on some natural supplements and herbs that women with PCOS can take to help with their symptoms.
Omega-3 fatty acids - A study showed subjects taking 1,500 mg dose of omega-3 (fish oil) for 6 months, reduced BMI, insulin levels, and male sex hormone during the six month trial.
Myo-inositol -a natural nutrient made by the body, acts as a natural insulin sensitizing agent.Taken as a supplement it was showed to significantly decreased levels of male sex hormones, triglycerides, blood pressure, and insulin after a 8 week trial. Inositol is a vitamin like- substance often found in association with B group vitamins, found in many fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, lecithin and animal products.
Chromium picolinate is a mineral that has been found to be equal to taking Metformin for reducing insulin and blood sugar levels, which allows for increased insulin sensitivity.
Vitex agnus- castus (Chaste tree herb) is considered a hormonal regulator and found to help with amenorrhoea, infertility and acne. Studies showing improvement after 3 cycles.
Marjoram Tea - Researchers found subjects given marjoram tea twice daily for a month showed lowered levels of male sex hormones and improved their insulin sensitivity in just one month. Spearmint Tea taken twice daily for a month was showed to significantly lower levels of male sex hormones after the one month trial.
Weight loss, prevention of weight gain, and staying at a healthy weight are important factors for managing PCOS. The best strategy for accomplishing these results is really up to the individual, as there is not a “one size fits all” approach. Certain dietary supplements have been shown to help with the symptoms, but it is important to realize that an individual cannot just take supplements and expect results. The main takeaway is to make a complete lifestyle change, including consuming a healthy natural whole food diet, while limiting your intake of processed and refined foods, stay at a healthy weight, and exercise.
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Jean Hailes Staff. PCOS. Jean Hailes. https://jeanhailes.org.au/health-a-z/pcos. Updated April 2014. Accessed July 22, 2016.
Teede Helena, Joham Anju. Young women with PCOS are five times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Monash University. http://www.med.monash.edu/med/news/2014/young-women-pcos-type-2-diabetes.html. Published June 24, 2014. Accessed July 23, 2016.
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