Help! Why do I have PCOS?
Annoyingly, the ultimate cause of PCOS is still unknown but some of the most common contributing factors is that it stems from the ovaries being unable to produce hormones in the correct proportions ie. female hormone imbalance
Interestingly, hormone imbalance in other pathways such as the thyroid (metabolism) and adrenals (stress and energy) also make women more susceptible to PCOS.
So if you are suffering with hypo/hyperthyroid or chronic fatigue your chances of developing PCOS may be increased.
Being overweight is another major contributing factor for women suffering with the syndrome... And this is something I see a lot of in my clinic.
Overweight women have much lower levels of SHBG (Female Sex Hormone Binding Globulin) which is essentially a hormone that acts like a hoover for excess testosterone circulating around the body. Too much testosterone is the reason women experience some of the more distressing symptoms of PCOS such as hormonal spots or acne, excess facial and body hair (but loss of hair on their scalp) and weight gain.
It is also very common that women who suffer with PCOS also suffer with blood sugar imbalance. This can often lead to insulin resistance. Excess insulin leads to increased appetite which can increase weight - so it can be chicken and egg with weight and PCOS!
So it's no surprise that women with PCOS are often prescribed Metformin, a diabetes drug used to control blood sugar and insulin!
Many women are also given the contraceptive pill to 'regulate' their menstrual cycle and help the symptoms of PCOS.
But coming off the contraceptive pill, all your symptoms will return, alongside all of the more nasty ones that come with withdrawal from synthetic hormones! In some cases it is also masking the symptoms and can lead to greater challenges when you're looking to conceive.
Iron Deficiency & Anaemia
Many women struggle with iron deficiency, exacerbated by monthly periods. Anaemia is severe iron deficiency which can cause fatigue, weakness and pale parlour.
Whilst it can feel like a losing battle, ensuring you're receiving enough iron every single day is important for the management of your period. It can also help alleviate heavy periods, as iron deficiency in some instance can cause heavy periods, and vice versa, heavy periods increase your chance of being deficient.
Iron rich foods include beans, lentils, figs, apricots, almonds, spinach and chard.
So what can be done about the pain and inflammation?
Focus on cleaning up your diet and removing foods that can increase the severity of these symptoms including cramping. Read more about this here.
Cut out sugar, caffeine and alcohol, especially around your period. This may be the hardest thing to do, especially if you often reach for comfort food, but these three are the biggest offenders in spiking blood sugar.
In addition to cleaning up your diet and increase in fruits and vegetables is vital. Plant foods will aid your body in recovery and balance, and of course, where possible organic is best (to limit exposure to further synthetic compounds that can play havoc on hormones).
What about weight loss for PCOS?
Getting weight under control can be one of the hardest things to do with PCOS. Especially if you are struggling with weight around the middle. Conventional weight loss and exercise may not be the way forward, as you may find no matter how many hours you're sweating the weight isn't shifting. This is one of the cruelties of female hormone imbalance.
With PCOS I'd always recommend seeking professional help to check blood sugar and insulin levels so that you can have a tailor made way of eating to help you lose weight - one that combats the two so the unwanted weight starts to fall off naturally and in balance with the body.
Alongside, a personalised plan, I tend to use natural supplements and herbs to help my clients reach their goals in reducing weight and their symptoms.
Still confused? That is VERY okay, PCOS is very common yet so much remains unknown. What I will help with is guide you through nutrition to treat PCOS.
Registered Nutritional Therapist
Kelly is a Registered Nutritional Therapist who focuses on positive physical and mental wellbeing, achieved through diet, lifestyle, sleep and exercise. Having struggled for years with IBS and hormonal imbalance, and increasingly frustrated with the lack of support and helpful advice from her GP, Kelly began her own journey of healing the body from the inside out. After seeing huge improvements she quit her job to study nutrition and focus on harnessing the healing powers of food to help other people in similar situations.