September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, so we wanted to give you some information about women’s health and helpful tips to help women reach optimum health. While this article is not about ovarian cancer, we feel that it is imperative to inform women about polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
What Is PCOS?
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that involves imbalanced estrogen and progesterone levels in women. This imbalance can lead to ovarian cysts, which are benign masses on the ovaries. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that about 1 in 20 women of childbearing age has PCOS, and that the condition affects roughly five million women in America. PCOS can also affect a woman’s menstrual cycle, cardiovascular health, and fertility.
Women with PCOS will typically experience mild symptoms at first. Some of the common adverse side effects of PCOS include, but are not limited to, amennorhea (no menstrual period), dysmenorrheal, infertility, acne, pelvic pain, and high blood pressure. The symptoms may vary from person to person, but common symptoms may include:
- Deeper voice
- Irregular periods
- Hair loss
- More hair growth on face, chest, stomach, or toes
- Decrease in breast size
- Weight gain
- Pelvic pain
What Causes PCOS?
Medical professionals are still unsure of the exact cause of PCOS, but it is thought that genetics may play a large role in the development of the condition. It is a common belief that hormonal imbalances also play a large role as well. The overproduction of androgen, which is a male sex hormone that women’s bodies also produce, is thought to be another contributing factor. PCOS patients often have excess levels of androgen. Some possible causes are listed below.
- Imbalanced hormones
- Excess insulin
- Low-grade inflammation
- Excess androgen production
Natural Remedies For PCOS
It is important to note that it takes about 6-12 months of lifestyle and diet changes, in addition to the natural remedies listed below, to see positive change when living with PCOS.
- The body thrives on foods that are nutritionally dense, so it makes sense to eat foods that will nourish your body, especially when you have a condition like PCOS. It is best to consume plant-based foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains. Try to avoid eating processed foods like white flour, high fructose corn syrup, meat, pasta, added sugars, artificial sweeteners, and canola oil. You should notice a change in how your body feels when consume a plant-based diet.
- Irregular menstrual cycles are common in women with PCOS. It is beneficial to eat foods that have iron and magnesium because they help to build healthy blood, which is necessary for regular menstruation. Raw cacao is a great source of both iron and magnesium. You can also eat foods like avocados, bananas, hibiscus tea, apple cider vinegar, leafy greens, beans, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and broccoli, among others.
- Licorice root helps the body to maintain balanced hormone levels because it promotes healthy production and release. Additionally, licorice root can also help to support a healthy liver and healthy insulin levels, which is an integral part of naturally remedying PCOS.
- Eat foods that are low on the glycemic index and glycemic load list. Low glycemic index foods are carbohydrates that slowly break down in the body, meaning that you don’t have a spike or drop in your insulin levels. If you have insulin resistant PCOS and are overweight, try not to eat more than a half-cup of low glycemic carbs a day. Great examples of these low glycemic foods include kale, grapefruit, walnuts, almonds, apples, beans, lentils, and asparagus.
- Stop drinking coffee because caffeine increases estrogen levels. A recent study found that eating two cups of coffee a day boosts estradiol (a natural estrogen) levels. If you drink 4-5 cups a day, you produce 70% more estrogen during the follicular phase of menstruation. Since women with PCOS can have difficulty producing a viable follicle for ovulation, try to avoid coffee and caffeine in general.
- Try drinking an apple cider vinegar tonic because apple cider vinegar helps to maintain balanced pH levels in the body, while helping to inhibit bacteria, candida, or yeast build-up. You can make a tonic that consists of 1-2 tablespoons of raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar in 8 ounces of filtered water. Drink this first thing in the morning before consuming food.
- A lot of people enjoy doing high-intensity exercise routines. Rather than doing that, it may be beneficial to try stress-reducing exercises such as Pilates, yoga, Tai Chi, biking, walking, swimming, or barre class.