It's estimated 12-18% of Australian women suffer Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) making it the most common endocrine disorder experienced in reproductive aged women. The question is why are so many women falling victim to this often debilitating and increasing epidemic?
PCOS is caused by a combination of hormonal and metabolic imbalances, resulting in irregularities in ovarian function. Factors such as excess sugar and starchy carbohydrate intake, obesity, genetic predisposition, inactivity, smoking, medications such as steroids and excess oestrogen production, or exposure to xeno oestrogens, are all factors that can induce insulin resistance and PCOS. Prolonged periods of chronic stress can also contribute to the onset of PCOS because of the effect stress has on hormones - cortisol and insulin.
Symptoms of PCOS typically appear in womens teenage years, starting with irregular periods and acne, before progressing over time to excess hair growth, weight gain and infertility. Eventually these symptoms can result in insulin resistance or even type 2 diabetes.
Diagnosis of of PCOS should be based on a combination of symptomatology (such as those above) and pathology tests, including:
Free testosterone, thyroid function tests, prolactin to assess pituitary activity and FSH levels, blood glucose and insulin and lipid studies
Internal pelvic ultrasound – can be performed in women over 18 years of age to check for the presence of excess cysts on the ovaries. Many practitioner make the mistake of basing diagnosis on ultrasound alone, but this is not enough as many women can have the symptoms of PCOS but don't necessarily present with polycystic ovaries.
How to manage PCOS
PCOS can vary greatly from each individual so the management needs to be individualised, however all sufferers of PCOS would greatly benefit from reducing overall sugar and grain consumption, including the elimination of other inflammatory foods like gluten, artificial additives and sweeteners and cows dairy. The eating program I developed in my book, Love Your Gut is designed to regulate healthy blood glucose and insulin production, as well as aid natural liver detoxification and reduce inflammation. I also recommend combining my eating program with the nutritional supplements contained in my Gut Repair and liver detoxification program as these work to switch off inflammation and eliminate excess oestrogen from the liver.
Supplementing with additional magnesium and chromium will help to prevent sugar cravings and aid healthy glucose metabolism. I also recommend PCOS patients combine my eating and supplement program with regular acupuncture sessions, to assist with balancing hormones and improve blood circulation to the reproductive area.
The important thing to remember when it comes to successfully treating PCOS, is that it will take time and is heavily influenced by diet and lifestyle and should not be managed by taking the oral contraceptive pill, as this will only induce an artificial period, not to mention is a source of synthetic oestrogen - exactly what PCOS sufferers should be avoiding. Also, contrary to popular belief, PCOS is NOT a life sentence for infertility. I've assisted many women in restoring their fertility using nutritional and herbal medicine combined with diet, leading to successful pregnancies, so dont lose heart if you have been told you are unable to conceive because you suffer PCOS and seek out the help of an experienced natural healthcare practitioner.
If you suffer PCOS or have recovered from this condition, I'd love to hear your experiences and what worked for you in the comments below.