Originally published February 8 2011
Manage polycystic ovarian syndrome naturally
by Megan Rostollan
(NaturalNews) Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome seems to be an increasing problem in Industrialized, Westernized countries with as many as 1 in 15 women in America suffering from this disease (1) (some suggest it may be as high as 1 in 5). Many medical professionals view PCOS as a problem to be managed -- often by drugs alone -- at best. There is increasing evidence, however, that PCOS may be managed naturally, or even reversed.
PCOS is a condition of hormonal imbalance in which insulin resistance and high androgen levels are present, and it often includes other variations of hormone imbalance. The effects of these imbalances include reproductive, cardiovascular, and metabolic dysfunctions. Symptoms include male pattern hair growth (excess and darker hair on the face, abdomen, or chest), acne and irregular periods as well as ovarian cysts, high BMI`s, and perhaps most notably, subfertility (difficulty becoming pregnant). The severity of PCOS varies from woman to woman, as do the symptoms. It is possible to have PCOS without ovarian cysts, without overweight, and without fertility trouble. However, these are the most familiar complaints, and PCOS is often thought of primarily as a dysfunctioning of the reproductive system.
One of the best places to start when trying to control or reverse PCOS without pharmaceutical drugs is through dietary changes. Evidence is increasing that shows that a low-carbohydrate diet is essential for managing PCOS well. Science backs up anecdotal evidence of practitioners. Those with absent cycles had their cycles return in just a couple months and in all PCOS patients signs of high androgen levels began to subside after the same time on the diet.
A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed significant improvements in women with PCOS when they went on a carbohydrate restricted diet. All the women who completed the study saw significant improvements in weight reduction, waist circumference, body fat, insulin, total testosterone, and free androgens. 57% of the study participants also saw significant improvements in their menstrual cycle regularity. Another study published in the same journal showed similar positive results, detailing their study of protein versus glucose on women with PCOS (2). This study showed an immediate drop in cortisol and DHEA levels during a protein challenge and a spike in cortisol and DHEA levels during an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test. DHEA is a precursor hormone and is often too high in those with PCOS, as is cortisol. They conclude that:
"Glucose ingestion caused significantly more hyperinsulinemia than did protein, and it stimulated cortisol and DHEA. Protein intake suppressed ghrelin significantly longer than did glucose, which suggested a prolonged satietogenic effect. These findings provide mechanistic support for increasing protein intake and restricting the simple sugar intake in a PCOS diet."
Detoxification is also helpful in those with PCOS, as toxins can adversely affect hormone production. The average American lifestyle no longer includes physical activity, which can impair natural detoxification pathways such as sweating and regular bowel movements. Talk with a qualified health-care practitioner about your options.
Weight-loss is also key, and studies have shown that women with PCOS with overweight who lose just 5% of their body fat can improve their cycles and ovulation (3).
Other aids that should be considered include getting sufficient sleep (In one study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, researchers found that insulin sensitivity decreased in subjects by 19%-25% after only one night of poor sleep) and taking supplements B-12, B6, folic acid, fish-oil, vitamin D, cinnamon, and anti-androgens, such as saw palmetto and spearmint tea.
About the authorMegan Rostollan is a Certified Family Herbalist and works with her husband David, a private natural health and nutrition consultant (www.reforminghealth.com). She is also the author of a blog which can be found at NaturalHousewifery.com. Her areas of greatest interest include women's reproductive and prenatal health, as well as organic and green living and dietary and lifestyle changes.
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