Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common endocrine abnormalities in reproductively active women—affecting 5% to 10% of females. This makes PCOS a leading cause of infertility in woman of child bearing age.
Factual statistics aside, being diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome does not and should not mean an “infertility sentence”. It also does not automatically mean IVF or other forms of assisted reproductive technologies; or that a woman has to resort to fertility drugs or pharmaceutical medications in order to manage symptoms and/or to successfully achieve conception.
PCOS can be managed naturally in combination with diligent self-care and lifestyle interventions. In fact the power to change the odds in relation to this condition is greatly reliant upon a woman’s daily choices. Hence the importance of understanding more about what you can do to optimise your health and fertility. Ultimately you are in control.
What is PCOS?
PCOS is essentially a metabolic syndrome. It involves an over production of ovarian androgens (male hormones) leading to a diverse range of symptoms including
- hirsutism (male pattern/excessive hair growth)
- oligo-ovulation (irregular) or
- anovulation (lack of ovulation)
Increased insulin levels, blood sugar irregularities, difficulty losing weight, obesity, hormonal imbalances, irregular cycles and of course multiple ovarian follicles arranged in a pearl necklace shape around the ovaries are also some key features to be found in women with PCOS.
How to Manage PCOS Naturally
The ultimate aim is to balance metabolic function, particularly blood sugar and insulin levels. This single step can make all the difference in relation to reducing the production of ovarian androgens, which in turn helps to regulate ovulation and effectively manage all other related symptoms. Here’s how you can balance your metabolic function
1. PCOS Diet
If we use the 80/20 rule (Paretto’s principle), which broadly states 20% of one’s effort is responsible for 80% of one’s results—your diet constitutes a great majority of the 20% you want to focus your attention and efforts, which will deliver 80% of your desired outcomes. So how do you eat for optimum hormonal balance and to effectively influence the symptoms of PCOS? Simple.
- Base you meals on good quality, preferably organic vegetables and protein.
- Avoid all fried foods, trans fats and hydrogenated fats (heated vegetable oil which have been shown to reduce ovulation potential in woman with PCOS by as much as 73%!)
- cut out sugar containing and high glycaemic foods as much as possible
- avoid all packaged and processed foods, especially snacks and junk foods
Just like as your diet provides the essential building blocks for optimum health and fertility, exercise also plays a huge physical role in harmonizing metabolic function and balancing hormones. Aim for doing something daily, for at least 40 minutes. Ultimately it’s best to mix your exercise routines to ensure a good balance between cardiovascular and resistance or weighted exercises.
The latter helps to build muscle mass (and/or reduce loss), which is important for long term health and proper metabolism. The former helps of course with cardiovascular health but is also responsible for immediately helping to balance insulin and blood sugar levels.
Exercise goes hand in hand with diet to ensure proper management of symptoms, better health and proper fertility. A suitable diet and exercise regime is paramount in ensuring proper weight management which is essential for all women (especially those with PCOS). If you are getting stuck, seek the help of a nutritionist or dietician. And if you are not yet a fan of exercise, look for a group class format or seek out physical activities you find fun to get you started! Often a personal trainer can also be helpful to keep you accountable.
3. Holistic Herbal Treatment and Nutritional Support
Natural interventions such as herbal medicines and nutritional treatments are highly effective in conjunction with diet and exercise to help address any and all PCOS related symptoms. And unlike pharmaceutical prescriptions such as the pill to “regulate” cycles and metformin for blood sugar control, natural medicines help the body to gently and naturally balance itself.
No matter the form of treatment you choose however, management is long-term. Seek the assistance of a professional healthcare practitioner to assist you and do not self prescribe for best results.
PCOS is unlikely to go away, but making your best daily choices will enable you to reach your treatment objectives during your reproductive years.
For more information check out my other articles on this topic How to Diagnose PCOS, 3 Proven Steps To Manage PCOS Naturally | Top 5 tips to lose weight fast and help manage PCOS, Trying to Conceive Naturally with PCOS