Healing Support for PCOS
Hormonal and reproductive imbalances are increasingly commonplace, especially estrogen-dominant conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS. The Standard American Diet coupled with our often toxic, frenetic lifestyles and environment have created a culture of imbalance and dis-ease. Many women experience the signs and symptoms of hormonal imbalance, from the mild (PMS complaints) to the severe (pain, disorders, infertility). The issue has become endemic, and is a challenge faced by too many women.
The most common cause of infertility in women, PCOS is said to affect up to 20% of women of childbearing age. Its diagnosis depends on having 2 of the following: irregular or missing periods, excess androgens (male hormones) in the blood, and/or ovarian cysts found via ultrasound (which can cause pain throughout the month).
Though its name suggests cysts are mandatory to be diagnosed, many women do not, in fact, have any cysts on their ovaries. The main symptoms associated with PCOS are hirsutism (excess hair on facial areas), consistent acne on the face or body, irregular or absent periods, hair loss, weight gain or obesity, insulin resistance and infertility.
Many women with PCOS are put on the birth control pill in order to regulate their cycle by suppressing ovulation and androgen production. Although this covers up some of the symptoms of hormonal imbalance, it doesn’t address the root cause. Further, it distances women from their bodies by suppressing its natural rhythms and messages.
Though PCOS is an ovulation disorder, it’s mainly caused by insulin resistance and poor blood sugar management.
There are 3 main types of PCOS:
Inflammation PCOS: causes may be food-related such as gluten, dairy, soy, sugar, or irritating foods as well as chemical exposure.
Insulin-resistant PCOS: most common type, caused by poor diet or lifestyle choices.
Pill-induced PCOS: triggered by hormonal birth control, which shuts down ovulation and worsens insulin resistance and inflammation.
When it comes to holistic solutions for PCOS management and re-balancing hormones, there’s a holy trifecta that eliminates the core of the issue:
Balance blood sugar
Eliminate inflammatory triggers
Consistent Exercise (though not overly aggressive)
Rebalancing hormones can start with simple diet and lifestyle changes.
Here are steps for healing:
Balanced Meal + Regular Mealtimes- Write out a rough daily guide that works best for you & your schedule and stick to eating at relatively the same time every day. This helps to stabilize the body, regulate hormones & blood sugar + boosts metabolism- promoting weight loss.
Exercise- Moderate exercise is great for PCOS management. It also helps to regulate blood sugar and insulin imbalances. Strength training, in particular, has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity. Yoga, hiking, and swimming are other great options. Don’t go overboard on the cardio, though, as it can overstimulate and exhaust the adrenal glands.
Get enough zzz’s- Sleep reduces inflammation and regulates the HPA axis, which helps balance hormone levels. Our bodies physically repair themselves and process all of our daily experiences as we sleep.
Manage stress- Stress shifts the body away from balance, shuts down many bodily functions such as digestion, raises blood sugar, and has a direct effect on insulin. It can suppress ovulation and create hormonal imbalances.
Some techniques to help manage stress include yoga, meditation, journaling, getting outdoors, exercising, spending time with loved ones, reading a good book, aromatherapy with essential oils, baths, massage, acupuncture, adaptogens, and nervine herbs.
Ditch inflammatory foods- Sugar, dairy, alcohol, and wheat are inflammatory foods that many people are sensitive to. Most people see improvement by cutting out these foods. They exacerbate insulin resistance by triggering blood sugar spikes and crashes, which disrupts ovulation and creates hormonal imbalances. Besides altering our natural hormone levels, inflammatory foods also deplete minerals like magnesium and chromium which are important for PCOS, disrupt ovulation, and de-regulate the menstrual cycle.
The dynamic duo: healthy fats & protein- Fats and protein help stabilize blood sugar levels, whereas carbohydrates and sugars affect insulin and can cause blood sugar spikes. Fats and protein provide satiety and help curb cravings. Be sure to include healthy fats with every meal: avocado, coconut, olive oil, organic meats and eggs, fish, nuts, and seeds are good options.
Increase fiber- Fiber promotes satiation and decreases sugar cravings. It also helps the liver to detoxify excess estrogen by encouraging healthy elimination, as excess estrogen leaves the body via the stool.
Include fiber-rich foods daily such as flax seeds, beans, legumes, spinach, sweet potatoes, avocados, coconut, artichokes, Brussels sprouts, chia seeds, and quinoa.
Supportive Supplements & Herbs
Some specifics to consider for PCOS treatment and hormonal imbalances:
Magnesium: helps balance blood sugar levels by sensitizing insulin receptors, reduces cravings, supports sleep cycles, and promotes hormone production. Magnesium glycinate and magnesium taurate have been shown to be most effective for PCOS. Best taken as a supplement & in baths.
Vitex: herb that promotes ovulation and calms the nervous system.
Milk Thistle: To support liver health & regeneration. Best Taken as a tincture.
Berberine: helps improve PCOS symptoms such as acne and reduces anxiety. It also helps sensitize insulin receptors and block androgen production, which is made in excess with PCOS. Be cautious with berberine: *do not use long-term (3+ months) as it is antimicrobial and can alter gut bacteria. Best taken as a supplement.
Maca: for hormone regulation, blood sugar management and boosted immunity.
By focusing on balancing blood sugar, eliminating inflammatory triggers, getting regular daily movement, and reducing stress, you will be addressing the root causes of hormonal imbalance. Many hormonal symptoms and disorders can be managed holistically, and wellness restored naturally.