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Zaheera Swing
Nutritional Therapist & Herbalist BSc Hons Nutritional Science + NTPD

5 Natural Approaches To PCOS From a Nutritional Therapist

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition affecting 4-12% of women of reproductive age, characterized by hormonal imbalances causing symptoms such as irregular periods, weight gain, and fertility problems. Beyond traditional medications, management can be enhanced through natural approaches including regulating blood glucose levels, making dietary modifications, exercising, and using research-backed supplements.

 

 

With PCOS on the rise, the common allopathic approach to managing PCOS is by hiding symptoms with birth control pills and anti-hair growth medications, but what if there were scientifically proven natural approaches aimed at the root imbalances of a PCOS diagnosis without the risks and side effects of pharmaceutical drugs? The good news is that there are:

 

 

What is PCOS?

 

PCOS, known as polycystic ovarian syndrome, is a prevalent condition in women defined by a cluster of various symptoms and is thought to affect somewhere from 4 - 12% of women of reproductive age in the US. Interestingly, ovarian cysts are not always a presenting factor in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome. In PCOS, levels of androgen hormones are too high, resulting in hyperandrogenism. Luteinizing hormone is over-secreted in those with PCOS, causing elevated levels of 17- hydroxyprogesterone, androstenedione, DHEA-S, and testosterone. [1]

These elevated hormones are responsible for certain symptoms of PCOS such as:

  • Thinning hair on the head
  • Excess hair on the body
  • Changes to the menstrual cycle such as irregular periods
  • Increase in body weight/finding it difficult to lose weight
  • Changes in sexual health such as reduced libido
  • Mental health issues like low mood
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Infertility

[2]

 

PCOS is also often associated with increased metabolic dysfunction such as insulin resistance, and therefor weight gain and increased risk factors for the developed of diabetes. [3]

 

Let’s take a look at 5 natural treatments/approaches that can be taken to assist with PCOS symptoms:

 

1. Balancing blood glucose levels

 

Insulin is the hormone that regulates blood glucose levels by allowing cellular uptake of glucose from the bloodstream. Insulin resistance and/or irregular insulin secretion can be the main cause of hyperandrogenism in some women since this can stimulate the production of testosterone in the ovaries, as well as result in high blood glucose and weight gain. [3]

Insulin resistance may also inhibit sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG); this is problematic since androgenic hormones bind to SHBG, making them inactive, so when SHBG is low, this means there are more active androgenic hormones available, resulting in PCOS symptoms. [4]

So, what can be done to improve blood sugar levels in PCOS? Studies have found that supplementing with chromium significantly improves insulin sensitivity, which can be found in our best-selling Garcinia Cambogia supplement. [5]

A recent meta-analysis found that serum insulin significantly decreased in PCOS patients supplementing with inositol, a widely studied and effective supplement for PCOS [6]

Other research has shown that eating a whole foods Mediterranean style diet high in healthy fat like olive oil, nuts, and seeds, as well as vegetables and whole grains, with moderate animal protein and minimally refined foods and added sugar improves insulin resistance and glycemic control and may also reduce inflammation and the risk of heart disease [7].

Apple cider vinegar may also have promising effects on lowering blood glucose levels since the acetic acid content in apple cider vinegar is thought to slow down the absorption of carbohydrates after eating. To avoid the taste and smell of traditional liquid apple cider vinegar (as well as to protect against teeth enamel erosion), we’ve developed revolutionary Apple Cider Vinegar capsules.

 

 

2. Increasing SHBG levels

 

Inositol to the rescue, once again, has also been shown to increase SHBG levels in women with PCOS who had their blood tested and has also been found to decrease luteinizing hormone, potentially preventing excess androgen production [8] [9]

Another way to increase SHBG and reduce the activity of androgenic hormones is by increasing daily dietary fiber intake, which can be achieved by adding in more vegetables, fruit, and whole grains into the diet. [10]

Resveratrol, the famous polyphenol antioxidant in red wine, may also increase SHBG. [11] 

Don’t worry; supplements containing resveratrol, like the Goddess Code Women’s Liquid Multi are widely available, so alcohol consumption isn’t necessary, as it’s important to note that alcohol consumption may be associated with fatty liver disease in women with PCOS. [12]

 

 

3. Decreasing testosterone production with spearmint tea

 

A delicious addition to a PCOS regime: spearmint tea. There is confirmed evidence that the regular consumption of spearmint tea can act as an herbal medicine with a hormone balancing effect to decrease levels of testosterone in women with PCOS. For example, a randomized control trial found that women with PCOS who drank two cups of spearmint tea daily for 30 days had significantly decreased free and total testosterone compared to the control group.

It is thought that with a longer study duration, patients would also have seen significant decreases in hirsutism (male-like hair growth). Always aim to find a high-quality certified organic spearmint tea. [13]

 

 

4. Exercise

 

Anti-Müllerian hormone levels in women with PCOS are found to be 2-3 times higher compared to women without PCOS. Consistent aerobic exercise like interval training could significantly lower levels of Anti- Müllerian hormone. [14] 

Regular exercise has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity in the general population [15], as well as directly in PCOS, which can be demonstrated in a small study that found improved insulin resistance and a decreased number of ovarian follicles as seen via MRI after a 16-week exercise program [16]. Strength training can also help to build muscle mass, which may further support healthier blood sugar levels. 

So don’t be afraid to get moving!

 

 

5. Avoiding toxin exposure: BPA and smoking

 

Women with PCOS have been found to have significantly higher levels of BPA, the endocrine disrupting chemical found in plastics, compared to women without PCOS. BPA is an endocrine disruptor with a weak affinity for estrogen receptors, and elevated BPA is also associated with increased levels of androgens. [17] 

Avoiding plastic water bottles, plastic wrap, canned foods, and plastic food containers, and instead switching to glass/stainless steel containers, compostable food wrap, and using BPA-free toothbrushes can all decrease your exposure to BPA.

Smoking cigarettes is particularly bad news for women with PCOS. Women with PCOS who smoked were found to have a significantly higher risk of metabolic syndrome and higher triglyceride levels compared to those that didn’t [18] 

Taking as many precautions as possible to minimize the risk of diabetes, and cardiovascular disease should be an important area of focus since women with PCOS are thought to be significantly more likely to develop these conditions [19].

 

 

 

Final thoughts

 

PCOS may appear to have a complicated etiology, but there is evidence to suggest that by using a few natural strategies, like supplementation, herbalism, exercise, and lifestyle management, women living with PCOS could see significant improvements in their condition by targeting the underlying root causes of their condition. However, please remember it’s always essential to talk to your doctor before making any significant dietary or lifestyle changes.

 

Note: This article is for informational purposes only and not intended for use as medical advice. Always consult your healthcare provider before starting any natural treatments and dietary supplements or making any diet and lifestyle changes for polycystic ovary syndrome. 

Zaheera Swing
Nutritional Therapist & Herbalist BSc Hons Nutritional Science + NTPD
As a qualified Nutritional Therapist (BSc Hons Nutritional Science + NTPD), Zaheera Swing has a deep passion for restoring balance and harmony to the body through the modalities of nutritional science, herbalism, and holistic lifestyle practices. Using the functional medicine model coupled with wisdom from ancient paradigms, she aims to provide insight into the underlying root causes of poor health and the holistic tools we can harness to enhance the well-being of mind, body, and spirit.
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