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Polycystic ovary syndrome: how to naturally deal with it

Each month, bestselling author and speaker, Henrietta Norton, answers a health question and offers advice. In this issue, she takes a look at the minefield that is PCOS, and gives holistic suggestions to a reader with the condition

by Psychologies

4 minute read

The prevalence of polycycstic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is thought to be five to 10 per cent of women, and involves a constellation of clinical and biochemical features. Women with PCOS produce a higher amount of a group of hormones called androgens, such as testosterone. It is thought that this excess is made by the adrenal glands and ovaries and is both affected by, and causes, imbalances in insulin, which is a pivotal hormone for blood-sugar management. It’s also thought that PCOS is genetic, so women with a family history of diabetes may have a higher risk of developing the condition.

These imbalances in both androgens and insulin can result in symptoms including an irregular menstrual cycle, acne, excessive body hair, weight-management issues, mood changes and reduced ovulation or anovulation (cessation of periods). Some women who experience a number or a few of these symptoms would be diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome. However, some do not experience any of the symptoms, but still present with polycystic ovaries.

The pivotal role of diet and exercise

PCOS is a complex condition involving multiple systems, and therefore requires holistic support, with diet and exercise playing a vital role in any treatment plan. It is important to support healthy glucose regulation with a diet low in grains and high glycaemic foods, refined sugars and trans fats, and rich in fibre from a variety of vegetables and pulses, as well as nourishing fats, such as seeds, nuts, olive oil and avocados. Reducing your exposure to synthetic compounds that interact with hormone receptors – whether environmental, dietary or in cosmetics – can also be helpful.

There is evidence to suggest that the health of the digestive system, detoxification efficiency and thyroid function can also influence the development and progression of PCOS, as well as our exposure to and management of tangible and intangible ‘stressors’. Finding the right support to help you achieve more ‘pause’ and balance in your daily life is crucial, whether that’s through gentle massage, reading, music or time spent in nature. Regular exercise outside improves your body’s production of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), which helps to regulate oestrogen and testosterone, as well as support mood, stress and weight balance.

In nutritional medicine, we also use a combination of nutrients and fatty acids, including chromium, alpha lipoic acid, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, magnesium, zinc and vitamin D, as well as a number of helpful herbs. Work with a naturopath or nutritional therapist to find the most appropriate supplement plan that works for you.

Our expert, Henrietta Norton, is a registered nutritional therapist, a women’s wellbeing writer and expert, and co-founder of food-grown supplements brand Wild Nutrition.

Image: Getty