A Natural Approach To PCOS

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) can impact many aspects of a woman’s health, from her moods, her weight, to her chances of conception. This surprisingly common condition can be difficult to diagnose and treat. That’s partly because conventional medicine practices are often geared towards tackling the symptoms without truly getting to the underlying reasons. Naturopathic treatments for PCOS address this frustrating condition from all angles, addressing the whole system with a special focus on the root cause.

What Is PCOS?
Simply put, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a hormonal problem that can affect women during their reproductive years. It’s marked by irregular ovulation and higher than normal levels of the “male” hormones or androgens such as testosterone. The name refers to changes to the ovaries, which become filled with small cysts that lead to hormone imbalances.

Because PCOS can be difficult to diagnose it’s a bit uncertain how common it is, but about five to 10 percent of women may experience it during the reproductive years.

The Symptoms of PCOS

The symptoms of PCOS often start to appear slowly over time, and the changes they bring about are often easy to dismiss as normal.

If you experience the following symptoms, it may be time to talk with a healthcare practitioner:

● Weight Gain
Gaining weight without any particular change in lifestyle, especially around the belly. Women with PCOS often develop an “apple” shape in which their body fat collects in the torso area.

● Acne
Facial and back acne and other skin conditions such as dark patches and skin tags often go hand in hand with PCOS.

● Hirsutism
Extra hair on the face and body, particularly on the upper lip, chest, and back as a result of hormonal imbalances.

● Mood Changes
PCOS can particularly bring on an increased risk of depression or anxiety

● Irregular Periods
Some women cease to menstruate at all. Others develop very heavy periods.

● Difficulty conceiving
Cystic ovaries, as well as the accompanying hormonal imbalances, can make conception difficult, potentially leading to the need for extra help to get pregnant.

What Are The Underlying Causes Of PCOS?

Genetics
It is very often difficult to determine one precise cause for PCOS, since many factors can contribute to its development. Genetics do play a role however, so if your mother or sister has had PCOS, you are more likely to develop it.

Weight
Carrying extra weight can also contribute to PCOS. Of course, this creates a frustrating dynamic since PCOS makes you more likely to keep gaining weight. Hormonal imbalances also make it harder to lose that extra weight.

Stress
As well as the more measurable factors, some research suggests that high stress levels may play a role in the development of PCOS. That’s because stress can wreak havoc on your hormones, resulting in an overproduction of testosterone and insulin.

Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance may be a major factor in PCOS. About 70 percent of women with PCOS also have insulin resistance. Obesity, high blood sugar, inactivity, and stress can all lead to insulin resistance, however in PCOS insulin resistance seems to be both a symptom and a driver of the condition and affects all body types.

Why PCOS Can Be Frustrating: The Shortfalls of Conventional Medicine
Not only is it difficult to diagnose PCOS, it can also be tricky to treat. Many conventional medical care providers seek to simply mask the symptoms by putting women with PCOS on birth control pills.

One clear flaw in this approach is that birth control pills won’t help women who are trying to reverse their PCOS in order to conceive. More importantly, this approach isn’t getting to the root of the problem, in fact it may exacerbate it. Birth control pills containing estrogen can actually raise blood sugar levels in addition to carrying other health risks. The goal should be to restore overall health, not add the potential for more problems.

The Natural Approach To PCOS

A naturopathic approach considers the whole person in treating PCOS. That means addressing the underlying causes of hormonal imbalances. The goal is to improve all aspects of a patient’s health – and consequently, reduce PCOS symptoms.

Treatment starts with a thorough evaluation of your health history as well as thorough functional testing. Although the exact protocols will vary by patient, here are some proven tips for treating PCOS.

1. Weight Loss Plan
If you’re overweight, work with your healthcare provider to create a healthy weight-loss plan. Losing just small amounts of weight can make a big difference to PCOS symptoms. However, you want to approach weight loss in a way that doesn’t create more stress in your body as stress can have a negative effect on insulin levels. That’s why it’s important to work with your healthcare practitioner.

2. Natural Whole Food Diet
Eating foods without preservatives or other endocrine disruptors is the best approach to fully nourishing your body’s intricate systems.

3. Balance Protein And Carbs
You don’t have to eliminate carbs altogether. Choose unprocessed, complex carbs and balance them with sources of lean protein. As well, keep your blood sugar stable by eating at regular intervals.

4. Improve Gut Health
By improving your gut health to reduce inflammation and improve elimination, probiotics can help regulate hormone levels.

5. Choose Foods High In Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Essential Fatty Acids are the building blocks of many hormones, and a deficiency in EFAs is very common. Good sources include fatty fish such as salmon or sardines, as well as eggs, nuts and seeds.

6. Talk to your healthcare provider about supplementation
Depending on your personal profile, helpful supplements could include magnesium, vitamin D, and calcium. In particular, inositol (a B vitamin) has been proven effective for PCOS treatment. And chromium can help metabolize sugar and stabilize glucose levels. The right testing by your doctor can uncover any deficiencies you may have and help you come up with a targeted supplement protocol.

7. Get Enough Sleep
A good night’s sleep is an essential part of hormone regulation. Interestingly, studies have found that sleep problems are twice as common for women with PCOS. So be sure to pay attention to your sleep habits.

8. Get some healthy movement
Moderate exercise will help with weight loss. It will also relieve stress and balance your cortisol levels. One study found that a mix of high-intensity interval training and strength training helps women with PCOS. However, talk to your healthcare provider about the best approach for you as many women with PCOS do better with gentle exercise.

Take Control of Your Hormones
Yes, PCOS can be frustrating. However, much research has been done recently on functional testing and effective natural, holistic treatments for PCOS. By treating your body as an integrated set of systems, you can get to the bottom of your PCOS symptoms and get on the path towards true balance and wellbeing.

Ready to take control of your hormones? Come into the office and we can get started!

References:
https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/pcos
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6250088/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5655679/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5461594/
https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2012/591654/
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1756464617307727
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3277302/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4135453/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28595797

Signs That Your Body Is Out of Balance

Are you feeling burnt out and overwhelmed? You’re not alone. Let’s face it: We’re all busy, dealing with endless to-do lists and struggling to balance it all. The result is often a day-to-day life that feels too hectic. We feel pulled away from the things that matter – and we may have even forgotten what those things are.

Many people find their way to our clinic at a time in their lives where they feel compelled to take charge of their wellbeing before it gets out of control. Perhaps they’re experiencing health problems that they just can’t shake, or they are ready to take their health to the next level because they know their health is their best asset. By seeking the kind of holistic help a Naturopathic Doctor can provide, they’re claiming ownership of their current and future health.

A Fork In The Road

The inescapable truth is that good health is vital to living a rich and meaningful life. Fortunately our bodies let us know when we’re standing at a health crossroads by giving us warning signs in the form of unpleasant symptoms. However, many of us don’t listen to those signs, leading our health down a slippery slope.

Here’s a key fact: Illness doesn’t develop overnight. It often begins when we’re out of balance and burnt out. We need to pay attention to the warning signs before they escalate into something worse.

Five Signs That Your Body Is Out Of Balance:

1. You Feel Incredibly Stressed
We all feel stressed from time to time. And some stress is necessary to motivate us to get things done. However, chronic stress can lead to many health issues, including muscle pain, cardiovascular and digestive issues, hormonal imbalance, depression and anxiety, and weakened immunity.

From an evolutionary perspective, the “fight or flight” response produced by stress hormones (including cortisol and adrenaline) makes sense. By putting your body into overdrive, those hormones could help you if you were under attack by a predator. However, in today’s world, stress tends to be chronic and relentless. As a result, your hormone levels can be way out of balance.

2. You are Irritable and Experiencing Mood Swings
Are you ready to fly off the handle at any moment? Do things that used to make you laugh now irritate you? You could have an imbalance of the hormones that affect your mood, such as serotonin. Changes in estrogen levels and thyroid imbalances can also lead to irritability.

3. You are Experiencing Sleep Disturbances and Difficulty Falling Asleep
Sleep problems can become a vicious cycle: We need sleep to refresh our minds and restore balance, but when our bodies are out of balance, it can be difficult to sleep well. If you toss and turn for hours, or wake up in the night with racing thoughts, it may be time to listen to your body and start practising better sleep hygiene.

4. Your Body is Changing (Rapid Weight Gain, Debilitating Fatigue, Skin Problems, etc.) and you Can’t Figure Out Why
Many patients experience mysterious symptoms that can’t be explained by conventional medicine. Weight gain is a common example. If you find you’ve gained weight without any change to your lifestyle, your body might be telling you it’s out of balance. Similarly, unexplained fatigue or sudden acne (long past the teen years) are symptoms you shouldn’t ignore.

5. You Rely on External Substances to “Manage” Life
If you feel like you can’t make it through the day without your morning coffee, midmorning macchiato, and afternoon pumpkin spice latte and muffin, ask yourself what purpose those magic drinks and sugar are serving. Relying on a substance, be it sugar, caffeine, or even alcohol or cigarettes is not a sustainable way of coping with life’s difficulties and the short term boost soon gives way to unbalance. It’s important to seek help to nip these habits in the bud.

Does anything on that list sound familiar? You’re not alone! Feeling overwhelmed is often the result of our natural instinct to try to please everyone. The good news is that there’s a better way.

Recovering From Overwhelm: How To Bring Your Health Back Into Balance

How can you start the process of restoring balance? It’s simpler than you might think.

Step One. Reprioritize What’s Really Important.

What matters most to you? Chances are it’s not the laundry, or your next meeting, your emails or buying a nicer couch, or many of the things that take up space on your to-do list. Ultimately, for most of us, the important things are more intangible: our health, relationships, and family. And in order to prioritize those things, we need to put self-care at the top of the list. Simply put, we can’t devote energy to the really important things if we’re not looking after ourselves.

Interestingly, many people find that when they adjust their priorities, the other things cease to feel like such a struggle. It may seem like a bit of a paradox, but when we look after ourselves, everything else falls into place.

If you want to reconnect with your priorities and figure out what really matters, mindful meditation can help. You can also try journaling – writing down your thoughts can be a great way to sort them out. In fact, writing down your emotions can be the outlet you need to ease the harmful physical effects of stress – and remember to take time for gratitude daily.

Step 2: Recognize Where you Need Help and Ask For It.

This step can be hard for many people. After all, as adults, we’re supposed to be self-sufficient, right? However, consider this: Many successful people have help. Athletes have health and fitness coaches; musicians have teachers; many business owners have mentors. And they often credit their success to that support and guidance.

The real strength is in identifying areas of your life that feel out of control, and admitting that you could do with a helping hand.

A good first step is to book a thorough review of your health and wellness status with your Naturopathic Doctor. We’re here to help you better understand where these feelings of overwhelm and bothersome symptoms are coming from, and give you the tools you need to find balance again. Functional testing is available to remove the guesswork and identify any possible underlying physical issues, such as hormonal imbalances. This holistic approach allows us to support you with an effective plan of action for your health and wellbeing that’s tailored specifically to you.

If you are ready to dive deeper into your health and rebalance your life, please give us a call!

References:
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120402162546.htm
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/raising-happiness/201609/9-ways-ease-overwhelm
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3341916/
https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Edo_De_Kloet/publication/7849122_De_Kloet_ER_Joels_M_Holsboer_F_Stress_and_the_brain_from_adaptation_to_disease_Nat_Rev_Neurosci_6_463-475/links/53f477e80cf2888a7490fcf9/De-Kloet-ER-Joels-M-Holsboer-F-Stress-and-the-brain-from-adaptation-to-disease-Nat-Rev-Neurosci-6-463-475.pdf
https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/advances-in-psychiatric-treatment/article/emotional-and-physical-health-benefits-of-expressive-writing/ED2976A61F5DE56B46F07A1CE9EA9F9F