With expert commentary from Doctors, Nutritionists and testimonials from real women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, this article covers the current ways suggested to help relieve the mental and physical strain of PCOS.
“PCOS affects up to 5-10% of women in the UK, with the figure at 8-20% worldwide” says Dr.Talha Shawaf London-based gynaecologist and an Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer at Imperial College and at Queen Mary University. “The name can be a little confusing, as the condition is actually under-developed follicles (fluid filled sacs in which eggs develop), and not cysts as the name suggests.”
The main issue experienced by women with PCOS is the range of symptoms that can occur and how currently there isn’t a cure. Dr.Shawaf comments “As little is known about the cause, only the symptoms can be treated by your doctor.” This element of the unknown is down to the variety of symptoms experienced individually or collectively by those with PCOS.
Although symptoms are sometimes not experienced, it is common for irregular, infrequent, or non-existent menstrual periods to occur. Other symptoms of PCOS can include:
- Infertility or difficulty getting pregnant
- Pelvic pain
- Emotional Instability (Anxiety & Depression)
- Excess body hair on the face, chest, back and abdomen
- Thinning hair and hair loss
Ways to Get Relief
“When I am working with PCOS clients my first aim is to get their blood sugars under control.’ says Registered Nutritional Therapist Harriett Eldridge. “Secondly, I want to ensure that they are having healthy regular bowel movements (type 3-4 on the Bristol stool chart) and thirdly support their gut health.”
While the word diet may strike fear into many, it’s more about finding a balance in what you eat, rather than never being able to have what you want. In this case, it means reducing the intake of refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white pasta, potato, cakes and pastries. Swapping these for high protein options such as hummus, eggs, chickpeas & avocado will help to balance blood sugars, reduce cravings and support weight management. Addressing stress levels and minimising processed foods along with eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, whole grains, healthy fats and fibre will support the diversity of the microbiome and reduce inflammation.
As publicised by Gillian McKeith, keeping track of what comes out is as important as what goes in. “Regular bowel clearance ensures excess hormones are being excreted and can be achieved by increasing fibre rich foods” stresses Harriet. “Eating 10 different portions of fruit and vegetables a day is a great way to increase daily fibre and support gut health.”
“Patients with PCOS are more likely to see their GP for anxiety and depression.” Highlights Dr.Shawaf. One of the least focused but increasingly commonly recognised impacts of PCOS is on mental health. While exercise has been a common treatment for mental afflictions such as depression over the past 15 years, the combination of diet and exercise is seen as a powerful tool in managing certain conditions, such as PCOS.
Exercise of most types has been proven to help increase metabolic rate, reducing insulin resistance and stabilising mood. This exercise should be split into a mixture of these different types.
Cardio: - Brisk Walks, Jogging, Cycling, Swimming. These are the simplest four cardio workouts that should be completed for at least 30 mins every other day.
Strength Training: - Simple bodyweight exercises such as squats, press ups and core exercises can help increase your muscle mass and therefore the function of insulin in the body. These won’t make you gain size but will improve muscle form.
While a routine can be hard to begin and stick to, the overall benefits are worth the effort.
One of the new solutions for many ailments, women like Jen have been turning to CBD to treat the emotional and physical pain often brought on by PCOS. “I was diagnosed with PCOS and have quite a lot of side effects including bloating, erratic mood swings, and bad cramps in my stomach” says 22-year-old Jen. “I was tired of putting on a brave face”. Like most women looking for relief from PCOS Jen was unable to find it with prescriptions that didn’t treat her symptoms. With an already healthy diet and exercise regime, Jen was looking to find a natural alternative.
“My mood literally changed within like literally a couple of days. It was magical. Within three days I went back to being on top form” Said Jen, who got the confidence to try enhanceCBD through a friend who had been using it for anxiety. “I used a trial kit to find the right strength for me and it was as simple as that.”
The drops for CBD are administered under the tongue with dosage and time of application done to meet individual needs “The pain completely disappeared within a week and I honestly haven’t had any pain since. It’s kind of hard to fathom the fact that this bit of CBD oil might actually have changed my whole pain and made all those symptoms go away, but it genuinely has”
While the uses for CBD continue to evolve and its effectiveness as a long-term solution debated, the growing number of women successfully using it for PCOS cannot be ignored.
Let’s be clear, supplements don’t replace food or a healthy diet. These are used to ‘supplement’ what you consume to increase levels of what you need without you having to eat four platefuls of broccoli each sitting.
In addition to the unprocessed, whole food diet Harriet recommended above, she suggests a 30-day high strength probiotic. “Making sure you get the right one is important, so I recommend getting in touch with a qualified professional who can guide you on the right probiotic for you.”
In general, these are some of the commonly recognised supplements that are beneficial for PCOS.
- Vitamin D
- Omega 3
As with diet and exercise, supplements make up part of a larger approach to dealing with PCOS and any symptoms you have. These certainly aren’t a one pill fix. If you do decide to take supplements along with your usual diet, take the time to consider any changes positive or negative to your emotional and physical state to ensure you’re only making changes that work for you.
For those suffering from the most common issues brought on by PCOS, there are prescription medicines available. With so many symptoms for PCOS there are only so many prescriptions available and with many symptoms remaining without an official prescription/treatment.
- Hair Growth - Increased hair and acne: the oral contraceptive pill, and referral to a dermatologist. Anti-androgen drugs can also be prescribed.
- Period Regulation - the oral contraceptive pill is the first line of treatment. In patients who do not want to take the pill, cyclical progestogen drugs can be prescribed.
All of these must be prescribed by a medical health professional.
Dr. Talha Shawaf – https://finder.bupa.co.uk/Consultant/view/21641/dr_talha_al_shawaf
Harriet Eldridge Registered Nutritional Therapist. Dip Nut, mBANT, mCNHC- https://www.rootedliving.co.uk/
Jenni – CBD Testimonial with EnhanceCBD - https://enhancecbd.co.uk