Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder estimated to affect seven in every 100 women in the UK. In this honest account, Keris talks about her own health struggle with PCOS and the powerful impact nutrition and lifestyle modification played in resolving her hormonal issues. Take a read of our blog…
PCOS and I have become pretty familiar with one another as I seem to have spent most of my 20’s plagued with the symptoms. My first approach to resolving PCOS was via conventional medicine. I pretty much completed three rounds of treatment with different GP’s, NHS endocrine specialists and private gynaecologists. However, despite the medical interventions the biggest improvements for me were actually as a result of nutrition and lifestyle interventions. Though my journey with my hormones is on-going, my experiences have left me with a wealth of knowledge on PCOS that I’m determined to share and use to help other women in a similar situation.
So What is PCOS
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is the most common hormonal disorder affecting premenopausal women today. Characterised by an imbalance in sex hormone production, alongside the appearance of small cysts (or immature egg follicles) surrounding the ovaries. Studies are supporting the fact that the most effective approach to treat PCOS is based upon nutrition, exercise and lifestyle modifications, however, very little advice is offered to women regarding this approach when they seek medical advice.
- Irregular or absent menstrual cycle
- Fertility issues or difficulty conceiving
- Excessive hair growth (hirsutism) usually on the face, chest or back
- Inexplicable weight gain
- Thinning hair and hair loss from the scalp
- Oily skin or acne
My PCOS Experience
I was diagnosed with PCOS during my mid 20’s whilst on a break from taking the oral contraceptive pill, my skin broke out with acne and my cycle completely disappeared. My local GP tested my hormones including insulin, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, lutenising (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). They informed me that my LH level and testosterone were too high and my FSH was low. At this time I had zero knowledge regarding hormones and even Google didn’t really come up with the goods, I was referred to a gynaecologist who performed an ultra sound revealing small follicles surrounding my ovaries or cysts as they are referred to.
Conventional Medical Approach
Once I heard the word “cysts” I was understandably concerned, particularly with regard to fertility and coincidentally the outcome of all the clinical tests was the question of whether or not I wished to start a family at this point in time. The reason being I could either be referred for fertility treatment or return to the contraceptive pill – though this time they would recommend a pill which would exert an androgen blocking effect and reduce my testosterone levels to alleviate my symptoms. I chose to return to the pill and often question why I was so easily persuaded to accept this, deep down I must have known this was no long-term solution and I was prolonging dealing with a deeper, underlying issue. I’m sure other women who’ve suffered with acne or any PCOS symptoms will likely understand why I took up this promising offer. Waking up each morning and experiencing that sinking feeling as you loathe what you see in the mirror leads you to real desperation. Studies have shown women with PCOS are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and low self-esteem, whilst this could be related to the hormonal imbalances I’d speculate it’s rather an outcome of the fact you are losing control your body and forced to deal with some incredibly embarrassing physical symptoms. I spent 10 years passing from pill to pill as my symptoms evolved. Dianette helped me to double in size, Marvelon destroyed my digestive system, Yasmin (the Porsche of pills as it was sold to me) had me stuck with my head down the toilet most mornings with chronic and debilitating nausea.
PCOS An Alternative Approach
When I finally stopped taking the pill I actually achieved amazing results treating my skin and other PCOS symptoms through nutrition and lifestyle, most notably getting my insulin health in check, healing my broken digestive system and implementing anti-inflammatory nutrition measures.
I also adapted my approach to exercise too. For PCOS sufferers exercise is an aspect that needs some consideration. Whilst exercise helps to improve insulin sensitivity and results in improved body composition, the type of exercise, intensity and frequency are all significant. Women with PCOS are often TOLD to exercise and hit the gym with vengeance. Intense training impacts upon insulin and cortisol (our stress hormone) which in turn will effect testosterone levels. Whilst exercise has its place in correcting hormonal imbalances it’s important to understand where and how it forms part of the solution, otherwise it may exacerbate the situation. Whilst studying Naturopathic Nutritional therapy I observed several cases of PCOS and the syndrome manifests differently across individuals. Some women are overweight whilst others are significantly underweight, some experience a lifelong battle with hirsutism (excess facial and body hair) others are desperately trying to deal with hair loss. Whilst PCOS interventions share common goals the personalisation of nutrition, exercise, supplements and lifestyle modifications is essential to the success. Both Functional Medicine and Naturopathy emphasise treating the individual as our genes, environment, nutrition, emotional state influence our health outcomes.
At Fitter Food one of our goals is to educate and empower women to enable them to understand all of the factors involved in hormonal balance, allowing them to make choices that stop the vicious cycles of deteriorating health.
Fitter Food Can Help
Our Fitter 16 plan is a great place to start and can help address many of the symptoms directly through structured exercise, a focus on stress and sleep health as well as a comprehensive and tailored nutrition plan to suit your needs. Find out more at www.fitter16.com.
Alternatively a 1-2-1 session can be arranged where we walk through your health history and put a plan in place to tackle the common symptoms.
More information can be found here.