by Breea Johnson, MS RD LDN
An important aspect of PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) is the fact that it is a syndrome, not a disease, meaning it's a collection of symptoms. Working in fertility nutrition, I'm constantly fascinated by the many faces of PCOS. Gone are the days where the typical PCOS patient is overweight, has insulin resistance, adult acne, facial hair growth and elevated testosterone levels. Normal body weight and thin women can present with PCOS. Women also may or may not have insulin resistance, which has been so commonly associated with PCOS.
When I see clients with PCOS, 90% of the time it is because a woman wants to conceive in the coming months and does not get a regular period. The other 10% want to conceive at some point in their life, have tried medication and were not happy with the side effects and want a more natural way to manage PCOS and induce ovulation. Many women do not even realize they do not have a normal cycle until they discontinue the birth control pill which has medically induced their cycle for many years.
While the causes of PCOS is unclear, we do know that it is related to an underlying hormonal imbalance and that working to balance hormones and increase the sensitivity of the hormone, insulin, can definitely benefit a woman with PCOS. While we have a comprehensive nutritional treatment strategy for PCOS at Pulling Down the Moon, a few of our important recommendations are:
- Eat low glycemic carbs: Lowering the intake of refined carbohydrates such bread and pastries and increasing nutrient-dense foods can be beneficial to decrease insulin levels. Insulin is the "store and save" hormone, as elevated insulin levels make it difficult to lose weight.
- Try FlowPro: Myo-inositol, part of the B-vitamin complex , has been found in multiple research studies to help increase insulin sensitivity and induce ovulation in a high percentage of women with PCOS. Some research has found it to be equally effective as Metformin in restoring ovulation. Myo-inositol has also been found to increase progesterone levels and decrease testosterone levels.
- Have your Vitamin D levels checked: Studies have shown that women with PCOS have very low levels of Vitamin D (25-OH) which may contribute to insulin resistance. The lab test is a blood test that your primary care physician can administer.
- Get screened for autoimmune thyroid disease: PCOS has been linked to autoimmune thyroiditis) with studies showing a three-fold increase of autoimmune thyroid disease among women with PCOs. In addition to having the standard thyroid tests performed by your primary care physician, have you thyroid antibodies checked.
While PCOS is not a well-understood syndrome, there are many treatments both conventional and alternative that really work to help reduce symptoms and induce ovulation. A client recently emailed to tell me that after 3 weeks of taking FlowPro she got her period for the first time naturally and within a few cycles was pregnant. If you have any questions about PCOS and nutrition or would like to set up an appointment with a Pulling Down the Moon nutritionist, please click here or call (312) 321-0004.