PCOS, short for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, isn't just about frustrating symptoms like weight gain, severe acne and unwanted hair on your chin. Affecting one in ten women in the United States, it is one of the most common hormonal disorders that also happens to be one of the most common causes of infertility. Women who have PCOS produce too many male hormones (androgens) and not enough female hormones. This imbalance can affect everything from their menstrual cycles to their appearance, to their overall health and their ability to conceive.
PCOS remains misunderstood and, as a consequence, doesn't have an exact cure. But, with medications and hormone therapies, you can mitigate symptoms. And if you'd rather handle the disorder in a more holistic, natural way, you can too! Here are 5 natural ways to manage PCOS. They may help you prep your body for conception.
1. Work out consistently. Exercise helps the body utilize glucose as fuel, therefore increasing cell uptake and stimulating cortisol, one of the hormones that's affected by PCOS. Cortisol helps the body use glucose and fat for energy and helps the body manage stress. But don't plan on long workouts (45 minutes or more). Instead, try to focus on shorter workouts with higher intensities. In addition, after your dinner, consider a short walk before you’re done for the day.
2. Increase dietary magnesium. Studies have demonstrated that women with PCOS have also been diagnosed with insulin resistance, which could lead to diabetes and heart disease. Adequate intake of magnesium could help improve insulin sensitivity. Incorporate magnesium-rich sources such as dark leafy greens, avocados, yogurt, nuts and seeds into your diet.
3. Eat more greens. Plant-based diets have many positive effects on our immune health. It decreases inflammation in the body and aids in disease prevention. For women with PCOS in particular, it can be especially helpful in finding dietary balance. Veggies, which are rich in fibers, can help you slow down digestion of sugars to avoid spikes of insulin. What's more, they are great in promoting estrogen metabolism and help in reducing levels of androgens.
4. Slow down on caffeine. Drinking a lot of coffee can lead to drinking less water. In addition, caffeine in excess has been shown to disrupt cortisol and insulin levels in the body. Caffeine intake, sleep and dietary intake are all related so it’s important to keep all the systems in check.
5. Consult a registered dietitian. Controlling your dietary intake is especially important for those susceptible to weight gain or if you’ve experienced excessive weight gain. To help plan a wholesome, dietary intake, it would be beneficial to work with an RD to keep caloric intake and macronutrient variety in check.
6. Eat five meals a day. When you eat three big meals, like most Americans do, there's a big gap in between meals, and your body goes into fasting mode, which can disrupt your metabolism. So instead of feasting three times a day, try and eat smaller, more frequent meals. With three regular meals and two healthy snacks, your body won't go hungry, and it will keep your metabolism in check. Just make sure to keep each meal as balanced as possible: a mix of carbohydrates, proteins and vegetables is best.
7. Up your fatty acids intake. Essential fatty acids are building blocks for hormonal balance and for creating a healthy environment for conception. You can of course eat your fatty acid by eating fatty fish, like salmon. Cod liver oil, which is also rich in DHA, is also good for baby's brain development. Evening primrose oil helps increase cervical mucus, which brings about a friendlier environment for conception.
8. Don't forget supplements. A big part of decreasing the effects of PCOS is to make sure your body has all the nutrients to try and promote hormonal balance, insulin resistance and support regular ovulation. Whole food multivitamins and supplements, like cod liver oil, licorice root and cinnamon are a great way to do that.
If you’ve been diagnosed with PCOS or have been experiencing infertility, remember you are not alone. We are a community of health professionals here to help you the best we can so reach out with your questions. If you have advice based on your situation, we’d love to hear your feedback.