Are you one of the many women trying to navigate your way through Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome? Otherwise known as PCOS, a common condition which can lead to an uphill battle of weight gain, excess hair growth, thickening of the waist, acne and possibly fertility issues.
We have found that there is such a lack of information and understanding when it comes to the nuts and bolts of how this condition develops. Diagnosis is also difficult due to the varied way in which symptoms can present. There is also very mixed bag of ways in which women are advised on how to deal with the effects. It is also important to know that not all women present with all of the symptoms. It depends on the individual and the severity of how the hormone imbalances effect each person.
Today’s post is designed to help you get clarity around the root cause of PCOS and most importantly practical advice on how to manage symptoms.
What Exactly is PCOS?
Before we delve deeper into the mechanisms of PCOS, this a condition primarily driven by a pattern of hormonal disruption. As a result, a female’s ovulation process is affected. Due to the lack of a necessary hormone, oestrogen, instead of an egg being matured and released from the ovaries for fertilisation it is ‘stuck’ in this first part of her menstrual cycle and instead cysts form.
We are lead to believe that low oestrogen is the root cause of PCOS, and this is partly correct. However, thanks to the brilliant guys at ATP science, I have learnt that the lack of oestrogen is due to insulin resistance.
So let’s breakdown how Insulin resistance can develop.
Insulin is the hormone responsible for transporting glucose to our cells and shunting this into our tissues to then produce energy in the mitochondria. In the situation of insulin resistance the signalling and messaging on the outside of the cells breaks down and the tissues wont take in the glucose. As a result, insulin levels are elevated but not able to perform their function. This leads the glucose to typically convert the energy into body fat to be store. The result is that you struggle to burn body fat and are typically low in energy.
Insulin resistance means there are high levels of insulin in the bloodstream which interfere with your menstrual cycle by blocking the conversion of testosterone to oestrogen. Typically we know testosterone as a male hormone yet a female releases it in this form before then converting it to oestrogen. In a female’s menstrual cycle oestrogen is needed in the first half to mature an egg and to build the endometrial lining which forms your period.
What’s important to know is that women at both ends of the spectrum in body type compositions can be affected. Once a woman has developed insulin resistance, this in turn can result in PCOS. A female who is too lean, can be affected as her body fat percentage drops into very low numbers (approx under 11%). The increase or decrease in her levels of lepin (appetite regulation hormone) to a point which can trigger insulin resistance. On the other hand a female who is overweight, the insulin resistance develops due to excess fat in the blood stream.
How Can you Support Your Body Through Insulin Resistance?
When supporting your body to overcome or manage PCOS symptoms it is best to address insulin resistance because this is essentially the root cause and will have the most impact on your results.
Exercise regularly – All forms of exercise such as weight and interval training will help to improve insulin sensitivity. This is especially true if you choose fasted training in the morning. This is because exercise prefers glucose as a source of fuel, burning glucose means there’s less of it lurking about in your system therefore less insulin.
Remove sugar because this has the biggest impact on negative insulin activity and is what drives insulin resistance.
Select the sensible carbs in your diet – When it comes to choosing carbs to combat insulin resistance you need to be selecting slow digesting carbs such as sweet potatoe, quinoa and rice. These types of carbs don’t cause your insulin and blood glucose to spike so your body can better utilize them.
Herbal remedies – Fenugreek seeds (trigonella foenum graecum) are high in soluble fibre, which help lower blood sugar by slowing down digestion and absorption of carbohydrates.
Cinnamon (cinnamon bark) also improves blood glucose and cholesterol levels in people with insulin resistance.
Fish Oils in particular EPA/DHA help to make the outside layer of the cell membrane more receptive to the insulin.
Include Coconut Oil and Olive Oil to also improve the cell membrane.
Chromium and Alpha Lipoic Acid.
The Problem with High Testosterone in Women
Testosterone is predominantly a male sex hormone, this does not mean that there is not a place for it in women’s health. However, what is crucial are ratios of testosterone to oestrogen in women. Imbalances in testosterone ratio in women can convert to dihydrotestosterone leading to nasty side effects such as inappropriate hair growth, waist thickening and acne.
Take zinc to help block the conversion of testosterone to di hydro testosterone
Take Dim which is also a supplement which can block androgens (testosterone)
As I mentioned earlier each woman can present with varying symptoms, hence the remedy will depend on the symptoms. What is important to remember is that your body ultimately wants to be in balance. It just takes giving it what it needs to find that balance.
We love working with women giving you faith in the process of the body’s ability to heal itself. Something that we truly believe is that even though you may have a condition like PCOS to work through, once you are armed with the right information you can still achieve the results you desire.
Until next time