Top Four Management Tools for PCOS
September is coming to a close! While some folks recover from back to school and lament the end of summer, those of us with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) are ready to take up our war cry before the pumpkin spice fanatics overtake us all! September is PCOS awareness month.
PCOS impacts over 5 million people in the United States alone. It is a condition that presents with missed periods, hirsutism (male pattern hair growth), cystic acne, high androgens, and multiple cysts on the ovaries. For those who are trying to build their families, 70-80% of people with PCOS experience infertility. Even those who are not trying to conceive may experience metabolic issues that lead to diabetes and cardiovascular problems. In short, PCOS is a condition that requires lifelong management. Here are FOUR of my top tools for better PCOS management:
Tool #1: Exercise the Right Way
“Lose weight”, says your doctor. It’s true that something as small as a 10 pound loss can promote regular menstruation and ovulation. However, PCOS can cause uncontrollable weight gain for many who have it.
I’ve seen multiple patients get this advice from their doctors which pushes them to hit the gym incredibly hard. When we don’t allow ourselves proper recovery, this can increase cortisol levels which can make it even more difficult to lose weight when you have PCOS.
Shift your focus away from calories in and calories out to balancing blood sugar. Moderate daily exercise such as walking for 30 minutes can help regulate blood sugar levels and happy blood sugar is key for most folks with PCOS. Exercise helps to take glucose out of the blood stream for use by your muscles. The effects can be felt for up to 24 hours after working out.
Resistance training 3 times a week has been shown to reduce androgens (those pesky hormones that cause the acne, hirsutism, and male pattern hair loss many women with PCOS experience)
Tool #2: Eat to Balance Blood Sugar
Think fats! The 80’s made us so scared of fat but healthy fats are key to balancing blood sugar. In general, women with PCOS do well with a protein portion about the size of their hand at each meal. Most of the meal should consist of colorful vegetables. Add healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, etc. Fats are wonderful for their ability to slow elevations in blood sugar while not raising insulin. Carbohydrates should be customized to the individual. Each meal should contain a cupped hand portion of carbohydrates like squash or sweet potatoes. The Glycemic and Insulin Index can provide guidance on which carbohydrate will impact blood sugar as well as insulin levels the most (or least). For the more athletic individual with PCOS, you may find that your body needs an additional carbohydrate portion with each meal.
Tool #3: Take Inositol
Inositol is one of the most widely studied supplements for PCOS. This supplement that belongs to the B Complex family may be a key piece of the puzzle for someone struggling to promote regular ovulation and menstruation. 2-4 grams of myoinositol has been shown to improve cholesterol, decrease androgens, and regulate insulin.
A study conducted on 92 women with PCOS who had anovulatory cycles and polycystic ovaries concluded that women who took inositol for 12-16 weeks had increased circulating HDL (the good cholesterol). An additional study conducted on 155 women with PCOS found that 12 weeks of treatment with inositol increased HDL and lowered LDL (the “bad” cholesterol). This means that inositol may be a great way to decrease cardiovascular risk and balance lipids for women with PCOS.
Many women with PCOS have high blood serum levels of androgenic hormones or androgenic signs such as hirsutism (male pattern hair growth), male pattern hair loss, and acne. The good news is that inositol was shown to decrease androgen synthesis and aid in recovery of hirsutism. A smaller study conducted on 25 women with PCOS found that inositol lowered free testosterone after 6 months. It is amazing in our clinic when our patients report that their acne is clearing, their hair feels thicker, and that they have no new male pattern hair growth.
Inositol provides women with PCOS improvement in both insulin sensitivity and improved glucose tolerance. A study of 42 women between the ages of 18-40 showed a decrease in insulin and an increase in glucose tolerance after 12-16 weeks of treatment with inositol.
It’s exciting to me when a fellow “cyster” reports back that they are seeing improvement in all of these areas from the addition of a relatively inexpensive supplement.
Tip #4: Get regular acupuncture, massage, reiki, or use other mind body practices
Many people with PCOS are at the whim of cortisol. PCOS is a syndrome which means that it can present in a variety of ways for people. However, many people with PCOS report struggling with anxiety and stress. This can lead to higher cortisol levels and further issues with insulin resistance. Acupuncture, massage, reiki, and other mind body practices such as meditation can help provide a respite from the stressors of life.
If you have any questions about using acupuncture or supplements to better manage your PCOS, please feel free to reach out to us at Wander Well Acupuncture in Lexington MA.