Written by Dr. Filza Swalah, ND
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is the most common hormonal condition in women, with about 6-10% affected women by it.1 Although it is common, it’s not well understood. Researchers and scientists are continually trying to learn more about PCOS because it’s a multifaceted, complex condition. The more research that is done on this topic, the more we realize that there are multiple hormones and processes involved. Even the criteria for the diagnosis of PCOS has changed. So, let’s dive in deep to the world of PCOS, and what it means for my PCOS Cysters.
What Is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a chronic hormonal and metabolic condition that impacts the function of the ovaries.1Each month, an ovary is stimulated to produce and release an egg. But with PCOS, the ovaries are influenced to produce an egg and have a hard time releasing it. Over time, the ovaries begin developing tiny cyst-list formations.1
What Causes Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?
Genes play a role, but even those without a family history are experiencing it. That being said, there are no definite causes of PCOS, rather a complex interplay of various factors that contribute to PCOS.1
What we do know is that there are two main hormones which are often elevated in women with PCOS. These two hormones are2:
- Insulin: This hormone helps regulate blood sugar levels. Women with PCOS have higher levels of this hormone because of the bodies inability to respond to it. This is called insulin resistance. Elevated insulin can also contribute to elevated testosterone levels.
- Androgens: Androgens, like testosterone, are male sex hormones which women still make small amounts of. PCOS can occur when androgens are higher than normal and is the likely contributor to the other not so fun signs of PCOS (which we will get to)
How Do I Know I Have PCOS?
First things first, talk to your doctor about the symptoms you are experiencing. A doctor will do all the necessary blood work to determine the cause and, if deemed necessary, maybe some imaging like an ultrasound to see any visual signs of polycystic ovaries.
The diagnosis of PCOS has changed. Back when researchers and doctors didn’t know too much about PCOS, it was believed that women had to experience all three symptoms – missed cycles, increased testosterone, and cystic ovaries – to be diagnosed with PCOS.1
With more and more research that is being done, it’s confirmed that not allwomen experience all three symptoms. Rather, there are 4 different types of PCOS. Having either two signs or all three can give you a good idea if you are experiencing PCOS.1
Other signs and symptoms of PCOS are:3
- Dark hair growth, especially on the face
- Acne, especially at the jaw line
- Hair loss, especially are the hair line
- Struggling with weight management
I Have PCOS, Now What?
First things first, take a deep breath! PCOS is a chronic condition but manageable. Nutrition, lifestyle, and supplementation can help manage the signs and symptoms of PCOS.
- Avoid processed foods like: donuts, sugary cereals, white breads and pastas
- Increase your intake of vegetables and eat the rainbow:
- Greens: spinach, kale, broccoli, collard greens, zucchini, avocados,
- Reds: red peppers, carrots, tomatoes, beets, sweet potatoes
- Yellows: yellow and orange peppers, yellow beets, ginger, squash
- Other: mushrooms, cabbage
- Eat more lean protein
- Fatty fish: salmon, mackerel, tuna,
- Chicken and Turkey
- Get healthy fats:
- Nuts: almonds, walnuts, pecans
- Seeds: sunflower, pumpkin, sesame
- Olive oil and Avocado oil
- Eat whole grains and complex carbs like:
- Bulgar, Buckwheat, Millet, Quinoa, Spelt, Brown Rice
- Whole grain pasta and bread
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends:4
- 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week
- 2 or more days a week of strength training
- 75-150mins should be vigorous activity per week
- Limit sedentary activity
Talk to your doctor about getting your Vitamin D checked because:
- Vitamin D is commonly deficient in women with PCOS 5,6
- Vitamin D deficiency worsens insulin resistance and may contribute to the worsening of other symptoms of PCOS such as irregular cycles, acne and low mood7,8.
- When women with PCOS increase intake of vitamin D in combination with dietary and lifestyle advice they have improved weight management9 and improved blood markers associated with PCOS10
Think about fish oils because:
- Fish oil supports cardiovascular risk factors and has anti-inflammatory actions in women with PCOS11
- Studies have shown that adding fish oil to the diet and lifestyle of women with PCOS helps reduce their markers of insulin resistance and elevated androgens8,12
- Perhaps most importantly, fish oil has been shown to reduce the symptoms of low mood in women with PCOS, which is a common concern in women with PCOS. 8,13
Consider adding Glucosmart by Smart Solutions to your supplement regiment because it aids in the management of symptoms associated with PCOS. It especially helps to:14
- reduce serum testosterone in women with PCOS
- helps promote normal ovulation in those with PCOS
- helps in the management of symptoms associated with PCOS reproductive features including hyperandrogenism, hirsutism, and menstrual dysfunction
- helps restore the number of quality oocytes (eggs or ovum) in women with PCOS
- helps healthy glucose metabolism.
Here you are my PCOS Cysters, a guide to taking control of your PCOS!
- Williams, T., Mortada, R., & Porter, S. (2016, July 15). Diagnosis and treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome. American Family Physician. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2016/0715/p106.html.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (pcos). Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) | Canadian Women's Health Network. (n.d.). https://cwhn.ca/en/node/44804.
- (n.d.). Nhs choices. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/polycystic-ovary-syndrome-pcos/.
- de Melo, A. S. et al. Pathogenesis of polycystic ovary syndrome: multifactorial assessment from the foetal stage to menopause. Camb. Engl. 150, R11-24 (2015)
- Bull FC, Al-Ansari SS, Biddle S, Borodulin K, Buman MP, Cardon G, Carty C, Chaput JP, Chastin S, Chou R, Dempsey PC. World Health Organization 2020 guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behaviour. British journal of sports medicine. 2020 Dec 1;54(24):1451-62
- Wehr, E. et al. Association of hypovitaminosis D with metabolic disturbances in polycystic ovary syndrome. J. Endocrinol. 161, 575–582 (2009).
- Bacopoulou, F., Kolias, E., Efthymiou, V., Antonopoulos, C. N. & Charmandari, E. Vitamin D predictors in polycystic ovary syndrome: a meta-analysis. J. Clin. Invest. 47, 746–755 (2017).
- Mogili, K. D. et al. Prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in infertile women with polycystic ovarian syndrome and its association with metabolic syndrome - A prospective observational study. J. Obstet. Gynecol. Reprod. Biol. 229, 15–19 (2018).
- Boomsma, C. M. et al. A meta-analysis of pregnancy outcomes in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Hum. Reprod. Update 12, 673–683 (2006).
- Gill, V., Kumar, V., Singh, K., Kumar, A. & Kim, J.-J. Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs) May Be a Striking Link Between Modern Diet and Health. Biomolecules 9, (2019).
- Mirabelli, M. et al. Mediterranean Diet Nutrients to Turn the Tide against Insulin Resistance and Related Diseases. Nutrients 12, (2020)
- Salek, M., Clark, C. C. T., Taghizadeh, M. & Jafarnejad, S. N-3 fatty acids as preventive and therapeutic agents in attenuating PCOS complications. EXCLI J. 18, 558–575 (2019).
- Amini, M. et al. The effects of fish oil omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on mental health parameters and metabolic status of patients with polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Psychosom. Obstet. Gynaecol. 1–9 (2018) doi:10.1080/0167482X.2018.1508282.
- Government of Canada. Product information. Accessed on June 15th, 2021 at https://health-products.canada.ca/lnhpd-bdpsnh/info.do?licence= 80032774