What is PCOS?

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, known as PCOS, is a condition in which the exact cause is not yet fully understood.  The symptoms include menstrual irregularities, where women often have very long menstrual cycles, lasting anywhere from 35 days up to several months.  Other symptoms include infertility, male pattern hair growth, acne, obesity and/or metabolic syndrome as well as elevated blood sugar levels.  The syndrome is typically diagnosed by a blood test where elevated levels of LH (luteinizing hormone) as well as circulating androgens (testosterone and/or DHEA) are present.  Women may be prescribed birth control pills to help regulate their cycles and may be put on drugs to help control their blood sugar levels.  It is often when women wish to conceive that they walk into our offices hoping that we can help to regulate their cycles to allow for a pregnancy to occur.  The goal of the treatment is to regulate hormones and blood sugars and we often use a combination of herbs and/or other nutrients to do so.  Herbs such as saw palmetto and licorice help to lower testosterone levels while herbs like gymmena and cinnamon help to balance out blood sugar levels.   It is also important to improve body composition and regulate blood sugars through diet and exercise.  In terms of the diet, one of the most important things to do is to eat a diet that offers both low glycemic index (GI) and low glycemic load (GL) foods.  Glycemic index refers to the rate at which a food breaks down into sugar in the bloodstream whereas glycemcic load refers to the amount of sugar present in a particular food.  By consuming foods that are both low GI & GL you are choosing foods that take longer to break down in the body, thus allowing for more stability of blood sugar which will help encourage weight loss.  Foods that are high in sugar or white flour tend to be very high GI and GL, whereas foods that are rich in fiber and are non-processed tend to be much lower.  For a list of low GI and GL foods, check out www.glycemicindex.com.

In addition, exercise is an essential part of a treatment plan.  Exercise has the ability to effectively decrease blood sugar levels within minutes of starting the activity.  This helps to ensure greater control of sugar levels as well as promote a healthy body composition.  If you are suffering from PCOS or are looking for natural ways to balance your hormones, please speak to one of our naturopathic doctors.

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