Last week, we discussed what polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is, and how to know if you may have it. But what next? If you have it, how can you incorporate natural remedies for PCOS? Can you work on making your life a little easier, and optimise your health along the way?
The original cause of PCOS is still somewhat up for debate, but insulin resistance and hormone imbalance are key factors that trigger the symptoms. Therefore, if you can manage these factors and ease your symptoms via small lifestyle changes, you may see big results!
Perhaps the most significant lifestyle change you can make for your health – no matter what your specific ailment may be – is what you feed your body. A balanced, nutritious diet can help to regulate your hormone levels and therefore your menstrual cycle. Therefore, eating foods that help rather than hinder your bodily harmony will help you manage your symptoms in various ways.
On the other hand, consuming heavily processed or preserved foods can contribute to inflammation and insulin resistance, only exacerbating your hormone-related problems.
Keep it Whole!
Whole foods are those fresh from nature and unprocessed – free from artificial sugars, sweeteners, and preservatives. This includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. These are the foods your body is designed to eat, meaning they will both be more nourishing and less disruptive to the digestive system. This, in turn, allows your endocrine (hormone) system to better regulate your blood sugar which is vital for overall health.
Balance your macros
Carbohydrates and protein both impact your energy and hormone levels – both are crucial for a healthy diet, and yet both can also be harmful when consumed in excess. Eating protein has been shown to stimulate the body to produce insulin. Meanwhile, unprocessed, high-carb foods has been shown to actually improve your insulin sensitivity.
So don’t be afraid of either protein or carbs – just focus on getting enough healthy protein (plant-based protein sources, such as nuts, legumes, and whole grains, are best for weight management and to reduce inflammation) and ensure that most – if not all – of the carbs you consume are the complex kind that dont cause sudden spikes in your blood sugar setting your hormones into a spin every time you eat. Think wholewheat products, brown rice, and sweet potatoes.
Coming back to this need to reduce inflammation – which essentially means your bodys response to perceived danger causing it to never relax, and triggering various unpleasant symptoms – PCOS is actually described by one study as low-level chronic inflammation of the female body. This only demonstrates how big a part inflammation plays, and how vital it is to combat it to feel well. Adding anti-inflammatory foods to your diet – such as turmeric, tomatoes, olive oil, leafy greens, fatty fish, and tree nuts can help ease your symptoms.
Iron and Magnesium are Your friends
Since many women with PCOS experience heavy menstrual bleeding, they should consume an abundance of iron-rich foods such as spinach, broccoli, cahsews, legumes, and tofu. You can also take a supplement if your levels are really low – but since this can actually lead to iron levels that are too high, consult a doctor first.
As for magnesium, it’s not the first time I have sung the praises of this often-underrated mineral for to hormonal and mental health. It has the desirable ability to reduce the level of the stress hormone cortisol. You can get this naturally in your diet by consuming almonds, cashews, spinach, and bananas. Alternatively, take it in supplement or even skin oil or bath salt form.
Cut The Caffeine
Caffeine consumption, due to its ability to spike your cortisol and adrenaline levels, may be linked to changes in oestrogen levels and therefore overall hormone levels a secondary effect. Try boosting your energy with a decaffeinated hot drink alternative, such as herbal tea.
And if you really struggle to go cold turkey on the caffeine, opt for green tea instead. Green tea has a lower amount of caffeine that releases into your system more slowly. Meanwhile, it has been shown to improve insulin resistance as a handy bomus to your pick-me-up. It can also boost a slow metabolism and clear acne – both often found in women with PCOS.
Soy – it’s not what you think!
Soy has a compound that acts remarkably like oestrogen in the human body which often gives it a bad rap. However, if you have PCOS (or low oestrogen levels more generally speaking) this might help balance your hormones. Consider incorporating soy milk, yoghurt, tofu, miso, or tempeh as both a necessary iron and protein boost. It may have the added bonus of also giving your oestrogen levels a subtle lift!
This widely loved spice has more value than adding a unique flavour to your pancakes. Cinnamon has actually been shown to have a positive effect on insulin resistance and may regulate menstruation for women with PCOS.
The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin. Turmeric has not only been used for centuries in the east as an Ayurvedic way to reduce inflammation, but it is also potentially a powerful ingredient for decreasing insulin resistance.
Evening primrose oil
Evening primrose oil has long been used to help with PMS or PMDD symtoms such as breast or abdominal pain, acne, and irritability – as well as irregular menstruation and even perimenopause. It may also help to reduce cholesterol levels and oxidative stress – both of which those with PCOS are more likely to need managing.
Another traditional herb I bring up time and time again due to its ability to used to balance hormones and lower cortisol levels. Traditionally used to boost fertility and libido, consuming maca root – either in powder form added to drinks or cereals, or in capsule form – may also help treat low moods or even depression, which can be an unfortunate symprom of PCOS.
Ashwagandha – also sometimes called “Indian ginseng” – can reduce cortisol levels, which could reduce PCOS-related stress and irritability. This powerful eastern herb also contains natural compounds that might help calm the brain, reduce inflammation, and lower blood pressure.
Consuming the “queen of the herbs,” holy basil can help reduce your blood sugar, manage a healthy weight, and lower your cortisol levels to ease hormonal stress and irritability.
Licorice, now commonly associated with confectionary due to its unique sweet flavour, contains a powerful compound called glycyrrhizin. This powerful root has also been considered as an anti-inflammatory substance. It helps to metabolise sugar, imporving insulin resistance, and can also contribute to balancing your hormones. Reach for some licorice tea to reap the benefits of this powerful plant without the counterproductive blood sugar spike!
Tribulus terrestris is another ancient remedy shown to which is purported to have a variety of health benefits, including reduced blood sugar and cholesterol, altered hormone levels and increased sexual function and libido. Perhaps most relevant to PCOS-suffers, it has also been shown to stimulate ovulation and support a healthy and balanced menstrual cycle. Studies have suggested that it may also help to decrease the number of ovarian cysts.
Probiotics don’t exclusively help with your digestion and gut health, but since our digestive system and nutrient absorption are relevant to the entire body, maintainiung healthy gut flora can also play an important role in soothing PCOS symptoms. Taking probiotics can also reduce inflammation and regulate sex hormones. Consider taking probiotic supplements and regularly eating probiotic foods, such as yoghurt, kimchi, kefir, and kombucha.
PCOS Natural Remedies: A Note of Caution
While supplements and natural remedies to manage PCOS can be a great help, you should remain wary of those that promise to “cure all” and provide “instant results.” Do your research first and if you’re unsure about anything then talk to your doctor before taking anything. Furthermore, while herbal supplements and alternative therapies can help PCOS treatment, they aren’t a substitute for any recommended medical treatments.
Do you have PCOS? Have any of the above methods helped ease your symptoms? Let us know in the comments!