Could you be suffering from Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and not even know? As many as one in every five women in the UK suffers from the condition, which affects cysts in the ovaries, high levels of male hormones and irregular periods.
It’s hard enough battling an illness without many of the symptoms being so visible. Many women with the condition experience weight gain, acne and hair loss as well as depression and anxiety. Frustratingly, many treatments bring side effects and more hormonal fluctuation (such as the contraceptive pill) – creating a vicious cycle.
The key things to remember about controlling PCOS, is making sure you do the following:
- Balance your hormones
- Normalise your insulin levels
- Reduce inflammation
- Balance pH levels
The good news is that these actions can be controlled naturally, allowing you to be in charge of your health and wellbeing.
Add natural supplements to your diet
Women with PCOS need supplements – even if you follow a strict PCOS diet and lifestyle, there are gaps here and there to fill. The dilemma is how to choose the right supplements to manage PCOS.
There is so much information out there it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Supplements can help your body to:
- Build its immune system
- Restore energy levels
- Balance hormones
- Promote healthy blood flow
Some key contenders include:
- Inofolic – which combines myo-inositol (a naturally occurring substance found in all living cells) and folic acid. In a study undertaken by the University of Perugia, folic acid was given along with inositol. The combination of the two worked better than folic acid alone to improve PCOS symptoms
- Fish oil – medical evidence indicates that fish oil may help with a number of PCOS-related issues
- Vitamin D – a Yale PCOS Program states that vitamin D is given as part of their lifestyle management program to treat PCOS, because many of the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency also affect women with PCOS
- Inositol or vitamin B-8, inositol reduced insulin resistance and improved symptoms in women with PCOS in a study conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University
Eat plenty of iron-rich food
Red meat is an obvious source of iron, but many vegetables and plant-based foods are also iron-rich, including spinach, kale, lentils and chickpeas.
There are also some surprising sources including dried fruits, like apricots, prunes and raisins and even plain dark chocolate.
Vitamin C helps you to absorb iron, so add some citrus fruits to your breakfast cereal. Tea contains contains tannins that bind to iron, so it’s best to enjoy your cuppa away from your main meal, or at least wait an hour after you’ve eaten.
If the gym isn’t for you, find a way of exercising which is something you enjoy, such as climbing, horse-riding, paddle boarding or fencing.
It is crucial that you have fun as this will make exercising enjoyable, which may benefit your mental health at the same time as helping your physical PCOS symptoms.
Drink apple cider vinegar tonic
Apple cider vinegar is sweeping up an internet storm amongst the health communities. While many of the claims on the internet citing it as a ‘miracle’ may seem far-fetched, there is no doubt that it is beneficial.
It’s considered the ultimate hormone balancer and pH booster. Apple cider vinegar also helps to control blood sugar levels so your body doesn’t produce too much insulin. Plus, it’s a powerful anti-inflammatory.
Grass-fed meat contains fewer hormones and the livestock are less likely to have been fed genetically modified foods which contain pesticides.
Choose organic dairy products such as live natural yoghurt which contains good bacteria beneficial for PCOS sufferers.
Eat foods which reduce inflammation
Inflammation contributes to the hormone imbalance in PCOS, so eating foods that help reduce inflammation can help to minimise symptoms.
Tomatoes, olive oil, salmon, sardines and whole grains are all known to reduce inflammation.
Avoid processed foods
Avoid processed foods like white flour, corn syrup, processed meats, pasta and other foods that may contain medium to high levels of sugar, have less nutrients and can make you feel bloated.
To combat the symptoms of PCOS and reduce insulin levels it is important to follow a high fibre diet and processed foods have little fibre. Replace processed food with beans, lentils, broccoli, cauliflower and sweet potato.
Satisfy your chocolate cravings with raw cacao
Iron and magnesium are essential for building healthy blood, which you need in order to menstruate regularly, hence why women often crave chocolate at that time of the month. Not only that, we all know how good chocolate tastes – an immediate mood booster when you need it!
Cacao is a good source of iron and magnesium – two minerals women can be deficient in – but consult with your doctor before introducing raw cacao to your diet. Raw cacao should be a supplement to your diet, not a large part.
If only chocolate will do, eat small amounts of minimally processed dark chocolate with at least a 70 percent cocoa content or higher. This type of chocolate contains the most powerful antioxidants and the least amount of sugar, providing the most benefits.