Natural Treatment For PCOS
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Symptoms of PCOS are irregular periods, erratic or no ovulation, infertility, excess body and facial hair, acne, weight gain, hair loss, mood swings, aching joints and occasionally dizziness. Recent studies show that there may also be long term risks of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease in women. Scientists are still not sure of the exact cause of PCOS but it is affected by hormone imbalance, in particular a high level of the male hormones androgens (testosterone and DHEAs). High levels of these hormones affect the development and release of eggs during ovulation. An imbalance of estrogen, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) usually also exists as well an overproduction of insulin, which can further disrupt hormones. As a result alternative or homeopathic treatment for PCOS usually revolves around balancing hormone levels and stabilizing insulin. Needless to say, before trying any treatment, a medical PCOS diagnosis must first be established.
Foods To Eat
• The Low GI method is the most recommended way of eating for women with symptoms of PCOS. Women who are not obese are advised to eat about 50 percent of their calories in the form of ‘good’ complex carbohydrates, 30 percent in the form of healthy fats and the balance in healthy protein. If obesity exists, the formula changes to 40 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent protein and 30 percent fat. See also, can I lose weight with PCOS?
• Eating a small amount of protein with a main meal helps slow the production of insulin and regulates blood sugar levels more efficiently. Good protein choices include: lean beef, fish, lean ham, chicken and turkey breast, egg whites, whole eggs, beans, pulses, nuts, seeds, soy products and vegetarian quorn products.
• Replace cakes and cookies with Low GI snacks such as oatmeal cookies, chopped vegetables, bananas, low fat yogurts, unsweetened canned fruit, baked tortilla chips and salsa and fresh fruit.
• Foods from the brassica family of vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cabbage help the body to excrete excess hormones. They are also high in nutrition value providing high amounts of vitamin C, soluble fiber and cancer prevention properties. Avoid boiling brassica vegetables as this reduces nutrients, instead microwave, steam (3-4 minutes) or stir fry.
• Fiber is known to bind excess hormones making removal from the body easier. Switch from white rice to whole grain rice, and include beans, lentils, oats and lots of fruit and vegetables in your diet.
• Switch to live yogurt cultures rather than regular yogurts. This will help feed the good bacteria in the gut aiding the breakdown of excess hormones.
• Always have breakfast in the morning and eat smaller meals more regularly. This will help control blood sugar levels.
• Omega 3 essential fatty acids play a role in helping to control insulin resistance and hormone disruption. Natural sources are flax seeds, hemp seeds and oily fish like salmon, sardines, herring, pilchards and anchovies.
• Low iodine levels are common in women with PCOS. Iodine is essential to hormone development in the human body. Low iodine levels can cause fatigue and edginess. It can even prevent a good night’s sleep. Sources include nori seaweed, kelp flakes (as a salt replacement), sea vegetables (kelp, samphire), eggs, milk, yogurt, onions, radishes and watercress.
• Choose organic products, particularly fruit and vegetables where possible as chemical sprays can interfere with hormone balance.
Foods To Avoid
• Recent studies show that women with PCOS have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular problems. For this reason, it is important to eat the right sorts of fats. For cooking choose extra virgin olive oil. Flax seed oil, canola oil, hemp seed oil and oily fish are also great sources of essential fatty acids & omega-3. Eating the right sorts of fat will also help combat weight gain.
• Avoid all refined sugar snacks such as cookies, candy, chocolate and cereal bars as they interfere with insulin levels and hormone balance.
• Reduce alcohol intake as it has an estrogen like effect on the body. If you drink wine, choose red as this helps protect against heart disease.
• Reduce caffeine drinks, coffee, teas, sodas and energy drinks as caffeine can disrupt hormone levels.
See also, PCOS treatment, for the medical alternatives.
• Take a good multi-vitamin appropriate for your age. Ask your pharmacist for advice.
• B-vitamins are important for balancing blood sugar levels and help with estrogen related hormone problems. Most multi-vitamins contain the B-vitamins but do check the label.
• Consider taking a brassica vegetable extract capsule if your intake of the vegetables is low.
• A mineral chromium supplement can help balance blood sugar levels, which is why is sometimes recommended for treating diabetes. It may also help promote weight loss and lower blood lipid levels. Chromium is a popular supplement in America; estimated sales were $85 million in 2002.
• A combination of the herbs ‘agnus castus’ and ‘saw palmetto’ have been used for hundreds of years to balance female hormones. Combined they are considered very useful for reducing PCOS symptoms. Note if you are pregnant, taking the pill, using infertility drugs, HRT or any other hormone treatment medication, consult your doctor first.
• Studies show that losing weight helps to correct hormone abnormalities including excess body hair and helps improve fertility and the chances of conceiving. See also, can you get pregnant naturally with PCOS?
• Exercise not only helps prevent heart disease but it also raises levels of the happy hormone serotonin. Aim for a brisk walk of 20 minutes a day.
• Try relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation (see books on alternative medicine for a list of resources). Stress contributes to an increase in insulin levels and hormone imbalance.
• Many women with PCOS report improvement symptoms with the use of acupuncture, including increased fertility. Acupuncture has long been recommended for improving menstrual cycle irregularities and for relieving menstrual cramps.
• Avoid storing food in plastic bags or if you need to heat food which comes in a plastic container, transfer it to a glass container first. Toxins from the plastic seep into the plastic and have a negative effect on hormone levels.
• Avoid tap water and drink bottled water instead. There are fewer risks of chemical contamination.
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