Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is an extremely common hormone condition. In fact, 1 in 10 Americans with ovaries experience PCOS. But what is PCOS exactly, and how can you tell if you have it?
PCOS is an endocrine disorder in which your body’s ovaries produce too many androgens — male sex hormones that naturally exist in small amounts in women’s bodies. While the exact causes of PCOS are not definitive, medical professionals know it is caused by a hormone imbalance and can sometimes be triggered by spikes in insulin levels. When hormones from your pituitary gland or insulin levels rise, ovaries will react by producing extra male hormones like testosterone.
- Missed periods, irregular periods, or very light periods
- Ovarian cysts or irregular sized ovaries
- Excess body hair, including the chest, stomach, and back
- Weight gain, especially around the abdomen
- Acne or oily skin
- Thinning hair or baldness
- Small pieces of excess skin on the neck or armpits
- Dark or thick skin patches on the back of the neck, in the armpits, and under the breasts
There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for PCOS, because individuals’ experiences with PCOS can vary greatly. Though you should speak with a health professional about treatments if you think you’re experiencing one or more of the symptoms of PCOS, there are diet and lifestyle changes you can make to alleviate the effects of PCOS and to practice better hormone balance in general.
- Opt for a whole food diet
Processed foods tend to be filled with artificial sugars, hormones, preservatives and other hormone disrupters. When we consume these regularly, our bodies never have a chance to regulate hormones and stay in balance the way we’re meant to. Choosing a whole food diet, filled with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes will give your body a chance to do what it does best naturally and better balance your hormones and blood sugar.
- Avoid inflammatory habits
Inflammation in the body can have myriad unpleasant side effects and should be avoided whenever possible. PCOS can be defined as chronic inflammation in the body, so taking the steps to reduce inflammation can help do the same for PCOS symptoms. Opt for foods like leafy greens, fatty fish, tree nuts and turmeric. Cut back on alcohol and caffeine, as these are the most common diet triggers for inflammation.
- Consume more iron and magnesium
Because PCOS can result in heavy periods or irregular bleeding, some people’s bodies will experience iron deficiencies and the effects that come with it. Iron supplements can have their own side effects though, so discuss it with a medical professional before you start adding more iron to your diet.
As a powerful relaxation mineral, magnesium has ample benefits to offer your body. To get more magnesium in your diet, eat more nuts, greens, beans and sea vegetables (like seaweed). Once again, cut back on alcohol, coffee, soda or salty foods.
- Add Insitol to your supplement regimen
If you haven’t heard of insotil, it might be just what you’re looking for. Insitol is a B-vitamin found naturally in many seeds, fruits and nuts. This vitamin specifically can help improve insulin resistance. In studies, it’s been shown to help with fertility issues and other symptoms of PCOS.
- Maintain a steady, healthy weight
Because PCOS can be linked to spikes in insulin levels, these can often result from sudden increases or decreases in weight. Keeping your weight steady, at a healthy level that’s right for you, can regulate insulin and hormones with less strain on the body.