Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Monday, August 2, 2010

Holistic Treatments for PCOS

Nutrition: I am of the opinion that since PCOS is a chronic illness it is best treated holistically. A patient should concentrate on good nutrition first and foremost. There are several excellent books on nutrition available, but the best for those that suffer from PCOS are; "The Schwartzbein Principle" by Diana Schwartzbein, "The Diet Cure" by Julia Ross and "The PCOS Diet Book" by Colette Harris and Theresa Francis-Cheung. These books concentrate on improving health rather than weight loss and as such are much better approaches to weight loss for women with PCOS.


In essence the PCOS sufferer should ensure her diet is comprised of good quality protein such as meat, fish, (an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids, which are so important for those with PCOS), poultry, nuts, seeds, eggs and cheeses. Good vegetarian protein sources are quorn, dairy, nuts, seeds and a small amount of beans and the less fermented soy products such as miso or tempeh. Soy is not the miracle food it is purported to be. In fact there are several health problems associated with the over consumption of soy (http://www.mercola.com/article/soy/avoid_soy.htm and http://www.holdthetoast.com/archive/010411.html).

The diet should also include good quality fats such as cold pressed oils. It is imperative that trans fatty acids and hydrogenated fats be avoided since they raise cholesterol and are carcinogenic. Finally, the right amount of carbohydrates according to activity level, health, insulin status and weight should be consumed in the form of vegetables, whole grains and a small amount of fruit.

Refined carbohydrates, white flour, sugar and caffeine should be greatly reduced and if possible eliminated from the diet. Also, if possible, choose organic foods.

Exercise: There is abundant evidence that exercise improves the body's use of insulin. Those with PCOS should try to concentrate on resistance rather than cardiovascular exercise. This is because resistance exercise (i.e., weight training, swimming, yoga, pilates) builds muscle and thus increases the body's insulin sensitivity. According to Schwartzbein (10), too much cardiovascular exercise raises adrenaline and cortisol levels and consequently raises insulin levels.


Even a simple walk most nights may be of help. Exercises such as yoga are particularly recommended because they relieve stress and work the muscles as well as targeting health problems.

Herbs: Since this condition is chronic, herbs can help greatly due to the fact that they are much gentler on the body than synthetic drugs. They also have fewer side effects and many can be used for sustained periods of time. There are numerous herbs that can be used for various symptoms of PCOS. Therefore, the most commonly used herbs are outlined below. NOTE: I have had great success using herbs, but have found only the tincture forms effective. Tablets are synthesised in a different way and do not work at all for me. I have conversed with other women who have found the same.
             Agnus Castus (also referred to as vitex or chasteberry): This seems to be the herb most commonly used by women with PCOS. Vitex has a direct effect on the pituitary gland; the gland involved in regulating hormone production. It seems to increase the level of LH, although the studies that have shown this have been conducted in women without PCOS. Therefore, this does not mean it increases LH levels in women with PCOS. The fact that it works so well in women with PCOS lends great support to David Hoffman's (11) assertion that vitex is an adaptive herb that does whatever the body needs it to do. It seems to restore progesterone to a normal level , which is helpful for those with low progesterone levels. Low progesterone levels can cause miscarriage so vitex can help to prevent this. It is also used for irregular menstruation, amenorrhea and PMS.
           Donq Quai: This is actually a Chinese herb but it is widely available in Western health food stores. It is one of the best women's herbs and has been dubbed "the female ginseng" (12). Similar to vitex, it can be used for long periods of time because it is a tonic herb. It nourishes the liver and endocrine system and is useful for irregular menstruation, PMS, period pain and menopausal symptoms. It is a phytoestrogenic herb.
          Black Cohosh: Black cohosh is a uterine tonic herb and exhibits an oestrogenic effect. It is widely used in menopausal formulas but is valuable for treating amenorrhea, irregular menstruation and PMS. This herb can also lower blood pressure.
          Saw Palmetto: Saw palmetto is traditionally used to treat male prostate enlargement. However, since it is an anti-androgen many women with PCOS use it to treat hirsutism and acne. It has a side effect of increasing breast size in some and consequently is used in breast enhancing herbal formulas to increase cup size. However, it does not always have this effect.
          Evening Primrose: a widely popular supplement taken by many women for PMS, fibrocystic breast disease and to improve skin quality. It can also help with irregular cycles. It is rich in G.L.A and linolenic acid; essential fatty acids which the body requires to regulate hormones. Evening Primrose oil also helps with heart disease, cholesterol and blood pressure.
         Progesterone cream: This cream has been widely popularised by Dr. John Lee, who advocates the use of this cream for many female conditions such as menopause, PMS, fibrocystic breast disease, ovarian cysts and PCOS. It can be ordered from various companies on the Internet.

Supplements: Many women with PCOS find supplements very helpful in relieving various symptoms. Recommended supplements for PCOS are: the B complex, a good quality multivitamin with chelated minerals, GTF chromium and fish oils. To this basic regime other supplements can be added depending on various symptoms.


Awareness of PCOS is increasing amongst the medical profession and the general public so that soon there may be less delay in diagnosis. Also, metformin rather than just the Pill is prescribed more and more to the PCOS patient, thereby treating rather then just masking the disorder. Finally, more nutritionists are becoming aware of the damage refined carbohydrates, sugar and hydrogenated fats wreak on the body. Overall, the outlook for women with PCOS is getting better and better by the day.

A diagnosis of PCOS may seem overwhelming at first, but there is much support and help available. Visit http://www.soulcysters.com [a wonderful name] and http://www.pcosupport.org to get in contact with other sufferers and inform yourself of the latest treatments. PCOS is not curable, but it is a disease that is treatable. Treating a chronic disorder takes time and patience, but good health can indeed be restored if one is prepared to work for it.


Article copyright 2003 Lynn Dunning

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