Infertility has become a Major problem in Modern Times.
PCOS or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is being founded to be one of the major causes. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome like most areas of ill health can be quite complex in uncovering the cause of what is being said to be one of the most complex female health issues of our time.
PCOS is an endocrine disorder that is mainly founded in women of reproductive age. There may be various health issues that will correspond with PCOS with it having a direct impact on fertility.. The most common ways that PCOS presents itself will be with women who are suffering from weight problems. Polycystic ovaries meaning that there are multiple cysts attaching themselves to your ovaries. Other areas that are affected is that there is found to be elevated levels of androgens and absent or irregular menstrual cycles.
As with many areas of ill health some women may be diagnosed with PCOS and not be having any health issues.
So what happens if you are having health issues such as irregular periods, extreme pain when you do manage to menstruate. You just seem to keep putting on weight no matter what you do and are unable to become pregnant.
What may be the Cause Factors to PCOS?
Finding one particular cause to a disease is virtually impossible, due to the fact that each of you are individual. However there are several links that are showing up to be underlying causes to this condition. Could it be your genes or if there has been abnormal foetal development during time of conception.
- Genetic Factors
Women whose mothers, sisters or grandmothers had PCOS are at a higher risk for developing PCOS. Research suggests that exposure to excessive amounts of male hormones (androgens) by the developing foetus may alter proper gene expression. This means that the affected genes will not function correctly later in life, which may cause PCOS during the reproductive years of a woman’s life.
However there has been significant improvement found when positive lifestyle changes are put into place this percentage decreases substantially.
- Insulin Resistance and Inflammation
Also other factors that seem to play a significant role are insulin resistance and occurring low grade inflammatory process this may be a cause for insulin resistance. White blood cells produce substances to fight infection, this is known as inflammatory response. In some predisposed people eating certain foods, such as – Processed, packaged, or fast foods. Fast food is on top of the list of inflammatory foods. This is due to the harmful oils such as canola, non- organic olive oil, unrefined coconut oil. The two best oils are olive and coconut ensuring you use cold pressed and organic.
Fast and highly processed foods have dangerous quantities of sugar, artificial sweeteners and food additives that will trigger an inflammatory response. When an inflammatory response is triggered, white blood cells produce substances that may contribute to insulin resistance and atherosclerosis. . It is a known fact that insulin resistance plays a key role in PCOS, looking then into effective nutrition and dietary support plays an important role in managing insulin resistance.
- Follicle Stimulating Hormone
Recently, being the first of its kind genome-wide association study of PCOS has identified two areas of DNA that leave women of European ancestry susceptible to developing PCOS.
Researchers also found one region of susceptibility in the DNA of Chinese women. Of particular interest was one area of DNA that contains the gene for the hormone FSH (follicle stimulating hormone). This finding provides evidence of disruption of the pathway that regulates FSH and in turn ovarian function which plays a crucial role in the development of PCOS. Whenever pathways are disrupted this is an area of significance and where Naturopathic medicine plays an important role. As herbal and homeopathic medicine power lies in repair of function.
The human genome project has allowed researchers to pool more than 700,000 genetic markers from the DNA of thousands of women with PCOS. This is what helped them identify regions of genes associated with PCOS.
- Inadequate Diet and a Stressful Lifestyle
A diet being nutritionally inadequate that is based on highly processed foods, foods eaten regularly from fast food outlets and chains definitely have a negative effect on PCOS. Lifestyle having a highly stressful life or making negative lifestyle choices including overexposure to chemicals and toxins have been found to effect PCOS symptoms detrimentally.
So as you can see whether these be the direct causes – Diet and Lifestyle choices play a significant direct negative factor to PCOS therefore having a direct impact on fertility.
Apart from fertility problems, you may well be subject to other more serious health implications such as cancer if the condition is left untreated and positive lifestyle changes are not put into place.
- Inflammation Linked to Cause of Major Disease and Health Problems
Inflammation (from Latin inflammation) is part of the complex biological response of body tissues to harmful stimuli, such as pathogens, damaged cells, or irritants, and is a protective response involving immune cells, blood vessels, and molecular mediators. The function of inflammation is to eliminate the initial cause of cell injury, clear out necrotic cells and tissues damaged from the original insult and the inflammatory process, and to initiate tissue repair.
The classical signs of inflammation are heat, pain, redness, swelling, and loss of function. Inflammation is a generic response, and therefore it is considered as a mechanism of innate immunity, as compared to adaptive immunity, which is specific for each pathogen. Too little inflammation could lead to progressive tissue destruction by the harmful stimulus (e.g. bacteria) and compromise the survival of the organism. In contrast, chronic inflammation may lead to a host of diseases, such as hay fever, periodontitis, atherosclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and even cancer (e.g., gallbladder carcinoma). Inflammation is therefore normally closely regulated by the body.
Inflammation can be classified as either acute or chronic. Acute inflammation is the initial response of the body to harmful stimuli and is achieved by the increased movement of plasma and leukocytes (especially granulocytes) from the blood into the injured tissues. A series of biochemical events propagates and matures the inflammatory response, involving the local vascular system, the immune system, and various cells within the injured tissue. Prolonged inflammation, known as chronic inflammation, leads to a progressive shift in the type of cells present at the site of inflammation, such as mononuclear cells, and is characterized by simultaneous destruction and healing of the tissue from the inflammatory process.
As you can see inflammation is an important part of the body’s way of protecting and eradicating harmful pathogens, chemicals and substances within that will cause your body harm.
When this process is on overload or is overworked is becomes almost impossible to in some cases impossible for the body to heal itself. Making positive changes within your diet is a major step in decreasing the body’s workload therefore allowing it to be far more effective when absolutely needed.
Using your car as an example if you overuse your breaks, continually do burn outs then your breaks will wear out sooner than expected and not be able to function when needed. Continually doing burnouts will decrease the lifespan of your tyres. Well overload of working the inflammation process of your body will mean that your body and body parts will wear out sooner than need be and also the body’s ability to heal will become jeopardized.
- 12 Major Foods that are Responsible for Causing Inflammation
Everyday foods like bacon, eggs, coffee and dairy products are linked to inflammation. That might not sound like a big deal, but consider the fact that most chronic conditions like cancer, arthritis, diabetes, and obesity have been linked to inflammation. Low grade inflammation is a factor in most health issues. And if you suffer a pain disorder, you better believe that inflammatory foods will aggravate the condition.
Try reducing your consumption of these foods with the goal of eliminating them completely. The same holds true for alcohol and fried foods – both of these have been known to irritate and worsen arthritis.
Many common foods in the Standard in the Australian diet and are responsible for exacerbating the inflammatory process within your body.
1. Manufactured Foods such as processed meats such as ham, salami, metwurst etc: Packaged meals and Fast Foods such as Hungry Jacks, McDonalds and KFC. Your fast foods will top the list of inflammatory foods due to the harmful oils, sugar and artificial sweeteners, food additives, and chemical used in the processing.
2. Hydrogenated and trans fats found in margarine, shortening, lard or products made with them. That includes baked goods, cookies, pies, buns. Of course there are healthier alternatives to these baked goods but most grocery stores and bakeries are using these harmful ingredients.
3. Large Quantities of Red Meat and Chicken (this excludes wild-caught fish). It is not necessary to think that you have to go vegan or vegetarian. However a diet based on vegetables, nuts and seeds has a lower incidence of disease mainly due to the lowering of the inflammation process. — Meat and poultry do cause inflammation however when these are consumed at moderate levels and in small quantities with the majority of your meal being made up of vegetables and or salad this helps to minimise the inflammatory process.
5. Refined sugar and added sugar: soft drinks, lollies, cakes, biscuits, even bread and rolls shouldn’t be eaten in large quantities.
6. Artificial sweeteners (NutraSweet, Splenda, saccharin, aspartame, Amino Sweet, etc.)—research links these nasty substances to many serious health conditions. I avoid them like the plague.
7. Added Salt: Salt is naturally occurring in vegetables, it there is no need to add to meals or cooking. The main culprit for salt becoming dangerous is in processed and fast foods, then not as mentioned adding it to your meal.
8. Food additives: colours, flavour enhancers, stabilizers, preservatives, etc. Some of the main ones include sulphites, benzoates, and colours named FD&C #”X.” Unfortunately, many foods consumed by children are loaded with these harmful, toxic ingredients.
9. Dairy products (mainly milk, processed dairy products and highly processed cheeses). Unless said to be Organic the majority of Dairy products are packed with hormones, antibiotics, and many other harmful ingredients. Choose local produce and preferably organic .
10. Wheat: is highly acid-forming and inflammatory in the body. Worse, most wheat available now is genetically-modified (GM). Many serious health conditions are starting to be linked to Genetically Modified wheat consumption.
11. Gluten is found in most grains and can be highly inflammatory. Choose grains or seeds like buckwheat, quinoa, or millet for your baking.
12. Alcohol. High in sugar and a burden to the liver, alcohol makes for a spiked elevated inflammatory process. If you can eliminate it completely that can be good but if you enjoy the occasional social glass or two of wine or beer then enjoy, keeping it to that level of consumption with no harm.
Signs and Symptoms Associated with PCOS
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Absent period
- Anovulatory cycles
- Abnormal mid-cycle bleeding
- Excessive or heavy menstrual bleeding
- Alopecia (balding)
- Hirsutism (excessive body hair)
- Acanthosis nigricans – a darkening of the skin in the armpits, back of the neck, or groin
- Polycystic ovaries
- History of ovarian cysts
- Mood disorders
- Recurrent Miscarriage
Health and Fertility Risks Associated with PCOS
- Menstrual cycle irregularities
- Possible increased risk for endometrial and breast cancer due to unopposed estrogen
- Cardiovascular disease
- Gestational diabetes
Medical Treatment Options
The Oral Contraceptive Pill, bearing in the action of this option is for birth control. If this is a way of regulating your menstrual cycle, it also prevents pregnancy. Not a great option if you are wanting to conceive. Oral Contraceptive pill is not a good option when dealing with health concerns or the body not functioning in the way it is meant to. To actually solve a Health solve a problem it is important to peel off the layers so you can get to the cause or causes of the problem. This will benefit long term health for you in fertility as well as preventing long term health issues.
Clomid is another hormonal medication that is commonly used for women with PCOS to hyper stimulate the ovaries to ovulate. There may be a slim chance that Clomid may help you to become pregnant, however you still haven’t treated and resolved the health issue of PCOS.
Ovarian drilling ooo!!! this sounds terrible. This is done by laparoscopic surgery with the intention being to stimulate ovulation. I don’t I need to answer this, you can work it out by now.
- Insulin Resistance
Metformin – This drug is commonly prescribed for women with PCOS, even if you are not insulin resistant or have any signs of type 2 diabetes it serves no purpose. Metformin action is to control the amount of glucose in the blood. Metformin is used to treat type 2 diabetes. You have PCOS not type 2 diabetes, so specific diet changes are recommended such as the elimination of processed foods, sugar, animal fat, refined carbohydrates and fast foods. PCOS can often be helped by specific diet changes, similar to a diabetic diet. Metformin comes with risks and side effects, please talk to your doctor in detail before choosing to use Metformin to control PCOS. Many natural therapies may be used with Metformin with your doctor’s approval.
Note: Long-term treatment with Metformin has been shown to cause malabsorption of vitamin B12 in some patients. Before choosing to use this medication, talk to your health professional regarding long term use, any benefits and side effects.
There are a variety of other medications prescribed depending on the symptoms of PCOS. There are medications for hirsutism or alopecia, weight gain and more. It is vitally important that you do you own research as all medications are drugs and all drugs have side effects.
Steps to Treating PCOS Naturally with Lifestyle Changes and Naturopathic Medicine
Naturopathic medicine is firstly about empowering you, looking at the underlying cause or causes to a health problem. This health problem in itself is only an indicator to let you know that something your body is out of kilter or sync in someway. So in order to treat the health problem effectively with life long benefits without doing harm it is important to treat the cause or causative factors.
- Diet and Lifestyle are the two primary foundations to your health:
Changing your diet and implementing healthy lifestyle changes are the best ways to improve both your fertility and overcoming PCOS.
The major part of the problem with PCOS is insulin resistance. Diet is the main cause to insulin resistance.
Insulin Resistance increases the body’s insulin levels this being found to have a negative affect on ovulation by limiting the maturation process of an egg and in turn delaying or preventing ovulation from taking place. Insulin resistance also makes it difficult for the embryo to attach properly to the uterus for implantation. Obviously, this having a direct impact on your fertility and ability to conceive. Women whom are insulin resistant are 4 -5 times more likely to have a miscarriage.
PCOS is also a primary indicator for you heading toward developing type 2 diabetes.
This is not meant as a scare tactic, but it is a fact that if you don’t take your health seriously and put in positive steps then you will be headed for not only a life of infertility, but major health problems. There are many steps to put into place to turn your health around. The first step being to take charge of your diet, that is what you eat, drink and consume every day.4. Deep Fried foods Potato chips, onion rings, packaged chips, nachos, chicken etc. These foods have no health or nutritional benefits at all and will cause devastating health problems.
As you can see that Lifestyle and Diet play a huge part in the causative factors of PCOS, so by putting the steps into place to change your diet, get active and take control of your stress levels is going to play a huge part in either overcoming or at least improving your PCOS.
As with any sign of ill-health or disease factor the sooner you begin to put the necessary changes into place, the less damage that will take place within your body. Therefore the easier it will be for your body to heal.
- Food being the very foundation of your health your first step is to implement a healthy diet. This assists in reducing the symptoms of PCOS and improve the inflammatory response. Second fold it will also help you to lose weight, by losing weight if your goal is to become pregnant this will make that so much easier for you.
One thing is for certain, making changes to your diet is essential to address the underlying causes such as insulin resistance.
- Looking at Your Pantry and Fridge: Clean out your pantry and fridge of packaged and processed foods other than if they are organic, wheat or gluten free. If this food is perfectly good you may wish to donate to your local community centre or soup kitchen.
Your Shopping List should include:
Gluten free bread, pasta and glutinous free rice (surprisingly enough most rice is glutinous free ). Preferred rices to choose from are Basmatti and also any of your wild rices.
Organic Coconut Oil, Cold pressed Organic Olive Oil these can be used for both cooking and as a spread for your toast or bread. Even when baking your own cakes or biscuits instead of butter or margarine.
Sesame oil, onion flakes, garlic flakes, black pepper, organic chicken stock and any of your favourite herbs and spices for flavouring.
Protein: Lean Organic Chicken, Fish – Other meats that are lean and becoming quite popular being healthier alternatives than beef or pork: Are Crocodile, Goat, Emu and Turkey. Other forms of non animal protein include: nuts, tofu, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, eggs, beans, seeds and yogurt.
Avoiding dairy that is mainly milk and cheese. Replace these with either almond, rice, goats or coconut milk. Goats cheese is available in both a hard and soft variety.
Vegetables – Aim where possible here for Organic and of course from Australia and what is in season. It is vitally important that you buy organic potatoes as when potatoes are not farmed organically. The sprays used go into the leaves of the plant and then to into the potato. All vegetables are good for you, having a selection each day of a variety of colours with your vegetables will give you your vitamins and minerals. Once again here in with your vegetables to add flavour as well as additional vitamins and minerals. Nothing beats fresh so onions, garlic, capsicum and the list goes on. Not to forget your Greens – Spinach, Broccoli, Kale, cabbage, beans, peas. Don’t forget your salad vegetables for lunches these can include carrots, cucumber, mushrooms, capsicum once again, your different coloured lettuces. There is so much more you can have a Great time at the Fruit and Vegetable Shop or even better when possible at the Fresh Organic Markets.
Fruit: Once again choose fruit that is in season and grown in Australia. Apples, Bananas, Pears, Strawberries, Blueberries, Grapefruit, Lemons for squeezing a hot lemon drink in the morning, great for your vitamin C and also alkalizes your body, helping to keep your digestive system healthy.
As far as beverages go herbal teas are great, organic black ground coffee to use in a plunger only keep to one or two per day maximum and in the morning. For Cold drinks Kombucha, Coconut Water. I am not big on packaged fruit or vegetable juices you are far better to do your own.
Snack type foods are best kept to your nuts, seeds, yogurt and fresh fruits. The original popcorn makes a great snack, it is cheap and easy to cook. Once again here with the popcorn don’t go for precooked or microwave to cook popcorn. The original popcorn all you need is a large saucepan, cover the bottom of the saucepan about an inch with olive oil, get olive oil very hot, then add about a handful of popcorn. Quickly put lid on, gently shaking popcorn around the saucepan until all popped.
- Exercise is vitally important for clarity of mind as well as body. This can be as simple as a 30 – 60 minute walk each day. Preferably in the morning as then you know it is done and it is a great start to your day.
It is always overwhelming when you firstly have been diagnosed with a problem within your body, as well as where to start, how to stay motivated and remaining focused so that you will not only become well but remain healthy for your whole life.
In Julie’s Naturopathic Health Clinic a Optimal Return to Health Program a 7 week programme where you will received individually formulated herbal and homeopathic medicine, individual Health Coaching to support your lifestyle changes, Massage Treatments , You will be emailed each week with your plan for each week.
Empowering You to Optimal Health Julie Doherty N.D