Today, in this modern world of Western medicine and technology, we have experienced a drastic rise in diseases that were unheard of several decades ago. One such disease that has been growing exponentially is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).
PCOS is a disorder that affects a woman’s endocrine system (reproductive system being the system that shows the most symptoms). This condition causes symptoms that can include excruciating menstrual cycles, painful ovarian cysts, infertility, weight gain, acne, male baldness patterns, and facial hair.
30 years ago, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) was fairly unknown and diagnosis was almost nonexistent. Today, statistics from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) indicate that around 10% of women are affected. That percentage is most likely lower than the actual number of women suffering from PCOS, as only those struggling with infertility or experiencing painful or difficult symptoms seek medical attention.
In brief, the amount of chemicals to which we are daily exposed in our environments, and, especially, our food has increased dramatically. The advent of chemical processing and refining has changed our food supply. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is primarily composed of genetically modified crops and hormone-laced meats, as well as chemical preservatives, flavor enhancers and other industrial residue.
PCOS is a disease caused by environmental and lifestyle factors. Women are not born with it or genetically predisposed to PCOS, but, rather, develop it over time. By continually exposing our systems to the chemicals that are the foundations of the SAD, we alter all of the systems in the body. From digestion to reproduction, from metabolism to brain function, these man made foods poison every cell of our body.
PCOS affects the endocrine system, manifesting itself primarily in the reproductive organs. The endocrine system is in charge of regulating a plethora of functions such as metabolism and reproduction. It is also crucial in maintaining weight, the menstrual cycle, the ability to fight viruses (thanks to the work of the thyroid). Even the growth of our hair and nails is facilitated by the endocrine system.
I like to describe the endocrine system as an orchestra: all of the musicians work together to create a beautiful song. When everyone is in tune and playing the same song, the orchestra produces harmony and melody. But once one instrument goes off key or starts playing at a slower pace, the entire song sounds terrible. Some musicians will start trying to play louder to mask the discordant player. Others will lose their rhythm and also start to play off key.
When we fill our bodies with the foodstuff that are pillars the Standard American Diet, we alter one or two or all of the instruments in the endocrine system (other systems too, for that matter). The other glands and organs adjust to compensate for the alteration. The body is no longer in harmony.
One of the areas of the endocrine system out of harmony with PCOS is the hormone insulin.
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas and it is in charge of shuttling glucose away from the bloodstream and into the cells, liver and other muscle fibers. Glucose needs to be carefully regulated in the body and, at any given time, only a minuscule quantity can be circulating into the bloodstream (glucose = sugar and is extremely toxic in quantities that go above 80-100 ml/dl). Moreover, glucose also helps nutrients enter the cells.
Often with PCOS, the cells become resistant to insulin, which raises blood sugar to dangerous levels and also prevents the nutrients we ingest and synthetize to enter the cells. Every hormone works like a key made to fit a specific lock (receptor). In the insulin resistance stage, the body usually manufactures plenty of insulin, but this key is unable to open the lock and enter the cell.
This triggers the pancreas to produce more insulin, as glucose accumulating in the blood is extremely dangerous. In the long run, chronically elevated insulin levels alter not only glucose metabolism, but also the production of the sex hormone androgen.
Now we have a combination of insulin resistance with excess androgen, causing the endocrine system to compensate for the change, a process called homeostasis. Ultimately, the orchestra may fail to produce harmony. Rather than causing unpleasant music, we have many of the PCOS symptoms.
The main culprits for this insulin alteration are:
- Too much sugar;
- Refined carbohydrates;
- Processed food;
- Hormone residue in dairy and red meat.
Diet as Treatment
Typically, modern medicine treatments consist of diabetes prescriptions to address insulin resistance and hormonal imbalance. While well intentioned, it only adds other variables and does not remove the stressors of the struggling endocrine system. The end result of this medical Band-Aid is that the endocrine system is manipulated further from the original harmonious system.
It fails to treat the endocrine system as a whole unit.
For sustainable health, diet adjustments offer effective, long-term solutions. To start, we need to remove all the foods triggering the insulin imbalance.
Some of my clients hear this statement as a death sentence for the foods they love, such as cake, pastries or ice cream. But please know that this is a temporary adjustment. We need to reestablish healthy blood sugar patterns on our journey to treating PCOS.
For clients who are determined to restore their health, we implement a diet that restricts sugars, refined carbohydrates, dairy, and conventionally raised red meats. We build in nourishing components such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and broccoli. These items are particularly good for the liver, as they provide the body with much needed compounds that help with detoxification.
Like most meaningful things in life, this is easier said than done. It will take commitment.
Once we have a clean slate, we slowly work to reintroduce elements back into a healthy diet. Yes, in moderation, you can even occasionally have that slice of cake. It’s more likely that you will feel so good that the cake is no longer appealing.
During the reintroduction period, we can evaluate if there are certain foods that trigger a reaction. The final diet works to address unique elements to the individual to put their body back in harmony.
Committing to Good Health
Tackling your symptoms in a meaningful more sustainable manner will not be easy. The Standard American Diet is oftentimes how we are raised. From TV ads to the fast food joint down the street to the processed food lining the aisles at the grocery stores, it’s built into all areas of world. Odds are that taking the first step to committing to better health will be one of the more challenging experiences you go through this year.
It will also be an extremely rewarding experience.
Whether your PCOS is manifesting in painful ovarian cysts or your biggest struggle is failure to conceive, taking the initiative to address your PCOS head on will change your life in the most marvelous ways. Overcoming the full aspects of PCOS will take time, but within the first weeks, you will immediately regain energy, have less painful menstrual cycles, begin losing weight, and reduce acne.
The long-term effects will bring you closer to fertility and remove all PCOS symptoms from your life.
By partnering with me on your health journey, you can reach your goals faster. Together, we can build a full health plan that fits into your life. I build a customized diet for you based on your symptoms, your history, and your goals. More importantly, I walk with you throughout the process. From eliminating foods in the diet to reintroduction to bringing in the nourishing aspects of food to the diet, I am here to help you realize better health.
To schedule your free 15-minute consultation, contact me today.