Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal condition among reproductive-aged women. It involves metabolic, genetic, hormonal, nutrition and lifestyle factors. PCOS can be very difficult for women because it can cause undesirable changes and challenges, such as: facial hair, body hair, acne, male pattern baldness, weight gain, mood swings and infertility (1).
When typical ovulation occurs, a surge in luteinizing hormone (LH) induces ovulation (see the image below). In PCOS, a moderate amount of LH is produced throughout the month so there are no reserves for a surge, and therefore, the egg is never released. This results in irregular menstrual periods and multiple cysts on the ovaries which can lead to infertility (2). If ignored, PCOS can increase a woman’s risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
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What Causes PCOS:
Chronic, low-grade inflammation is thought to be the contributing factor to PCOS. One method for evaluating your inflammation level is through a blood test. Your doctor can test inflammation by checking C-reactive protein (CRP.) An analysis of 31 clinical trials that included 2,359 women with PCOS and 1,289 controls concluded that CRP in women with PCOS is 96% greater than in healthy women. Inflammation is triggered by elevations of mediators such as cytokines, Interleukin-18 (IL-18) and others. IL-18 is closely related to increased risk of insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease (4).
Many factors contribute to inflammation, including nutrition, exercise, stress and sleep deprivation.
- Sleep deprivation reduces melatonin activity which increases inflammation. When we don’t get enough sleep, we rely on stimulants, which can be inflammatory.
- Mental stress triggers excess brain and nervous system activity, which is neurodegenerative and inflammatory.
- Processed foods and trans fats cause inflammation in the body as well, so diet plays a huge role.
Many women diagnosed with PCOS also have some degree of insulin resistance. This is measured with a fasting glucose and fasting insulin blood test. High insulin can trigger the ovaries to produce more testosterone which contributes to many of the physical PCOS symptoms like excessive hair growth. As you’ve learned in the ONE3ONE, insulin resistance and inflammation are strongly correlated. Are you seeing how all of this ties together?
Treatment of PCOS:
The most immediate change you can make is diet. The 131 Method addresses inflammation, insulin resistance and hormonal imbalances. You have the tools to get your symptoms under control, and possibly reverse them. Once you set the foundation, it becomes easier to continue onward, and things become much more exciting when you begin to see physical evidence of your progress. Once the foundations like diet, sleep, movement and stress management are underway, narrowing down additional therapy is easier and much more effective. Research on nutrition and PCOS continues to emerge with encouraging data like the impact of inositol supplementation (6). While nutrient supplementation is supportive, nothing will override a poor diet. Supplements are always meant to be “supplemental” to a good diet. That foundation must be built first! Congrats on your efforts! We’re so glad you’re here building that foundation!
Testing recommendations by the 131 Dietitians:
One recommended test is the Dutch Complete Test from Precision Analytical. Details found at www.dutchtest.com. This is a complex test so results are only helpful if you know how to interpret them or are working with a trained professional.