Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder characterized by small cysts in the ovaries. Symptoms of PCOS are acne, hair loss, and infertility. It is the most common endocrine dysfunction of women and is the most common cause of infertility, affecting up to 25% of women.
While the exact cause of PCOS isn’t known, PCOS has been associated with in utero exposure to endocrine disruptors, like Bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is a chemical found in plastics, and levels are typically elevated in women diagnosed with PCOS (1, 2). BPA changes gene expression and affects hormone production. Additionally, in utero exposure to sources of oxidative stress, such as smoking, pollution, pesticides, is also associated with an increased incidence of PCOS (3).
Ultimately, inflammation is the driving source of PCOS. Inflammation can be reduced with healthy lifestyle habits, which also reduce the risk of long-term sequelae of PCOS such as cardio-metabolic concerns. PCOS is associated with a 7x increased risk of heart attack, 4x increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, and increased risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer (4).
Proper meal timing and well thought out food choices are beneficial to PCOS. Start your morning with a breakfast rich in protein and plant-based fats like nuts and seeds. This contributes to balanced blood sugar levels across the day. A study in which women with PCOS consumed high-calorie foods at breakfast and reduced intake at dinner showed significant reductions in markers of PCOS and increased ovulation rate (5).
Our bodies work hard while we sleep, especially to detox environmental pollutants. About three hours before bedtime minimize electronic use, avoid vigorous exercise, and dim the lights. Sleep in a cool, dark, and quiet room.
Stress management can also go a long way to support women suffering from PCOS. Breathing exercises can help bring down cortisol levels, reduce anxiety, and balance hormones for women with PCOS.
A few nutritional therapies to consider in consultation with a licensed naturopathic doctor in your journey to long-term resolution include vitamin d, Myo-inositol, n-acetyl cysteine, berberine, and spearmint tea.
PCOS is an ancient disorder. PCOS has persisted in our genetic pool because even though it is associated with sub-fertility or longer time to conception, women with PCOS are not infertile.
In fact, in ancient societies, it is hypothesized that PCOS improved energy utilization, especially during periods of fasting (6).
A diagnosis of PCOS is an opportunity to improve your metabolic health and build a lifestyle that allows you and your future children to thrive.
- Neuroscience. May 2010. Corticosterone-regulated actions in the rat brain are affected by perinatal exposure to a low dose of bisphenol A.
- Environ Health Perspect Sept 2010. Neonatal exposure to bisphenol a and reproductive and endocrine alterations resembling the polycystic ovarian syndrome in adult rats.
- Mohammadi M. Oxidative Stress and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: A Brief Review. Int J Prev Med. 2019;10:86. Published 2019 May 17. doi:10.4103/ijpvm.IJPVM_576_17
- Enrico Carmina, Rogerio A. Lobo, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): Arguably the Most Common Endocrinopathy Is Associated with Significant Morbidity in Women, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 84, Issue 6, 1 June 1999, Pages 1897–1899, https://doi.org/10.1210/jcem.84.6.5803
- Jakubowicz D, Barnea M, Wainstein J, Froy O. Effects of caloric intake timing on insulin resistance and hyperandrogenism in lean women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Clin Sci (Lond). 2013;125(9):423-432. doi:10.1042/CS20130071
- Azziz R, Dumesic DA, Goodarzi MO. Polycystic ovary syndrome: an ancient disorder?. Fertil Steril. 2011;95(5):1544-1548. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2010.09.032