Beating PCOS Naturally

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is known as Stein-Leventhal Syndrome and is complex endocrine disorder associated with anovulation (lack of ovulation) and hyperandrogenism (excess male sex hormones). It is estimated that 70% of women with PCOS have elevated androgen levels. Women with PCOS may also have high levels of the following:

Estrogen: Higher levels associated with infertility and may also increase risk of hormone related cancers.

Gonadotropins: Higher levels affect fertility and the menstrual cycle

Insulin: Higher levels of insulin and glucose intolerance which makes losing weight very difficult.

Women with PCOS are at significantly higher risk of developing Type II Diabetes and Heart Disease. Pregnant women who have PCOS, are at increased risk of developing gestational diabetes and hypertension, which can make their pregnancy high risk, requiring very close monitoring. Most women with PCOS have irregular cycles. PCOS is under-recognized and under diagnosed. Since a high percentage of women who have PCOS also suffer from infertility, women will often receive their diagnosis following a consult with a reproductive endocrinologist.

Conventional treatment will often include oral contraceptives to regulate the menstrual cycle and hormone levels, an insulin sensitizer to reduce insulin resistance and a prescription of a low carb diet plus an exercise program. Additional medication may be prescribed on an individual basis. Women who are trying to get pregnant will be given a full work-up may be given a drug to induce regular ovulation, which is carefully monitored.

A member of our parent panel, Sarah, aged 26, was diagnosed with PCOS in 2008. Sarah, unlike most women with PCOS, have regular menstrual cycles. Here is her profile:

Sarah has struggled with her weight since her teen years. She reports having a lack of energy throughout the day and strong cravings for carbs and sweets, particularly during her "PMS week". Sarah has a high stress job which exacerbates her symptoms.

Stats pre-alternative treatment program

Fasting blood glucose: 103 (pre-diabetic)
Weight: 180 lbs (BMI: 27.4 overweight)
Blood pressure: 120/80 (above normal)
Height: 5"8
Hirsutism: moderate

Sarah, is determined to control her PCOS symptoms and obtain a healthy body weight through exploring alternative treatments. What follows is Sarah's plan and not a personalized prescription plan. Please consult with your health care professional prior to starting any new treatments, conventional or alternative.

*Pilates Reformer Machine (resistance training) strength training 3 x per week

*Walking (Aerobic) 30 mins walk in the AM, 30 minutes walk in the PM

*Yoga and meditation 3 x per week to reduce stress and improve endurance and stamina.

*Low GI vegan diet: Sarah has started a low glycemic diet and includes foods in her diet which are classified as either low or medium on the GI scale. Whole grains are emphasized including: quinoa, amaranth, kasha, brown basmati rice, beans and pulses, low starchy vegetables and fresh fruit in moderation. Instead of eating 3 large meals, Sarah began eating 5 or 6 small meals and snacks every 3 hours to help keep her blood sugar stable throughout the day. Adopting a well balanced, vegan diet (consult an Registered Dietician for advice) can be especially beneficial to women with PCOS, since a well balanced, vegan diet is free of dietary cholesterol, high in dietary fiber, legumes and vegetables which can significantly lower your risk of cardiovasular disease.

*Cinnamon: 1 tsp a day which has been shown in studies to reduce insulin resistance. Cinnamon powder can become toxic in higher dosages, so cinnamon sticks boiled may be a healthier alternative.

*Supplement: Chiral Balance D-chiro-inositol (DCI)

In two peer-reviewed, double blind studies, D-chiro-inositol, a member of the B nutrient family, was found to help both lean and obese women with PCOS reduce many of their primary clinical symptoms. Researchers hypothesize that women with PCOS are insulin resistant due to a deficiency of D-chiro-inositol which helps to regulate insulin levels. D-chiro-inositol is found naturally in several foods including buckwheat bran (farinetta), chickpeas, soy lethicin and carob syrup however taking a DCI supplement is an easier way to ensure that you are getting the sufficient quantity for your body weight. Women who are overweight will require higher levels of DCI which is also a consideration.

A high quality DCI supplement on the market is available from a reputable company, Chiral Balance. We sat down with a rep from the company to learn more:

"DCI is made from pinitol, which is a close chemical relative of of DCI. It is made in one step, by demethylation of pinitol and is then purified by HPLC. Every shipment we receive passes through customs and FDA inspection before arriving to us. The pinitol itself is derived primarily from soy husks, but poses not threat to people with soy allergies, because of the numerous purification steps."

The product contains no coatings, binders, fillers, artificial colors or fragrance. It is free of dairy, wheat, yeast, gluten, corn, sugar, starch, soy, preservatives ans hydrogenated oil. The capsules are made from cellulose acetate, so they are suitable for vegans and vegetarians, people with various allergies. DCI supplements from a reputable source such as Chiral Balance do not have any documented side-effects.

To purchase DCI supplements from Chiral Balance, please click here.

Stats following a 2 month period of alternative treatments (diet, supplements, exercise):

Fasting blood glucose: 93 (normal)
Weight: 155lb (BMI: 23.6 normal)
Blood pressure: 110/70 (normal)
Hirustism: facial hair reduced as observed by beautician
Increased energy during the day.

Additional resources:

The Soul Cysters Website is a great place to start! Check out the message boards for online support.

MediFocus Guide Polycystic Guide:

An excellent guide which is easy to understand. Readers will develop insight into PCOS and understand this syndrome in greater depth. Information about PCOS throughout the life cycles is presented, including pregnancy and menopause. References to medical literature are cited.

The Savvy Woman's Guide to PCOS: The many faces of a 21st Century Epidemic...And what you can do about it. by Elizabeth Lee Vliet, MD. This book is an outstanding guide to PCOS where readers will learn all about the syndrome in great detail and will learn about Dr Vliet's recommendations for diagnosing and treating PCOS. Readers will be empowered to be an active, informed patient when navigating the medical system. Dr Vliet, is clearly an expert on hormonal disorders which is evident by her unique insights on PCOS. What is missing however from this book, is information about exploring complimentary and alternative on alternative and complementary therapies .

The New Glucose Revolution Low GI Vegetarian Cookbook
published by Da Capo Press.

This revolutionary cookbook is the FIRST ever vegetarian and vegan cookbook that is written with the GI index in mind. This cookbook includes 80 delectable vegetarian and vegan recipes to take you from breakfast to dinner and is written by the world's foremost authorities on the Glycemic Index. Jennie Brand-Miller, PhD, is a international authority on the GI approach, heading up the GI-testing center in Sydney, Australia. Along with 2 Registered Dietitians, Kaye Foster-Powell, M. Nutr & Diet and Kate Marsh, RD, CD, the nutrition experts begin by outlining a variety of vegetarian sources of protein, fats and carbohydrates to include for a well balanced diet. The authors explain the GI concept in user friendly terminology which is easy to grasp. Vegetarians in particularly need to be mindful of adopting a well balanced diet to ensure that they take in the necessary vitamins and minerals for good health. The authors touch upon vitamins and minerals which are essential to a vegetarian diet including iron, calcium, vitamin B12 an iodine and list the daily recommendations for men and women and which food sources and or supplements will meet your daily requirements. The authors then move onto the advantages of switching to a Low GI diet and include some information specific to women with PCOS. A useful table is included which offers options for replacing a high GI food item with a low GI one and will help to keep you on track. Suggestions for choosing low GI foods for breakfast, lunch, snacks, desserts and dinner are discussed to help apply the principles into creating a daily food plan. A 7 day meal plan for both vegetarians and vegans is included, with separate plans for adults, teenagers and children. The meal plans are a very valuable tool to help you adopt a Low GI lifestyle for your family and provide a wonderful framework for your new lifestyle. The remainder of the book presents 80 mouth watering recipes, nearly each of which is accompanied by an exquisite photograph for culinary inspiration. The recipes are easy to make, and are influenced by many cultures including Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Middle Eastern and Mexican. Adopting a low GI lifestyle doesn't mean that you need to deprive yourself of delicious tasting meals. Our favorite recipes include: Pancakes with Tofu, Basil and Sun-dried tomato, Red lentil dal with spiced basmatic rice, Falafel rolls with hummus, tabbouleh and spicy tomato sauce, Raspberry swirl cheesecakes and Creamy Quinoa Pudding. You don't need to be a strict vegetarian to benefit from this book. Meat eaters can benefit tremendously from eating a few vegetarian meals per week, which will help to reduce their cholesterol and slash their risk of developing heart disease. Overall, an essential guide for anyone who has insulin resistance and or anyone who wishes to have more energy throughout the day. Purchase this book from these retailers.

Glycemic Index Database
Easily reference GI information about your favorite staples.


Cecilia said...

Wonderful article! I am also looking to explore alternative treatments for my PCOS and I will be investigating the options listed.

Jess said...

Another PCOS'er here. I am fed up of BCP and will also be checking out the list of alternative treatments. Thank you!

Jaime said...

I didn't realize that there were so many options when it comes to "treating PCOS naturally" I will be tracking down a ND for further assistance and doing a trial with DCI. Thank you!

Tammy said...

I have heard about low carb but not low glycemic for PCOS. As a vegetarian, I have been struggling to follow a low carb diet. I will look into the GI way of life!

Jane said...

This article is well timed. I have recently been diagnosed with PCOS and I am looking into alternative treatments. Thank you for a great resource list!

Maria said...

Fantastic resource list. Thank you for another great article.

Moredd said...

Im on it. Works for me too!
28.5 lbs in 5 weeks and reduction of other symptoms.

Dina said...

Thank you for the article, and especially for recommending the book. I am a long time vegetarian for spiritual reasons and going back to eating meat was not an option for me.