Natural Solutions for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), one of the most common endocrine (hormone) disorders, affects approximately 10 million women worldwide. It’s the leading cause of infertility in women and can present at any life stage – from puberty through post-menopause. Most women with PCOS will have cysts on the ovaries, but as many as 30% of women will not have cysts. Women with PCOS experience an array of symptoms, including:
- irregular menstrual cycles
- pelvic pain with or without periods
- mood swings, depression or anxiety
- thinning hair on the head
- excessive body hair (hirsutism)
- fatigue and sleep problems
Because of the wide range of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome symptoms, fewer than 50% of women are properly diagnosed. Too often women simply accept the discomfort and don’t inform their doctors until symptoms are at their worst. Even then, they are often misdiagnosed because so many of the symptoms can be attributed to other causes. Another reason for missed diagnosis is that PCOS has long been believed to be present only in obese women; we now know that it can affect women of any body weight including those who are normal or even underweight. Additionally, PCOS can present differently based on life stage, genetics, ethnicity, age and environmental and lifestyle factors such as self-care, exercise, and eating habits.
Causes and Variants of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
In some women with PCOS, the adrenals produce androgens through an exaggerated response to adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) stimulation from the pituitary gland. Obesity, insulin resistance, and ovarian secretions seem to play a limited role in adrenal androgen excess. Please discuss with Dr. Fenske how she or your medical doctor can help you determine whether you have PCOS and if it is and ovarian PCOS or an adrenal PCOS.
Dr. Samuel Thatcher, an early pioneer in PCOS research and treatment, was among the first clinicians to advocate for a holistic approach to PCOS treatment. With the goal of enhancing a woman’s quality of life, holistic health practitioners perform a thorough lifestyle assessment, blood tests, and dietary analysis. They then educate and guide women in using natural approaches to manage and heal from PCOS, such as:
- Lifestyle Improvements. A whole foods diet, exercise, stress management, and proper rest are essential to PCOS treatment. These approaches can create a positive shift in blood sugar level, mood, and body weight. Approaches will differ based on a woman’s stage of life and complexity of symptoms.
- Supplement Support. Some of the herbs and nutrition supplements that may be used for PCOS aim to balance blood sugar level as well as hormones. These can include Nettle Root, Green Tea, Flax Seeds, Saw Palmetto, Licorice Root, Chaste Tree Extract, Trace Minerals, Vitamin D3, and Chromium.
If you think you have PCOS, speak with Dr Fenske about the approaches best suited to your symptoms and needs.
Support for Menstrual Difficulties with Chaste Tree Extract
Back in the Middle Ages, Chaste Tree Extract (Vitex agnus castus, aka Vitex or Chasteberry) was used by monks to decrease sexual desire (hence its name!). Today we know that this powerful herb – a medicinally potent brown berry about the size of a peppercorn – doesn’t impact sexual desire. But it does help manage reproductive disorders. Vitex is used for menstrual difficulties including PMS and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, breast pain management, and infertility. It may also benefit women going through menopause.
Vitex does not supply hormones to the body; rather, it acts on the glands that control hormone production, namely the pituitary and hypothalamus. Ultimately, it helps balance the ratio of progesterone to estrogen, while slightly elevating progesterone level.
Chaste Tree is available as a liquid extract, in capsule and tablet form, and as an essential oil. It is considered safe for most people. However, women on birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy, or who have a hormone-sensitive condition (such as breast cancer) should seek medical consultation before taking this herb. Also, it should not be used by persons taking antipsychotic drugs or medications for Parkinson’s disease. Dr Fenske is the best source for information on Chaste Tree and the appropriate use for your health concerns.
Create a Health Shift with Intermittent Fasting
You’re probably aware that going too many hours between meals can cause a drop in blood sugar that leads to headaches, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. While that’s true, new research shows that planned periods of Intermittent Fasting (IF) or Intermittent Energy Restriction (IER) can be good for your health. This is not about starving yourself to lose weight. Instead, IER aims to give the digestive system a break from food, which allows the body to cleanse itself. To be truly restorative, IER is matched with a similar break from mental and physical activity.
Though clinical research is still in the early stages for both animal and human studies, several health benefits have been identified. Researchers are investigating different types of IER protocols for both healthy adults and those who are living with obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and metabolic diseases.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
- Increased sensitivity to insulin and leptin, which can lower risk of diabetes, heart disease and even cancer
- Better regulation of hormones associated with appetite
- Enhanced metabolic use of stored fat
- Lower triglyceride levels, which decreases risk for heart disease
- Reduced inflammation
- Enhanced awareness of appetite and cues for eating
Intermittent Fasting Regimens
During an Intermittent Fast, drink plenty of water, keep exercise to low intensity, and avoid stress such as the kind created by work deadlines or caretaking for family. For best health practices, choose unprocessed, whole foods including grains, fresh fruits and veggies, and best quality fish, meat and dairy.
- The 16/8 Method involves skipping breakfast and restricting your daily eating period to 8 hours (e.g., Noon – 8 PM), then fasting for 16 hours (8 PM to 12 PM the next day).
- The Weekly/Bi-weekly 24-hour Fast involves a 24 hour period of fasting for one or two days per week or every other week: Last meal at 6 PM Monday, no food but plenty of water until 6 PM the next day.
- The 5:2 Method involves choosing any two non-consecutive days of the week and eating only about 600 calories on those days: Tuesday 600 calories; Thursday 600 calories, rest of the week eating regular, healthy meals.
Dr Fenske can help you determine if this is a good approach for you and which is the best intermittent fasting regimen to meet your health goals.
The Antioxidant Power of Green Tea (Camellia sinensis)
The wonderful thing about Green Tea is how the leaves retain their biologically active nutrients from the time of harvesting to the moment you brew and then sip this liquid elixir. Green Tea contains plant nutrients (polyphenols), such as catechins and flavonoids, which function as antioxidants, helping the body to clear out free radicals, molecules that cause oxidative damage to cells. This damage creates inflammation and can lead to disease.
One of the potent compounds in Green Tea is the antioxidant Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG). Studies conducted on the health-protective benefits of EGCG show that people who frequently drink Green Tea have lower rates of illness, including many types of cancer. While additional research is needed to understand the mechanisms that contribute to the medicinal properties of Green Tea, EGCG supplements have been used in clinical trials to help treat certain cancers, inflammatory diseases, and diabetes.
There are many ways to enjoy Green Tea. The best varieties of tea will be loose leaf, organically harvested from GMO-free crops. To maintain the potency of the antioxidants in your tea, do not add milk, which alters the tea’s health-boosting properties. Be sure to follow the steeping directions. Steeping longer than directed can make the tea bitter. As a general rule, if you prefer a stronger tea, add more tea for the same steeping time. To sweeten, add locally sourced honey or a splash of fresh squeezed lemon, orange, or a few drops of stevia.
Food for Thought. . .
“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”
– Joseph Campbell