Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome

pcos2Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome is a condition in which the ovaries have too many egg filled cysts in them.

It can lead to an excess of testosterone in the body and thus acne, dark facial and chest hairs or dark body hairs and male hair patterns. It can also lead to problems with fertility and even mood, weight issues and so on.

The principle underlying cause of PCOS is believed to be Insulin Resistance. What does that mean in real terms? Insulin is the hormone in charge of blood sugar control. If you eat a meal your body releases insulin into the blood to distribute the glucose and energy from the meal to your muscles and cells for use and if there is excess glucose it makes your body store it as fat cells for future use.

So what if the insulin is always running so high that you just constantly fill the body up with fat cells? How does this happen?

Well it is an interesting thing. In simple terms our bodies were designed to run around quite a bit in a day getting some exercise – even short intense bursts.
We are also designed to be outside for some of the day getting some natural sunshine on our body skin.

The third thing we are designed for is not eating all the time and eating only foods we could naturally catch or hunt or gather and make into a meal out in the wild or basic tribal culture. The old hunter-gatherer style eating with some fasting periods between finding rabbits, birds, field mushrooms, eggs, berries or nuts and so on!

So a typical day might involve some short bursts of energy going to get water, catching some small animals or insects; digging with some tools or sticks to get some yams or roots; running around gathering berries, nuts or climbing trees for eggs or swimming in the ocean for kelp and shellfish! You can see that there was not a lot of time for much else and not a lot of couch potato lifestyle happening.

These days with our automated society many more of us can now sit at a computer or talk on the phone for our work or see clients for appointments and interviews and not move around much at all.

We also don’t get outside much for sunshine and we definitely eat much more processed packaged or prepared cooked food which is rich in carbohydrates or starch sugars from grain flour or refined sugars.

So along comes a generation of young women who have been fed a diet of more bread and sugar and processed foods and less plain natural foods such as eggs, vegetables and fruit and before you know it they start to get problems with insulin resistance and weight gain and a high testosterone and ovaries that don’t work so well. Hormonal problems and blood sugar imbalance.

Insulin and Vitamin D are also intimately related. As you become more Vitamin D deficient your insulin levels rise.

For those of you who like the technical PubMed research articles to back up what I’ve observed in clinical practice over the years here is a paper where they looked at Vitamin D levels and Insulin Resistance (IR) and they found that the higher the Vitamin D the more healthy or lower the insulin levels and vice versa!

I have done a lot of laboratory testing on women over the years with PCOS and I have found the same thing myself. If I get the women to top up their Vitamin D their fasting insulin drops into a more healthy range.

On exercise and blood sugar levels and control: there is interesting data coming out from Otago University with the research of a young Masters student I was talking to recently called Monique Francois. She has clients on a continuous blood glucose monitor inserted gently into the skin so she can measure blood glucose at all times through a day. She has been trying what she calls “exercise snacking” where she gets the person to do a 1 minute treadmill intense walk or stretching using elastics or similar intense (for them – depending on their starting fitness level) motion to get them using their body more intensely than they would if just sitting. She does this with them before each meal and finds that their blood glucose stays very well controlled for several hours after their “exercise snack”. She’s helping write a book so I won’t say too much more here! These are often clients who are considered diabetic getting excellent glucose control when just doing brief short bursts of more intense exercise 30 mins before eating.

Once you exercise the insulin can get your glucose to go into your muscles rather than store it as fat – which is a big help.

So the moral of the story for PCOS is:

Short bursts of more intense exercise throughout the day even if for an intense minute or so get your body going and it will help glucose control. Sunshine and Vitamin D can definitely improve your glucose control.

Natural foods that are not processed and full of quick release glucose or sugars are the way to go when eating. Raw or lightly cooked vegetables and fruits are okay. Take digestive enzymes if needing help digesting your foods. Meats and protein foods are great. Animal and whole fresh unprocessed vegetable oils like olive, coconut and even butter are okay. Avoid processed margarines and rancid old oils or old nuts.

Let me know any other questions, or if you’d like a review of your own fasting insulin levels and glucose control including a Vitamin D level review come see me at my clinic.