PolyCystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) affects 1 in 10 women and up to 70% of women are undiagnosed. As well as being the most common endocrine disorder which can affect women from puberty into post-menopause it is also the most common cause of female fertility issues.
PCOS can present with a variety of symptoms including: hormonal changes or imbalances; fertility issues; difficulties managing weight; fatigue; digestive disturbances; insulin resistance; Type 2 diabetes; metabolic syndrome; skin issues; hirsutism; psychological issues and disturbed menstrual cycle.
It is a genetic condition which can take anything from 1 to 17 years to be diagnosed. However, given the range and lack of specificity of possible symptoms and the fact that each individual may present with a different range and degree of symptoms, it's not surprising that it can be difficult to diagnose. A diagnosis should include an ultrasound scan, hormone tests and a discussion about individual symptoms.
In PCOS the ovaries do not function properly and that leads to increased levels of testosterone. It can cause an irregular cycle creating fertility issues. Along with the increased testosterone comes an increase in insulin resistance which in turn leads to weight gain and increased production of oestrogen which only worsens the symptoms.
Managing insulin levels is key to managing weight and managing weight is key to managing PCOS symptoms - something which is particularly difficult because the insulin resistance and fluctuating hormone levels create food cravings - especially for carbs and sweet things. However, the good news is that even a 5% reduction in weight can: decrease insulin levels; reduce testosterone levels; reduce hirsutism; reduce acne; improve the menstrual cycle and trigger ovulation.
A specialist nutritionist can help or consider following insulin focused diets such as Low-GI diets, the Blood Sugar Diet - Dr Michael Mosley; 5:2 fasting - Dr Michael Mosley. Any eating regime which helps to stabilize glucose and insulin levels will help and make it easier to lose weight.
Not everyone with PCOS has weight management issues, but following a healthy diet which stabilizes insulin levels is still important.
Reproductive Reflexology can provide a targeted approach to supporting hormone balance alongside a healthy lifestyle (diet and exercise) for sufferers of PCOS, particularly for those who wish to conceive. The low progesterone levels that can be associated with PCOS may mean that maintaining a pregnancy can be difficult and Reproductive Reflexology has different protocols to support hormone levels at different points in the cycle.
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