PCOS: The Misunderstood Condition That Affects Millions of Women
This may surprise you, but I get a lot of questions about a condition called Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, also known as PCOS…which affects up to 10 percent of women of childbearing age.
PCOS is, in fact, THE most common hormonal endocrine disorder in women. As you might imagine, it’s very frustrating for anyone who is affected. As prevalent as PCOS can be, it’s also quite misunderstood, so for today’s post I’m going to discuss some common myths about the condition, how it affects the health of women who have it, and how Beauty Detox principles (along with the right foods and remedies) can help manage this condition.
PCOS causes a disruption in a woman’s normal hormone cycles. Hormone production by the ovaries becomes out of balance, producing higher than normal amounts of androgens (the male sex hormone). This can cause acne, weight gain, and excess body and facial hair- but thinning hair on the head. 
That said, physical changes are not the only concern with PCOS. Unbalanced hormones can make it more difficult to have children because ovulation may stop (but more on this below). Underdeveloped eggs in the ovaries lead to the formation of cysts. Women who do get pregnant may have in increased risk of miscarriage. 
Left untreated, PCOS can increase the chances of developing heart disease by 4 to 7 times. It can also increase the chances of becoming diabetic by 3 to 6 times according to UC Davis. 
In most cases, the first symptoms of PCOS are the physical ones – and I truly empathize because affected women can feel less beautiful due to the shifts in her weight and overall appearance. Other unpleasant symptoms can include heavy periods or no periods at all, pelvic pain, and a decrease in breast size. Depression may also become a problem in women with PCOS.
As you can see, it’s a very serious problem — with nearly 7 million afflicted with it in the US alone each year.
The Root Cause of PCOS
Bear with me, I’m going to quickly review the science, which is important to understand — but will get a tad technical. Then, we’ll jump into what exactly you can do about it, including incorporating Beauty Detox and select foods.
Medical experts are unsure of the cause of PCOS, but it is believed to be hereditary. If someone in your mother’s or father’s family has PCOS, you have an increased chance of getting it, too. Some experts think excess insulin production and insulin resistance may be a factor in getting PCOS because it may increase androgen production in the ovaries. Inflammation may also be a factor in PCOS because inflammation triggers the ovaries to produce androgens. 
There is also evidence that exposure to BPA, the dangerous chemical found in many plastics, food containers and packaging, can be a factor. In fact, research has found women with PCOS have higher concentrations of BPA’s in their blood. Of course, I’ve been sounding the alarm about BPA’s for many years now, and this is one more reason to avoid these plastic-based toxins! (At Glow Bio, we use non-leachable, BPA-free PET #1 bottles, which are the easiest to recycle, and have a lower carbon footprint for recycling and shipping than glass bottles).
Some Common Myths About PCOS
The first myth about PCOS is that it’s a rare or unusual condition, but the truth is that is affects between 5-10% of women between ages 18-44!  That makes it an unfortunately fairly common condition. It’s something I’ve encountered personally, as several of my friends have this condition. It is also commonly thought that surgery is the only option to treat PCOS. But while some women do need surgery, it isn’t always the most optimum way to treat PCOS.
It is also a myth that PCOS only affects women in their 30s or older. In fact, women of any age can be affected by PCOS, even teenagers. Another misconception is that women with PCOS cannot have children. Some women may have fertility problems, but since PCOS is believed to be hereditary, obviously women with PCOS can have children or it couldn’t be passed on.
You might also be surprised to learn that cysts do not have to be present for a diagnosis of PCOS. Another misconception is that all women with PCOS are overweight. Though weight gain is a common symptom of this condition, it does not hold true across the board. And while the belief that there is no cure for PCOS isn’t really a myth, the fact is, there are many treatments and lifestyle changes that you can make that will make a dramatic difference in quality of life.
Options for Treating This Condition, Naturally
Conventional treatments for PCOS basically treat the symptoms without really addressing the root cause. This is because the root cause is still uncertain. It isn’t unusual for doctors to prescribe birth control pills, medications to lower insulin levels and even medications to help you ovulate. In some cases, even surgery is recommended.
I’ve even heard of doctors recommending eating meat to help the condition, though there really is no evidence to support this, and not something I would personally advocate.
Aside from all those medical interventions, I want to instead focus on some lifestyle changes you can make that may improve your symptoms — without the possibility of side effects from medications. For example, eliminating alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, and sugar will help reduce inflammation. Eliminating animal fats, processed foods, and dairy products may help as well.
Instead, eat lots of healthy fruits and vegetables. As I mentioned, some experts feel that lean animal proteins are important in treating PCOS, however, a 2008 study concluded that vegetable sources of protein, instead of animal sources, can reduce the chances of infertility from PCOS by more than 50 percent.  So don’t be fooled if you or someone you know is told to eat meat because of the condition, because there is some research that seems to suggest the opposite.
Regular exercise can also help to improve PCOS symptoms as well, because it not only helps you maintain a healthy weight, but it also helps to lower insulin production after meals. Weight lifting, or body weight lifting as you do in yoga, can help balance blood glucose and insulin levels.
Where Beauty Detox Fits In
This goes without saying, but anyone with PCOS should be extra conscious of what is eaten on a daily basis. The Beauty Foods diet, which is comprised of whole plant foods: greens, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, some whole gluten-free grains and legumes is actually the perfect diet for PCOS — especially given it’s impact on inflammation.
Simply by following the Beauty Detox lifestyle, you will better manage your symptoms because as you reduces inflammation in the body, it can help other symptoms subside. Your body will also balance its blood sugar levels, allowing you to maintain a healthy weight, and giving you more energy so you can stay active. So many benefits from just simple changes to how you eat! Food is truly powerful, and truly empowering because YOU can choose what to nourish your body with.
The Best Foods for PCOS
Choosing the right foods can help you control PCOS. While an over-all healthy diet is always vital, certain foods may be especially beneficial.
Fiber-rich Beauty Vegetables can help keep your blood sugar and weight and hormones under control. These include broccoli, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts and more — the cruciferous family is especially good for managing estrogen — along with celery, cucumber, lettuce, spinach, and radishes. More concentrated sources of plant-based protein are also important (though all plant foods have protein)…so you should include nuts and seeds, sprouts, spirulina, chlorella, as well as some legumes and beans.
Calcium-rich Beauty Vegetables such as spinach, kale, and broccoli not only help with proper follicle development in the ovaries, but calcium also helps the body produce insulin. Sesame seeds/tahini is also a fantastic source of calcium! These vegetables and seeds, along with avocados — as you’ll find in my Dharma’s Kale Salad — also give the body needed potassium. Potassium help the body produce FSH, or follicle stimulating hormone.
Don’t forget to include Beauty Fruits like cherries, raspberries, strawberries, grapefruit, apples, peaches, pears, and plums. These fruits help give you needed energy, reduce toxins in our body, help ensure you’re getting enough healthy carbs in your diet without overdoing protein or fat.
When Diet Alone Is Not Enough
All this said, diet alone may not get you all the way to where you feel great. In cases where symptoms persist even when a healthy diet is being followed, other remedies may be helpful.
There have been numerous studies showing the benefit of acupuncture for treating PCOS. In the 2321 cases of PCOS studied, it has been found that acupuncture is just as effective as Western medicine in managing PCOS symptoms. In a meta-analysis on acupuncture for PCOS, it was found that acupuncture, as well as acupuncture combined with Chinese herbal medicines, are helpful in in reducing serum luteinizing hormone/follicle-stimulating hormone, insulin resistance, testosterone, and body mass index. 
Women who are considering medication to induce ovulation might want to consider alternative treatments as well. One study showed that Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa extract) can be used in place of clomiphene citrate, a common fertility drug, to induce ovulation in women with PCOS.  This is because Black Cohosh is a phyto-estrogen. It may help the body produce estrogen from the first dose. Incredible!
Wood betony (Stachys lavandulifolia) has been shown to help with abnormal menstrual cycles in women with PCOS. It may be used as an alternative to Medroxyprogesterone acetate (also known as Depo-Provera) to prevent abnormal uterine bleeding. 
If you choose to use herbs to treat your PCOS, be sure to consult with an experienced herbalist and keep in mind that some herbs may interact with medications. But if your goal is to avoid pharmaceuticals, it is comforting to know that you may be able to help treat PCOS naturally. (Be sure to always check with your doctor or keep your doctor abreast of your overall program.)
Don’t Forget Meditation and Mindfulness
Until PCOS is better understood, a cure is unlikely to be found. But that doesn’t mean you should give up hope! Studies are ongoing and the more information that scientists discover, the better your treatment options will become. Already we’ve see so much promise and progress with natural dietary and herbal treatments, and that research is only just beginning.
Until then, don’t feel powerless. There is so much you can do to help yourself. Staying active, a healthy Beauty Detox-centereed diet and possibly even alternative medicine – all of these things can help you keep your PCOS under control so you can live a happier life.
One last tip: both meditation and the practice of mindfulness have been shown to reduce depression, stress and anxiety and it has positive effects on the nervous systems. Mindfulness and meditation also boost the immune system, and reduces blood pressure, glucose, and inflammation. All of which will help alleviate your symptoms, and make the best possible health decisions going forward. Your reproductive organs lie in the realm of your second chakra or Svadhastana chakra, which is the energy center that governs creativity, healthy self expression and self worth, and feeling liberated to pursue your life goals. As I believe what is going on with you emotionally, mentally and spiritually has an impact on your physical body (which I go into much more detail in, in The Beauty Detox Power), it’s a good idea to look at these areas of your life and see if there are any blocks- and work to remove them.
As I mentioned in the beginning, I have so much empathy for anyone who has to deal with this condition — and even more for those who are not given the truth about getting better. If you know anyone who might benefit from what I’ve written here today, do not hesitate to share.
You may end up totally changing someone’s life — and that’s something they’ll never forget!
I hope you have an awesome week! Wishing you all the very best, and see you back here soon.
With love and gratitude,
Research: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pcos/basics/causes/con-20028841  http://americanpregnancy.org/womens-health/polycystic-ovarian-syndrome/  http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/internalmedicine/endocrinology/pcos.html  http://pcos.about.com/od/relatedconditions/f/The-Relationship-Between-Pcos-And-Inflammation.htm  http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/PCOS/conditioninfo/Pages/risk.aspx  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3066040/  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20230329  http://cms.herbalgram.org/herbclip/479/041352-479.html?ts=1421032876&signature=3d8c7fc2b05ef4fdf40f2a81b83fad40  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23307315