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How nutrition and acupuncture can improve symptoms of PCOS

What is PCOS?

PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. It is an endocrine disorder that affects ovarian function and is usually diagnosed when a woman presents with at least two of the following symptoms:

- Irregular periods

- High levels of androgenic hormones (e.g. testosterone)

- Polycystic ovaries, which is detected on an ultrasound scan

PCOS is very common, affecting approximately 10% of women in the UK. Around half of these women do not have any symptoms at all, however many women experience weight gain, oily skin, acne, excess hair growth and difficulties getting pregnant due to irregular ovulation or an inability to ovulate.

Causes of PCOS

The cause of PCOS is unknown, however it is linked to a variety of hormonal imbalances. Women with PCOS are often insulin resistant, which means they are not able to use the insulin they produce efficiently.

Insulin is a hormone that helps the body turn glucose into energy and regulate blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance, which is also linked to having a greater than average BMI, causes the body to produce high levels of insulin and leads to spikes in blood sugar. If this isn’t well managed, it can cause cravings for sugary and starchy foods as a response to the body’s blood sugar imbalances. This creates a vicious cycle for women with PCOS, as foods high in refined carbohydrates are likely to lead to further weight gain and make insulin resistance even more difficult to manage.

Improving symptoms through nutrition

Making simple changes to your diet can help tackle insulin resistance and alleviate the symptoms of PCOS.

· Increase your intake of high-fibre foods, which can slow down digestion and reduce the impact of sugar on the blood. Adding portions of berries, beans, lentils, leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower to your meals are great ways to support insulin sensitivity.

· Avoid highly processed foods and foods high in saturated fat. These foods digest very quickly and can cause spikes in blood sugar. Try replacing them with wholefoods (e.g. beans, grains, oats, legumes) and healthy fats such as avocado oil, nuts, seeds and oily fish.

· Refined carbohydrates such as white bread, rice and pasta, cakes and sugary desserts cause inflammation and can exacerbate insulin resistance. Switch white rice, pasta and bread with wholemeal options, and cut down on sweet treats as much as possible.

· Drink the recommended 2 litres of water every day, and reduce or eliminate your alcohol and fizzy drinks consumption. Both are high in sugar and calories and are best avoided when trying to regulate insulin levels.

Acupuncture and PCOS

Research shows that alternative therapies like acupuncture can have a positive effect on reducing symptoms of PCOS, and is becoming increasingly popular with women who want to avoid invasive surgery or medicalised intervention.

Acupuncture has been seen to promote the regulation of menstrual cycles, as well as normalise LH and testosteronelevels in women with this condition. Other scientific reviews have found that acupuncture can reduce a woman’s number of ovarian cysts by increasing blood flow to the ovaries, all of which can improve chances of conception.

A combination of lifestyle changes and alternative therapies such as acupuncture can alleviate the symptoms of PCOS without going down a highly medicalised route. To discuss how I might be able to help you and your condition, please contact me to book a free 15 minute consultation.

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