The Fueled and Free Podcast
S1 E10:Empowering Women with PCOS: Understanding Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Holistic Treatment Options
Empowering Women with PCOS: Understanding Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Holistic Treatment Options
EPISODE 10 SHOW NOTES
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a complex hormonal disorder that causes a range of symptoms like irregular periods, acne, hair loss, weight gain, and fertility problems. It affects one in seven women and in this episode, we will explore the signs and symptoms of PCOS and the various ways it can be diagnosed.
I will also discuss the mainstream treatment options for PCOS, including lifestyle changes and common medications. I will dive into functional labs and how they can give us more insight into managing PCOS symptoms effectively. You’ll learn about strategies to start healing your PCOS, the importance of balancing your blood sugar, how to choose the right carbs, my thoughts on caffeine, repleting your minerals, supplements to consider, strength training, sleep hygiene, and so much more.
In this episode, I’m answering your common questions:
- How is PCOS diagnosed? Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is diagnosed based on three criteria – hyperandrogenism, ovarian dysfunction, and polycystic ovaries seen on an ultrasound. Hyperandrogenism refers to the presence of high levels of androgen hormones such as testosterone or DHEA. Ovarian dysfunction is characterized by the lack of ovulation or delayed ovulation, longer menstrual cycles, or fewer periods per year. Polycystic ovaries are detected when an ultrasound shows 12 or more follicles on each ovary or an increased ovarian volume. A woman is typically diagnosed with PCOS if she has two out of these three criteria.
- What are the common signs and symptoms of PCOS? Some common symptoms of PCOS include acne, excessive hair growth on the face, hair loss on the head, difficulty losing weight, and obesity. Other symptoms may include male pattern hair loss, irregular menstrual cycles, heavy bleeding, pelvic pain, inflammation, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, headaches, fatigue, mood changes, poor sleep, infertility, high prolactin levels, and elevated LH/FSH ratio.
- What are the 3 types of PCOS? Insulin-resistant PCOS, inflammation-based PCOS, and synthetic hormone-induced PCOS. Insulin-resistant PCOS is the most common and is caused by high levels of insulin that interfere with ovulation. Women with this type of PCOS usually have blood sugar and insulin levels that suggest pre-diabetes or diabetes. Inflammation-based PCOS is most commonly seen in women who are not overweight and may be caused by factors such as food intolerances, exposure to environmental toxins, or a poor diet. Synthetic hormone-induced PCOS is caused by hormonal birth control and can result in irregular cycles or the absence of periods after stopping the use of birth control.
- What are the mainstream treatment options? The mainstream medical treatments for PCOS include hormonal birth control, Metformin, and Spironolactone. Hormonal birth control is commonly prescribed for women with PCOS who have hormonal symptoms, such as irregular or symptomatic menstrual cycles. Metformin, a medication for type 2 diabetes, is used to reduce insulin levels in those who struggle with insulin resistance and blood sugar dysregulation. Spironolactone is another medication that is prescribed to reduce acne and excess hair growth in those with PCOS. However, these medications only manage symptoms and do not address the root causes of PCOS. Additionally, they can have side effects and may not provide a long-term solution for managing PCOS symptoms.
- What functional labs should I consider? Functional lab testing is important for assessing areas of the body that are under stress, inflamed or under-resourced. A full thyroid panel is a great starting point. Hair tissue mineral analysis (HTMA) is used to determine mineral levels and the presence of heavy metals. Minerals play a vital role in thousands of enzyme functions that regulate metabolism, including blood sugar regulation, neurotransmitters, digestion, and hormone production. Iron overload is linked to insulin resistance and PCOS symptoms, and markers on the hair test can give clues to underlying issues with iron. The ratios of essential minerals such as sodium, magnesium, and potassium can provide insights into adrenal balance, and low magnesium is associated with blood sugar issues, cardiovascular problems, sleep difficulties, and low mood.
- How do digestion and gut health play a role? Assessing digestion through the GI Map stool test is a great starting point. This test can detect the presence of pathogens like H. pylori, parasites, fungi, and yeast, as well as the balance of beneficial bacteria and markers related to nutrient absorption and fat digestion. Gut dysbiosis can cause symptoms beyond digestive issues, such as acne, fatigue, and menstrual irregularities. Low stomach acid can also contribute to gut dysbiosis, creating an environment in which candida can thrive and cause symptoms.
- What is a DUTCH test? The DUTCH is a functional lab that can be helpful in assessing PCOS and hormone imbalances. It is a urine test that looks at hormone levels and how those hormones are being metabolized in the body. The DUTCH can reveal high estrogen or estrogen dominance, even when estrogen levels are normal. It also shows 5 alpha-reductase activity, which can contribute to androgenic symptoms like acne and hair loss. The test assesses cortisol levels, which are often high in individuals with PCOS due to stress or gut inflammation. These functional lab tests can help piece together the puzzle of where the body is stressed or under-resourced, and what areas of the body need support.
- How can I get the healing process started if I’m not ready to dive into functional labs? You can work on blood sugar by being protein-focused with meals, using apple cider vinegar diluted in water, and starting meals with a small fiber source. Movement and strength training are also recommended. Second, intermittent fasting should be avoided, and breakfast should be eaten within an hour of waking, with protein, carbs, and fats. Third, complex carbs should be chosen over simple carbs, which are inflammatory. Simple carbs can be eaten when glucose will be used, such as before exercise.
- How do minerals affect PCOS? Incorporating magnesium into your routine through lotions or baths can help reduce stress and improve energy levels. Adding potassium sources such as an adrenal cocktail, coconut water and fresh fruits to your diet to combat low potassium levels, which can cause fatigue, muscle cramps, and other issues. The main mineral deficiencies associated with PCOS are magnesium, calcium, and potassium.
- What role does strength training play? Incorporating strength training into a workout routine can help increase muscle mass, improve insulin sensitivity, and aid in weight management. Aim for at least three days of strength training per week.
- How does sleep affect PCOS? Poor sleep can have negative effects on insulin resistance, obesity, and inflammation. Try aiming for a 10 pm bedtime and improving sleep hygiene by avoiding activities that disrupt sleep such as using phones before bed and eating too close to bedtime. Also, magnesium glycinate can aid in improving sleep quality and other aspects of health.
By the end of this episode, you’ll be armed with a wealth of knowledge that will empower you to take charge of your PCOS diagnosis instead of letting it take charge of you.
If you’re ready to ditch the mainstream treatment options and want to take a more holistic approach, consider enrolling in my functional lab program, The Collective. This six-month program includes a hair and stool test and provides personalized one-on-one support to help you identify the underlying issues that are impacting your PCOS healing journey.
**Disclaimer: The information shared in this podcast is NOT meant to be taken as individual or medical advice. Please seek the advice of your physician or healthcare provider regarding any medical condition or treatment.
Resources and links mentioned in this episode:
Listen to A Beginner’s Guide to Metabolic Health Part 1
Listen to Minerals 101: The Missing Piece to Your Metabolism
Follow Glucose Goddess on Instagram
Shop hydration powders with Rayvi
Connect with me on Instagram @margaretannpowell
For questions or suggestions about the podcast, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lots of Love,
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