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Lifestyle Habits and Their Effect on PCOS Symptoms

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition affecting women of childbearing


age. Its an endocrine system disorder and is estimated to affect as many as 10% of women. This
means around 5 million women in the United States have this disorder and for many, it can
develop into a serious condition that also affects general health.
PCOS can affect your appearance, fertility levels and menstrual cycles, your heart and your
blood vessels. It can cause irregular periods, obesity and excessive hair growth, and acne. It can
be a debilitating condition, but just recently, Australian scientists have discovered significant
improvements in PCOS symptoms in overweight women using a treatment plan that combines
lifestyle interventions and herbal medicine.
Using lifestyle modification to help treat this problem is not a new idea and its often the first
line of defence when treating PCOS, but its estimated that up to 70% of women with PCOS will
try various complimentary medicines including herbal medicine. This is why researchers decided
to test the most commonly used herbal medicines. Over a three-month period, they conducted a
randomized controlled trial to assess the effectiveness of combining lifestyle interventions with
herbal medicine to help improve menstrual regularity.
Both groups of women improved, but those following a programme of lifestyle intervention
combined with herbal medicine showed more of an improvement. For these women, menstrual
cycle length was shorter and there were also other improvements in body mass index, blood
pressure, glucose metabolism and hormonal levels. Participants in this group also reported a
better quality of life with lower stress, anxiety and depression scores.
Lifestyle intervention included dietary and exercise behaviors to help prevent weight gain or to
induce weight loss. Herbal interventions included a formulation with St Johns wort, Peony,
Cinnamon, Licorice and Tribulus administered at a specific stage of the menstrual cycle.
What Can Cause PCOS?

Often it can be difficult to determine the reason why a woman develops PCOS, but its thought
that genetics are a significant factor so if you have close female relatives with this problem, you
may be more at risk. Its been found that women with PCOS produce more androgens than
normal which can affect fertility.
Also, PCOS can interfere with insulin production and as a result the pancreas produces too much
insulin. This excess of insulin prompts the body to increase its male hormone production,
interfering with the normal function of the ovaries. As with so many diseases, inflammation is
thought to be another possible factor where the body is unable to produce enough antibodies to
fight infection resulting in a continual low-grade inflammation that affects the ovaries, and which
can prevent pregnancy.
Recognizing the Symptoms of PCOS
The symptoms may differ in different women but tend to appear soon after menstruation first
begins. However, some women dont have any symptoms until much later in life, often if they
happen to have gained a significant amount of weight. One of the most common symptoms is
infertility as well as irregular menstrual cycles.
Some women will have sleep apnea or may experience hair thinning. Although some women will
be able to ovulate and can get pregnant with PCOS, others may need help from their
gynecologist or obstetrician to have a successful pregnancy. The good news is that with the right
treatment, it generally should be perfectly possible to have a baby.
Getting a Diagnosis and Treating PCOS
Unfortunately, there is no test available that can positively tell if you have PCOS. Instead your
doctor or gynecologist will talk to you about your symptoms and may take blood tests, and will
conduct a physical examination to gain a clearer picture of your health. When it comes to
treating PCOS, your doctor will want to try to control the side-effects and any symptoms of this
condition and its highly likely they will recommend a program of lifestyle modifications to help
improve your health.
Many women with PCOS are overweight and may also be diabetic and their general health is
likely to benefit from a change in diet and lifestyle. If you are a few pounds overweight, simply
getting back down to a healthier weight may be enough to get your menstrual cycles back on
track, and will help normalize hormonal levels and insulin levels. Even just losing 10% of your
overall weight can make a big difference.