3 Things Women With Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Can Do to Improve Their Fertility
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that predominantly affects women during their childbearing years. Current statistics show that PCOS effects up to 10% of women in North America and is often undiagnosed. In PCOS a woman will develop multiple small cysts on their ovaries (hence the name). These cysts in turn secrete hormones, which over time starts to disrupt your natural hormonal balance. Women will start to have an increase in male hormones called androgens. When androgens increase, we can see symptoms start to exhibit including:
- Anovulation (not ovulating)
- Longer menstrual cycle
- 3-things-women-with-polycystic-ovarian-syndrome-pcos-can-do-to-improve-their-fertilityeavy periods
- Weight gain
- Facial or body hair growth
- Concerns with blood sugar regulation and cholesterol
PCOS is diagnosed based on a combination of presenting symptoms, a hormonal panel preformed via a blood test and doing a transvaginal ultrasound to look at your ovaries. It is a condition that often isn’t diagnosed until a woman presents at her doctor struggling to get pregnant.
The good news is that there are several diet and lifestyle changes that can improve all the symptoms that can be associated with PCOS as well as reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes through the long term which are both common in women with PCOS. The 3 best places to start to make an impact on your PCOS symptoms include.
Part of the concern in women with PCOS is trouble with healthy blood sugar regulation. There are some significant changes you can make to your diet to help you regulate your blood sugar more effectively.
- Ensure every meal you eat has a protein source. Some options include eggs, poultry, fish, beef, seeds, nuts or nut butters, soy and beans to name a few. Protein is slowly absorbed into the blood and keeps a steady state of fuel, which prevents large increases in blood sugar levels.
- Eliminate refined carbohydrates. This includes sugar, white rice, and any processed grains wheat, rye, corn etc. These refined grains and sugars cause a quick spike in blood sugar levels. When blood sugar goes up your pancreas must secrete a hormone called insulin to move the sugars out of the blood stream into your cells. Insulin promotes inflammation in the body, which will make your PCOS symptoms worse.
- Stop snacking. Contrary to widespread belief, eating frequent small meals does NOT give you more stable blood sugar levels. Eating 3 meals per day will help allow your insulin levels to drop between meals and therefor also reduce inflammation in your body.
There is a b vitamin called myo-inositol that has a wealth of research supporting its benefits in women with PCOS. The typical dose in the majority of studies is 4g per day. Studies have shown at this dose within 8 weeks women begin to ovulate regularly, have less sugar cravings and better blood sugar regulation, improved acne, and higher pregnancy rates in women who had been previously infertile.
In a placebo controlled study by Lesoine and Regidor (2016) women with PCOS who where also undergoing IVF treatment where given 4g of inositol and 400 micrograms of folic acid per day or placebo for 8 weeks before doing their IVF cycle. Women who receive treatment had better quality oocytes, a significantly higher fertilization rate and also needed less medications during the retrieval cycle then women in the placebo group.
CoQ10 is an antioxidant that is essential for proper energy metabolism in the body. It has been shown to support healthy egg quality in women and is also a support for energy production. CoQ10 supplementation has been studied in women with PCOS and in one 12 week trial by Samimiet al. (20017) subjects with PCOS were given 100mg daily of CoQ10 and it had a beneficial effects on glucose metabolism, serum total- and LDL-cholesterol levels.
Regular daily movement is one of the most important ways to manage symptoms of PCOS long term. This doesn’t mean you must go to the gym every day if you are someone that doesn’t like this type of exercise. If you enjoy the gym them great please make it part of your regular routine. I encourage women to find an activity they really enjoy because this will be sustainable to stay in their regular routine. This could be as simple as walking in neighbourhood daily, dancing in your living room to your favourite music or enjoying a bike ride with a friend.
High intensity exercise a few days per week can also be very helpful to regulating your hormonal balance. High intensity means choosing an exercise and doing as many repetitions as you can for a short period of time. As a starting point, I find most women can easily commit to 5 minutes per day. An example of what this looks like can be doing push-ups or lunges for 40 seconds taking a 20 second break and repeating that 5 times. There are apps you can download to your phone to time the intervals for you.
The key is to move your body every day. The more you move the easier it is for your body to regulate your hormonal balance.
Lesoine B, Regidor PA.Prospective Randomized Study on the Influence of Myoinositol in PCOS Women Undergoing IVF in the Improvement of Oocyte Quality, Fertilization Rate, and Embryo Quality.Int J Endocrinol. 2016Aug; 4378507.
Samimi M, ZarezadeMehrizi M, Foroozanfard F, Akbari H, Jamilian M, Ahmadi S, Asemi Z.The effects of coenzyme Q10 supplementation on glucose metabolism and lipid profiles in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.ClinEndocrinol (Oxf). 2017 Apr;86(4):560-566.