PCOS is the most common hormonal endocrine disorder in women, affecting about 10% of women of childbearing age. It is also the most common cause of female infertility. Through this guest blog post from FDX Practitioner Christine Bailey, discover how you can more effectively support your clients with PCOS with a body system approach.
What is PCOS?
PCOS is also described as a syndrome, not a disease, because it’s diagnosed by identifying a specific collection of symptoms and ruling out other potential causes. Yes, there are endocrine imbalances (particularly with regards to androgen levels and often insulin) but PCOS is actually a systemic, whole-body disorder that affects metabolism, the immune system, the cardiovascular system, the gut, the skin and mood, among other areas. Not everyone who has PCOS is overweight, despite common misconceptions. Your PCOS clients will demonstrate higher than normal androgen levels, often accompanied by irregular periods and / or polycystic ovaries.
Why is supporting your clients with PCOS so important – and challenging?
No two cases of PCOS are the same and symptoms can be varied. Symptoms your clients may be experiencing include acne, alopecia, depression, hirsutism, irregular cycles, weight gain, fatigue, joint pain, gingivitis, IBS, depression and skin tags. Long term cardiovascular health, risk of certain autoimmune conditions, mood disorders and fertility issues are commonly associated with PCOS. That is why there is no one protocol for PCOS.
Working at the individual level and addressing the root cause is essential.
Whilst there may be a genetic component to PCOS, environmental factors play a key role. For example, studies indicate a number of contributing factors, including rapid weight gain, exposure to toxins, stress, and many other factors. These environmental triggers may even begin in prenatal life and include the mother’s obesity or high intake of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) and Bisphenol A (BPA). We also know from the research that PCOS starts with an impaired ability to aromatize testosterone into oestrogen. This can result in low oestrogen and elevated testosterone and these hormone imbalances can then in turn trigger body-wide changes and symptoms.
How you can use a body systems approach to support your clients more effectively with PCOS
From a Functional Nutrition perspective there are several key areas to consider. These will include addressing underlying Inflammation, hormonal dysregulation and insulin resistance. Women with PCOS often have gut imbalances that need addressing, sleep disturbances that exacerbate hormone imbalances and inflammation. They may also have an issue with detoxification, as endocrine disrupters have now been shown to be a player in PCOS.
This is where diet and lifestyle changes can be so powerful. Various studies have shown that dietary modifications can have a profound effect on hormone balance and symptoms. In addition, addressing sleep patterns and resetting the circadian rhythm, managing stress and incorporating exercise can all be effective interventions for long term results.
Christine is joining us for a 2-part webinar series this Autumn - exclusively for FDX Practitioners. Starting on 8th September with PCOS – A body wide system disorder. Beyond the ovaries. Book your seat now.
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Christine Bailey is an experienced nutritionist, lecturer and author of over 16 health and recipe books.
With a keen interest in female hormones as well as running a number of successful hormone programmes with clients and practitioners, Christine has a wealth of experience in supporting clients’ with their hormone health.