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Polycystic ovaries

General characteristics

General characteristics

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that causes multiple cysts to grow in the ovaries of women. During the menstrual cycle several eggs are ripened under the influence of hormones in readiness for release (ovulation) from the ovaries, one egg in particular will be selected by the body to become fully mature and ripened, ready for release. Ovarian cysts form when no eggs become fully mature and the follicles containing the immature eggs do not rupture and release, meaning ovulation does not occur. The follicles containing the undeveloped eggs then become fluid filled cysts. In PCOS the cysts are multiple in number and can interfere with normal menstruation and reproductive capacity as some cysts will secrete hormones (often disrupting the menstrual cycle and/or fertility) and become large enough to put pressure on surrounding structures such as the bowel, bladder or uterus.

Causes of PCOS are not entirely known but observations in female sufferers include higher than normal male hormone levels, an imbalance of female hormones, insulin resistance (diabetes), high blood pressure (possibly not a cause but a side effect), obesity, it tends to run in families, dysfunction in the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal gland system and low iodine. Environmental hormone disruptors (especially BPA, found in lining of tin cans, plastics etc) are also known to cause many health problems relating to hormonal dysfunction and the endocrine system.

Symptoms include missed or irregular periods, excessive blood flow during or between menstruation, lack of ovulation, infertility, low libido, excessive hair growth (in traditionally male places such as chin, chest, nipples etc), acne on the face and/or back and chest, enlarged pores on the face, deepening voice, thinning head hair, reduced breast size, cramping pains in the groin around ovulation time, depression and erratic moods.

Healing objectives include balancing hormone levels and encouraging healthy ovulation, aiding liver function, improving diet and overall health and easing any unpleasant symptoms.

See also cysts.


Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Base your diet around fresh, organic (to avoid hormone disrupting chemicals) whole foods, including plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fresh herbs, leaves and spices.

Reduce your intake of simple sugars and refined carbohydrates. Go instead for complex whole grains un-milled wheat, barley, amaranth, brown rice, millet, quinoa, buckwheat etc.

Instead of relying on carbohydrates as your main food source, increase your intake of good quality protein. Oily fish, organic meat and dairy (in moderation), legumes and beans and nuts are all good protein sources for PCOS.

Increase your fibre intake with raw vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and whole grains in uncooked muesli form.

Add a sprinkle of any edible seaweed to a meal several times a week for its richness in iodine and other nutrients.

There is a link between polycystic ovaries and the types of fats and oils regularly consumed. Trans-fats and other processed fats and oils should be avoided altogether, including items like margarine, baked and fried foods, most processed or packaged foods and cooked vegetable oils and foods containing them.

 

The beneficial and nutritional fats and oils contained in nuts and seeds, in particular walnuts and almonds should be increased by taking a small handful of mixed nuts daily. Switching to these healthy fats and oils will also help with weight loss. Other good sources of oils and fats include olives, avocados and coconuts.

The amino acids (building blocks of protein) N-Acetylcysteine and arginine are known to help induce ovulation, decrease body fat, balance blood sugar and cholesterol levels and reduce male hormone levels. Rich food sources include almonds, barley, Brazil nuts, brown rice, buckwheat, cashews, cereals, chicken, chocolate, coconut, corn, organic dairy products, filberts, meats, oats, peanuts, pecans, raisins, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and walnuts.

Some women find that certain foods, especially chocolate, exaggerate the symptoms of PCOS.


Useful herbs

Useful herbs

Agnus castus and saw palmetto will help to balance both male and female hormones when taken over several months. Use equal parts of the tinctures and take a teaspoon twice daily in a little water.

Maitake mushroom (Grifola frondosa) has been shown to help to induce ovulation, reduce blood pressure and blood sugar levels in women with PCOS. Take powdered mushroom in capsule form.

Barberry root can be taken to aid the liver in its many functions and increases the immunity and vitality of the body. Use alone after meals (0.5 ml of tincture in water) or as part of a formula.

Burdock root has a deep cleansing action on the whole body and is useful for removing accumulations and toxins.

Fenugreek seeds help to lower blood sugar levels and can be useful in PCOS treatment for several other reasons, hormone balancing, nutritional content and cleansing and mucous reducing actions. Take a teaspoon of seeds as a tea three times daily (simmer a teaspoon of the seeds in a cupful of water for 15 minutes and drink the liquid) or use the powdered seeds in capsule form.

Spearmint leaf can be added to other teas (such as fenugreek tea) to improve the tastefor its ability to correct the imbalance of male hormones and reduce male hormone related hair growth and acne like skin conditions that often accompany PCOS.

Useful herbs for dispersing cysts include lady's mantle, chickweed, cleavers, violet leaves, mullein, plantain and nettle.

Liqourice root reduces the levels of male hormones but should be avoided in high blood pressure. Take 0.5ml up to 3 times daily for a few weeks.

Add a pinch of turmeric powder to herbal teas for its antiinflammatory properties and help with PCOS.


Natural healing

Natural healing

Some women have found complete or partial relief from PCOS by taking a teaspoon of raw unfiltered cider vinegar in water daily.

Losing weight will have a positive effect on PCOS. Avoid carbohydrates and sugars and increase protein, good fat and physical activity.

Regular moderate exercise is very important in the healthy functioning of the entire endocrine system and hormonal balance.

Acupuncture may help in the treatment of PCOS.

1000mg capsules daily of evening primrose oil can help to balance hormones and remedy many of the symptoms of PCOS.


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