4.Cortisol: Excessive stress, both mental and physical, increases production of cortisol. Excess cortisol can lead to high insulin levels, irregular periods, exces- sive hair growth, acne, and weight gain.

5.Testosterone: Elevated male hormones such as testosterone can increase insulin levels, which then stimulates the ovaries to produce more male hormones. This creates a vicious cycle and can lead to many PCOS symptoms.

Understanding Symptoms of PCOS

A healthy body will be able to bal- ance hormones and maintain a regular menstrual cycle. However, once hormones become imbalanced, it can lead to four common PCOS symptoms.

1.Irregular Menstrual Periods: Blood sugar dysregulation from high insulin levels cre- ates excessive LH production. This then blunts the release of a mature egg and can create heavy bleeding or spotting.

2.Excessive Hair Growth and Hair Thinning: Blood sugar dysregula- tion and high LH levels also increase production of testosterone. This imbal- ance of male hormones in a female body causes hair on the upper lip, chin, and upper back to become darker and thicker. Excess testosterone also leads to male-pattern baldness in women.

3.Acne: A high level of androgen hor- mones, such as testosterone, can be caused from blood sugar dysregula- tion and high LH levels. This excessive testosterone can then stimulate sebum production in skin follicles, leading to blocked pores and acne.

4.Inability to Lose Weight: Estrogen domi- nance, excessive cortisol production and blood sugar dysregulation all contribute to increased fat storage and the inability to lose weight.

Insulin Resistance and PCOS

As you can see, controlling your blood sugar is very important for hormone balance and reducing PCOS symptoms. In fact, insulin resistance and PCOS are closely related, each influencing your risk of developing the other.

Each time your blood sugar spikes from a high sugar or refined food meal, insulin is released to shuttle excess blood sugar into cells and get things back in balance. The more your diet consists of refined carbohydrates, the more insulin it pumps out. Eventually your cells stop responding to insulin and they become insulin resistant, which keeps your blood sugar up and further increases insulin levels. These high insulin levels then cause your ovaries to secrete more testosterone, doubling up on increasing your risk of PCOS symptoms. As insulin levels contin- ue to increase, PCOS symptoms increase, including weight gain, which creates more insulin resistance and the cycle continues.

Using Diet to Improve PCOS The following simple dietary principles

can help you improve PCOS symptoms and, in turn, balance your hormones and blood sugar as well as reduce insulin resistance.

1.Choose Carbohydrates Wisely: Eliminate sugars and refined carbohydrates which are associated with higher estrogen lev- els and insulin resistance. Instead, focus on moderate consumption of high fiber, low-glycemic whole food carbohydrates such as quinoa, beans/legumes or sweet potatoes which promote blood sugar regulation and hormone balance.

2.Consume the Right Fats: Eliminate trans fats and reduce unhealthy omega-6 fatty acids from refined oils like canola and generic ‘vegetable’ oils. Instead, focus on consuming more omega-3 fatty acids from low-mercury fish, flax oil, olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds.

3.Load Up on Vegetables: Leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables such as broc- coli, kale and Brussels sprouts have fiber and phytonutrients that help your body eliminate excess hormones and regulate blood sugar.

4.Eat Frequently: Consuming 4-5 smaller meals per day instead of 2-3 bigger meals can help regulate blood sugar.

5.Balance Your Meals: Fat, fiber and pro- tein help balance blood sugar and create a slower release of insulin. Focus on hav- ing all three with each meal and snack.

6.Understand Proper Portions: Eating proper portion sizes can assist with maintaining a healthy weight for your body as well as reduce insulin resistance and PCOS symptoms.

Diet isn’t the only way to optimize hormonal health. Exercise, stress manage- ment and targeted supplementation are other lifestyle choices to incorporate that will help you regulate blood sugar, im- prove PCOS symptoms and optimize your health and happiness!

Stephanie Walsh, MNT, CEPC, CPT is a Master Nutri- tion Therapist, Board Certi- fied in Holistic Nutrition®, Certified Eating Psychology Coach and Personal Trainer.

Her work with clients focuses on the indi- vidual as a whole - considering your diet is just one small piece of the puzzle. Her holistic approach considers your stress- ors, sleep quality, digestive complaints, food choices, activity level, readiness for change, social support and much more in order to help you optimize your health and wellbeing for the long term. Contact Stephanie at 207.730.2208 or email her: See ad on page 10.

14 ELM®

Maine - May/June 2020

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