This week Enterprise Fitness resident Functional Health Practitioner, Kristine answers the question “what supplements would you recommend for a client with PCOS?”
PCOS is a complex and very commonly diagnosed hormonal imbalance. Complex because it involves a lot of hormones and it seems to be what your doctor will tell you when you’ve had an extended period of amenorrhea (in other words ‘you’ve missed your period for a long time’).
There are two different types of clients that come to you with PCOS. You can have the classic phenotype that struggles with weight and skin disorders and excess hair growth or you can have the one that remains slim all year round with flawless skin with no need to visit the salon for their 6 weekly facial wax.
What both variations have in common is excess androgens of both adrenal and ovarian origin. What does this mean?
Your Adrenal Glands and Ovaries produce androgens. Some of the common androgens are Testosterone, DHEA and DHT. These are usually converted into oestrogen, Sex hormone binding globulin or metabolized and utilized by the body appropriately. However when there is an increase in Lutenizing Hormone (LH) or increased Insulin the ovaries and adrenals are stimulated to produce excess androgens.
Excessive weight gain can also lead to the aromatization, which increases oestrogen metabolites and has been suggested to trigger PCOS in some people from insulin resistance and inflammation.
The hormone Cortisol also plays a role in PCOS and research has shown that females that have been under stress for long periods of time or unable to process cortisol have an increased adrenal androgen production. Cortisol also has a role in regulating blood sugar production and regulates the level of glucose circulating in the blood stream.
Here is a nice little flow chart to put it simply that is presented by Functional Medicine University on how PCOS progresses.
To cut to the short of it, what we can do to balance the hormones in people with PCOS are to support through supplementation and nutrition and lifestyle changes. We want to address the adrenals, liver and first and foremost, increasing insulin sensitivity and regulating blood sugar.
Before supplementing the first line of defense is to ensure you or your client or friend that has PCOS is doing everything possible to control their blood sugar response. This means eating a diet that is high in protein and fats and having low GI carbohydrates such as sweet potato, pumpkin and brown rice.
Training at least 3-4 times a week is also important for increasing insulin sensitivity and decreasing cortisol levels and also promotes liver clearance, which is important when balancing hormones.
There are many different supplements you can use to support clients with PCOS but some of the main ones are below along with the essentials to support your client’s health.
Fish Oil: We need fats for healthy cell membranes and for receptors to bind to cells. Essential Fatty Acids are converted into prostaglandins that are anti-inflammatory and they also sensitize insulin by acting on receptors that are involved with glucose regulation. They are also apart of the cell membrane the insulin receptor is apart of.
Magnesium- 4th most abundant mineral in the body. Needed for over 300 enzymatic reactions including conversion of active B Vitamins and is needed for phase 1- phase 2 detoxification and has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity. For those who do have insulin resistance its been shown that they have a high excretion of magnesium so you need to dose them quite high.
Lipoec Acid: Increases glucose uptake. Also good for liver detoxification
Chromimum: Plays a role in regulating insulin action and has an affect on carbohydrate, protein and lipid metabolism.
Berberine: Has research to support using it as a natural alternative in place of metformin which is a common medication used in people with PCOS.
Fenugreek: Increases Insulin Sensitivity.
Fiber: Increases detoxification and also lowers glucose levels.
Vitamin E: Antioxidant and protects against oxidation and inflammation.
Zinc: Involved in hormone synthesis, storage and release of insulin and is also important for essential fatty acid metabolism.
Adrenal herbs: These are to balance cortisol levels and support adrenals. Rhodiola, Ashwaganda, Siberian Ginseng, Schisandra, Rehmannia.
What to use off the list? When working with clients who suffer from PCOS, it is important to understand the underlying causes and/or issues that the condition may be attributed to. So ensure you gain a thorough client health history before suggesting supplementation, nutrition or lifestyle changes.
If you have questions about your health, or would like any further information about the topics covered in this article email us at [email protected]. Or, if you would like to speak with Kristine, email her direct at [email protected].