What should I eat if I want to increase my fertility? This is a question that I have been receiving a lot lately. If you have been following my blog and status’ on facebook, then you know I advocate a clean eating approach. I reclaimed my fertility eating this way. If you are eating clean, whole foods and reducing processed foods, this will certainly help fertility. You want to make sure that you are eating ample amounts of nutrients that support fertility. It is also advised to reduce contributors to low folate like smoking, alcohol and gluten if you have a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. Studies have shown that supplemental folate (in a pre-natal vitamin) is often not enough. Folate from food sources provide an even greater benefits. Here are some key nutrients that support fertility and the foods in which they are found-
Folate – Green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, endive, whole grains, sunflower seeds
Vitamin B12 Meat, shellfish, eggs
B6 – Whole grains, vegetables, nuts and seeds, meat and fish
Choline – Egg yolks, meat seafood, nuts and seeds, broccoli and brussels sprouts
Methionine= Sesame seeds, brazil nuts, eggs, fish, peppers and spinach.
Before I go to bed, I practice a ritual of counting three blessings and offering gratitude for the good things in my life. When I was reflecting on my day this past Tuesday evening, I found myself so grateful for an organization that provides a voice for women with PCOS. If you haven’t heard of the InCYST Programs for Women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, then you need to check out their blog ASAP! InCYST truly supports, enlightens and advocates for women with PCOS. I was fortunate to have had a lovely conversation on Tuesday with Monika Woolsey, MS, RD founder of inCYST. Monika doesn’t have PCOS, so when I asked her what her motivation was to start inCYST she explained, “I’ve spent years listening to women with PCOS share their stories, their frustration, their heartache, their desire to just know what they need to do. I’ve seen, time after time, the benefits of simple lifestyle changes. And I’ve also personally witnessed the battle these women have to fight to be taken seriously. They deserve better.” Wanting to provide something “better” is what drives her organization. “inCYST excels at connecting individuals with reputable caregivers and companies offering products and services that can help women with PCOS achieve their health goals. Excellence, transparency and integrity are our core values at inCYST.”
I have been a fervent reader of the InCYST blog for over a year now and lately there have been many exciting announcements regarding what’s new and good with inCYST. I reached out to Monika this week because I wanted to get the inside scoop for my fellow Divas. So here it is:
1. InCYST Network of Providers – inCYST provides a 20-hour training certificate program for health professionals including RD’s, psychologists, dermatologists and wellness counselors to provide support for debilitating PCOS symptoms including emotional and appearance-related. The workshops are taught by leading experts on specific topics relevant to PCOS. The focus of the inCYST certification is to teach health professionals how they can help women with PCOS manage symptoms, live sustainably and healthier as a whole. She has trained 60 health professionals across the country, so if you are looking for more support in your healing process, check out the list of inCYSTers on her blog (many have struggled with PCOS too). I am excited to be starting the inCYST certification program this month!
2. The inCYST Research Institute will be launched in June 2011, with a physical headquarters in Los Angeles. The focus will be to fund research regarding hormone health, with a focus on nonpharmalogical and nonsurgical options to common issues such as PCOS. Monika shares, “We want to encourage the kind of research that has a hard time getting funded, because it does not involve drug research. We want to balance the message that is out there and add credibility to the message we want you all to hear. And we want to be sure the supplements you all spend money on…are actually worth spending money on.”
3. iPhone restaurant app “In the 30 years I’ve been a dietitian, the number one complaint I’ve always gotten is that eating out is always the place where good intentions fail. I’m finally deciding to do something about it. I’m looking for restaurants who would like to partner with inCYST to helpwomen with PCOS find the goods they want!” inCYST has developed a service that will provide you with an analysis of restaurant recipes. If the recipes fit within the guidelines for what they have found to work for PCOS, they will be included in an iPhone application that is in development.
4. inCYST Approved Packaged Food Products “One of my goals for 2011 has been to begin to partner with companies offering products and services of benefit to women with PCOS. Right out of the starting gate, we’ve got a wonderful announcement for our readers and fans! Zing Bars CEO David Ingalls announced that for the month of March, if you buy Zing Bars from their website, a portion of the sale will be donated to PCOS Challenge.” Monika is also attending the Natural Products Expo West this weekend to talk to potential partners.
5. Workshops – Lastly there is a list of workshops and other events on the sidebar of the InCYST blog. If you are in the New England area please consider attending the April 1, 2011 in Nashua, New Hampshire called PCOS and You. Patricia Hunter, MA, RD, Hillary Wright, MEd, RD, and Monika Woolsey, MS, RD as well as myself will be speaking.
In closing, I loved this gem of wisdom Monika shared – she was explaining to me that after helping hundreds of women with PCOS she found that they are very creative and are gifted with many talents, but they are not taking the time to care for themselves. She used this wonderful analogy- “If your brain was a model of car then you were given a Ferrari, but you are treating it like a Yugo!” Would a Diva be caught with a Yugo? I don’t think so! Thanks Monika and inCYST!
A majority of women with PCOS take birth control pills to regulate their monthly cycles and to control androgen excess. Yet, studies have shown that some formulations of the pill may actually increase insulin resistance See my blog post . Furthermore, some women experience negative side effects of the pill such as mood swings and loss of libido. This leaves many wondering, is there a safe alternative to produce monthly cycles and decrease male hormones?
Dr. Jerilynn Prior, a physician-researcher and professor of endocrinology at the University of British Columbia, actually prefers to treat her PCOS patients with natural progesterone rather than the pill. She believes that the underlying problem of PCOS is that the body does not produce enough progesterone for two weeks during the menstrual cycle. Dr Prior explains, “Progesterone is the hormone made by the ovaries after an egg is released. This lack of progesterone in women with PCOS leads to an imbalance in the ovaries, causes the stimulation of higher male hormones and leads to irregular periods and trouble getting pregnant. Progesterone is usually missing – replacing it therefore makes sense.
“Progesterone talks back to the hypothalamic and pituitary (brain) hormones that control the ovaries and stops them from stimulating the ovaries to make too much testosterone.”
Dr Prior recognizes that the pill, with its synthetic type of progesterone, does help women with PCOS to a certain degree. But her goal for PCOS patients is, “to return the brain/ovary system to a normal balance. The goal of the Pill is the opposite – it must suppress the brain-ovary system to prevent pregnancy.”
To help her PCOS patients achieve a normal hormonal balance, she prescribes oral micronized progesterone (trade name Prometrieum) which is a bio-identical hormone. Taking this natural progesterone for two weeks every month (called cyclic progesterone therapy) may help the brain to develop the normal cyclic rhythm that is missing in PCOS.
Interestingly, Dr. Prior believes there is another benefit of cyclic progesterone therapy. She explains, “most doctors don’t realize progesterone antagonizes and inhibits the enzyme (called 5-alpha reductase) that is needed to make testosterone into dihydrotestosterone. Dihydrotestosterone is the powerful male hormone that talks hair follicles into making coarse hair and too much oil that causes acne.”
The late John R. Lee M.D. was an international authority and pioneer in the use of natural progesterone. He stated that, “Natural progesterone should be the basis of PCOS treatment, along with attention to stress, exercise and nutrition.” He recommended using 15 to 20 mg of progesterone cream daily during the last two weeks of your cycle and to give the treatment at least six months in conjunction with a diet and exercise program. If symptoms begin to fade, Dr. Lee suggested easing off the progesterone by reducing the dose by half with the goal being to return your body to its own “hormonal rhythms.”
Natural progesterone cream has been part of my PCOS regimen on and off for the last few years. I use a cream that is made by my local compounding pharmacy. It is a pharmaceutical grade natural progesterone cream and I use 2 pumps 2x a day. I rub it on the inside of my upper leg. If you are interested in exploring the use of Natural progesterone for your PCOS, I have included some links below. If you would like more information on the cream that I use you can contact my pharmacy. If you are interested in purchasing they ship. The name of the pharmacy is Medicine World and their phone number is (603) 881-9500
For more information on natural progesterone therapy to help control PCOS please visit:
What woman hasn’t experienced mood swings, food cravings, breakouts, bloating, hair loss, fatigue, or anxiety from time to time? Yet, many of us with PCOS struggle with these hormonal problems on a daily basis. We are particularly sensitive to our own hormones, sometimes even when levels are supposedly normal. Dr. Geoffrey Redmond, M.D. has described this condition as hormonal vulnerability in his book entitled, The Hormonally Vulnerable Woman.
Dr. Redmond is a New York City based endocrinologist and has treated nearly ten thousand women with hormonal disorders over the past two decades. He comes across attuned and even sympathetic, to how PCOS symptoms if left unchecked, can affect a woman’s quality of life. Dr. Redmond insists that, “No matter how discouraged you may be, no matter how many health care professionals you have seen, how many medications or herbs you have taken, or how many times you almost gave up, you can feel yourself again. This book will show you how.”
Throughout the book’s 450 pages, Dr. Redmond accomplishes this task. The early chapters provide a straightforward and easy to understand overview of what hormones do and why. Subsequent chapters provide in-depth information on hormonal vulnerabilities and suggested treatment. Topics include abnormal cycles, PMS (which includes a very comprehensive holistic approach to treatment), endometriosis, fibromyalgia, migraines, low sex drive, hirsutism, alopecia, acne, menopause and finally PCOS.
PCOS is described as the “the ultimate hormonal vulnerability syndrome” in which most of the important hormones get out of sync. The key to making sense of PCOS is recognizing that it is not one condition but many. What matters is which aspects of the condition a woman has and which she does not have. From this a treatment plan can be devised.
As Dr. Redmond stresses, “The take-home message is this: All PCOS can be effectively treated, but there is no single treatment for all women with PCOS.” The treatment plan options that are outlined for PCOS unfortunately do not include any alternative therapies. Throughout the book Dr. Redmond advocates a holistic approach to managing hormones, especially PMS which can be managed with the use of botanicals and other alternative therapies such as acupuncture and yoga. It was disappointing not to see a more holistic treatment plan for PCOS. From a personal perspective, I have experienced a dramatic lowering of insulin levels through the use of botanicals and dietary supplements in lieu of pharmaceuticals.
I particularly found the information on oral contraceptives (OC) enlightening. I discovered that I was using what was described as the worst OC – Loestrin because it has too much “mood-unfriendly progestin.” Dr. Redmond suggests any of the nonandrogenic pills such as Yasmin, Ortho-Cyclen or Desogen for the management of excess androgen. The information provided will help to select the right OC for your personal hormonal balance.
Finding relief from the symptoms of PCOS can be a long journey. As Dr. Redmond encourages, “You will, of course, need a physician who is both knowledgeable and willing to listen…As with other forms of hormonal vulnerability, learning to be your own advocate is the key.” By empowering women with the background they need to raise their doctors’ consciousness about hormones, The Hormonally Vulnerable Woman proves to be an excellent guidebook to help navigate the road ahead.