Suite One, 34 Murwillumbah Street, Murwillumbah NSW, Australia

The PCOS Solution

Empowering your PCOS Diagnosis: How Your Naturopath Can Help

Sunday, March 20, 2016
(This is part 2 of a 3-part article series on empowering your PCOS diagnosis. Access the first article here)

Why Naturopathy for PCOS?

A naturopath is a natural health practitioner who uses therapies like nutrition, herbs, homoeopathic remedies and counselling too, to help engage your body’s inherent self-healing abilities. Naturopaths are trained to assess and treat your physical and emotional well-being from a functional perspective: that is, where you are at now, what your particular goals are, what your body is doing and how your emotional health is.

Don’t already have a naturopath? Ask around your local area for recommendations. Phone prospective practitioners for a brief chat about how they work, so you can gauge whether you want to work with them. Look at their websites, and look for testimonials from other clients. Check their accreditation with the website of their professional association. If they’re properly qualified and comply with professional standards, they’ll be listed there.

Buyer Beware

In Australia there are no restrictions on who can call themselves a ‘naturopath’. Unfortunately, there are some people who say they are, but aren’t adequately qualified, which creates a situation of ‘buyer beware’ in natural therapies. You need a professional clinical naturopath who is accredited with one of the major professional associations – like the ATMS ( or ANTA ( 

Finally, in choosing a naturopath make sure you consult within a clinic. Some naturopaths (qualified or otherwise) work within pharmacies and health food stores. This situation doesn’t allow for a private consultation. In a retail situation the naturopath is employed to sell supplements. That’s their job. They have sales quotas to meet. It’s not their job to have a long discussion with you about the complex physical and emotional contributors to your health, they are employed to sell supplements, and sell you something they will. There’s no ongoing supportive relationship, no follow up. Instead, you need a clinical naturopath; one who can undertake a more extensive investigation, become part of your support team, and help you focus on the fundamentals of your diet and lifestyle as well as choose the right remedies to rebalance your hormones.

In the Consultation

Your first consultation with your naturopath will provide her with extensive information about your medical history, your current symptoms, what is happening in each of your body systems (including your digestion and your immunity as well as your hormones) and your usual diet. She will also enquire about your stress levels and overall emotional health to assess how your mood could be contributing. Expect to spend at least an hour in this consultation. 

Feel free to bring a support person with you, because like any consultation, it’s easy to feel tiny and insignificant in a practitioner’s office. A support person can take notes, keep an eye on how you’re going, and help you back out gracefully if she senses you’re feeling pressured. 

More diagnostic tests may be required by your naturopath, including a functional pathology test like salivary hormone. This reveals what hormones are actually within your tissue fluid. It can reveal the levels of all three types of estrogen, their balance with progesterone, your testosterone levels, DHEA and cortisol.

Having talked things over initally, your naturopath will propose a tentative treatment plan, and begin the process of negotiation with you. Your naturopath is looking for the fundamental underlying causes of your unwellness that provide clues on where to start treatment. And, what your particular goals are. And, how hard you’re prepared to work to reach your goals. Expect to be given homework and directives. For example, you might be asked to change what you eat for breakfast, because this will alter your blood glucose regulation. Or to do a certain amount of exercise X times per week. A follow up appointment is likely to be arranged before you leave the clinic.

Don’t Give Up Your Power

It’s really important that you feel comfortable talking with your naturopath, because if you don’t, it’s unlikely that you’ll comply with his directives; and that means no results for you. If you’re not comfortable with your practitioner, feel free to move on until you find the one that’s right for you. Each natural health practitioner has their own assessment process, their own favoured ways of treatment and their own ways of talking with clients. If you don’t agree with that practitioner’s assessment then say so, or move on.

The third article in this series is ‘Empowering Your Medical Treatment’

Read More

Empowering your PCOS Diagnosis An Overview

Sunday, March 20, 2016

You think you have PCOS. You’ve done the internet searches and your symptoms seem to match. So it should be a simple process, surely: Visit your doctor, arrange some straightforward blood tests, and get their agreement that yes, it’s PCOS, so here’s the treatment. How hard could it be? Ah, if only it were that simple. But PCOS is a complex disorder with multiple causes that presents in a different way for each woman. And to complicate things, other disorders like hypothyroidism (slow thyroid) or Cushings Syndrome (an adrenal gland problem) can mimic some symptoms of PCOS. 

This can be a frustrating and confusing time. I’ve noticed a lot of women on social media forums, understandably annoyed, venting their feelings about the absence of a definitive diagnosis.  Lots of waiting rooms, lots of testing, sometimes invasive.  The delays in access to a diagnosis and treatment can be especially painful if you are trying to conceive a baby and one month follows another without an answer. 

In listening to and talking with many women over the years (as a clinical naturopath in Australia) it’s become apparent that not everyone knows how to get the best results from their access to health practitioners (orthodox or complementary). So, as well as pointing out two obstacles you may encounter on your PCOS journey, this article is all about helping you get to the treatment and results that you want more effectively, with greater speed and less frustration. 

Obstacle 1: PCOS Doesn’t Appear In a Standardised Form

There’s only minor agreement in science about what having PCOS really means; mostly because there’s no standard clinical presentation. For you, that means there’s no definitive diagnosis, so one practitioner may label you as having PCOS, but another may decide that you don’t fit the criteria. 

Why bother then with the frustration of many hours spent queuing in practitioner waiting rooms; the unpleasantness and pain of blood tests and physical examinations? Because your symptoms might not actually be PCOS after all; lots of other disorders have symptoms which resemble PCOS but are actually something else entirely. Your medical practitioners will sift through the evidence of your symptoms and your test results, so they can establish whether it’s really PCOS, which variety of PCOS you have, and what your treatment options are. Which treatment you choose, once you’re more informed, is up to you.

Obstacle 2: Time to Talk it Through

Since diet and lifestyle changes are regarded as essential aspects of PCOS treatment by both orthodox and complementary practitioners, it makes sense to start your journey to wellness with attention to what you eat and how you live, guided by a practitioner that’s got time to talk it over with you. That often takes a longer conversation than the brief time you have with a GP. And that’s where naturopathy can fit in to your treatment plan.

You don’t need to wait for the official PCOS diagnosis; you can be treated as an individual by your natural health practitioner and start the process of getting better right now. Natural health practitioners assess where you are right now and apply treatment based on your unique experience of your disorder. Attention to diet, lifestyle and emotional wellness while you’re waiting for the official diagnosis can help speed your progress towards healthier hormones.

Read More

Empowering Your PCOS Diagnosis: The medical aspects

Sunday, March 20, 2016
By Imelenchon via MorgueFileThis is the third article in a series about empowering your PCOS diagnosis. Links to the first two articles are at the end of this blog post.

Why you need a GP as well as a naturopath

A visit to your general practitioner is highly recommended, even if you’ve already decided that you want only natural treatment for your PCOS. A medical practitioner can check that there’s nothing more sinister going on than PCOS, and arrange the tests that will enable you to measure your progress as you get better.

How To Find The Right GP For You

If you don’t already have a GP, look for one who specialises in women’s’ health – they’ll be more likely to have lots of experience with diagnosing PCOS. (Your naturopath may be able to identify suitably focused GPs in your area) If you’re keen to use natural therapies to rebalance your hormones, look for an ‘integrative’ medical centre (where doctors and naturopaths work side by side) or locate a doctor who practices in ‘functional’ medicine. The internet can be invaluable for your search, as can be reviews of associations like ACNEM ( which list integrative medical practitioners and their specific areas of interest. Often these medical practitioners will have a web site where you can get to know how they practice, and who they are as people. 

Pre-plan to Get More From Your Consultation

Before you go to that first appointment, whether it’s an integrative GP or not, make a list of the symptoms that are troubling you, and the dates of your menstrual cycle over the last year. Also take with you any prescription medications, self-prescribed medications or natural supplements that you’re taking. If you’re already seeing a naturopath, he or she can write a referral letter that gives your GP a head start. Expect this first appointment to be non-conclusive, and relatively brief compared to your naturopathic consultation; your GP will likely arrange some initial testing to rule out other disorders and ask you to return with this information before deciding whether to commence treatment and perhaps refer you to a specialist.

A good working relationship with your GP is vital. You need to feel assured that your GP cares, is acting in your best interests, and that you can tell her anything.  Although the government may be subsidising your consultations through Medicare, the practitioner is there to provide a service for you; so keep in mind that you are the customer. The atmosphere in a medical consultation can feel daunting; there is an immense imbalance of power. You’re in the practitioner’s personal space and you may feel very tiny, insignificant and unimportant. If you feel nervous, take a trusted friend or relative with you for support. They can also take notes – it’s difficult sometimes to remember all the details of a consultation and what you have to do next.

Take Notes, Keep Your Records

Part of being empowered with PCOS is taking control of your health; so request a copy of any blood test results, ultrasound reports, and specialist reports. You are legally entitled to a copy as the reports form part of your patient records. The results will prove immensely useful in years to come when you can refer to them again. Also, if you have to move to a new practitioner, he or she will be streets ahead because you have your medical ‘history’ with you. Start your own folder, or put the results in your PCOS Workbook.

If you decide to consult a naturopath, he or she may refer to these test results and specialist reports to help in choosing the right remedies, and to monitor your progress.

The Prodding, Poking and Testing

Your doctor may arrange some blood tests, and do a physical examination. She may ask you to have an ultrasound picture taken to check for cysts on your ovaries, or to check the thickness of your uterine lining. You may also meet with an endocrinologist (a medical hormone specialist) or a gynaecologist (a surgical specialist in female reproductive systems). The specialist may do more tests, ask more questions, and do a more extensive physical examination. Then she will explain the medical treatment options available for you.

If you consult with a specialist endocrinologist or gynaecologist, he will write a letter to your doctor outlining his findings, and you’ll need to meet with your doctor again to discuss the next step. If you weren’t happy with the specialist you consulted with, or you don’t want to go ahead with the treatment he suggests, say so. It’s your choice. 
If you want to investigate potential natural therapies and don’t already have a naturopath, let your doctor know. She may be able to suggest a naturopath who specialises in PCOS treatment.  If your doctor is already trained in naturopathy, lucky you! You’ll be able to discuss alternative treatments with her on the spot.

Medical or Natural Treatment? You Can Have Both

Just as with any practitioner, it’s important you feel comfortable and safe with your doctor and specialists. If you feel your concerns are dismissed or minimised, consider switching to a new doctor. Fortunately we’re moving out of the dark ages, when women’s hormonal problems were dismissed as unimportant, but some practitioners with out-of-date attitudes remain.

If your doctor is dismissive of the benefits of naturopathy, and you definitely want to incorporate natural treatment, it may be time to shop around for a more enlightened GP.  At the very least your naturopath can help you manage the lifestyle changes essential to management of PCOS (diet, exercise and emotional wellness) which are acknowledged as the pillars of successful PCOS treatment. If you decide to utilise prescription medication you can still utilise a naturopath for help with navigating the essential lifestyle treatment elements. 

The other two articles on Empowering your PCOS diagnosis are:

If you enjoyed these articles, why not download the free e-book “When Good Hormones Go Bad”

Read More

Plastic and your hormones in PCOS

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Take a look around you now, right where you are, and notice how many items around you contain plastic. The keyboard I’m typing this on is made of plastic, as is the standing desk converter. The printer, the plant pots, even the fan whirring in the corner. Although plastic is a helpfully versatile medium to create almost anything with, it’s not so helpful when it comes to our hormones.

Our modern environment is considerably polluted; every day our bodies come into contact with man-made chemicals that we’re just not designed to process and get rid of effectively; our genes haven’t evolved fast enough to handle them. Since we developed a love of plastic and its versatility over the last century and a half  our exposure has multiplied exponentially.Plastic and the pollution it creates is so prevalent that all you can do is minimise your exposure.

Manufacturers are now focused on creating safer plastics, but more research keeps emerging about how this man made substance causes us harm.

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a component of plastics. It’s useful for plastics manufacturers because it makes plastics more resilient and flexible, clearer, more resistant to heat. Since the first plastic items were invented during the 19th century our society has fallen in love with this versatile, light material. It’s now used extensively in food and drink packaging, medical devices, compact discs, epoxy-phenolic resins, in drinking water storage tanks, and in water pipes. It’s everywhere, and modern life seems impossible without plastic.

Although plastic is waterproof, the BPA within the plastic leaches easily into the contents of a food or drink container. Even more easily if the contents are acidic, have a high fat content, or are heated. BPA is then readily absorbed in your mouth, transferring across mucous membranes into the rich web of blood vessels that sit under your tongue. From there the molecules can travel through your body, escaping detection because at first glance your body thinks its a hormone molecule.

Eating and drinking is actually the major way we ingest BPA, but it isn’t the only way. You can absorb it through your skin, breathe it in too. When you consider that BPA is part of dental materials, contact lenses, thermal paper, and in many other objects, you get a sense of how pervasive it has become in our world. Once in your body BPA mimics estradiol, one of the estrogen hormones. So now your body thinks it has more estrogen in circulation than it planned for. 

Here’s what BPA does in various parts of your body. This list isn’t exhaustive; consider that many cells in your body possess oestrogen receptors. 

- When BPA molecules land on your ovaries, they stimulate the theca cells within them to produce more androgens.  The Androgens down-regulate the liver enzyme involved in clearing BPA from your body. So now you have more androgens in your system and less ability to break them down.

- Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) is affected by BPA too. Remember that SHBG ‘mops up’ excess hormones in your system (like excess androgens). The BPA molecule attaches itself to SHBG; so again, excess hormones remain in circulation.

- There’s a compound your body produces, testosterone hydroxylase, that breaks down testosterone to keep levels in check. BPA inhibits the work of this enzyme, contributing to increased testosterone levels.

- Animal studies have shown BPA interferes with thyroid hormone production too. Perhaps this is why PCOS and hypothyroidism can occur together.

- Animal studies have also revealed that BPA alters the endometrial lining where a fertilised egg would normally attached.

- Because it mimics estrogen, BPA is suspected to contribute to early onset of puberty.

- BPA also interferes with your pancreas function, impairing blood glucose regulation. Considering that insulin resistance is a major underlying cause of PCOS, this is profound.

BPA has a half life of just over five hours, which means it’s constantly being broken down and excreted through urine. However the more you keep taking it in and the less functional your liver, the higher your BPA accumulation. So although BPA is not a cause of PCOS, it can certainly intensify it.

How does BPA get into your system? You can ingest it in contaminated food or water, absorb it through your skin or inhale it; but the main source of exposure is food or water contaminated through contact with BPA-containing plastic. You’ve probably noticed more and more plastic products promoted as ‘BPA-free’, and that’s certainly one way to reduce your exposure to this suspect toxin. 

That doesn’t mean that BPA is the only environmental toxin that could be affecting your hormones; just that BPA is the plastic toxin we know more about. In the meantime, it's a good idea to minimise your exposure to plastic wherever practical.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy 'adipokines the key to shifting your tubby tummy in PCOS'

Read More

Depression and insulin resistance: Which came first

Saturday, January 16, 2016
image credit mensaticMaybe this is you, maybe someone you know is caught in this catch-22: Someone who feels depressed, and also has poor blood glucose regulation, maybe even pre-diabetes.

If you’re feeling depressed you’re probably not exercising, because it’s really hard to motivate yourself off the couch when you’re feeling down. And you’re probably not eating well, either. Maybe even chasing sugary foods as a way to manage your mood? And all that extra sugar plus immobility leads to poor blood glucose regulation. 

Scientists have noticed the connection: that people with depression are more likely to have insulin resistance (poor blood glucose regulation that can lead to diabetes). And people with insulin resistance are more likely to be depressed. This is certainly the case with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) where underlying insulin resistance seems to contribute to a low mood.

But which came first? Does one cause the other, or is their dual presence coincidental? And how do you get out of this tangle?
First, if your blood glucose regulation is out of control, you’re probably not exercising. Movement automatically eases insulin resistance and also creates endorphins, neurotransmitters that boost happy feelings. But being active is incredibly challenging when your depressed mood dissuades you from even getting out of bed.

So here’s the problem: You need to get off the couch to overcome your depression and insulin resistance. But the very nature of depression is likely to deactivate your intentions, keeping you inactive, unmotivated, and hurtling towards diabetes.

What’s the way out of this tangle? You’re going to have to somehow get yourself out the door and moving. A tough ask when you can barely get yourself out into the day.

The key to escape from this trap could be in getting help to shift your mood enough to get you started, and support to help you keep the momentum going long enough to overcome the insulin resistance and the depression. Then your symptoms for both conditions are likely to ease. You’ll be on an upward spiral: Happier as well as feeling more energetic and motivated.

So if you’re stuck in the depression and insulin resistance merry-go-round and want to get off, the best way could be to reach out for some professional prescribing to help your brain think more positively. Natural remedies that change how your brain works chemically could be the key to uncoupling the connection between your mood and your blood glucose regulation.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy reading about natural mood boosters.

Read More

PCOS depression and insulin resistance the connection

Friday, December 18, 2015
It’s no secret that many women with PCOS also experience depression: researchers estimate that as many as 40% are affected. What’s known is that having PCOS promotes depression: There’s the self-esteem eroding effect of facial hairiness, acne, the difficulty with losing weight, disruption to your menstrual cycle and on top of all that, the threat your dysfunctional ovaries pose to your fertility. 

What’s also known is that people with depression are more likely to have insulin resistance. And people with insulin resistance are more likely to be depressed.

The connection between insulin resistance, depression and PCOS becomes clearer when you consider that insulin resistance is the disorder underpinning PCOS, so it’s probable that if you have PCOS you probably have insulin resistance too, and if you have insulin resistance it’s quite possible you’ll experience feelings of depression.

Because - 
- If your insulin resistance is out of control, you’re probably not exercising daily (exercise is the key to overcoming insulin resistance)
- If you’re feeling depressed you’re probably not exercising, because it’s really hard to motivate yourself off the couch when you’re feeling down. And you’re probably not eating well, either. Maybe even chasing sugary foods as a way to medicate your mood.

So here’s the rub: You need to get off the couch to overcome your depression and insulin resistance. But the very nature of depression is likely to deactivate your intentions, keeping you inactive, still depressed, and heading towards diabetes. 

What’s the way out of this tangle? Either you’re going to have to somehow get yourself out the door and moving, plus overcome those cravings for sugary foods. A tough ask when you can barely get yourself out from under the doona and into the day.

The key to escape from this trap could be in getting help to shift your mood enough to get you started, and support to help you keep the momentum going solidly enough to overcome the insulin resistance and the depression. Then your PCOS symptoms are likely to ease, and your fertility is enhanced.

Mother Nature, bless her cotton socks, has a huge range of remedies waiting to help you; whether it’s herbs, homoeopathic remedies, or nutrient supplements. Your naturopathic practitioner will select the right supplements to help you keeping your safety in mind (Remember that many medications and natural remedies clash, so please don’t self-prescribe). Your practitioner will also help you overcome the thinking blocks that have kept you weighed down, unmotivated and depressed.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy 'Natural Treatments For PCOS' and why not download your free e-book 'When Good Hormones Go Bad'

Read More

Your gallbladder and the oral contraceptive pill

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

If you’re considering use of the oral contraceptive pill, a contraceptive implant, a mirena coil or post menopause hormone therapy, you should know that this may increase your risk for gall bladder disease. The research is conflicting, as research often is; but there’s enough in the scientific literature to give you pause before you talk this over with your doctor. (*I’ve listed some papers at the end of this article if you’d like to research further yourself.)

Synthetic hormones are proposed to affect gall bladder function several ways.

- First, they increase the cholesterol saturation in bile, so that formation of cholesterol stones becomes more likely. 

- Secondly, synthetic hormones may increase the formation of inflammatory molecules (arachiodonic acid and prostaglandin) which can cause the gallbladder wall to become inflamed. 

- Lastly, the motility (ability of the gallbladder to squeeze out bile) is affected by synthetic hormones.

It’s important to note that other factors can promote gall bladder disease, including too much of your own hormones, insulin resistance, and a family tendency to gall bladder problems.

Here’s what’s supposed to happen: Your liver is constantly producing bile, but obviously doesn’t need it all right away. So some is stored and concentrated in your gallbladder, in readiness for your next meal. After your repast the fats in the food make it through your stomach and into your small intestine, where a digestive hormone, cholecystokinin, detects them and signals the gall bladder that fats are present. In response your gallbladder squeezes out some bile, the fats are dismantled into molecules and all the good nutrients in that food (including fat soluble vitamins) can now be absorbed. 

So what can you do if you have to use synthetic hormones? After all, there are some situations where medical intervention like the pill is the only way you’ll be able to function – for instance if you have severe endometriosis or excruciatingly painful periods. It’s always a risk-benefit balance decision. However what you can do to help is optimise your gallbladder function and hose down inflammation. Work with your practitioner on the causative factors for your problem while you’re taking the oral contraceptive pill to ease the symptoms.

Diet and lifestyle factors often underpin the symptoms of endometriosis and painful periods. Issues like insulin resistance, a pro-inflammatory diet. Issues that can be addressed while you’re managing your pain through using the oral contraceptive pill.

*The papers are
Etminan et al ‘Oral contraceptives and the risk of gallbladder disease: a comparative safety study 2011 Canadian Medical Association Journal

Cirillo et al ‘Effect of estrogen therapy on gallbladder disease’ 2005 American Medical Association

Thijs et al ‘Oral contraceptives and the risk of gallbladder disease: A meta-analysis’ 1993 American Journal of Public Health

If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy 'A brief guide to your gallbladder' 

Read More

How a muffin top affects your ovaries in PCOS

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Having a tubby tummy may seem pretty harmless – but that muffin top is helping tangle your hormones and impair your fertility, thanks to a particular hormone, leptin, being secreted by your fat cells.

It may seem a little odd that fat cells are secreting hormones, but they produce leptin for a very worthy reason: informing your body just how much fat you have stored.  The fuller a fat cell, the more leptin it secretes. This sends two main messages to your brain: One to let it know you don’t need more food. (to reduce your appetite). The other is to let your brain and ovaries know that there are enough energy stores to support a pregnancy. 

Your leptin secretion lifts at puberty, as shape changes from the androgyny of childhood to a female form, with more fat deposits than males. As fat stores build in early adolescence more leptin is secreted. Your hypothalamus, one of the master glands in your brain, keeps an eye on just how much leptin is being produced. When energy stores (fat stores) are high enough to support a pregnancy, the hypothalamus permits onset of the reproductive cycle. 

Your ovaries are looking out for leptin too; because they’re not going to release an egg to be fertilised unless they’re sure your body has sufficient energy reserves to support a pregnancy.

When you have too much leptin circulating (because you have too many full fat cells – the tubby tummy) your hypothalamus is flooded with leptin messages. In response, this gland and another, the pituitary, amplify their fertility messages directed at the ovaries. Your ovaries now receive an overdose of luteinizing hormone, and the tidy process of egg development and release is disrupted. The result can be polycystic ovaries and an untidy menstrual cycle. This is how a tubby tummy can affect your fertility.

Other aspects of the modern lifestyle also affect leptin production: Stress lifts leptin levels, as does sugar, partly through development of insulin resistance.  One way to help ease polycystic ovaries and boost fertility is to reduce your fat deposits; although this can be challenging when your hormones are unbalanced and if you also have insulin resistance. 

The key tools you need to reduce fat stores and get your leptin levels back to normal are exercise, especially cardiovascular and weights (resistance) training, along with a less sugar-rich diet and effective stress management.

If you enjoyed this article you might also enjoy "How exercise helps balance your hormones" here

Image credit: Maena

Read More

How exercise helps balance your hormones especially in PCOS

Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Hormones in a tangle? You’ve probably heard that exercise helps. But did you know that engaging in specific kinds of exercise, enough, could be the most effective hormone balancing tool you have. Let’s look at the biological mechanisms, the scientific evidence, and how exercise breaks the connection between resistant fat deposits and out-of-control hormones.


The major advantage exercise gives you is overcoming your cells’ resistance to insulin. Your cells need glucose to function, and usually signal when they need more. They communicate this need by expressing receptors on the cell membrane that read: ‘Glucose needed here’.  Insulin, the glucose salesman, duly arrives at the cell’s doorstep with a delivery of glucose and passes it over. But if your cells don’t need more glucose because you’re sedentary they won’t put out that ‘glucose needed’ sign.

As a result your blood glucose levels rise. Your pancreas tries to cope with this by producing more insulin, but that doesn’t fix the problem. (Like responding to a glucose sales slump by employing more insulin salesman when the problem is that the cells have their doors shut to insulin’s deliveries.)

Exercise helps by using up the glucose your cells already have; that induces them to once again open their doors to a glucose delivery. As soon as you start exercising your circulating blood glucose levels fall, your pancreas takes a rest from producing insulin, and your hormones start to change.


Better blood glucose regulation through exercise doesn’t affect your hormones directly as much as it affects the amount of fat you’re carrying; because fat cells emit their own endocrine message. When you get active (enough, and in the right way) your fat stores diminish, and here’s where your hormones really start to respond. One big change is the lift in sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). This natty little protein circulates through your body effectively ‘mopping’ up excess hormones.

Another change happens within your ovaries: Insulin resistance causes your ovaries to produce more androgens. Secreted by the theca cells surrounding each egg follicle, this disrupts the normal process of egg maturation. You end up with many under-developed egg follicles going nowhere (polycystic ovaries). Worse, too much androgens exacerbate insulin resistance and fat accumulation in the peripheral tissues, creating a self-perpetuating cycle of fat accumulation, insulin resistance and androgen excess. 


When you exercise you use up energy, which, along with improving your insulin sensitivity, reduces the fat stores in your body. Now, I’m not talking about just a stroll around the block every day or so; enough exercise to make a difference. The PCOS Australian Alliance pulled together guidelines in 2011 for assessment and management of PCOS. They recommended at least 150 minutes of exercise per week; just over half of this time in moderate-to-high-intensity activity.  You’ve probably already reached for your calculator: 22 minutes a day isn’t Olympic level training.

Unfortunately, the guidelines omitted resistance training. In 2014 Australian researchers stepped forward to recommend that resistance training should be included in these recommendations. Their article, published in Sports Medicine, proposed that since progressive resistance training can improve insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes it should be part of PCOS treatment too. 

Is exercise actually more powerful than diet in untangling hormones? Maybe so. A Pilot study produced by researchers at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada proposed that exercising, unlike food restrictions, won’t make you feel deprived so you’re more likely to stick with the program – a key reason so many abandon diet plans. 


Stress disrupts hormones effectively: It makes your pituitary gland less receptive to the instructions of your hypothalamus to release LH and FSH, the hormones that direct your ovaries. If you’re feeling uptight ovulation might still happen but some under-developed egg follicles could remain, secreting more hormones to disrupt the delicate balance of interconnecting endocrine messages. If you don’t ovulate that means less of the progesterone that helps moderate pre-menstrual tension. Worse, stress means more prolactin being released, further inhibiting ovulation.

Yoga might help improve your fitness and reduce your stress at the same time: A study of the effect of yoga on PCOS proposed that yoga had a beneficial effect in two ways: this ancient exercise reduced levels of anti-mullerian hormone, (which inhibits development of ovarian follicles, leading to ovarian failure). The other hypothesis is that chronic stress disrupts the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis, and yoga relieves this. 

It’s probably obvious by now that your hormones are incredibly complex and yet intertwined, and that this message system can easily be disrupted; however you can ease the hormonal tangle simply with exercise.


Of course, you should consult with your practitioner prior to embarking on fitness training, to make sure you’ll be safe. After all, if you get injured or unwell you can’t train. You can check in with your GP, or an exercise physiologist. Get the balance of cardiovascular, strength and stress-busting exercise right and your hormones will respond.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy "If I ignore this hormone problem will it just go away", here.

Read More

Natural treatments for PCOS

Saturday, February 15, 2014
If there’s one hormonal disorder that can really turn the life of a woman upside down, it’s polycystic ovarian syndrome (also known as PCOS). The causes of this nasty hormone imbalance are still revealing themselves, but the effects can be distressing at least and at worst, devastating. PCOS can make itself evident with symptoms including disrupted periods mood swings, acne, facial hair, undeserved weight gain, depression, anxiety, and even impaired fertility. But it’s challenging to recognise the condition because PCOS presents itself in different ways for each woman. And because it’s a difficult condition to identify, many women are unaware that they have PCOS until they have trouble conceiving a baby. 

Often, just losing weight can relieve the symptoms of PCOS; but the disruption to your metabolism  and excess oestrogen that PCOS generates can make it really difficult to achieve weight loss. It creates a challenging catch-22 situation with dilemmas like these: You may want to eat less sugar, but the cravings can be overwhelming, and create some really disagreeable moods that threaten to destroy your relationships. Because you’re not feeling happy it’s extra challenging to get out there and exercise, but you aren’t likely to achieve the results you deserve from the effort you’re putting in to your training, because your metabolism is disrupted and your hormones are in disarray. Life can become a vicious cycle of food cravings, weight gain, and unhappy feelings. Not to mention the distress caused by acne or facial hair that seems resistant to whatever you try.

Despite the difficulties, diet and lifestyle changes can have a really positive impact on treatment of PCOS when combined with the right treatment to balance your hormones. Firstly, it’s become evident that ovaries are particularly sensitive to sugar, so if you have PCOS eating less sugar than you do now can help. Also, toning down the over-production of oestrogen and testosterone can help relieve the desire for sugar. Herbs are often used by natural therapists for just this purpose.

Regular exercise helps ease PCOS too, because it lifts your mood, making it easier to resist sugary foods, and relieves stress. How you feel is important because stress disrupts your reproductive hormones very effectively; learning new ways to manage your mood is an essential part of your PCOS treatment program. 

The take-home message for you is that PCOS is treatable. Diet and lifestyle changes can help relieve PCOS symptoms. Herbal and homoeopathic remedies can help balance your hormones, producing a happier mood which makes changing your diet and lifestyle easier. 

Read More
Book An Appointment After something specific?

Recent Articles

Olwen Anderson @olwenanderson


Subscribe to my ezine and receive your FREE recipe ebook for healthy breakfasts!