Category Archives: Symptoms
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, commonly called PCOS, is a hormonal condition affecting up to 10% of women. While PCOS is a hormonal disorder of the reproductive system, and its direct causes are still unknown, there are some exciting new discoveries when it comes to PCOS and its connection to insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and chronic, low-grade inflammation. Addressing these possible root causes of PCOS could be a game changer in your holistic approach to Polycystic Ovary Syndrome prevention and treatment. Curious? Read more about a holistic approach to PCOS below.
What is PCOS?
PCOS is a common hormonal condition affecting the ovaries and reproductive system. Symptoms of PCOS include ovarian cysts (as the name, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, suggests) but note that you can still have PCOS even if you have no cysts on your ovaries.
Other symptoms of PCOS are menstrual irregularities – namely infrequent cycles, less than nine menstrual periods per year (or more than 35 days in-between periods), and heavy bleeding. Substantial weight gain, along with marked difficulty losing weight no matter what you do, is another hallmark of PCOS, as is excess facial and body hair (hirsutism). PCOS can disrupt women’s lives and carries myriad possible complications such as infertility, type 2 diabetes, and mood disorders like depression and anxiety.
So how can you holistically prevent and address PCOS? Your best game plan is to look at root causes. Below, we’re looking at three main root causes behind PCOS, along with preventative nutrition tips, supplement essentials, and lifestyle habits you can adopt today to prevent and address PCOS.
PCOS and insulin resistance
There’s a strong link between Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and insulin resistance, which affects as many as 65-70% of women with PCOS. Insulin is the pancreas-made hormone that enables your cells to use sugar (glucose) as energy for the body. If your cells become insulin resistant, your blood sugar levels will spike, causing your body to produce even more insulin. Excess insulin is linked with androgen production and the type of ovulatory dysfunction so common in PCOS.
Tips to reverse insulin resistance include healthier lifestyle habits, the right amount and kind of exercise, smart dieting, and wholesome weight loss. Food-wise, you can help lower your risk of insulin resistance by cutting back on starches and sugars, and replacing them with high-fiber, low-glycemic foods. Exercise is an essential part of insulin resistance and PCOS prevention, but don’t go overboard, either! Over-exercising puts stress on the adrenals and might contribute to hormonal imbalances. When in doubt, go for something mild like walking or yoga.
Supplement with Blood Sugar Support, a comprehensive formula of alpha-lipoic acid, cinnamon, chromium, and other blood glucose balancing ingredients to lower your risk of insulin resistance and PCOS.
PCOS and metabolic syndrome
PCOS has a strong association with metabolic syndrome. Hear this: women with PCOS are up to 11 times more likely to suffer from metabolic syndrome than those without PCOS! Being overweight is a risk factor for metabolic syndrome, as is lack of exercise. Metabolic syndrome increases incidence of cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis, makes you more prone to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, and ups risk of endometrial cancer.
Here’s the great news: metabolic syndrome responds really well to lifestyle changes. In other words, upgrade your health habits to massively lower your risk. Cut the junk food and eat healthy (ensure all your nutritional needs are met by relying on a quality daily multi-vitamin). Choose organic and keep processed foods to a minimum. Follow an exercise program and shed the extra weight. Boost your nutritious diet and regular exercise plan with Slim-Pro, a natural formula to enhance blood sugar levels and help you achieve your weight loss goals while lowering risk of metabolic syndrome and PCOS.
PCOS and inflammation
Chronic low-grade inflammation is a key contributor to PCOS, with elevated inflammatory markers regardless of excess weight. Inflammation can encourage higher androgen production as well as insulin resistance, leading to weight gain and disrupting the balance of sex hormones responsible for regulating the menstrual cycle. What’s more, this type of inflammation is also a feature of conditions like metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, which are closely linked with PCOS.
Gut health is a big player when it comes to the prevention of chronic, low-grade inflammation. So load up on whole plant foods (like anti-inflammatory dark leafy greens), fermented veggies, and cultured tonics like kefir and kombucha. Medicinal herbs like slippery elm and marshmallow root help relieve inflammation along the digestive tract and support gut health.
Anti-inflammatory powerhouse herbs like turmeric (and one of its active compounds, curcumin) are must-have allies for fighting inflammation daily, along with holistic habits like learning to manage stress better and making enough time in your life for rest and play.
What Is It?
Selenium is a trace mineral naturally occurring in the soil, in certain foods, and very small amounts can be found in natural water sources.
Selenium’s main role is acting as an antioxidant and has many benefits to the body. Selenium is also a chief component of the molecules which are necessary for your body to be able to create and use thyroid hormones, called ‘selenoproteins’.
The top health benefits of Selenium include:
- regulating the thyroid
- boosting immunity
- reducing asthma symptoms
- supporting fertility for both men & women
- defending against heart disease, cancer, and oxidative stress
- increasing longevity
Antioxidants like vitamins A, C, E, and minerals like Zinc, Manganese, and Selenium are key in facilitating the phase I and phase II detoxification processes in the liver.
Selenium also plays an important role in prostate health, helping to maintain healthy levels of Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) which is the marker for prostate cancer.
More on the Benefits of Selenium
→ ANTIOXIDANT POWER, IMMUNE-BOOSTING & CANCER PREVENTION
Selenium acts as a powerful antioxidant and defends against oxidative stress. There is also a strong correlation between serum levels of Selenium and a reduced risk of several types of cancer.
Studies show that foods high in Selenium may prevent cancer by helping with DNA repair, preventing cancer cells from replicating and by reducing free radicals in the body .
This mineral is such an important factor in supporting the immune system that it’s a key ingredient in our Immuno Multi formula.
→ HEART HEALTH & REDUCED INFLAMMATION
Selenium-rich foods (and the selenoproteins that they help form) can also prevent platelets from aggregating (which improves blood flow), prevent oxidative damage to cells (e.g. prevent the oxidative modification of lipids) thereby reducing inflammation and lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease .
People with low levels of serum Selenium have been shown to be at higher risk of cardiovascular disease. For these reasons, experts have suggested that Selenium supplements could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease or deaths associated with cardiovascular disease.
→ REGULATES THYROID FUNCTION
Selenium is probably most well-known for its role in maintaining thyroid health since it works together closely with Iodine – another important trace mineral.
Concentrations of Selenium are higher in the thyroid gland than anywhere else in the body. It helps to regulate and recycle our Iodine stores and is needed to produce the critical thyroid hormone T3, which regulates metabolism.
‘Selenoproteins’ protect the thyroid gland when we are under stress. They help flush out oxidative and chemical stress, and even social stress – which, as most of us have experienced, can cause many negative reactions in our body.
Signs, Symptoms, and Causes of Selenium Deficiency
A selenium deficiency is generally observed in areas where the soil does not contain much of it and the mineral content in soil can differ dramatically depending on location.
Even in food sources, the amount of Selenium is largely dependent on soil conditions that the food grew in. Therefore, even within the same food, levels of selenium can vary widely, and the mineral’s benefits may be more prominent in crops grown in certain locations more so than others.
Health Experts are becoming increasingly concerned as evidence suggests that a decline in blood Selenium levels is occurring in parts of the U.K. and other European Union countries. The worry is with several potential health implications that can result due to a deficiency in this mineral.
Selenium deficiency signs & symptoms include:
- Muscle pain or weakness
- Discolouration of hair or skin
- Whitening of the fingernail beds
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Weakened immune system
- Infertility in men and women
- Cognitive decline
While Selenium deficiency is very rare in Canada and the United States (unlike other nutrient deficiencies that are more common) it is certainly wise to ensure you’re getting enough.
There are some people who do, in fact, have a Selenium deficiency due to a poor diet and conditions like Crohn’s disease that impair absorption of the nutrients your body needs to heal and thrive.
Additionally, many studies tell us that having Selenium levels above the RDI (recommended daily intake) is when it starts to have therapeutic effects, like lowering PSA for example.
Best food sources of Selenium
- Brazil nuts (just 1-2 per day provides you with enough Selenium!)
- Yellowfin tuna
- Grass-fed beef
- Beef liver
- Sunflower seeds
- Chia seeds
While it’s important to try to acquire Selenium through quality food sources, you may not be getting enough (except if you’re eating a Brazil nut a day!) – and supplementation may be a wise choice.
Sources & Referenced Content:
 National Institutes of Health “Selenium: Fact Sheet for Professionals”
 The Lancet Journal 2012 “Selenium and Human Health”
What are the symptoms of SIBO?
Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth or SIBO, is just that – when bacteria (or other microorganisms, good or bad) grow out of control in the small bowel. Compared to the large colon, it should be quite low in bacterial count.
Colonization also ends up damaging the specialized cells lining the small intestine – a condition that has been coined leaky gut – or an increase in intestinal permeability, which further impairs the digestive process and can exacerbate nutrient malabsorption.
This can allow pathogens, toxins and undigested protein molecules to enter the bloodstream that, in turn, cause widespread inflammation, food sensitivities, autoimmune disorders, and other undesirable immune reactions.
The most common symptoms of SIBO are:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Abdominal bloating or distention
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Acid reflux or heartburn
- Excessive gas or burping
- Constipation and/or diarrhea
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Joint pain and other inflammatory reactions
- Skin issues like rashes, acne, eczema and rosacea
- Depression, and other mental health disorders
- Restless legs syndrome
- Histamine intolerance
- Fatigue or lethargy
One of the biggest concerns with SIBO is that it can actually lead to malnourishment, whereby essential nutrients like protein, carbohydrates and fats aren’t properly absorbed. This can then cause a number of vitamin & mineral deficiencies like iron, vitamin B12, calcium as well as in the fat-soluble vitamins — vitamin A, D, E and K. 
Wondering why the symptoms sound curiously similar to IBS?
One of the most common conditions associated with SIBO is Irritable Bowel Syndrome. 
While they have similar symptoms and are often overlapping conditions, the association between the two still has some unknowns, according to scientists. They remain distinctly different in how they can manifest, how they are diagnosed, as well as how they are treated.
On the other hand, some studies have found that SIBO is concurrent in more than 50% of all cases of IBS, and successful elimination of bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine reportedly resolves symptoms of IBS as well.
But, what causes SIBO in the first place?
According to experts, the causes are not clearly defined but predisposing factors to acquiring SIBO can include:
- Diabetes type 2
- chronic pancreatitis
- Crohn’s disease
- injury to the bowel
- a structural defect in the small intestine called blind loop syndrome
- intestinal lymphoma
- immune system disorders like scleroderma
- recent abdominal surgery
- use of certain medications, including proton pump inhibitors (acid reflux medications) and immuno-suppressant medications
Celiac disease has also been found to increase the risk for developing SIBO, as it disturbs gut motility leading to poor functioning of the small intestine. 
Additionally, heavy metal toxicity, low stomach acid, inflammatory diets, and stress – are all thought to be contributors as well.
How can you treat it?
Generally, there are 3 mains goals when treating SIBO:
Most holistic health practitioners advise using some variation on the “SIBO diet” for at least 2 weeks – which may include any or all of the following:
- Herbal antibiotics like oregano oil
- Low FODMAP, GAPS and/or AIP diet – see explanations below
- Re-populating the gut with good bacteria using probiotics, and then “feed” them with prebiotics such as under-ripe bananas, asparagus and Jerusalum artichoke
- stress management – this is key in preventing and managing most, if not ALL health conditions
However, a prescription antibiotic may be needed, at least initially, in more severe cases to get the bacterial overgrowth under control.
By eliminating FODMAPS from your diet for at least 2 weeks, and then transitioning to the GAPS diet or AIP protocol, you can start healing the gut, and can begin to eradicate the microorganisms that are causing havoc in your small intestine.
What are FODMAPs?
These are Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols.
These are the foods that aren’t fully absorbed by the body and end up fermenting in the gut. This would include ones we would normally consider ‘healthy’ for us – like apples, pears, apricots, cauliflower, barley, garlic & onions.
What is GAPS?
The GAPS, or Gut and Psychology Syndrome diet, was created by Dr. Natasha Campbell- McBride, Neurologist & Neurosurgeon, in response to the dietary needs of her autistic son.
Foods eliminated by the GAPS diet:
Things like sugar, grains, starchy carbs & potatoes, conventional meat & dairy, and any processed foods including artificial chemicals and preservatives.
What is AIP?
The AIP or Autoimmune Protocol is considered a stricter version of the Paleo diet, which involves the elimination of foods that are considered gut irritants like grains, legumes, eggs, dairy, nightshades, nuts & seeds, and processed foods including industrial seed oils.
Additional eliminations are alcohol and NSAIDs like Ibuprofen. For natural, drug-free inflammation-fighting pain relief, try Curcumin-Pro with Bromelain.
The AIP can be very difficult for many people to follow, but sometimes it’s temporarily necessary to fully heal a very leaky gut, which goes hand-in-hand with the incidence of SIBO.
It may also be wise to supplement with the following when treating SIBO:
- Digestive Enzymes
- B Vitamins, especially B12 – sublingual, therapeutic dose
- Fat soluble vitamins – Vitamin D & K
- Minerals: Iron & zinc
Testing specifically for SIBO can be a bit tricky and it can be difficult to get a definitive diagnosis. So be sure to work with a Functional Medicine Practitioner or Naturopath to effectively test (often with a minimally invasive lactulose hydrogen breath test) and treat this condition, as well as address other underlying gut dysfunctions.
I think we can all agree that there are literally dozens of reasons why our gut health can become compromised. For even more tips on how to have a happier digestive system – READ THIS