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Q&A: Living with PCOS
Posted By Stephanie Langford On June 30, 2009 @ 3:00 am In Living healthy,PCOS | Comments Disabled
I've enjoyed your posts on PCOS. I'm struggling with that right
now. Do you think this condition contributes to my sugar cravings?
Definitely! But it's not just the PCOS, although that certainly contributes. I can think of 3 likely reasons for sugar cravings:
1) Unbalanced blood sugar and insulin levels, common in most with PCOS. When our blood sugar levels gets too low (and our insulin is off and thus not able to help balance it) the natural response is that we crave… yup, you guessed it. Sugar! It becomes a horrible, vicious cycle. Your blood sugar is low, so you crave sugar, you eat a donut, you feel great for a couple hours, then your blood sugar plummets, so you crave some chocolate, and on and on and on.
2) Most women (whether they have PCOS or not) have higher Candida or yeast levels in their bodies than is healthy. Basically, Candida is a form of yeast that feeds off of sugars, carbs, yeast, etc. that we eat You can imagine how much there is to feed Candida in a typical North American diet- all that white flour, sugar in nearly everything, yeasted white breads everywhere!
3) The fact that most of us are simply addicted to sugar and simple carbohydrates (white flours, pasta, store-bought baking, etc.).
What to do about sugar cravings?
The overall best thing is to move towards a whole foods diet, gradually cutting out more and more processed and packaged foods. Make your eating revolve around nutrient-dense animals foods (grass-fed meat and poultry, free-range eggs, whole and preferably raw dairy, wild fish), as well as whole grains like whole wheat flour, oats, brown rice and others (instead of refined, white grains), and plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit. Start replacing typical sweets and baked goods with homemade, more wholesome versions (and better sweeteners, like honey, maple syrup or Rapdura), or try eating fruit when those sugar cravings come instead. Seek out whole grain sourdough or sprouted grain breads, in place of store-bought white bread. And try to always eat a bit of protein with every meal or snack throughout the day, to keep that blood sugar balanced!
You will find, as I have (and I was seriously, completely addicted to sugar and white carbs!) that over time your taste buds will change and you will stop craving these sugars so badly. Your body and taste buds will begin to be much more satisfied with these wholesome foods, and you will start to feel better… so much better! Less headaches, less cravings, less fatigue, less digestive issues, less breakouts, less roller-coaster emotions. It's a very. good. thing. :)
I'm curious about the PCOS thing, which I also have. Did u take any
medication or supplements to help you be more fertile after u went off
the pill? My cycle is SO irregular, i haven't got the foggiest clue
whether or when I ovulate. I'm becoming quite depressed and
despondent, because we really want kids. But every time i miss a
period, it seems to be just my messed up cycle. I thought u might have
Liz, I'm so sorry. I know the discouragement you're feeling and it's hard. Huge hugs to you!
The biggest thing that I did when I went off the pill (which I would never, ever recommend- avoid it like the plague!) was to switch my diet over to a whole foods diet as I've just talked about above. I think that this was really helpful for me in starting to replenish many of the nutrients that the pill had sucked out of my body, begin to balance my blood sugar and insulin levels, and to start to nourish my body more fully so that it could get back to cycling more regularly.
I'll tell you the truth, that it didn't happen overnight. It has been a process of about 6-7 years since I began to deal with PCOS, over the course of which my body has gradually begun to cycle more regularly on it's own, allowing me to conceive more easily. Even after having my first baby, when my cycle came back it was still incredibly irregular and it took us a year to conceive our second child, which eventually happened with the help of a mild ovulation medication (Clomid, also not something I particularly recommend).
A few suggestions… one is to add a really good quality B vitamin into your diet. Make sure that it has all of the B vitamins, but especially B6 and B12, which are crucial for hormones and reproductive function. These are really depleted while being on the pill. Another suggestion is to start tracking your cycle by charting it . This will really give you more of an idea of what's actually happening in your body, which is priceless. Third, look into Vitex, which I will talk about below.
I have really enjoyed your series on PCOS and have
even ordered Nourishing Traditions. I have a quick question about
Vitex. You mentioned that this was one of the most effective things
that you have taken for PCOS. I was wondering how often you took it
(i.e. every day of the month, only before ovulation stopping after you
ovulated, etc.). I've been wondering if I should stop taking after I
ovulated and wanted to hear what your experience has been as far as
that goes. Thanks!
Great question! For those who don't know, Vitex 
(also known as Chasteberry) is a herb that is traditionally known to help balance hormones, specifically Follicle-Stimulating and Lutenizing hormones (crucial for ovulation). Many women, especially those with PCOS, have found that it helps to balance things enough to encourage ovulation and more regular cycles.
 This was the case for me. I have used it both during the year that we tried to conceive our son, and also for several months before conceiving the baby I am carrying now. Both times I found it effective.
The thing about Vitex is that it requires a little bit of patience. In both instances, it took about 3 months to start to notice the effects from it and to begin to ovulate. This is considered very normal when using Vitex. It is recommended to use it steadily for 3-4 months before expecting to see any (or at least many) changes.
I have used both a tincture form, as well as capsules because they were cheaper. I found the tincture slightly more effective, but both worked. You can buy it at almost any health food store, in their herbs section. Look for it under both Vitex 
It should always be used daily in order to be effective. As for specific dosage, that will depend on which type, brand, etc. that you are using. Consult the package, or speak to a naturopath or a herbalist for more on dosage.
In all my research, I have never read anything suggesting that it is dangerous to continue on with it after ovulation, in case of conception. I would discontinue it as soon as I had a positive pregnancy test, but if you continually stop each time you ovulate, you will never be able to take it regularly enough to see it's effects. If anyone has any really solid information on a reason why it should be discontinued after ovulation, I'd be really interested to hear/read it, but my personal opinion is that it's not harmful.
For those with PCOS, is any of this helpful? Does it spark further questions or comments? Any other issues you would like to have specifically discussed?
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 tracking your cycle by charting it: http://www.keeperofthehome.org/2009/03/living-with-pcos-natural-techniques-for-getting-things-on-track.html
 Vitex: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000I48PJ6?ie=UTF8&tag=keeofthehom-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B000I48PJ6
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