Understanding PCOS and Endometriosis: A Guide to Managing Symptoms
Drawings by @priii_barbosa on Instagram
Crippling pain every time you get your period? Bowel movements painful during menstruation? Excessive facial hair growth? Not getting your period at all? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may have either Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) or endometriosis.
PCOS and Endometriosis affect roughly 5-10% of women, and very often, it goes undiagnosed. Women put their symptoms down to PMS and ignore them due to a lack of information and awareness on these important issues that concern their gynecological health.
DISCLAIMER: Barressential does not provide medical advice or opinions, and highly recommend for you to visit your GP or pelvic health specialist to obtain a medical opinion and a formal diagnosis if you suspect you maybe suffering from either of these conditions.
What is PCOS?
The causes of PCOS are not exactly known but its mainly due to higher levels of androgens or male hormones in the body. This may be caused by or result in excess insulin leading to insulin resistance (high blood glucose levels as cells are unable to respond to insulin efficiently) and inflammation in the body.
It’s essentially a hormonal imbalance.
It has many symptoms, such as hair growth on the face and body, baldness, abdominal obesity, and irregular or skipped periods. The imbalance disrupts the menstrual cycle and sometimes prevents ovulation.
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a medical condition that occurs when the the lining of the uterus is found outside the uterus (aka in the ovaries, pelvis, or fallopian tubes). Why is this a problem? Just like during menstruation, this lining swells up and bleeds but it has nowhere to go! The main symptoms are extremely painful menstruation, pain with sexual intercourse, excessive bleeding, painful bowel movements during your period and infertility.
Ok, some of this sounds familiar. So what does that mean for me?
The reality is that neither of these conditions can be prevented. However, the effects that women experience as a result of them can be significantly reduced, and not just with medication!
This condition doesn’t have to define you. Many women live fully functional and happy lives despite their symptoms.
Here are seven changes you can make to reduce the impact these conditions may have on your life:
1. FOOD, FOOD, FOOD: Diet is the primary, non-pharmacological, yet sustainable method of managing PCOS and endometriosis. Control your diet, control your symptoms. We advocate balanced diets and mindful eating at Barressential, and this is imperative when managing both conditions.
2. Avoid trans fats as much as possible: They increase the risk of developing both these conditions. Trans fats are generally found in fried and/or processed food (e.g. your big mac from Mc Donald’s is dripping with trans fats).
3. Reduce your consumption of inflammatory foods: Cut down on red meat, alcohol, caffeine, and extremely processed foods (bacon, sugary desserts, bakery items), as they can intensify your symptoms. Red meat should be avoided due to its high estrogen content and inflammatory properties.
4. Consume a larger proportion of Omega-3 fatty acids to reduce the risk of endometriosis and to successfully manage symptoms, such as cramping and irregular menstruation. Omega 3s are unsaturated fats which can help improve insulin sensitivity and thus PCOS symptoms. To hike up your intake, eat more fish, nuts, seeds, and dark leafy vegetables (think spinach and kale) and Omega-3 supplements.
5. Increase intake of fibre: Think cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and dark greens), beans, lentils, and fruit (berries in particular). These foods have high nutrient levels, and can help combat insulin resistance.
6. MOVE, MOVE, MOVE: Exercise is vital at all stages and ages in life, but especially important if you suffer from either PCOS or endometriosis. Working out can improve your ovulation frequency, minimize period irregularity, reduce excess estrogen, and relax your muscles and help you feel positive as you release endorphins.
7. Get in at least 2 hours of exercise per week. Not just hardcore cardio or strength training, but also those that incorporate relaxation techniques such as Pilates and Yoga. Find something you like and enjoy, then stick with it!
Any medical condition can make you feel powerless. We want you to know that sustainable changes in your diet and lifestyle can give you back that power over these conditions. They do not define you. You define you.
So start today and feel the difference.
Harrison, C.L., Lombard, C.B., Moran, L.J., Teede, H.J. (2010) Exercise therapy in polycystic ovarian syndrome: a systematic review
Farschi, H et al (2007) Diet and nutrition in PCOS: pointers for nutritional management.
Olsen, N. (2018, July 10) What To Eat and What To Avoid if You Have Endometriosis retrieved from www.healthline.com/health/endometriosis/endometriosis-diet
Jones, T. (2017, November 2) 8 Tips to Help Fight Endometriosis. Retrieved from www.healthline.com/nutrition/endometriosis-diet-tips