Q: Five to ten per cent of women suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder where the ovaries contain many small cysts, which are egg-containing follicles that haven’t developed. PCOS is a leading cause of fertility problems in women, according to the self-help group Verity (verity-pcos.org.uk).
A: In an earlier column, I wrote about PCOS with the advice of women’s health expert Dr Marilyn Glenville (marilynglenville.com), a registered nutritionist who has treated PCOS for over 30 years. We were thrilled to receive an email from a 34-year-old YOU reader, who had read the column and bought Marilyn’s book Natural Solutions to PCOS (Macmillan, £10.99), and is now pregnant. Here is an edited version of her email:
‘I was diagnosed with PCOS when I was 16, in 1994. The main symptom was that I didn’t have periods. This went on through my 20s until my then husband and I wanted to have children and my GP referred me to a specialist. I was prescribed drugs (metformin and Clomid), which did not work.
‘We had to abandon IVF because of hyperstimulation [an acute inflammatory condition due to over-stimulation of the ovaries]. It was a very tough time and my relationship ended.
‘Two years ago, I gave up alcohol and cigarettes. Early this year, I started to have periods, but the cycles were erratic, from 39 to 45 days. Then I read the article in YOU and gave up all caffeine and dairy, swapping to green tea and soya milk. I did everything the article recommended [see box, right] and I felt great.
‘My cycle became shorter and regular, and blood tests showed that, for the first time, I was ovulating. In August, I was delighted to find that I was pregnant. I never believed it would be possible.
‘I truly believe you are what you eat. In my experience doctors don’t discuss diet; they put you on medication and if that doesn’t work you are pushed to IVF, which is expensive and hard on relationships. It’s not just my fertility that has changed: I still follow the diet and I feel so much better in my body and mind. I want to encourage other women with PCOS that the dietary approach is effective if you are committed.’
The dietary approach to tackling PCOS
- Don’t go without food for more than three waking hours, to keep your blood sugar levels balanced.
- Avoid white flour and white sugar, fruit juice, honey, chocolate, instant porridge oats, soft fizzy drinks and white rice.
- Eat unrefined carbs including vegetables (not potatoes or parsnips), fruit (berries, apples, pears and citrus), barley, brown rice, buckwheat, maize, millet, oats, rye, spelt and wholemeal pasta and bread.
- Add protein to every meal, which slows down absorption of food and thus insulin production. Eat plenty of oily fish and omega-3-rich foods including eggs and nuts, also vegetable protein and hummus. Cook with olive oil.
- Eliminate dairy products. Try coconut or organic soya milk. Cut out alcohol to improve liver function. Reduce caffeine to rest adrenal glands, and saturated fats to reduce inflammation.
A pick-me -up for lacklustre skin
Now’s the time to dream up the presents you would really love Father Christmas to bring you. A straw poll revealed that a great facial tops many women’s list. One of the best we have tried is the Elemental Herbology facial, from a wonderful niche brand founded by acupuncturist Kristy Cimesa, who combined her knowledge of Chinese medicine and plants to develop super-effective products. Winter often triggers dry, lacklustre skin, but our ‘flaky’ tester emerged from her ‘blissful’ 70-minute Elemental Harmoniser facial, £110, at luxurious Pennyhill Park Hotel spa in Surrey (thespa.uk.com) with a soft, dewy complexion, plus tips to keep it that way. In addition to the facial, the spa offers lots of heavenly Elemental Herbology products, including Facial Glow mask, £39 (elementalherbology.com), with fruit enzymes to dissolve dead skin cells and leave you glowing.
Website of the week: poppyshop.org.uk
pport the Armed Forces. We are charmed by the Kleshna range of jewellery, worn by stars including Dame Judi Dench, Emma Watson and Helen Mirren. We particularly like the Poppy Ring 2012, £18.99, which is handcrafted in red enamel and studded with crystals. poppyshop.org.uk.