PCOS Review Newsletter #128
A free health newsletter for women with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) or polycystic ovaries. Issue #128 March 20, 2011
1) Omega-3s Deal Blow to PCOS
Irish researchers have just published a study showing that PCOS women who were given omega-3 oil supplements had a reduction in their male hormone levels. This is good news!
One of the main problems of polycystic ovary syndrome is that your male hormones are too high. That is one reason why you may be taking birth control pills.
In this study, the women who had the best results were those who had the highest levels of omega-3 fats to omega-6 fats. Most people consume too many omega-6 fats, which are abundant in our food supply, mainly from vegetable oils and foods containing vegetable oils.
The Irish study is one of several to show that if you can increase your consumption of omega-3 oils and decrease your omega-6 oils, you will improve your hormonal balance and symptoms of PCOS will diminish.
The best source of omega-3s are fish, marine animals and fish or krill oil capsules. Flax oil is an omega-3 oil but is not as effective because an extra metabolic step is required after you consume it.
Omega-3s help you to solve another vexing problem: fatty liver degeneration.
As many as one of every two women with PCOS may have fatty liver disease, which causes all sorts of health problems, including increased insulin resistance.
Royal Perth Hospital in Australia has recently reported that omega-3 fish oil supplementation reduced liver fat in women who had PCOS. Some were given 4 grams of fish oil daily for 8 weeks while others were given a placebo. The women taking the fish oil has significant reductions in liver fat, which was confirmed by magnetic resonance imaging. They also had a reduction in their blood fats (triglycerides) and blood pressure.
Omega-3s have been shown to relieve depression, which is a common attribute of PCOS. Low omega-3 levels have been associated with depression.
When you add it all up, increasing your intake of omega-3 fats is a highly recommended step. The most concentrated and convenient source of omega-3s is fish oil. Besides increasing your omega-3s, you will want to reduce your consumption of omega-6 oils.
Recommended reading is The Natural Diet Solution for PCOS and Infertility ebook, which has a very extensive discussion of omega-3 and omega-6 oils. In fact, their entire diet is based on the principle of increasing omega-3s and reducing omega-6s.
Phelan N et al, Hormonal and metabolic effects of polyunsaturated fatty acids in young women with polycystic ovary syndrome: results from a cross-sectional analysis and a randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover trial, Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Mar;93(3):652-62
Cussons AJ et al, Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation decreases liver fat content in polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomized controlled trial employing proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy, J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2009 Oct;94(10):3842-8
Appleton KM et al, Updated systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids on depressed mood, Am J Clin Nutr, 2010 March; 91(3): 757-70.
2) PCOS Doubles Your Heart Disease Risk
Researchers at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands examined 1,340 medical articles in an effort to determine the risk of artery disease and stroke in PCOS women as compared to other women.
Based on the evidence currently available, they concluded that women who have PCOS have double the risk of developing artery disease or having a stroke than do women without PCOS. Even lean women with PCOS had a greater risk.
There are many factors causing your increased risk, such as poor quality diet, sedentary lifestyle and chronic stress.
Maybe you think high cholesterol is your only heart disease risk. But there are other more subtle factors at play.
These factors manifest themselves as a tendency toward chronic inflammation in the blood vessels and a tendency for your blood to clot. I won't go too far into the weeds on this complicated issue. Suffice it to say that chronic inflammation and an excessive tendency for blood clotting are known risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Both of these risk factors appear to be increased in some women who have PCOS.
Besides checking your cholesterol, ask your doctor to order a "complete blood count with differential" blood test. This test is easy and inexpensive. Your doctor would look for elevated platelets (involved in clotting) and elevated levels of white blood cells (part of your immune system).
By the way, fish oil is a natural nutrient that has been shown to reduce the tendency to form blood clots.
de Groot PC et al, PCOS, coronary heart disease, stroke and the influence of obesity: a systematic review and meta-analysis, Hum Reprod Update. 2011 Feb 18. [Epub ahead of print].
Dasanu CA et al, Polycystic ovary syndrome: focus on platelets and prothrombotic risk, South Med J. 2011 Mar;104(3):174-8.
3) Lessons from a Happiness Coach
Since PCOS presents so many emotional challenges, it's always helpful to think of ways to live a happier life.
I received an interesting email the other day from JoAnna Brandi, who presented the following "happiness" suggestions at a local Hadassah meeting. Maybe you will find some of them helpful.
1. Optimists live 7 - 9 years longer than pessimists.
Optimism and pessimism are explanatory styles. "A pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty" said Winston Churchill. It's all the about the story you tell yourself about the world. Optimism is a learned skill and if you have the desire, you can alter the way you choose to look at the world. It takes a while to break old habits of thinking, but I'm living proof it can be done.
2. Happiness is a choice.
It's a decision, a way of looking at the world. How good can you stand it? Can your raise your tolerance for bliss and joy? I see happiness as a "practice." I work at it every day. The physiological and psychological benefits of positive emotion are worth the effort. "There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way." Wayne Dyer
3. Get your brain on your side (your left side that is.)
The fight or flight reaction produces 50+ compounds that shut down the thinking brain and your immune and digestive functions. We're hard wired for hard times. Happiness is a state of the body -- distinct heart rhythms, brain patterns and biochemistry. When we are experiencing a positive emotion there is increased blood flow to the left prefrontal cortex and there is a distinct and beneficial biochemical reaction in the body. However, neurons that fire together wire together, so you must be sure you are creating new positive pathways over and over and over again for them to become easy to access.
4. Outsmart your happiness "setpoint."
Happiness is 50% genetics, 10% circumstances, and 40% habitual thoughts, attitudes, actions- things within your voluntary control. You can change your happiness levels by changing your habits.
5. There are three faces to happiness: Pleasure, Engagement and Meaning.
Ask yourself: What gives me pleasure? What are my strengths and how can I use them more often? What matters to me? Make sure you bring your strengths to work every day. To increase happiness, find new ways each week to use those strengths. We can prove that it will increase your happiness.
6. Shine the light on what is right.
Learn to ask, "Where's the good in this?" Do an Appreciation Audit -- 3 -5 minutes at a time, three times a day. How? Bring to mind things in your life you deeply appreciate. Dwell on them, focus on them. What you focus on expands.
7. Don't believe everything you think.
Watch your ANTS - those Automatic Negative Thoughts. (We all have them.) Catch them before they hijack your amygdala and throw your body into "emergency" mode!
8. Exercise is more potent than drugs.
Three times a week at least 30 minutes each time - it's proven to beat Zoloft! Exercise produces its own drugs, naturally, and they are more potent and a whole lot healthier than the kind that come from the store.
9. Develop your own Happiness Practice.
Gratitude alone can increase happiness by 25%. Try: meditation, exercise, "blessings book," keep a gratitude journal, write a gratitude letter, practice forgiveness, do random acts of kindness, volunteer.
I have found in my own life that my happiness practice is priceless. Taking time out of this busy world to focus on the things that really matters makes a difference.
It is easy to hate and it is difficult to love. This is how the whole scheme of things works. All good things are difficult to achieve; and bad things are very easy to get." -- Rene Descartes
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