Making Weight Loss Easier With Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Catherine was a 27 year old lady who came to my clinic because she was fed up with her fluctuating weight. She was always trying to lose weight. She did manage to lose approximately 8 pounds but rarely got any further than that. Catherine became despondent and ended up putting the weight back on.
Catherine weighed 204 pounds (92 kilos) and was only five feet five inches (165 centimeters) tall. Catherine experienced a lot of hunger and cravings. She thought about food a lot. Cutting out her favourite high sugar and fat foods felt stressful and depressing. She said to me “The moment I start a new diet I begin thinking about all the food I’m not allowed to eat anymore. Then I’ll have a stressful day at work and feel like I won’t make it through the day without my favourite treats”.
Her doctor had diagnosed Catherine with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) several years ago. He said that meant she was insulin resistant but didn’t explain that to Catherine. This is a very important concept to understand because insulin resistance is the core underlying driver of PCOS as well as obesity. It also helps explain why Catherine has such strong cravings for carbohydrate.
Insulin disrupts the normal function of the ovaries and triggers them to secrete higher levels of male hormones. The male hormones promote abdominal weight gain and they make it much more difficult for insulin to work in the body. They also disrupt the normal menstrual cycle and inhibit ovulation.
I asked Catherine what she eats and this is what she told me:
- Breakfast: Low fat muesli with low fat milk
- Lunch: A small can of tuna with a salad and balsamic vinegar dressing
- Dinner: Grilled chicken breast or steak with steamed vegetables
Catherine couldn’t sustain such a low fat diet for long. She felt constantly hungry. Once she became stressed or overly tired, she went to the grocery store after work and picked up her favorite ice cream and cookies and ate until she felt truly full.
My recommendations for my patient
For breakfast I asked Catherine to eat some protein, such as eggs and vegetables (omelette, poached or scrambled eggs, etc.) or a protein powder smoothie.
Her lunch and dinner meals weren’t too bad, but Catherine wasn’t eating enough fat. Fat is satiating, and fat improves nutrient absorption from vegetables, therefore using oil on salad and cooked vegetables is beneficial. I asked Catherine to drizzle extra virgin olive oil on her salad, or make a dressing out of tahini and lemon juice. I asked her to include avocados in her salads. The eating plan I recommended for Catherine is in my book called "I Can't Lose Weight!...And I Don't Know Why".
Having polycystic ovaries means that Catherine wasn’t ovulating regularly. Therefore she wasn’t producing progesterone. Progesterone is a very important female hormone that helps to normalize the menstral cycle, improve the immune system and it even has mood benefits, particularly helping to reduce anxiety. Therefore I asked her to use a natural progesterone cream.
Insulin resistance can be hard to overcome. The goal is to help insulin work more efficiently and lower blood levels of insulin. A low carb diet, exercise and fasting all help achieve this goal. Berberine is an herbal extract that helps get elevated insulin down. It also speeds up weight loss, particularly from the torso.
Sugar cravings are something Catherine has struggled with for most of her life. The diet modifications I suggested would help but they take a while to kick in. Catherine wanted a supplement that acts quickly to reduce hunger and cravings for carbohydrate rich foods. The ingredients in Metabocel tablets all help to stabilize blood sugar and the brindleberry reduces the conversion of dietary calories into body fat. The chromium in these tablets helps to lower elevated blood insulin levels, which will help correct ovarian function and help overcome PCOS.
I will check in with Catherine in four weeks.
The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.