Acne, hair loss, facial and body hair, I am pretty sure I can safely say that NO ONE wants to experience any of those… AM I RIGHT????
Well if you have experienced any of those symptoms before, don’t worry you are not alone. In fact many women with elevated androgens will experience symptoms like this (myself included!) and although they can take time and patience to heal and reverse, it is possible!
If you have PCOS its likely you have heard about androgens (particularly testosterone) before, and that’s because having elevated levels of androgens is usually one of the three defining signs of polycystic ovarian syndrome. According to the Rotterdam criteria, a woman must have two out of the following three to be diagnosed with PCOS: Irregular or absent menstrual cycles, polycystic ovaries (as seen on an ultrasound), or evidence of hyperandrogenism.
DHEA sulfate (DHEA-S)
Hyperandrogenism is when your androgens are higher than they should be.
The majority of women with hyperandrogenism have PCOS, However there are other possible causes of hyperandrogenism that must be ruled out before a diagnosis of PCOS can be made.
Hyperandrogenism can be classified in two ways, clinical and biochemical. Having either kind may qualify a woman as having PCOS.
Clinical hyperandrogenism: is when there are visible signs or symptoms that indicate that androgen production may be higher than expected. These are things like acne, hair loss and hirsutism
Biochemical hyperandrogenism: is when your blood test shows abnormally high levels of androgen hormones in the bloodstream.
These levels are based on what GPs consider ‘normal’, however I think it is important to note that ‘normal’ doesn't mean ‘optimal’ so if you are experiencing symptoms it might be worth getting a second opinion or having your results read by an alternative health practitioner to interpret.
Total testosterone: Levels should be between 6.0 and 86 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dl) in women. In PCOS, total testosterone may be slightly elevated. Extremely high levels of total testosterone may indicate an androgen-secreting tumor.
Free testosterone: Normal levels of free testosterone are between 0.7 and 3.6 picograms per milliliter (pg/mL). Free testosterone levels may be elevated in PCOS.
Androstenedione: Normal levels in women are between 0.7 to 3.1 ng/mL. Elevated levels may indicate PCOS.
DHEA-S: Normal levels in women are between 35 and 430 micrograms per deciliter (ug/dl). Women with PCOS may have levels over 200, which fall within the normal but high range. Extremely high levels of DHEA-S may indicate an androgen-secreting tumor.
AVOID INFLAMMATORY FOODS
Such as sugar, seed oils, gluten and A1 casein (found in dairy), high GI foods, processed foods, alcohol. Refined carbohydrates can spike insulin, which only makes PCOS symptoms worse. Foods high in sugar and simple carbs lead to high insulin levels which triggers the ovaries to produce excess androgens.
New research shows PCOS creates chronic, low-grade inflammation throughout a woman’s entire body. So focusing on including anti-inflammatory foods (and avoiding inflammatory ones) into your diet can have positive effects on blood sugar regulation and other symptoms.
EAT WHOLE FOODS
In addition to the above you can support your body by eating low G.I fruit, veggies and whole foods to help increase your nutrient intake and help with detoxification. Choose low GI carb sources, like berries and unprocessed grains and always make sure each meal is well-rounded with fat, protein, and fibre to keep blood sugar regulated
REDUCE CAFFEINE CONSUMPTION
Drinking excessive amounts of caffeine can contribute to adrenal fatigue, otherwise known as HPA axis dysfunction. This condition worsens PCOS symptoms because it can increase blood sugar swings. Switch over to a caffeine free herbal tea blend that can help to actively promote hormone balance such as Cysterhood tea.
MOVE YOUR BODY
Regular exercise can impact overall hormone health powerful. A 12 month study showed moderate intensity exercise caused a reduction in androgens, testosterone and free testosterone.
It is important to remember that high intensity workouts can cause stress on the body and result in inflammation, So I would recommend sticking to cortisol conscious exercises that you enjoy and schedule in rest days.
Stress causes our adrenal glands to produce extra testosterone / DHEA creating adrenal androgen excess, which is why it us is important to minimise chronic stress.Try using stress management techniques to help manage stress levels, or try yoga which has been shown to reduce stress stress and balance androgens.
Women with PCOS often have compromised gut microbiota resulting in dysbiosis which is linked to inflammation and increased androgens. Try adding in lots of fermented and fibre rich foods, and consider adding in a good quality pre + probiotic supplement.
HERBS + SUPPLEMENTS
- Alfalfa leaf
- Nettle leaf
- Saw palmetto
- Omega 3
- N-acetyl Cysteine (NAC)
- Peony & liquorice
These are just some of the herbs and supplements that can help to lower androgens and balance out your hormones.
I become so frustrated at having to take so many different herbs and supplements that I have worked alongside a naturopath to create a powerful blend of beautiful organic herbs to create Cysterhood tea. Cysterhood tea is a combination of some of the most effective organic herbs in the optimal ratios to help support women (including myself!) to rebalance our hormones, reduce androgens and treat issues such as:
IMPROVE YOUR SLEEP
Getting 8-10 hours of quality rest is vital for women with high androgens because it helps regulate cortisol and reduce inflammation.
Create a little sleep routine that you can follow each night, like a cup of tea, a warm magnesium bath or a good book to read, and turn your bedroom into a sleeping sanctuary so that you can not wait to jump into bed.
I hope this post gives you some tips on how to lower your androgens and manage your PCOS symptoms naturally.
Please remember that it takes time and consistency to rebalance our hormones, and even longer to see out symptoms disappearing. But I promise you that the hard work is worth it and once you change your lifestyle you will never look back!
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