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Did you know that PCOS and Cholesterol are closely linked? And by cholesterol, I mean the bad cholesterol.

You see, we are prone to high insulin levels (or insulin resistance), cardiovascular disease, hormonal imbalances and, of course, high cholesterol.

If you have PCOS like I do, you’ll know a lot about the unpleasant symptoms. It’s no walk in the park.

And when I was first diagnosed with PCOS, my main concerns were infertility and hirsutism. Cholesterol levels didn’t even cross my mind.

And you may be feeling a little bit the same. We tend to focus on those symptoms that are most visible or cause us the most amount of pain or discomfort. And cholesterol levels are more silent, lurking in the background.

But it is important to think about our cholesterol levels as high cholesterol can have some serious implications. Cholesterol can build up in the arteries and can put you at risk of cardiovascular disease, possibly leading to a heart attack.

So, in this article, I’m going to tell you all you need to know about PCOS and Cholesterol.

 

Cholesterol Explained

Before we get onto how PCOS and Cholesterol are linked, it is important to have a basic understanding of Cholesterol and how it works.

Firstly, cholesterol is not all bad. We actually need some cholesterol to make sex hormones, protect your nerves and it is also found in the all of the cells of your body. Your body is also able to make all of the cholesterol it needs but you can also get it from foods such as eggs, cheese and meats (1).

Now, you may also have heard of good and bad cholesterol. That’s because there are different types of cholesterol, some that promote heart health and one that increases your risk of coronary heart disease.

Cholesterol can’t be transported around the body on its own. It needs to be attached to a transported which is a protein molecule. Once it is attached to a protein, it is called a lipoprotein.

So, let’s have a look at the different kinds of cholesterol and what they might mean for you.

 

HDL or High density lipoprotein

HDL is considered good cholesterol. It picks up cholesterol from different parts of the body and transports it to the liver where it is dealt with. That is why it is considered a heart healthy cholesterol.

Higher levels of HDL are thought to be a good thing.

If you have a cholesterol test, you would want your HDL readings to be at 60 or more. (2)

 

LDL or Low Density Lipoprotein

This is the cholesterol that is considered bad cholesterol. If your levels of LDL are high (more than 160), you will be at increased risk of heart disease. So, we are aiming for LDL levels of 100 or less.

LDL can build up on the walls of your arteries and that is obviously something that we would really like to avoid.

 

Triglycerides

Triglycerides is the last measurement of cholesterol. Fats from food and in the blood are mostly in the form of triglycerides and they are usually transported as very low density lipoprotein, or VLDL.

Too many triglycerides in the bloodstream can also increase your risk of heart disease, so we should be aiming for a triglyceride value of less than 100.

 

How Cholesterol is Measured

Each of the above cholesterols are tested by blood tests. It is important that blood tests are taken after fasting for at least 14 hours. You should not drink any alcohol for at least 48 hours before the blood tests (3).

Okay, now that we have a basic understanding of cholesterol, we need to have a look at the link between PCOS and Cholesterol.

 

PCOS and Cholesterol

Cholesterol issues are well-researched in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). In fact, one article suggests that up to 70% of us will have some form of dyslipidemia (4). That is huge!

In particular, we are at risk of low levels of HDL and higher levels of LDL. Now, if you are thinking that this is linked with high levels of insulin or insulin resistance, you would be on the right track.

But, here is the thing, these cholesterol abnormalities are also found in women with PCOS who are not insulin resistant. Just by virtue of the fact that you have PCOS, you are also at risk of having cholesterol issues.

Now, there are a couple of other factors that come into play that we need to consider.

 

PCOS, BMI and Waist Circumference

There was a study that looked at waist circumference and BMI and how it impacted on the lipid profile of women with PCOS. (5)

The first thing that the study found was that 80% of women with PCOS involved in the study had above normal waist circumferences and waist to hip ratio. This makes sense when you think about how so many of us carry extra weight around our waists and bellies as a result of higher than normal insulin levels.

But they also found that women who had a higher BMI and waist to hip ratio also had worse cholesterol levels. That means that if your weight impacts on your cholesterol and ultimately, on your heart health.

 

Insulin and Cholesterol

It seems that no discussion about PCOS is ever complete without considering the role of insulin. Why, you may ask. Well, insulin levels play a huge role in a lot of the symptoms of PCOS and can influence how much male hormone you have floating around your body.

And higher levels of insulin can lead to insulin resistance and eventually, type 2 diabetes (you can read more about that here).

So, we know that insulin and PCOS go hand in hand. This is where the next piece of the puzzle comes in. Research has shown that when someone is insulin resistant, their body’s make more of the unhealthy cholesterol but is also does not absorb as much of the bad cholesterol. (6).

So, insulin resistance is a risk factor for dyslipidemia or bad cholesterol readings.

I hope that by this point I have thoroughly convinced you that if you have PCOS like me, you need to be thinking about your cholesterol and how you can be the healthiest version of you.

Now, I know that it all sounds like doom and gloom but I promise you that its not. There are lots of things that you can do to help lower those cholesterol levels and improve your overall health and PCOS.

 

Lowering Cholesterol with PCOS

 

CoQ10 Supplementation

CoQ10 is a powerful antioxidant. This is helpful for women with PCOS as we tend to have higher levels of oxidative stress and CoQ10 can combat that.  There are also a whole list of other benefits of CoQ10 (7).

  • Helping treat high blood pressure and heart failure

  • Enhancing immune system function in people with HIV or AIDS

  • Improving symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome

  • Reducing high cholesterol levels in the blood

  • Assisting in the treatment of cancer or the protection of organs from toxic chemotherapy drugs

  • Treating gum disease

  • Treating age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition that causes vision loss in older adults

  • Helping patients with Alzheimer’s disease

  • Treating Parkinson’s disease

  • Increasing sperm count and motility

  • Preventing or treating migraine headaches

Now this is where things get interesting. CoQ10 has also been shown to lower LDL levels (remember, this is the bad cholesterol we were talking about). And it helps with glucose metabolism.

Your next question is naturally going to be, “Where can I get it from and how much should I take?”

Well, Theralogix have a high quality, easily absorbed CoQ10 supplement, called NeoQ10. Also, if you order with PRC code 144144, you will get the best price available.

If you are not able to get the Theralogix NeoQ10, this is a good alternative and is readily available on Amazon.

The research also suggests that you should be taking 100mg per day, with food as food aids the absorption. (8)

 

Probiotics for Cholesterol

More and more research is being done on the gut microbiome and how it impacts on our general health as well as our PCOS.

So, it may not surprise you that taking a probiotic will also help to lower your total serum cholesterol (9)

When looking for a probiotic, make sure that you have one that includes L acidophilus and B lactis as strains in particular have been shown to lower cholesterol.

Metagenics is a very good brand and although it is not cheap, it is very effective and highly recommended.

 

Follow a PCOS Diet

Remember, insulin has a role to play in cholesterol. If you are insulin resistant or struggling with high insulin levels, your cholesterol levels are likely to be high too.

So, it is important to manage your insulin and one of the best ways of doing that is by following a good PCOS diet. If you’re not sure of the do’s and don’ts of a PCOS diet, you can read more about it here.

Well, I hope you have a better understanding of PCOS and Cholesterol and why it is so important that you have those levels checked, even if you feel like you have no specific symptoms.

If you have struggled with high cholesterol and have found something that helps that I haven’t mentioned, feel free to leave me a comment below. I would love to hear from you!

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I'm a firm believer in a good PCOS Diet. But, it turns out that WHEN you eat is just as important as what you eat when it comes to PCOS. Intermittent fasting has become something of a trend in recent years and many people use it as a tool to lose weight, control sugar levels and have seen many other health benefits. So, is intermittent fasting for PCOS something we should consider adding to our way of life?

Let’s have a look at some of the science behind it.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is when you alternate between a fed and a fasted state (1). To really understand what we mean by fed and fasted states we need to dig a little deeper and actually figure out what is happening in our bodies.

Okay, so we know that when we eat foods with protein and carbohydrates, insulin is released. Insulin controls the movement of glucose from our blood streams to our cells and also manages the storage of excess energy (turns it into fat).

Now, after a meal, insulin levels stay relatively high and slowly start to drop over about a 12 hour period. Once insulin levels have dropped and the body needs to rely on its stored energy supplies, you enter into the fasted state (2).

Basically, every time you sleep, you are entering into a fasted state.

What are the Benefits of Intermittent Fasting?

There are a number of health benefits of fasting. Here are just some of them (3):

  • Improved mental clarity and concentration

  • Weight and body fat loss

  • Lowered blood insulin and sugar levels

  • Reversal of type 2 diabetes

  • Increased energy

  • Improved fat burning

  • Increased growth hormone

  • Lowered blood cholesterol

  • Prevention of Alzheimer’s disease (potential)

  • Longer life (potential)

  • Activation of cellular cleansing (potential) by stimulating autophagy (a discovery that was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in medicine)

  • Reduction of inflammation

That list of benefits looks pretty impressive. But how on earth might it help women with polycystic ovary syndrome?

Intermittent Fasting and PCOS

There are a couple of ways that I think we could use fasting to see improvements in our PCOS symptoms. Looking at the list above, let’s have a look at how some of these things might apply to us.

Weight loss

For so many of us living with PCOS, we know all too well that it is so tricky to lose weight with PCOS and we seem to put it on so easily. It is so frustrating! And we have been told over and over again that we need to lose weight and “we’ll be fine” but nobody actually tells us HOW to lose weight with PCOS.

Our body’s tendency to over produce insulin and the link between PCOS and insulin suggests that high insulin levels are at the heart of our seeming inability to lose weight. We tend to be insulin resistant - something that intermittent fasting can improve as insulin levels begin to lower.

Studies have also shown that intermittent fasting can be an effective weight loss strategy (4).

And remember, the focus here is managing insulin levels, not necessarily caloric restriction.

Lowered Insulin Levels

We’ve already spoken about how lower insulin levels can help with weight loss but we haven’t spoken about how lowered insulin levels may help with our PCOS.

Well, we know that insulin is closely linked with PCOS and we know that our ovaries tend to be over sensitive to insulin. All women produce some testosterone from their ovaries. Women with PCOS, however, produce too much testosterone.


And it is insulin that stimulates the release of testosterone from the ovaries (5).


So, by lowering insulin levels, we will be able to lower testosterone levels and be able to better manage a lot of the symptoms of PCOS.

Lowered Blood Cholesterol

Women with PCOS also tend to have higher cholesterol and this puts us at greater risk of cardiovascular disease (6). If intermittent fasting can help improve cholesterol levels, this will also give us long term health benefits.

Reduction of Inflammation

Inflammation can make us feel uncomfortable and generally achey. And if we were to have a blood test right now, we would probably see that our inflammatory markers are raised. Women with PCOS struggle with chronic low grade inflammation.

This inflammation can also decrease our body’s sensitivity to insulin. So, we need more insulin than normal to deal with blood sugar and this makes our general PCOS symptoms much worse.

So, anything we can do that will help to manage inflammation would be helpful for our PCOS.

Those are just a few of the reasons that I think that intermittent fasting might be helpful for women with PCOS.

Who Shouldn’t try Intermittent Fasting?

I’m going to be honest here. I don’t necessarily think that intermittent fasting is for everyone and there are some women who should be careful of fasting and consult their doctor before they start fasting.

  • Pregnant women - Fasting when pregnant is not a good idea and should be avoided.

  • Women taking prescription medication - If you are taking any prescription medication, you should consult your doctor before trying any form of fasting. Insulin sensitising drugs, like Metformin, can cause you to have bouts of low sugar levels when fasting.

  • Anyone with a history of an eating disorder

  • Women who are already underweight

Time Restricted Eating

Now you might be wondering how to get started with intermittent fasting. One way is to make the most of your current daily eating habits.

You are practising intermittent fasting every single time you sleep. You are not eating and your insulin levels drop, and you start to move into a fasted state.

So, to get started on intermittent fasting, you need to become more intentional about WHEN you eat and aim to shorten the period of time in which you eat. For example, if you have breakfast every morning at 8 am, make sure that you stop eating by 8pm. That will give you 12 hours of intermittent fasting per day.

Working with your body’s circadian rhythm

What is super interesting to me is that our bodies have a daily hormonal rhythm, the circadian rhythm. And that also influences our bodies’ sensitivity to insulin.

We tend to be less sensitive to insulin in the evenings, when we are eating our biggest meals. Basically we could eat the EXACT same meal for breakfast and dinner and we would need less insulin at breakfast time. Why? Because our bodies are more sensitive to insulin in the morning.

So, with this in mind, what if we ate dinner by 6 or 7 o’clock? That way, we are eating when our bodies are still somewhat sensitive to insulin and we can start to extend the length of time that we are fasting for.

Seems to make sense to me!

Now, I would love to hear from you! Do you have any experience with intermittent fasting? Have you seen any benefits or do you feel that it may even have made your symptoms worse?

Leave me a comment below and let me know!

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Many women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome struggle with a multitude of symptoms, including anxiety.

This symptom is not often acknowledged, let alone spoken about. And that can leave us feeling isolated and alone.

So, let’s have a look at the connection between PCOS and anxiety.

The Link Between PCOS and Mental Health

Let’s be honest. Living with PCOS isn’t “fun”. Between the hirsutism, acne, infertility and all of the other symptoms, it can leave us feeling down (to put it mildly).

But is there possibly more to it than just feeling down as a result of our symptoms?

Well researchers looked at 70 women with PCOS between the ages of 18 and 45 who did not have any prior mental health diagnosis. After interviewing them and using various scales and measures, they found something interesting.

About 25.7% of the women assessed struggled with depression while 38.6% of them struggled with anxiety.

Breaking that research down a little further, the researchers also found that the PCOS symptoms infertility and alopecia were associated with anxiety while acne was associated with depression and women with hirsutism tended to have a lower quality of life.

This clearly shows a definite link between PCOS and anxiety, as well as other mood disorders (1).

Why women diagnosed with PCOS are Prone to Anxiety

This link between PCOS and anxiety as well as other mental health concerns is an interesting one. In particular, I find it interesting that specific symptoms tend to cause different psychological and mental health concerns.

So, let’s have a look at why this may be the case.

Hormonal Factors

We know that women with PCOS have tend to have a very specific hormonal profile, with higher levels of insulin and androgens. It is these two hormones that lead to more of the well known symptoms of PCOS - weight gain, hirsutism (hair growth) acne and infertility.

But research has also shown that insulin resistance and high levels of androgens are also strongly linked with anxiety and depression, irrespective of BMI and age (2).

The BMI point is an important one because even you have lean PCOS with insulin resistance, you will be more prone to anxiety and depression.

The Psychological Impact of PCOS

Yes, PCOS does cause us to have this major hormonal imbalance that makes us more prone to anxiety and depression. But there is something else that we need to consider.

It is this: “Living with PCOS sucks.

If you have PCOS, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Having hair growth where you don’t want it and shouldn’t have it, struggling to get pregnant when it seems like everyone around you is getting pregnant, piling on the pounds when you’ve been eating rabbit food for months - it all pretty much sucks.

And that has a huge impact on our psychological well-being. It makes us more prone to anxiety and depression (3).

We’re also not as likely to be open about our PCOS and symptoms and that makes getting the support that we need even more difficult.

So, there are a number of reasons that we’re more prone to anxiety than the general population.

Let’s have a look at some of the symptoms of anxiety.

The Symptoms of Anxiety

So, how do you know if what you are feeling is actually anxiety? Let’s have a look at some of the most common symptoms.

Anxiety will cause as to have physical AND mental symptoms (4).

The Physical Symptoms of Anxiety
  • a churning feeling in your stomach

  • feeling light-headed or dizzy

  • pins and needles

  • feeling restless or unable to sit still

  • headaches, backache or other aches and pains

  • faster breathing

  • a fast, thumping or irregular heartbeat

  • sweating or hot flushes

  • problems sleeping

  • grinding your teeth, especially at night

  • nausea (feeling sick)

  • needing the toilet more or less often

  • changes in your sex drive

  • having panic attacks

The Mental Symptoms of Anxiety
  • feeling tense, nervous or unable to relax

  • having a sense of dread, or fearing the worst

  • feeling like the world is speeding up or slowing down

  • feeling like other people can see you're anxious and are looking at you

  • feeling like you can't stop worrying, or that bad things will happen if you stop worrying

  • worrying about anxiety itself, for example worrying about when panic attacks might happen

  • wanting lots of reassurance from other people or worrying that people are angry or upset with you

  • worrying that you're losing touch with reality

  • rumination – thinking a lot about bad experiences, or thinking over a situation again and again

  • depersonalisation – feeling disconnected from your mind or body, or like you're watching someone else

Okay, so the next question is, “What can I do to manage my anxiety with PCOS?”

What you can do about Anxiety with PCOS

There are a couple of options.

Follow a PCOS Diet

I know that this is something that I go on about a lot but there is a reason for this - it works.

One of the ways that we can change our hormone profile and manage our insulin and testosterone levels is to change that way that we eat. Not only will our hormones be more healthy and reduce the risk of anxiety and depression, we will also start to improve the actual symptoms of PCOS that may be causing the psychological distress.

So, a PCOS Diet is important.

If you’re wondering what on earth you should be eating to improve your PCOS, head on over to “The Best PCOS Diet” for more info.

Take Your Supplements

When talking about supplements for PCOS, there are always 3 that come to mind - Inositol, Vitamin D and Omega 3.

They have wonderful effects for PCOS and there is a lot of good research to support their use in PCOS.

Helpfully, the research has shown that supplementing with Vitamin D and Omega 3 can improve the symptoms of depression and anxiety in women with PCOS as well (5).

So, if you’re not taking any supplements yet, I really do recommend that you start!

See your Health Professional

If you are really struggling with anxiety (and depression for that matter), and it has a significant impact on your ability to function or it’s affecting your quality of life, your health professional may be able to prescribe antidepressants or an anxiolytic to help manage these symptoms.

Consider Alternative Therapies Acupunture

It is wonderful to research coming out on the benefits of some of the more alternative therapies. Acupuncture has been shown to be helpful on women with PCOS (you can read more about that here and here).

But is is also helpful in managing anxiety in women with PCOS (6).

Yoga

And yoga has also been shown to improve anxiety in women with PCOS. Some researchers looked at 90 adolescent girls with PCOS and divided them into two groups - 1 groups was an exercise group while the other group was the yoga group.

After participating in either yoga or exercise over a period of 12 weeks, the yoga group showed significantly improved levels of anxiety, compared to the yoga group (7).

So, if you are struggling with anxiety and you have PCOS, I want to encourage you. It isn’t “just you”. There are some very real and very valid reasons that you are struggling and there is a cause for your anxiety.

The other great news is that there are some things that you can do about it. So don’t lose heart!

If you have any experience of dealing with anxiety and PCOS and have anything to add to the article or you would like to share your experiences, I would love to hear from you!

Leave me a comment below!

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It’s estimated that 1 in 10 women in the UK have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) with 90% expressing that they don’t feel the NHS provides sufficient support to help them deal with their PCOS.

Weight gain is incredibly easy due to abnormal hormonal levels in the body but losing weight will help your PCOS symptoms. Meta-analyses found that a 5-15% loss of body weight in overweight and obese people with PCOS improved most of their symptoms and other studies have shown that exercising without losing weight will still improve symptoms.

That is why getting fit with PCOS is so important. But exercising the way most people do is unlikely to work for you, your workout regime needs to be PCOS specific to get the best results.

Getting fit with PCOS Resistance training

Resistance training, or weight training, is recommended for women with PCOS because it increases muscle mass. This will enhance the muscle’s ability to handle glucose and can result in an increased insulin sensitivity, which will help you manage your weight.

Weight training 2-3 times per week for 45-60 minutes should get results without overtraining your body, which can have a damaging effect on hormonal balances. Muscle is also metabolically active, meaning it burns calories to sustain itself, so the more muscle you have the more calories you will burn throughout the day, meaning more weight loss.

HIIT Training

HIIT training, short for high-intensity interval training, is a cardio workout that alternates between short bursts of intense exercise and low- intensity exercise. An example is running at your maximum speed on a treadmill for 2 minutes followed by walking for 2 minutes.

HIIT workouts have proven effective for most people, but especially for women with PCOS. This is because it increases the body’s metabolic rate. One study found that HIIT over 10 weeks improved insulin resistance in women with PCOS, despite losing no weight.

So, if your goal is to become fitter and manage your PCOS better through exercise, then HIIT is ideal. HIIT is also beneficial because workouts can be done in a shorter time period and still burn as many calories as other workouts.

If you have a busy life or don’t enjoy exercising, HIIT will give you the benefits, burning up to 30% more calories than other cardio, without having to put too much time in.

Low intensity and moderate intensity workouts

While HIIT training is beneficial, the role of low-intensity and moderate intensity exercise shouldn’t go underrated. Low intensity exercise includes walking, going up and down stairs and doing housework. You can’t really do too much of these exercises as they simply get you moving but don’t put much strain on your body. Moderate intensity exercises, also known as steady-state exercise, include running, biking and using stair climbing machines at the gym.

With a PCOS diagnosis doing too much moderate intensity exercise can be damaging as the body will release the stress hormone cortisol in response to the stress you’re putting your body through. Cortisol can lead to increased appetite and cravings along with irritability and fatigue, all negatively impacting your fitness journey.

Ideally, you don’t want to do more than 30 minutes of moderate intensity training and only 1-2 times a week to avoid too much cortisol in your body.

As difficult as it is to lose weight with PCOS it’s important to remember that it is possible. You need to understand your body and how it reacts to different types of exercise and therefore, which will be most beneficial to you. Ignoring a lot of what you’ve been taught about exercise and making your training regime PCOS specific to suit your body will get you better results, improving your fitness, PCOS symptoms and even losing weight, which will in turn improve your symptoms even more.

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In this episode, Tarryn chats with Kim Bigler. Kim talks about how she was diagnosed with PCOS at a young age and how influential her mother (who also has PCOS) has been on her PCOS journey.

You can find out more about the programs mentioned in this episode and to get you exclusive discount here.

THANKS FOR LISTENING!

Thanks so much for joining me again on another episode. Have some feedback you’d like to share?  I would love to hear from you!

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Also, please leave an honest review for The PCOS Diet Support Podcast on iTunes. Ratings and reviews are extremely helpful and greatly appreciated! They do matter in the rankings of the show and mean a lot to me... thank you!

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In this episode, Tarryn speaks with Sara Richter. Sara explains how it took 3 doctors before she was properly diagnosed with PCOS and how her symptoms are affected by the food that she eats. We talk supplements, making this work with our families and more.

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In this episode, Tarryn connects with Shannon Hull. Shannon shares her surprise PCOS diagnosis and how following a PCOS lifestyle has made all the difference for her and her PCOS symptoms. When you're feeling low, just keep trucking.

THANKS FOR LISTENING!

Thanks so much for joining me again on another episode. Have some feedback you’d like to share?  I would love to hear from you!

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Also, please leave an honest review for The PCOS Diet Support Podcast on iTunes. Ratings and reviews are extremely helpful and greatly appreciated! They do matter in the rankings of the show and mean a lot to me... thank you!

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In this episode, Tarryn chats with Kelly Haynes about how Kelly was diagnosed with PCOS, her journey with infertility and struggles with doctors. Kelly's story and attitude are truly a source of inspiration!

THANKS FOR LISTENING!

Thanks so much for joining me again on another episode. Have some feedback you’d like to share?  I would love to hear from you!

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SUBSCRIBE TO FUTURE EPISODES:

Also, please leave an honest review for The PCOS Diet Support Podcast on iTunes. Ratings and reviews are extremely helpful and greatly appreciated! They do matter in the rankings of the show and mean a lot to me... thank you!

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We know that one of the hallmarks of PCOS is an irregular menstrual cycle. Our periods are often erratic or even non existent. That means that ovulation is infrequent. That’s not particularly helpful if you are trying to conceive. So, let’s talk about ovulation tracking with PCOS. Because, there is some good news.

Okay, so let me paint a little picture for you. Hubby and I decide that we are ready to start trying for a baby and I happen to be having a conversation with one of my girlfriends and she shares the news that they too are trying for a family.

So, naturally we swap stories. I share some of my anxiety and trepidation about the struggle that may lie ahead of me in light of my PCOS. She tells me that she’s invested in some ovulation predictor kits to help identify when she might be fertile to aid conception.

And it sounds great in theory, right? It makes sense. If you know when you have ovulated, you can time intercourse and increase your chances of conceiving.

But, there’s a problem with this scenario for me. Firstly, I don’t ovulate as frequently so how do I even know when to use the OPK’s? Secondly, OPK’s don’t actually work for women with PCOS.

To really understand ovulation tracking with PCOS, we need to have a basic understanding of how ovulation actually works.

How Ovulation Works
What is ovulation?

Let’s take it right back to basics. When we’re talking about ovulation, we’re talking about the release of a mature egg from the ovary.

Now, getting the egg to reach maturity and be released from the ovary is the result of a complex interaction of multiple hormones. We need to understand a little bit about these hormones to understand why OPK’s are not a good option for women with PCOS.

The hormones involved in Ovulation

We know that a “normal” menstrual cycle is roughly 28 days and ovulation usually occurs 12-16 days after the first day of your last period.

Now, in the beginning half of your cycle, Follicle Stimulating Hormone is released and multiple follicles (eggs) are developed. Only one of these will reach maturity. As the egg matures, it produces oestrogen.

Once your pituitary gland detects the surge of oestrogen, it releases luteinizing hormone, which causes the egg to be released from the ovary. http://americanpregnancy.org/getting-pregnant/understanding-ovulation/

A PCOS Menstrual Cycle

Okay, so that sounds good right. That is what we are aiming for our bodies to do. But there is a problem. We have PCOS and our menstrual cycle is pretty erratic. Generally speaking, we tend to be oestrogen dominant and our levels of luteinizing hormone remain higher than normal.

So, we don’t get that spike in LH to signal ovulation and we don’t get ovulation occurring frequently. We just get lots of little follicles being developed that don’t reach maturity giving our ovaries that polycystic look, like they’ve been adorned with a string of pearls.

IMAGE: I’m so classy

How do Ovulation Predictor Kits Work?
So now that we know a little bit more about how ovulation works, how do ovulation predictor kits work? Well, firstly, they are urine sticks and they look for signs of LH in urine. Basically, they’re designed to look for that spike in LH that signifies that ovulation is about to happen.

Ovulation Predictor Kits and PCOS
Can you see the problem? OPK’s are looking for a spike in LH but our LH levels tend to be elevated all the time. Ideally you would like Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and LH to be in a ratio of 1:1. However, in women with PCOS its more likely to be 2:1 or even 3:1.

What that means is that we are more likely to get false positives with OPKs. They are not an accurate indication of ovulation in women with PCOS.

So, where does that leave us? How can we accurately track ovulation?

Tracking Basal Body Temperature to Monitor Ovulation
Now, this is a method that I have mentioned and used before (see here). Basically, it involves taking your temperature at the same time every morning before you get out of bed.

The theory is that if you take your temperature as soon as you wake up, you will have your basal body temperature (your temperature at rest, without any physical activity).

Now, you may be wondering what on earth this has to do with ovulation. Let me explain.

How tracking basal body temperature works

Let’s go back to the story of the menstrual cycle. We got to the point where an egg is released from the ovary. What happens next?

Okay, bear with me cause this is important.

Well, once the egg is released, what is left of the follicle becomes the corpus luteum. And the corpus luteum produces progesterone in preparation for possible pregnancy and implantation.

Now, progesterone causes a rise in our core body temperature. And that is exactly what we’re looking for in basal body temperature tracking (or BBT).

Once we have seen this sudden rise in temperature, and it is sustained for a couple of days, we can assume that ovulation has occurred.

BBT Tracking and PCOS

So, it all sounds good in theory, right? Well, there are a couple of things that we need to be aware of. Firstly, BBT tracking is not 100% fool proof.

You see, your BBT can be affected by a number of things. For example, alcohol can cause your temperatures to be slightly higher than normal, a restless night will also have an impact, as will taking your temperature at different times every day. https://www.kindara.com/blog/9-factors-that-can-affect-the-accurracy-of-your-temperatures

Also, it takes a lot of work and commitment to wake up at the same time every morning and record your temperatures consistently.

The other thing to bear in mind is that BBT tracking will only tell you that you have ovulated, it will not tell you when your are going to ovulate. It does not predict when ovulation will happen.

Thankfully, there is a better option available and we’ll get on to that shortly. First, though, let’s have a look at other signs that ovulation is impending.

Cervical Mucous as a Sign of Ovulation
What is Cervical Mucous?

Cervical mucous is a fluid secreted by the cervix, in response to estrogen. As estrogen levels rise, so does the level of cervical mucous. It also has a really important job. It helps to provide a safe and happy environment for sperm to survive. http://americanpregnancy.org/getting-pregnant/cervical-mucus/

How does cervical mucous change throughout the cycle?

So, as your hormones levels rise and fall throughout your cycle, so does the cervical mucous change throughout the cycle. Here is a really helpful image of what we should be looking for when it comes to cervical mucous (from Mama Natural).

Cervical Mucous and PCOS

But there is something else to consider, with our PCOS. Just as our hormonal profile doesn’t follow a typical hormone profile, so our cervical mucous doesn’t necessarily follow what you would expect.

We can have times of increased egg white cervical mucous and yet not have any ovulation. So, relying on cervical mucous alone is not a great idea.

Cervical position as a sign of ovulation
One final way to monitor our cycles and possible ovulation is to monitor the position of our cervix throughout our cycle. Now, I have a confession to make (and call me prudish if you will). I am not the hugest fan of finding my cervix and secondly, I have no idea what I’m feeling or what I should even be looking for! So, I have never used this method to track my own ovulation.

How does the cervix change throughout the cycle?

Just as the cervix produces cervical mucous in response to estrogen, so the position of the cervix changes in response to oestrogen.

In the beginning of the cycle, when estrogen levels should be lower, the cervix is hard, closed and pointed down. As oestrogen increases and ovulation is impending, the cervix softens, opens and moves up. This allows easier passages of the sperm to the fallopian tube.

Cervical Position and PCOS

Remember, just as cervical mucous can change dramatically in women with PCOS, so can the position of the cervix. This is not necessarily going to be a reliable of sign of ovulation in women with PCOS.

So where does that leave us? We can’t rely on cervical mucous or the position of our cervix. BBT tracking is a better option but it won’t predict ovulation. It will just tell us when ovulation has occurred.

Are we doomed to never be able to plan for ovulation and know when our fertile days are? Thankfully, there is an amazing piece of equipment and software that is super easy to use, far more accurate than BBT and will help to predict when ovulation will happen…

Using Ovusense to Track Fertility with PCOS
You may be wondering what Ovusense actually is. Well, Ovusense is an advanced cycle monitoring system. It consists of a medical grade vaginal sensor that is inserted over night. It reads your core body temperature every five minutes and syncs with an app on your phone each morning to give you an average core temperature reading.

Wanna know one of the coolest features of Ovusense? Not only will it tell you when you have ovulated, it will also predict ovulation about 24 hours in advance. This is huge for women with PCOS!

It is one of the only things that we can use to accurately predict when ovulation may happen. This is key in enhancing your chances of conceiving, if that is your aim.

Is Ovusense helpful if you are not trying to conceive?

This is a question that I am often asked. Should I be eating this way I don’t want to conceive? Is Ovasitol still helpful, even if we’re not trying for a baby? How will Ovusense help me if I don’t want to get pregnant?

Well, here’s the thing. I am not trying to conceive and I found Ovusense incredibly informative. You see, just because you may have a regular cycle, does not mean that you are ovulating every month.

And ovulation is a really good indicator that your hormones are balanced and that your PCOS is more or less under control. So, I don’t use Ovusense as a fertility monitor. I use it as a monitor of my cycle and general PCOS.

How is Ovusense different from Basal Body Temperature Tracking?

This is a question that I have asked myself. The main difference is that Ovusense reads and tracks core body temperature while BBT tracks basal body temperature. Core body temperature will detect the smallest variances in temperature in response to progesterone and it is this sensitivity that enables Ovusense to predict ovulation.

Basal body temperature tracking is not nearly as sensitive to these small variances in temperature. So, it can only confirm when ovulation has already taken place, not when it will happen.

How does Ovusense work?

There are two main components to Ovusense. There is the vaginal sensor that is inserted every night as well as an app that is needed to analyse data from the sensor. When you purchase an Ovusense fertility monitor, you will receive the monitor and a free 30 day subscription to the Ovusense app. You can also pay for the monitor and a 12 month subscription to the app.

Where can I get an Ovusense Fertility Monitor?

So hopefully, if you have been following PCOS Diet Support for a little while, you will know that I feel really strongly about only sharing with you the things that work for PCOS, the things that have evidence behind them and the things that I use myself.

Ovusense is one of those things. You can get your Ovusense here and if you use the coupon code “TARRYN” at checkout, you will get 25% off your Ovusense. This is an affiliate link and I will earn some revenue from this, the proceeds of which go to the maintenance of this website.

What additional support will I get from Ovusense?

Ovusense is a really wonderful company that genuinely seems to care about its users. When you purchase your Ovusense monitor, you will also get a free consultation with a fertility nurse. She will look at your Ovusense data and charts and support you in your journey to conceiving.

It is recommended that you have 3 months work of data from your Ovusense monitor before setting up the appointment so that she has some data to work from.

Summing it Up

I think its about time to wrap this all up. Basically, when it comes to ovulation tracking with PCOS, we have looked at:

How ovulation works and some of the basics of the menstrual cycle

Why ovulation predictor kits don’t work for women with PCOS

Tracking basal body temperature to monitor ovulation in PCOS

Monitoring cervical mucous and position to monitor ovulation

Why some of these methods are not accurate for women with PCOS, given the fluctuations in PCOS hormones

Ovusense and how it can accurately predict ovulation in women with PCOS

Remember, if you would like to track ovulation and improve your chances of conceiving with PCOS, you can get your own Ovusense here.

If you have tried ovulation monitoring using any of the methods we have spoken about or you have used Ovusense yourself, I would love to hear from you! Leave me a comment below and let me know what your experience has been with ovulation tracking with PCOS!

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Content created by: Tarryn

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