Recently I had the benefit, along with a room full of business women aged I would guess 30+, of listening live to well-known nutritionist Dr. Libby Weaver, and I wondered how much would they actually see themselves in her talk?
How often do we listen to someone and think – “well that’s ok for most people but my situation is different” or “she is so right, but it’s just too hard to change”?
Dr. Libby is a most engaging speaker, and her message is clear –your body does react to your lifestyle. Your lifestyle includes your diet, your exercise, your approach to work, rest and play, and your ability to really, really slow your system down – not just switch off by watching TV or going for a walk. Hormones don’t just happen they are a response to the environment we create and we expose ourselves to, and the ultimate way to counter all this is to use the breath to decrease your stress.
On the topic of PCOS and other difficulties, we often hear “well it’s just the way my body works.” Dr. Libby would challenge that by asking us to look at our lifestyle. Look at the stages of hormonal release into the system each month and look at how we carry, and then release stress in our lives.
PCOS is usually related to estrogen dominance, meaning it is the dominant sex hormone all month instead of letting progesterone do it’s thing in the second half of the month. Estrogen is the hormone that wants us to get pregnant. Progesterone is not only influential in fertility; it also plays a major part in reducing anxiety and depression. So if it is in short supply you probably know what life is going to look like.
So where to start? Firstly by addressing your cortisol levels, because this little stress hormone influences the whole system. Some women who have had chronic long-term severe levels of stress will actually have lowered levels of cortisol and those with more recent levels of stress will have high levels. Either way addressing cortisol (produced by the adrenal glands) is a great step to improving PCOS. An in-depth discussion with your physician about cortisol levels really should be included in your treatment of PCOS.
Chronically high levels of cortisol can cause sleep disturbances, depressed immune response, blood sugar abnormalities and weight gain especially around the abdomen.
Meditation, which focuses on the breath, has been shown to decrease cortisol levels and improve functioning, and improve sleep habits. Laughter is also one of the ways we can reduce stress as it too helps the breath find a deeper pathway into the body. Finding activities that increase the relaxation response can bring the system back into balance and improve symptoms of PCOS.