This is a quarterly enewsletter of SymptoPro Fertility Education bringing support, education and updates on Naturaly Family Planning.
PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) is one of the most common endocrine or hormonal disorders in younger women. PCOS involves multiple organs and usually involves the symptoms of hirsuitism (excessive hair growth on body parts that normally have fine hair,) obesity (not always,) oligomenorrhea (infrequent menstruation) and imaging that shows excess cysts on the ovaries (normal is 1-2 per cycle). There are 2 factors that are present: insulin resistance and high levels of the sex hormones that are attributed to male characteristics. The insulin resistance is important to address and it leads to the increase in male hormones. There are different severities of symptoms. Some women have regular cycles and are not overweight. It’s important to get a thorough and proper diagnosis from your Primary Care Provider to accurately treat. Other health issues might present in a similar fashion. Self-diagnosis does not count as a thorough work-up.
Helping your body recover from PCOS is important because untreated PCOS increases the chances of Diabetes Mellitus type 2, Hypertension, endometrial cancer, cardiovascular disease, and high cholesterol. Oral contraceptives do not solve or cure PCOS. They are used to help decrease the chances of endometrial cancer. However, artificial hormones do not heal/cure PCOS and do not address any of the root causes of PCOS. The root issues are regarding blood sugar regulation, weight management issues, and hormonal imbalances. Birth control pills are artificial hormones that need to be broken down by the liver. The liver is already working hard to break down excess hormones in the body. Taking artificial hormones on top of hormonal imbalances can be hard on the liver, especially if done over long periods of time. Birth control pills mask hormonal issues but do not heal them. To heal them, better control over blood sugar issues is needed. You can help one symptom but you need to treat some of the root causes in order to be actively working on recovery. This requires you to take an active part in your health by making necessary changes.
- Diet: Reducing carbohydrates and increasing protein and vegetables can improve insulin. Insulin promotes triglyceride storage (the bad cholesterol.) Simple carbohydrates: like white rice, breads (especially processed white and wheat breads), potatoes, pastas, and many other foods break down quickly into sugars which raise your body’s production of insulin. By decreasing the amount of quick available sugar from food then you can decrease the high release of insulin. One way to decrease your carbohydrates is to only eat grains at 2 of the 3 meals. When you do eat them, eat them in small portions. Grains include: rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth, corn, wheat, buckwheat, spelt, etc. If you have a sandwich, try an open faced sandwich (one slice of bread on bottom and lots of lettuce for the top.) A Whole foods diet (unprocessed foods) like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds will help increase fiber and decrease insulin. Incorporate healthy fish and meat (grass fed) into your diet.
- Avoid xenoestrogens! Xenoestrogens are substances that disrupt the hormone receptors in our body, creating hormone imbalances. Examples include pesticides, herbicides, plastics that especially leach Bisphenol A. Plastic storage containers contain bisphenol A along with plastic water bottles. If you do not eat organic food, the food will contain pesticides and herbicides.· Xenoestrogens are broken down in the liver. Women with PCOS are more likely to have a genetic mutation in their detoxification pathway in the liver. The liver breaks down excess hormones as well. By decreasing xenoestrogen load, you can help your body spend more time balancing its own hormonal imbalance.
- Exercise helps reduce excess fat. Excess fat can produce more estrogen adding to hormonal imbalances. Fat cells also can produce another hormone (Leptin) which help cells communicate things like a sense of fullness. Excess fat can create imbalances in Leptin. So, the body isn’t getting the message of fullness when someone has excess fat. Exercise helps to reduce the excess fat and therefore aides the body of getting the message of fullness.
- Increasing insulin sensitivity: A) Making sure you have enough Chromium in your diet. Chromium is needed for insulin regulation. Chromium can be found in foods like: potatoes (with the skin), green peppers, carrots, apples. B) Biotin in needed in the formation and release of insulin. It’s found in eggs, oats, and fish. C) Vanadium can show insulin like activity and therefore decrease the need for insulin to be released from the body. Vanadium is in buckwheat groats, whole corn, raw oats. D) Magnesium can be protective against heart disease, diabetes, and it can help deliver nutrients to tissues. Magnesium is found in buckwheat, figs, black eyed peas, swiss chard, almonds, cashews, filberts. Getting nutrients from food is the best source. Supplements can have too high or too low amounts.· Food is the best medicine.
These are just some basic tips for self-care for PCOS. Taking the active approach to your health by making sure you eat a healthy diet, not taking in harmful chemicals, exercising, and eating foods that help increase insulin sensitivity can help. You should always speak with your health care provider regarding your specific case as each person requires individual care. Remember, health requires an active participation from you.
- Marz, Russell N.D. 2002. Medical Nutrition. Omni-Press. Portland, Oregon.
- Endocrinology notes: Dr. Miller 2010
- Hudson, Tori N.D. 2008. Women’s Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. McGraw-Hill. New York, New York.
If you’re using NFP, chances are you’ve encountered well-meaning friends or family that wish to express their concern over your choice of family planning. The issue of whether or not one should pry into such a private matter remains for another topic, but I hope to address one argument that is sometimes thrown at people trying to live NFP. Perhaps you weren’t even sure how to respond to this one: Is NFP really that much more “natural” than other forms of birth control?
After all, there is the laborious time and attention taken to one’s charting and interpretation. There is the aligning of your sex life with the defined fertile or infertile times, based on how you’re using it. That sometimes doesn’t feel very natural. And then there is that thermometer you have to pop in your mouth every morning. Isn’t that an artificial “device”, much the same as a condom, or IUD? And what about all those great charting apps you can use to store your cycle history? You don’t see any of the above waving around in the breeze of a grassy meadow, ripe for the plucking. Nope, they’re right, the thermometer and apps can be thrown in with the rest, all produced from technology and definitively “artificial”. But we don’t try to deny it. Those of us who practice NFP aren’t against all things artificial.
What Does “Natural” Mean?
So what then, does the “N” in NFP stand for? Often people misunderstand what “natural” means. They might assume it just means “easy”, in the same sense of breathing. Breathing doesn’t require any thought or self-control. It just happens. Shouldn’t NFP just “happen”, too, if it really made sense?
But we have to understand the definition of “natural”, as it is applied here. Natural means “congruent with our human nature”. It means not taking a pill every day of your cycle in order to address the small fraction of days that you actually are fertile. It means choosing to abstain from intercourse on days that you know pregnancy would result, instead of using a condom on a fertile day, which, if the condom tore, would introduce the very possibility (nay, probability) you are intending to avoid. It also means knowing that using condoms on infertile days are pointless and detract from the experience of oneness that sex is naturally supposed to create. In sum, NFP is natural in that we get to truly learn what our bodies are capable of doing, and work with a normally functioning system.
Understand vs. Alter
So NFP isn’t always akin to breathing, and we also use artificial devices like eyeglasses and medication. We even may apply something artificially-made to family planning. But what is the function of that artificial device? Eyeglasses correct a vision problem. Medication treats a disease. But what disease, then, does “the pill” treat? What’s wrong with the woman’s body that “the pill” corrects? There comes the rub: our fertility is not a disease. Healthy fertility is a sign of a healthy hormonally balanced woman. The fundamental difference between NFP and contraception as they relate to things artificial, is that when we use a device like a thermometer for NFP, we use it to understand our body, not alter it. We use it to embrace the natural changes in our body, not suppress them. In turn we get to experience our bodies as they were intended to be, to treat them as the gifts that they are. We get to appreciate the various seasons of change, and invite our spouses into that same appreciation. And when things aren’t working quite the way they should, NFP gives us the tools to really get to the root of the problem, instead of throw a bandaid on it.
So sure, we can tout the “all naturalness” of NFP…the lack of side effects, the lack of artificial hormones, the absence of cancer risk. But beyond that we can also say that NFP is so much more natural than what is at the surface. The natural of NFP means that I understand my fertility. ·I accept it and work with it. It means that I can truly embrace my body as it was intended to be.
One client’s experience in learning our method
My husband and I took the NFP class with Jill Cherrey and we cannot say enough wonderful things about her and the class! NFP has been a wonderful addition to our marriage and we’re learning more about one another through this process. Jill is an amazing and patient instructor who has extensive knowledge on the subject. It was a true pleasure learning about NFP and the class is so well organized and presented that it makes an otherwise personal subject matter quite comfortable to discuss. We appreciate both Jill and NWFS’s guidance and expertise and know our success is in no doubt to your teachings.
- Jodie Whiting