PCOS or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is an endocrine disorder that can affect reproductive hormones and the metabolic system. Since PCOS is known as a syndrome it can present with a variety of different symptoms. One of the biggest symptoms that I feel goes unnoticed is anxiety. This is partially due to the other bigger symptoms of the syndrome such as irregular cycles, hair growth, and weight gain.
Anxiety can be very impactful on your life. The feeling of overwhelming fear and worry can consume you to the point where the simplest tasks are difficult because of racing thoughts – not only for the present circumstances but for the future too.
It is known that approximately 60% of women with PCOS have at least one mental health problem. This increased risk in mental health concerns is said to be directly related to the increased exposure to TESTOSTERONE!
In 2018, a study was done on pregnant mice. They exposed the mice to testosterone levels similar to those of PCOS women. The researchers found that the offspring exposed to high testosterone late in the mother’s pregnancy were more likely to exhibit anxiety-like behaviors in adulthood compared to the mice not exposed to testosterone.
They also found that higher levels of testosterone showed changes in the genes that regulate serotonin and GABA – the neurotransmitters that help to keep you happy and calm.
Knowing that the risk of anxiety is high if you have PCOS – let’s learn what you can do daily to help you manage feelings of anxiety.
5 Strategies to Help your Anxiety
Mindfulness can be key to relieving anxiety. It can allow us to train our brains to not constantly hold on to thoughts that keep on reappearing. Often times individuals will report that meditation makes them more anxious or they are not able to shut off their thoughts. I like to think of meditation similar to standing on the train platform watching the trains go by. Meditation is about noticing the thoughts and allowing them to drift away. Remember – it takes time and practice. You are trying to retrain your brain and this won’t happen overnight! A few apps that I like are Insight timer and Headspace. If you want meditations specific to PCOS, check out Circle and Bloom – they have a few different meditations to help women with PCOS. To receive 20% off meditation downloads use the code SaminaMitha – this offer is only valid for a limited time 🙂
2) Moving: Yoga
Yoga can be really beneficial to calming down anxious thoughts. Our bodies tend to constrict when we get anxious, we hunch our backs, cross our legs, or clench our teeth. Yoga aims to extend and lengthen our muscles. It can help to lower tension in the body and promote relaxation. Yoga also helps to regulate our breathing in times of shallow or quick breathing, often seen in anxiety. It can also help us to interrupt the cycles of constant worry. So get on that mat, even if it is 10 minutes a day! One of my favourite yoga apps is called Yoga Studio by Gaia.
Fish oil: A recent study in September 2018 with 60 women with PCOS were given either 2x1000mg/day fish oil, omega-3 fatty acid or placebo for 12 weeks. What they found was those who took the fish oil had beneficial effects on mental health parameters, better insulin metabolism, improved hirsutism and reduced inflammatory marker – known as HS-CRP. Taking a fish oil can be quite impactful – especially for women with PCOS.
Other supplements to mention here are magnesium, L-theanine, and the amino acid known as L-glycine.
One of the biggest things you can do in terms of what you consume is ensuring you get enough protein daily. Protein-rich foods contain amino acids that help to balance out our moods.
Did you know that dark meat contains a wide range of nutrients and actually can help to balance amino acids (compounds that make up protein) that can get thrown off with too much consumption of lean meat? If you have anxiety – dark meat might be better for you. Dark meat contains more anti-anxiety nutrients such as zinc, selenium, and taurine. Taurine is key as it supports the production of GABA. GABA is an amino acid that helps to calm the nervous system down!
Amini M, et al. “The Effects Of Fish Oil Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation On Mental Health Parameters And Metabolic Status Of Patients With Polycystic Ovary Syndr… – Pubmed – NCBI”. Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.Gov, 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30230402. Accessed 17 Oct 2018.
Whiteman, Honor. “Study Sheds Light On Link Between PCOS And Mental Health”. Medical News Today, 2018, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/301822.php. Accessed 17 Oct 2018.