Stress & PCOS

What are adrenal glands?

Adrenals are the little organs above your kidneys that effect hormonal imbalance. The adrenal glands are controlled by the hypothalamus, which also controls the ovaries and thyroid.

How does stress effect PCOS?

High levels of stress over a long period of time makes our adrenal glands send signals to the hypothalamus, telling it to turn off ovulation. Extreme stress will translate in our bodies as "not a good time to bring a baby into the world."

Part of the adrenal gland produces DHEA-S, which is similar to testosterone. It causes facial hair and acne as well. DHEA-S is the best measure of adrenal stimulation.

What are possible stressors?

1. overexercising- you may be hanging on to high intensity exercise because you feel like your weight is spiraling out of control, however you need to let go of that to heal adrenal fatigue.

2. gut infection- even if you're totally calm laying on the beach, you may have dysfunction in your gut microbiome

3. not enough play- do something for enjoyment like going out for a walk or a hike for the pleasure of meeting new people

4. lack of social support- this could be living away from family or not having a good friend group

5. too little sleep

6. psychological stress (work/money/family)

7. disrupted wake and sleep cycle- the blue light in our devices can cause this when we use them late at night. our body mistakes it as sunlight and pushes back our circadian rhythm


The most comprehensive way to test adrenal hormones is by taking a DUTCH Comprehensive test. Speak with a Registered Dietitian, who can provide this test for you and interpret your results.


For more information on understanding how adrenal fatigue triggers symptoms, take a look here:


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PCOS Biomarkers


When managing PCOS, there are multiple symptoms that may occur, because there are multiple causes for having PCOS. Some symptoms include facial hair, hair loss, acne, mood swings, or weight gain. It is important to take an individual approach. There is no one cause or cure.

You may need a completely different treatment plan than another woman. Consider speaking with a registered dietitian for direction on how to treat your symptoms.

The following chart includes biomarkers for the different types of PCOS along with their functional ranges. These ranges are different than the reference ranges you may find when you get your blood drawn. PCOS can often go misdiagnosed due to the misinterpretation of references ranges. Take a look at the following golden rules for PCOS lab work:

Types of PCOS

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What to do after Being Diagnosed with PCOS

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a common hormonal imbalance that affects 1 in 10 women in the United States. Although the syndrome is widespread, women’s symptoms seem to vary. Side effects can be expressed as anything from mood swings to hair loss, cystic acne, weight gain, irregular periods, and facial hair.

One of the most common triggers of PCOS is insulin resistance, which has detrimental inflammatory effects on the body if it is not addressed early on.

Insulin resistance is when your cells are not able to take up insulin-bound glucose. As a result, the body struggles to burn off glucose, ultimately leading to weight gain and, potentially, type 2 diabetes. When insulin and glucose are left floating around in the bloodstream, they can wreak havoc and cause inflammation. The ovaries become stimulated to produce more of the androgen hormone (sex hormone), leading to adrenal dysfunction. This cascade effect that insulin triggers on your hormones can lead to facial hair and cystic acne. Once adrenal dysfunction is triggered, cortisol levels become too high and end up overriding your body’s sex hormones. This contributes to mood swings, irregular periods and infertility.

After being diagnosed with PCOS, don’t delay on getting started with a treatment plan. The longer you allow symptoms to continue, the longer it may take to reverse and the more new symptoms will appear. Consider speaking with a Registered Dietitian who specializes in Women’s Health to guide you on your journey toward reversing PCOS.

The following are a list of steps you can take to regain control over your body and eventually get your symptoms to become dormant.

1. Intermittent Fasting

When cells have been continually exposed to high levels of glucose, they become insulin resistant. The insulin is left floating around the bloodstream, contributing to low-grade chronic inflammation.

Consider intermittent fasting to reboot your cells and improve their glucose uptake.

Intermittent fasting can be done many different ways, but it is best to start with eating every couple hours, within a 9 hour period of time. This means you are having breakfast at 9:00am and eating your last meal at 6:00pm, being sure to fit in all your calories within that window at a pace that keeps your blood sugar balanced. In order to improve glucose uptake, studies suggest allowing your cells to take a break, or “fast,” from constantly being exposed to glucose.


2. Don’t Go Hungry

It is not unusual for women who have PCOS to feel as though it is impossible to lose weight. Cutting back on calories and going on extreme appetite suppressants are an easy go-to for quick results, however this can exacerbate your symptoms of PCOS and lead to gaining even more weight. Eating for PCOS requires nourishing your cells with highly anti-inflammatory foods every couple hours to regain hormonal balance and heal the chronic inflammation. Consider keeping a food journal and documenting your level of hunger and fullness, before and after

eating meals and snacks. You want to find yourself in the middle of the range, feeling satisfied and not restricted. That way, you can be sure to eat enough and ultimately keep your blood sugar balanced throughout the day. Consider speaking with a Registered Dietitian who specializes in women’s health and can provide personalized meal plans as well as step-by-step instruction on how to incorporate a PCOS friendly diet into your life.


3. Choose Anti-Inflammatory Foods

PCOS is an autoimmune disease, which means that your body is in a chronic state of inflammation and “attacking” itself. Studies suggest that “leaky gut syndrome” is directly correlated to autoimmune diseases and your body’s inflammatory response to food. In short, this means that the tight junctions in the lining of your stomach become weak from constantly being exposed to inflammatory foods, allowing the food to be released into your bloodstream through the semipermeable gut wall. Many studies suggest that glucose and dairy sensitivities contribute to leaky gut syndrome and cause chronic inflammation, disrupting the endocrine system and ultimately leading to hormonal imbalance. Consider taking a Food Sensitivity Test to uncover which grains, fruits, vegetables, chemicals and dyes are disrupting your body’s balance and leading to leaky gut syndrome.


4. Set Up a Self Care Routine

With all of the change you may be experience after becoming diagnosed with PCOS, it can get a little overwhelming. Anxiety and stress are not uncommon components of hormonal imbalance. Unfortunately, they can contribute to insulin sensitivity as well. Stress causes your body to release cortisol, which raises your blood sugar and secretes more insulin. This constantly bombards your cells and leads to insulin resistance, yet again. Consider setting up a self-care routine for yourself and incorporate relaxing activities throughout the day. This can be going on a morning walk, sitting fireside with some tea, going out in the sun for 30 minutes, cooking healthy meals, having dinner with the family, meditation and practicing gratitude.

5. Light Exercise

The best type of exercise for PCOS is something that does not cause stress to your body and increase your cortisol levels. This can be jogging, yoga, pilates, and moderate weight training. These exercises will increase your body’s sensitivity to insulin, which will have a positive cascade effect on inflammation and hormonal balance. Moving for 30 minutes or more a day can also help with weight management, mood swings and improving your menstrual cycle.

6. Eat More Fat

Studies suggest that a high-fat, low-carb diet may be beneficial in reducing insulin sensitivity in women with PCOS. Eating more healthy fats, such as avocado, coconut oil, salmon, chia seeds,

and walnuts will help you stay satisfied and maintain a balanced blood sugar throughout the day. If you choose to cut out carbs, be sure to transition slowly and stay in tune with your body to prevent a sudden drop in blood sugar. If you are considering a ketogenic diet, speak with a Registered Dietitian who can guide you in choosing ingredients that will enhance the quality of your diet and lead you to healthy, long-lasting results with reversing PCOS.