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Women with PCOS should get their vitamin D levels checked ASAP

(What is vitamin D?) Vitamin D or cholecalciferol is the active form of vitamin D (D3) in the body. The conversion of UVB rays from the sun with a form of cholesterol in the skin, form a precursor to active D3 in the body. Cholecalciferol (active vitamin D), is formed after some changes are made to the precursor vitamin D in both the liver and kidneys.

Vitamin D has many functions in the body; commonly known for its immune-supporting properties and ability to balance calcium in the blood (contributing to bone health), vitamin D levels have also been linked to women’s health and PCOS outcomes.

 

How does vitamin D levels in the body affect PCOS outcomes?

The short story is, the hormonal imbalances in PCOS contribute to the development of a lot of inflammation and oxidative stress in the body. Vitamin D helps to decrease this inflammation with its anti-oxidant effects.

A study demonstrated that, when compared to controls, women with PCOS had lower serum vitamin D. Lower levels of vitamin D are associated with higher HOMA-IR (a marker that denotes insulin resistance in the body), and less favourable lipid levels in the blood. Women with both PCOS and who were deficient in vitamin D are more likely to have glucose dysregulation, increased levels of fasting blood sugar, thus, poor insulin resistance outcomes.

Another study found that supplementing vitamin D in women with PCOS, improved their hs-CRP (a marker for inflammation) and TAC (total antioxidant capacity).

Supplementing with vitamin D can improve insulin sensitivity, antioxidant capacity, and decrease inflammation, in women with hormonal imbalance and polycystic ovarian syndrome.

Women with PCOS should get their vitamin D tested ASAP!

Now especially, as we head into the winter months, there is a lot less sun exposure (in the northern hemisphere) with the days becoming shorter. Individuals with high pigmentation in their skin produce less vitamin D and are prone to have decreased serum levels especially in the winter months. Women with PCOS, particularly those who live in climates with less sun exposure, should have their levels tested as soon as possible in the upcoming season. Knowing their patient’s serum levels helps the clinician adequately dose vitamin D such that a woman with PCOS may benefit from improved blood sugar control, less inflammation, and improved immune health.

Special considerations: A note on the dangers of overdosing:

Yes, it is totally possible to overdose on vitamin D. It is a fat-soluble hormone: it is stored in the body’s fat cells. (Unlike B-vitamins which are water-soluble and produce the most vibrant pee, one ever did see). Vitamin D toxicity (hypervitaminosis): the presence of vitamin D in serum is to increase the levels of calcium in the blood. Increased levels of vitamin D can lead to higher amounts of blood calcium which may cause symptoms of nausea, vomiting, urination, and weakness. It may also lead to kidney problems. This is usually rare but can be caused by significantly increased supplementation.

For the women who come see me in my practice, I run tests to assess their serum vitamin D levels prior to supplementing with higher doses (often when doing vitamin D injections). Knowing your levels is crucial in creating a treatment plan to replenish your stores, reduce your symptoms of PCOS, and improve your body’s insulin response.

 

Are vitamin D injections may be right for you? Book a virtual discovery session with me today!

 

 


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You’ve just been (or about to be) diagnosed with PCOS for your irregular periods, now what?

Why is lab work important in understanding the progression and underlying causes of PCOS and its symptoms?

Treating symptoms alone is a band-aid solution to correcting a problem. Treating symptoms without the necessary investigation is like blindly applying a band-aid to a boo-boo and hoping you get it in the right spot. Why would you do that?

Likewise, why blindly put a band-aid on your health? I see a lot of women in my practice who either have a PCOS diagnosis or symptoms of PCOS, with very basic or little to no investigative lab work. These ladies have irregular cycles, intense carb cravings, a mighty hard time to lose weight, hair loss, and acne, and a whole lot of feeling pretty low about their appearance, health, and self-esteem.

Though these signs can be a flaming red sign pointing to PCOS, there are other root causes worth exploring. Why? PCOS is more than just irregular periods; insulin, thyroid hormones, and inflammation all contribute to the pattern of symptoms present.

As a naturopathic doctor, I encourage the awesome ladies I treat in my practice to consider a COMPLETE hormone investigation. This takes out the guesswork in piecing together which hormones are triggering your PCOS symptoms (i.e.: is it adrenal or insulin triggered?) while also giving us a baseline to build their specific treatment plans on.

Here is a snippet of the hormone-related labs I like to run in my patients.

  1. HbA1C: Marker for measuring how your blood sugar has been in the past 3 months. HbA1C value between 6.0%-6.4% indicates pre-diabetes. How well your body is at processing blood sugar reveals the risk of developing/already having insulin resistance; a key player in the worsening of PCOS symptoms, weight gain, and inflammation.
  2. SHGB: Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (try saying that 10 times fast!) Produced in the liver, SHBG has a high binding affinity for DHT (the hormone that causes male-type symptoms) and Testosterone. SHBG is like a sponge soaking up all that excess testosterone, keeping it from floating around in the blood.
  3. Androstenedione: Produced by the ovaries and adrenal glands, this steroid hormone marker is overproduced by the ovaries in PCOS.
  4. DHT: Dihydrotestosterone is produced by the conversion of testosterone by 5-a-reductase (an enzyme). DHT binds much strongly to testosterone receptors, and high levels have been attributed to male pattern balding in men and women.
  5. Ferritin: The storage form of iron. Some symptoms of low iron include fatigue, low mood, feeling cold, weakness, and hair loss*.
  6. TSH: Thyroid Stimulating Hormone acts on the thyroid gland to tell it to produce thyroid hormones (T3 and T4). We Measure TSH, T3 and T4 to rule out thyroid issues that may be contributing to irregular periods, hair loss, weight gain (i.e. hypothyroidism can present with hair loss, weight gain, irregular menstrual cycles, coldness, fatigue).

Notice how many PCOS symptoms are also present in other conditions or are affected by several hormones? Testing estrogen, LH, and FSH aren’t enough to help us understand the full hormonal picture. Yes, the symptoms look a heck of a lot like PCOS and you may even have a polycystic ovarian syndrome diagnosis, but until we understand the root cause and other hormonal and organ involvements, management and treatments are just a shot in the dark or conventional birth control pills.

 

Think you have PCOS and want to know how your specific hormonal pattern is affecting your periods? Connect with me here and let’s talk about finally improving your hormones so you can finally have a happy period!


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These are unprecedented times. Whether you’re working from home or just plain-stuck-in-the-house, the isolation can make it tempting to slip into unhealthy habits. Being cooped up inside all day really does test one’s sanity, as time becomes a blurry concept. What day is it?

Since we’re all home anyway, why not use this time to get a start on your health goals that were put off BC (before COVID).

📢Introducing The Social Distancing Detox: A hands-on, start-right-away detox for the mind, body, and soul.

Let’s break it down:

Detox For The Mind: Given that most of us are forced to slow down, we may be experiencing a heightened sense of discomfort and uncertainty. Feelings of low mood, or just a case of the blahs are pretty common right now. We haven’t yet found a routine that works for us to keep us motivated and stimulated.

What you can do right now to detox a cluttered mind:

  1. Read! Pick up that book you’ve been promising yourself you’d finish for months. Dedicate an hour of your day to just reading for fun!
  2. Connect with friends and loved ones and do fun things (virtually)! Have a virtual games night! Some of my favourite games apps are Jackbox.tv and House Party App. (Let me know in the comments what your favourite virtual games apps are!)

Detox Your Body: Okay it’s been about 2 weeks, this is a PSA: hun, it’s time to get off the couch! Being home all day makes it easy and tempting to just grow roots in whatever chair or bed you spend most of your time in. Don’t do it! Side effects of moving your body include: feeling energized, motivated, and accomplished. While you’re at it, why not put that bowl of chips into its own isolation for a while.

What you can do right now to detox a cluttered body:

  1. Exercise! (How surprised were you that this was the first tip?) Go for a walk, get some sunshine! Work out! You don’t need a gym to get your sweat on: stand up and do some jumping jacks! Drop and give me 20! How about 10 burpees? Full disclosure: I’ve started working out on the driveway. Pretty sure all my neighbours can see me struggling through my push-ups, but whatever! Exercise + sunshine? Winning combo!
  2. Socially distance yourself from junk food (lol). All hope is not lost and we’ll be able to be out in society again. Continue eating healthy as to not feel the sluggishness. A clean diet doesn’t have to be fancy, why not try switching your commute-to-work-pastry with a fresh piece of fruit in the morning? Delicious!

Detox Your Space: Time to Mary Kondo and spring clean! Out with the winter baggage, all the stuff that’s cluttering up your space (and also your mind), in with the tidying up! If we’re gonna be cooped up all day, might as well have a nice space right?

What you can do right now to detox your space:

  1. Clean/organize your space! Try starting with one small project and dedicate half an hour a day just to organizing that space, and then another space, and then another, and then… Woah! It’s like a whole new room!
  2. Add some comforting additions like pants to the areas you spend much of your time in. Enjoy the nature indoors

There you have it! Quick and easy tips for detoxing while social distancing! If you liked this article, share it with 2 of your friends who are at home feeling the cabin fever too! We’re all in this together!

 

Stay healthy, stay safe!

 

I compiled a short list on how you can stay motivated and energized during these times.


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