PCOS, Your Diet and Licorice

This usual syndrome of PCOS consists of a young female who is often overweight (though not always), and has signs of excessive androgens (testosterone). These signs include male pattern baldness, facial hair, acne, abnormal menses (either irregular and painful or irregular bleeding patterns), changes in libido, and sometimes abdominal distress or bloating. Laporo-scopic examination of the ovaries usually reveals ovaries that are too large and full of cysts, hence the name of this condition. The source of the excessive testosterone is not clear. It is thought that the damage to the ovaries from the cysts results in their abnormal secretion of hormones, and therefore the myriad symptoms of hormonal imbalance that are seen.

The reason why changing your diet to a functional diet is the first step in the therapy of PCOS is that your ovaries need the animal fats, and yes, even the healthy cholesterol found in food in order to make estrogen and progesterone, the correct female hormones. Swollen ovaries is a condition comparable to goiter, when the thyroid swells in response to iodine deficiency. Goiters often also result in a hormonal imbalance leading to hypothyroidism. In the case of PCOS, the starvation of the ovaries causes them to become cystic, swollen and eventually unable to regulate the synthesis of their hormones.

The other main dietary trigger for this imbalance is that when the proper dietary fats are missing, they are inevitably replaced by excessive carbohydrate consumption. This results in excessive insulin production, weight gain, abdominal bloating, and eventually will itself cause hormonal shifts. More good fats and fewer carbohydrate foods should help in restoring your hormones to their proper balance.

In addition to the dietary program I have outlined, there are many natural medicines which I have seen, and which have been shown in the medical literature to help PCOS. 

Because of the dietary causes of PCOS are correct, and many other hormonal diseases, as well as disease of the adrenal gland; it could all rightly be called the “sweet” diseases. That is, they are all ultimately linked to excessive consumption of carbohydrates, especially the refined carbohydrates that have become the staple foods of the Western diet. This, as I have shown, results in excess insulin production, weight gain, stress on the ovary and eventual hormonal imbalances.

What we need as therapy for this constellation is sweetness–but without the sugar–sweetness that is more like true love or compassion than the superficial sweetness of eating a sugary dessert. If we combine this with a tonic for the adrenal gland we would have our true medicine for PCOS. Licorice is just such a medicine. It is virtually the sweetest substance known to humankind, but it has the sweet effect without providing any sugar–it is a carbohydrate-free sweetener. In addition, it contains chemicals called saponins which the adrenal gland can easily turn into the cortisone-like chemicals that do so much to regulate our physiology.

One therapy that I use for PCOS is a mixture of the herbal extracts of Peony lactiflora and Glycyrrhiza uralensis (commonly known as licorice). There have been three studies in the literature showing that a combination of herbs can result in a complete remission in PCOS, and that it does so by normalizing adrenal function and reducing testosterone levels. It is important to use the correct dosages, which were also indicated in these studies.* 

Licorice is the exact picture or metaphor in nature for what we need to do to heal this illness: substitute sugar for a kind of sweetness that is healing, not destructive. It is the medicine of deep sweetness and compassion, not the superficial sweetness of a high-sugar diet. Food is medicine and the raw materials your body needs to heal.

*Yaginuma T, Izumi R, Yaui H et al. Nippon Sanka Fujinka Gakkai Zasshi 1982;34 (7): 939-944. Takahashi K, Kitao M. Int J Fertil Menopausal Stud 1994; 39 (2): 69-76. Basso A, Dalla Paola L, Erle G et al. Diabetes Care 1994; 17 (11): 1356

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