PCOS, Cortisol, and Mood Disorders
Guest post by Felice Gersh
It’s an unchallenged fact that women with PCOS have significantly higher rates of mood disorders compared to matched controls. In other words, if you took two groups of women of the same age, weight, and educational level, and one group had PCOS and the other did not, the women with PCOS would be discovered to have a significantly higher likelihood of expressing various mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.
The precise reasons for the difference in mood disorders has been thought to be due to some or all of the myriad issues faced by women with PCOS, including the visible manifestations, such as recalcitrant acne, hair loss, and weight problems, as well as the “invisible” ones such as menstrual disfunction, infertility, pre-diabetes and diabetes, and a host of others.
Of course, all of those issues play a significant role in the creation of anxiety and depression in PCOS women, but now there’s another significant finding to add to the complexity that is PCOS.
It has been discovered that many women with PCOS have a “flipped” rhythm of cortisol. Cortisol is a critically important hormone, produced by the adrenal gland, critical to our having energy, stamina, and being tolerant to stress. The highest peak of cortisol normally occurs in the morning with the awakening, and has its lowest point at night, when all should be asleep, or nearly so.
Women with PCOS have a cortisol rhythm which can be the exact opposite of what it is normally, with its highest level at night and lowest one in the morning. Such an aberrational rhythm has definitively been shown to elevate the risk of mood disorders, as well as increase diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
There is no known cure for such an improper cortisol rhythm, but as in all things integrative, there are avenues which can be traveled which will improve the situation.
Do all you can to reset the cortisol daily rhythm into the proper beat.
- Watch the sunset each night and get bright light in the midday
- Exercise in the morning
- Eat at predicable times (never later than 7 PM)
- Eat a healthy and hearty breakfast
- Go to bed no later than 11 PM
- Avoid the Standard American Diet (high fat, high meat diet, high sugar)
- Eat vegetables at every meal.
- Try taking adrenal adaptogens (such as Rhodiola or Licorice (watch BP) in the morning and Ashwaganda at night)
Even when we can’t “cure” something, we can “understand” and “improve” it, and with that, set the stage for a better life – filled with more health and joy!
Dr. Felice Gersh is one of only a small number of fellowship trained integrative gynecologists in the nation. She blends the best of the world of natural and holistic medicine with state of the art functional and allopathic medical treatment. Because of her extensive knowledge of the complex inter-relationships of the body’s organs, she recognizes the need to investigate all aspects of health, always working to re-establish a healthy gastrointestinal tract, adequate sleep, good mood, great nutrition, high energy, and balanced hormones.
Expert in all areas of women’s health, and particularly of gynecological and reproductive matters, Dr. Gersh deals in an integrative manner with such uniquely female issues as polycystic ovary disease (PCOS).
She is currently writing a book on Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and writing a chapter on the same topic for a medical textbook.
You may contact Dr. Gersh at:
Integrative Medical Group of Irvine, 4968 Booth Circle, Suite 101, Irvine, California 92604