People suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) may, understandably, go to great, numerous lengths to find relief. But how do you know what is really going to provide comfort and what is just snake oil. Who knows unless we ask, right? So, can coconut oil help with PCOS? Turns out, experts have the answer that every woman suffering from PCOS should know.
I don't know about you, but it seems that in the past few years coconut oil has been universally hailed as the ultimate cure-all. From softening my hair, to cleaning my teeth, to curing all our health ailments, it seems to be an all-powerful ambrosia from the gods. But what does the actual science say? Is this magnificent food of the gods all it's purported to be in health gurus' chat rooms? Can it help alleviate the symptoms of PCOS?
To find out, first let's be clear about what we're asking. What is PCOS anyway? According to the Department of Health and Human Services' Office on Women's Health, PCOS is a relatively common condition impacting 1 of ten people with ovaries. The medical community has theories about what causes PCOS, from an abundance of androgens to an abundance of insulin. But nothing is known for sure. In layperson's terms, a person with PCOS may develop cysts on their ovaries and can, in some cases, become infertile.
The PCOS Awareness Association warns that just because a person doesn't get ovarian cysts, doesn't mean they won't have other PCOS symptoms. Other symptoms of PCOS include, but aren't limited to: missed, irregular, or heavier than normal periods, pelvic pain, hair loss, unwanted hair growth, and fatigue. And again, that's just to name a few.
PCOS can cause infertility and severe pain, so if you're looking for relief, please note that nothing here should be used as a substitution for medical advice. Since there is no cure for PCOS, according to the PCOS Awareness Association, managing your symptoms to keep yourself comfortable should be your primary goal. It's important to understand, too, that not all people with PCOS will have the same goals for treatment.
For example, some people may be family planning and therefore looking to manage fertility. While others may be uninterested in family planning and looking only to manage pain and discomfort. For each individual, finding a qualified healthcare provider, who you trust, to discuss your treatment goals and all your treatment options is vital.
Perwsonally, I adore trying home remedies. I mean, I'm not going to stop listening to science or anything, but sometimes a good garlic tea seems to make everything better. As I said, coconut oil does seem to be able to do just about anything. So as the superhero of home remedies, what do experts have to say about coconut oil's ability to soothe PCOS? Stefani Ruper of Paleo for Women encourages women to seek out alternatives to the often prescribed birth control and insulin regulation. Ruper says that prepping meals with coconut oil will help people with PCOS avoid unhealthy seed oils altogether.
The PCOS Awareness Association states that the best way to alleviate PCOS symptoms is through nutrition and exercise. While they don't mention coconut oil specifically, individual health coaches and dietitians around the internet swear by the nutritional benefits of coconut oil. Like Amy Plano, for example, the self-described "PCOS Dietician," who says that coconut oil "stabilizes blood glucose levels, improves blood lipid profile, helps with thyroid regulation, [and] promotes an ideal weight."
However, it doesn't appear that the ambrosia-type benefits of coconut oil are heralded by western medical doctors. In fact, Dr. Walter Willett at the Harvard School of Public Health Department of Nutrition cautions that wellness bloggers are definitely jumping to conclusions that the evidence just doesn't currently support. Willett writes:
But, for now, I'd use coconut oil sparingly. Most of the research so far has consisted of short-term studies to examine its effect on cholesterol levels. We don't really know how coconut oil affects heart disease...Coconut oil's special HDL-boosting effect may make it "less bad" than the high saturated fat content would indicate, but it's still probably not the best choice among the many available oils to reduce the risk of heart.
We know that heart disease is the number one killer of women in the U.S. according to the Mayo Clinic. So if there's even the slightest chance that coconut oil isn't good for your heart, perhaps the possible benefits to PCOS don't outweigh the risks.
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