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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    My main PCOS symptom is depression, what is the best treatments?

    I've tried seeing a counsellor and i'm on anti-depressants, but since PCOS is a hormonal imbalance should i be on some sort of hormonal treatment instead?
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 6

    Thanks

    Arlene is a registered practising dietitian, with a private practice in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, and has built a strong business over the last … View Profile

    It seems that there is a strong link between androgen excess, insulin resistance and depression. One study found that women who suffer the symptoms of androgen excess (which are pretty much the symptoms of PCOS) are more likely to struggle with depression than women without PCOS. They also found that carbohydrate craving, excess hair and weight gain impact on our well-being and interfere with daily life! Another article links depression to insulin resistance. We know that PCOS is primarily thought to be an endocrine disorder with irregularities in insulin and carbohydrate processing. Not all women with PCOS are insulin resistant but many are. So, if you do have insulin resistance, you are also more likely to suffer from depression or mood disorders.
    So, the bottom line is that if you are suffering from depression with PCOS, you are not alone and it is not all in your head. Depression is another facet to this multi-faceted syndrome.
    Now that we’ve established that depression in indeed linked to PCOS, let’s look at how you can manage it so that you can live the life of joy, colour and sunshine we are meant to live.
    One of my with PCOS suffered from severe depression. She also had untreated PCOS. She was on anti-depressants for a year and saw little improvement in her mood. Her mood only normalized when her PCOS was treated and she remained stable even when she stopped taking anti-depressants. It is important to treat your PCOS. I’m not saying that you should not take anti-depressants if you are depressed – you need to be led by your doctor (remember that I am not a doctor and you need to seek medical help if you are suffering from depression). I am saying that treating your PCOS may hold an invaluable key to overcoming your depression.

    Lifestyle changes is often recommended as the first course of treatment in the management of PCOS. By lifestyle changes, we often refer to a change in diet and more regular exercise. Lifestyle changes have also shown to have a significant improvement on mood and depression in women with PCOS. One study found that if women followed a PCOS diet and exercised, they would see a significant improvement in their mood as well as other symptoms of PCOS.
    Diet seems to be the foundation of any sort of intervention! If you can lower insulin levels and improve insulin sensitivity; you should be able to improve androgen levels. This will lead to improvement in all of our PCOS symptoms, including depression.
    Recent research has shown that following a low carb, high protein (LCHP) diet improves mood significantly more than following a low protein, high carb (LPHC) diet.The researches divided women in to two groups, one following LPHC diet and the other following a LCHP diet. The women followed the diet for 16 weeks. What is key here is that neither group lost weight so improvement in their mood wasn’t down to that. Maybe it had to do with the fact that insulin levels tend to be lower and more manageable on a high protein, low carb diet?
    Certain supplements are recommended but this is more alternate and there is no scientific basis for this. Omega 3 – has been shown to lower testosterone in women with PCOS and improved testosterone levels = improved mood.
    Vitamin D – The sunshine vitamin is important in insulin sensitivity and mood.
    Eating a good PCOS diet and taking regular exercise helps the battle of depression making the mood more stable..
    If you are suffering from PCOS and depression, it really may be worth your while changing your diet and making sure you’re doing some exercise, as well as taking your supplements. It is possible to find your spring in your step and see colour in your days!

  • 2

    Thanks

    Kate Marsh

    Credentialled Diabetes Educator (CDE), Diabetes Educator, Dietitian

    Kate works with clients with type 1 and gestational diabetes, PCOS, and those following a plant-based (vegetarian or vegan) diet. As a diabetes educator, she … View Profile

    A number of studies have found that depression and anxiety are more common in women with PCOS, with the prevalence found to be 28-64% for depression and 34-57% for anxiety. Poor body image and eating disorders are also more common. There are a number of possible reasons for this including hormonal and metabolic effects and dealing with the symptoms of PCOS including acne, hirsutism (excess hair), weight gain and infertility. For this reason it is recommended that all women with PCOS are screened for depression and offered help where needed.

    As Arlene has mentioned, the lifestyle changes which are recommended as the first line of treatment for PCOS can help with depression. Exercising regularly can boost mood and eating well and getting all the nutrients you need is important for mental health. From a dietary perspective eating regularly over the day, choosing lower GI carbs (not a low carb diet) and including plenty of foods rich in vitamin B and omega-3 may help. Limiting alcohol and caffeine is also important.

    Hopefully combining these changes with professional counselling and taking your antidepressant medication will help. The Jean Hailes Foundation have a good fact sheet on PCOS and emotional health that might be helpful http://www.managingpcos.org.au/images/stories/Education/Documents/info/pcos_emotional.pdf

  • 1

    Thanks

    Arlene is a registered practising dietitian, with a private practice in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, and has built a strong business over the last … View Profile

    Being diagnosed with PCOS can be devastating. You have to find best means for controlling the depression. You must make diet and lifestyle changes and your mood will start to improve and stabilize. Don’t get me wrong, you will still sometimes wake up irritable for no reason but those days will get fewer. Let’s have a look at some the research about PCOS and Depression.

    It seems that there is a strong link between androgen excess, insulin resistance and depression. One study found that women who suffer the symptoms of androgen excess (which are pretty much the symptoms of PCOS) are more likely to struggle with depression than women without PCOS. They also found that carbohydrate craving, excess hair and weight gain impact on our well-being and interfere with daily life. Another article I thought was really interesting explores the link between depression and insulin resistance. We know that PCOS is primarily thought to be an endocrine disorder with irregularities in insulin and carbohydrate processing. Not all women with PCOS are insulin resistant but many are. So, if you do have insulin resistance, you are also more likely to suffer from depression or mood disorders. So, the bottom line is that if you are suffering from depression with PCOS, you are not alone and it is not all in your head. Depression is another facet to this multi-faceted syndrome. Now that I have established that depression in indeed linked to PCOS, let’s look at how it can be treated so that you can live the life of joy, colour and sunshine you are meant to live.

    Before getting into specifics, I want to share with you a story of a woman who suffered from severe depression. She also had untreated PCOS. She was on anti-depressants for a year and saw little improvement in her mood. Her mood only normalized when her PCOS was treated and she remained stable even when she stopped taking anti-depressants. The moral of the story is that it is important to treat your PCOS. I’m not saying that you should not take anti-depressants if you are depressed – you need to be led by your doctor (remember that I am not a doctor and you need to seek medical help if you are suffering from depression). I am saying that treating your PCOS may hold an invaluable key to overcoming your depression. Lifestyle changes are recommended as the first course of treatment in the management of PCOS. By lifestyle changes, we often refer to a change in diet and more regular exercise. Well, lifestyle changes have also shown to have a significant improvement on mood and depression in women with PCOS. One study found that if women followed a PCOS diet and exercised, they would see a significant improvement in their mood as well as other symptoms of PCOS. Somehow diet seems to be the foundation of any sort of intervention! If you can lower insulin levels and improve insulin sensitivity; you should be able to improve androgen levels. This will lead to improvement in all of your PCOS symptoms, including depression. Here’s another thing you may find interesting: recent research has shown that following a low carb, high protein (LCHP) diet improves mood significantly more than following a low protein, high carb (LPHC) diet. The researchers divided women in to two groups, one following LPHC diet and the other following a LCHP diet. The women followed the diet for 16 weeks. What is key here is that neither group lost weight so improvement in their mood wasn’t down to that. Maybe it had to do with the fact that insulin levels tend to be lower and more manageable on a high protein, low carb diet?

    Some supplements may help. Omega 3 – has been shown to lower testosterone in women with PCOS and improved testosterone levels = improved mood.
    Inositol – Important for the metabolism of glucose and women have shown improve insulin sensitivity and decrease in free testosterone levels.
    Vitamin D – The sunshine vitamin is important in insulin sensitivity and mood. Eating a good PCOS diet and taking regular supplements seems to help depression and keep mood more stable. Work on doing more exercise to improve my PCOS symptoms even more.
    If you are suffering from PCOS and depression, it really may be worth your while changing your diet and making sure you’re doing some exercise, as well as taking your supplements. It is possible to find your spring in your step and see colour in your days!

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