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Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal imbalance that affects an estimated 5 to 10pc of women of reproductive age across the world and results in irregular or absent periods, acne, excess body hair and weight gain.

It can also cause problems with fertility. PCOS get its name because, under an ultrasound scan, the ovaries can look like a bunch of grapes, each one covered in what look like multiple cysts. In fact these aren't cysts at all, but are small, undeveloped follicles.

Celebrities who are reported to suffer from PCOS include Victoria Beckham, former model Jools Oliver, wife of chef Jamie, and actress Emma Thompson.

A new book by nutrition writer Marilyn Glenville aims to provide PCOS sufferers with practical ways to manage polycystic ovary syndrome through diet and other self-management techniques.

Natural Solutions to PCOS outlines a seven-step diet to control menstrual cycle and to beat PCOS. Dr Glenville writes: "Your doctor may prescribe a cocktail of different pills that may ease some of your symptoms and make you feel better, but one thing is for sure, as soon as you stop taking them, the symptoms will return.

"Most drugs also have a long list of possible side effects.

"However, my diet and lifestyle suggestions will, I strongly believe, dramatically improve the quality of your life and may even get rid of your PCOS altogether."

Dr Glenville's diet plan includes;

>1. Switch to unrefined carbohydrates (eaten with protein) and never go more than three waking hours without food to keep your blood-sugar levels balanced.

>2. Eat oily fish and foods rich in Omega 3 fats to encourage your body to become more sensitive to insulin, so it can overcome insulin resistance.

>3. Cut out all dairy products for three months to bring levels of male hormones under control.

>4. Eat more vegetables and pulses to increase levels of the protein SHBG which helps to control those male hormones.

>5. Cut right back on or cut out alcohol for 12 weeks to improve liver function.

>6. Cut down on caffeine to give your adrenal glands a rest.

>7. Cut down on saturated fats and eliminate trans fats to counter inflammatory processes PCOS causes in the body.

Natural Solutions to PCOS; How To Eliminate Your Symptoms and Boost Your Fertility, by Marilyn Glenville, published by Macmillan, price €13.70.

>ANNA COOGAN