Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), one of the most common endocrine (hormone) disorders, affects approximately 10 million women of all races and ethnic groups worldwide. It’s the leading cause of infertility in women and can present at any life stage – from puberty through post-menopause. Most women with PCOS will have cysts on the ovaries, but as many as 30% of women will not have cysts. Women with PCOS experience an array of symptoms, including:
irregular menstrual cycles
pelvic pain with or without periods
mood swings, depression or anxiety
thinning hair on the head
excessive body hair (hirsutism)
fatigue and sleep problems
Because of the wide range of PCOS symptoms, fewer than 50% of women are properly diagnosed. Too often women simply accept the discomfort and don’t inform their doctors until symptoms are at their worst. Even then, they are often misdiagnosed because so many of the symptoms can be attributed to other causes. Another reason for missed diagnosis is that PCOS has long been believed to be present only in obese women; we now know that it can affect women of any body weight including those who are normal or even underweight. Additionally, PCOS can present differently based on life stage, genetics, ethnicity, age and environmental and lifestyle factors such as self-care, exercise, and eating habits.
Causes of PCOS
The exact cause is still unknown, but we know that there is a metabolic basis to the PCOs picture. Genetics and environmental factors play a huge role.
Insulin resistance relates to problems with regulating insulin is an issue with PCOS especially if blood sugars are normal.
Dr. Samuel Thatcher, an early pioneer in PCOS research and treatment, was among the first clinicians to advocate for a holistic approach to PCOS treatment. With the goal of enhancing a woman’s quality of life, holistic health practitioners perform a thorough lifestyle assessment, blood tests, and dietary analysis. They then educate and guide women in using natural approaches to manage and heal from PCOS, such as:
Lifestyle Improvements: A whole foods diet, exercise, stress management, and proper rest are essential to PCOS treatment. These approaches can create a positive shift in blood sugar level, mood, and body weight. Approaches will differ based on a woman’s stage of life and complexity of symptoms.
Finally, we want to support the breakdown of androgens to ensure your system can stabilise its hormonal levels. This will generally result in improvement in skin, energy but it depends on the genetics of each person.
Supplement Support: Some of the herbs and nutrition supplements that have been shown to be helpful in managing PCOS symptoms are berberine, Inositol, n-acetyl-cysteine etc. There are many herbs that aim to balance blood sugar level as well as hormones. Some examples include Nettle Root, Green Tea, Flax Seeds, Saw Palmetto, Licorice Root, Chaste Tree Extract including Trace Minerals, Vitamin D3, and Chromium.
Metformin maybe a good addition if you are planning to conceive which I also support.
PCOS is not a ” take this one thing because we know it will help” approach. PCOS has many different factors and can show differently in women. Hence, testing and applying research to your specific needs is important.
For more information on the approach to PCOS, feel free to reach out or find a qualified Naturopathic Doctor.
PCOS Awareness Association. Accessed 15 Jan 2018: http://www.pcosaa.org/pcos-symptoms
Hudson, T. N.D., Women’s Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. (2007) pp23-24; 28-30. McGraw/Hill publishing.
Dr.ToriHudson.com Accessed 15 January 2018: http://drtorihudson.com/general/endocrine-health/pcos/polycystic-ovarian-syndrome-pcos/
Thatcher, Samuel S., “PCOS: The Hidden Epidemic.” (2000) Indianapolis, IN: Perspectives Press.
Harris, C. PCOS, A Woman’s Guide to Dealing with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. (2000) Thorson’s publishing. Located on InfertilityBooks.com: http://www.infertilitybooks.com/titles/pcos_womans_guide_polycystic_ovary_syndrome.html
Lydic M, McNurlan M, et al., “Chromium picolinate improves insulin sensitivity in obese subjects with polycystic ovary syndrome.” Fertil Steril (2006) 86:243-246.
Lydic L, McNurlan M, Komaroff E, et al. “Effects of chromium supplementation on insulin sensitivity and reproductive function in polycystic ovarian syndrome: a pilot study.” Fertil Steril (2003) 80 (Suppl 3): S45-S46.
Inositol as putative integrative treatment for PCOS, PMID: 27717596