PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and is a condition that affects the natural balance of female hormones. Nearly 10% of women have PCOS globally. Read more about the involvement of hormones here [https://thewellnesssuiteto.com/pcos-naturopathic-treatment-solutions/]. While cysts on the ovaries are only part of the diagnose, they aren’t always present in all cases. To diagnose PCOS a woman needs to exhibit at least 2 out of the 3 following symptoms: ovarian cysts, anovulatory cycles (not ovulating during her period/irregular cycles), and male-type characteristics such as increased facial hair and hair loss on the head.
The imbalance of hormones and menstrual irregularities aren’t the sole indicators of PCOS. In fact, this disease has similar symptoms to metabolic disorders like diabetes. The hormone insulin (the which is off balance in diabetes) also plays a significant role in how PCOS leads to obesity and fat gain around the waist. Insulin is the storage hormone; when we eat sugars the body releases insulin to signal the all the cells to take in the sugar. If the cells have had enough sugar they eventually stop responding to insulin, and since insulin is a storage hormone, the sugars get converted to fat and stored in fat.
Insulin also affects ovulation. When insulin is imbalanced ovulation may or may not occur. It is common to have blood sugar dysregulation, abdominal obesity, and diabetic-like symptoms with PCOS.
Other symptoms like coarse hair growth on the face and hair loss on the scalp are due to an imbalance between male and female hormones. The absence of ovulation may cause a relative increase in male hormones (ovulation = progesterone being produced). Some women may also experience estrogen dominance where due to the absence of ovulation, there is no progesterone being produced and the abundant estrogen causes symptoms of decreased sex drive, boating, hot flashes, and worsening of PMS symptoms. Imbalances of sex hormones produced by the adrenal glands also contribute to PCOS.
Treatment options vary on both the type of PCOS you have as well as the symptoms you are presenting with. Your doctor and/or naturopath will best be able to provide you with an individualized treatment protocol to support your hormonal health. Here are some commonly used options to encourage the rebalancing of hormones
The heavy influence of insulin on PCOS symptoms means that by actively eliminating excess or refined sugars from our diet will promote regular ovulation and menstrual cycles. Limiting the consumption of sugary treats, refined carbs like bread, pastas, cakes/cookies/muffins/bagels and any added sugars in foods (re: sugary drinks like soda and fruit juices, sugars added to sauces and salad dressings) has a profound effect on regulating periods while also improving blood sugar and other markers of diabetes. Increasing fibre in the diet also helps to bind to and remove any excess hormones.
In addition to diet, lifestyle factors like proper sleep, adequate exercise, and stress management also help to maintain a healthy balance of hormones. Stress often makes any underlying condition or disease worse, so plan out time in your daily schedule for relaxation activities. Aim for 7-8 hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep every night.
3. Botanicals, Herbs, Supplements, and Vitamins
Vitex: Also known as chasteberry, helps to promote and support ovulation, improve mood, bloating, PMS symptoms, acne, and cravings. There is some evidence that vitex may not be for every woman with PCOS, especially those with increased LH.
Licorice: Supports stress management and cortisol production, decreases excess androgens in combination with white peony.
White Peony: When combined with licorice has been noted to reduce excess testosterone and improve fertility.
N-acytl-cystine/NAC: Decreases excess androgens and may improve insulin levels
Vitamin D: Promotes anti-inflammatory actions in the body.
Inositol: Improves ovulation and decreases insulin resistance.
*Safety note: Always speak to your trusted health professional before starting a new herb, vitamin, or supplement to make sure that it is the best option for you!
When to seek out the guidance of a naturopath or MD:
While lifestyle and dietary changes are the first place to start when implementing natural treatments for PCOS, a naturopath/functional medical doctor can better support your unique cluster of PCOS symptoms by first conducting specialized functional lab tests. These may include routine serum blood tests as well as dried urine hormone testing to measure just how your body is responding and using its hormones and metabolites. Prior to starting any treatment protocol, it is generally advisable to work with a professional so that they may monitor your symptoms, labs, and ensure that there are no interactions between herbs and supplements with any other medications you may be taking.
A diagnosis of PCOS or even just irregular, painful, uncomfortable periods doesn’t have to be a life sentence. Are you overwhelmed with a PCOS diagnosis or even just irregular, painful, uncomfortable periods? Book in a free 15-minute consultation with Dr. Anousha, and learn about alternate options today! There are solutions to improving your wellness, and we are here to help!