Healing Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Naturally
PCOS is one of the most common women’s health concerns affecting hormonal balance.
What is PCOS?
PCOS involves an excess of androgens (what we know as male hormones: testosterone, DHEA), menstrual irregularity, and cystic ovaries.
Approximately 5-10% of women ages 18-44 years old are affected by PCOS. Because the criteria that are used to diagnose PCOS are still changing, the exact number is unknown and difficult to estimate
What are the criteria to diagnose PCOS?
To be diagnosed with PCOS, a woman must present with two out of the three Rotterdam criteria:
- Oligo or anovulation (irregular menstrual cycles)
- Hyperandrogenism (clinical and/or biochemical)
- Polycystic Ovaries (on ultrasound)
What are the signs and symptoms of PCOS?
- Delayed onset of first menstrual cycle
- Infrequent or absent menstrual cycles
- Infertility (lack of ovulation)
- Hirsutism (excess coarse male pattern body hair growth – common on the upper lip, chin, chest, and below the belly button)
- Thinning hair
- Skin tags, patches of skin that appear dark brown/black
- Elevated testosterone and DHEA
- Weight gain (40-85% of women with PCOS are overweight or obese)
- Sleep Apnea (short periods where breathing stops while sleeping)
- Insulin resistance (blood sugar imbalance)
- Eating disorders
Women with PCOS are at Increased Risk for:
- Metabolic Syndrome
- Type II Diabetes
- Heart Disease and High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Mood disorders
- Endometrial hyperplasia and endometrial cancer
What causes PCOS?
Currently, the exact cause of PCOS is unknown; this is due to the fact that there are a number of factors that contribute to the development of PCOS. Genetics do play a role, you have a greater chance of developing PCOS if your mother or sister have it. Excess inflammation, body weight and insulin/blood sugar imbalances also contribute to PCOS.
How is PCOS treated?
There are a number of medications often prescribed to treat the symptoms of PCOS, these may include birth control pills to regulate your menstrual cycle, spironolactone for the excess hair growth, metformin for blood sugar balance, and/or clomid to induce ovulation. These are all symptomatic treatments, that do not exactly get to the root cause of the issue.
The naturopathic approach to PCOS is quite different. We look into your whole health history to find out what may have lead to this imbalance in the first place. We will review what lifestyle factors and stresses may be obstacles to your healing. Lab work and imaging will also be reviewed to guide us in re-balancing the endocrine system. Treatment will include education around lifestyle and dietary changes that can support your body. And we may use tools including herbs, homeopathy, vitamins, and supplements to regulate your hormones, blood sugar, and mood naturally.
Types of therapies may include:
Diet and Lifestyle Support:
- Dietary assessment and adjustment to focus on whole food diet with adequate protein, vegetables, and healthy fats to balance blood sugars, lower cholesterol and modulate weight.
- Loss of 5% of body weight has been shown to decrease symptoms associated with PCOS.
- Liver supporting herbs such as milk thistle, white peony, or dandelion root may be used to aid the liver in metabolizing and regulating hormone balance.
- Hormone modulators like chaste tree or saw palmetto may be used to decrease testosterone and balance female hormones.
- Adaptogens like eleuthroccocus and licorice may be used to buffer your stress response and decrease the impact extra cortisol (the stress hormone) has on blood sugar.
Vitamin, Mineral & Nutrient Support:
- B vitamins are important in all biochemical reactions in the body, they are involved in hormonal metabolism and they feed the adrenal glands (the stress managing gland).
- Mineral support including magnesium, zinc, chromium and other trace minerals. These minerals play a number of roles in the body, from blood sugar and hormone balance, to proper heart and brain function.
- Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids are anti-inflammatory and play an important role in hormone production and modulation of cholesterol.
These are just some of the many options and treatments that may be used in the natural treatment of PCOS. Naturopathic treatment plans are always individualized and are unique to each patient. Reminder: we are treating the person not the disease.
Resources and References:
Disclaimer: This advice is for informational purposes only. It is not meant to replace a consultation with your health care provider. Your naturopathic doctor will choose individualized therapies that are most appropriate for you and for your current needs.
About the Author:
Dr. Taylor Pagano is a Naturopathic Doctor at Richmond Natural Medicine where she enjoys helping people in the areas of general wellness, gastrointestinal concerns, neurology, dermatology, insomnia and women’s medicine. She received her naturopathic medical degree at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona. To book a Naturopathic appointment with Dr. Taylor Pagano, contact our office at (804) 476-2113.