Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, abbreviated PCOS, is a common female hormone disorder with symptoms such as irregular or absent periods, unwanted hair growth, and acne. Common conventional treatments for PCOS are hormonal birth control and medication to help blood sugar and high testosterone levels. There are many safe alternative treatments that are effective and natural.
PCOS, is a hormonal disorder commonly diagnosed in young women. It was named for multiple cysts seen on the ovaries of patients diagnosed with PCOS, although this is a bit of a misnomer as many patients with PCOS will not always have cystic ovaries. Because it causes hormonal imbalances it can decrease fertility, greatly affecting your ability to have a baby.
There are multiple hormones that PCOS will affect like androgens, insulin, and progesterone.
When we think of the female hormonal system, we often associate it with estrogen and progesterone. Females also produce small amounts of androgens, like testosterone. These androgens are greatly elevated in PCOS which often leads to unusual hair growth, acne, and decreased fertility. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar. Patients diagnosed with PCOS are more likely to be insulin resistant leading to elevations in blood sugar. Progesterone is a female hormone that is often decreased in PCOS, this can affect your menstrual cycle, leading to irregular or missed periods and decreased fertility. LH and FSH are also hormones involved in a women’s menstrual cycle. In a “normal” female the ratio of LH to FSH is 1:1, PCOS patient can, but will not always present with an abnormal ratio.
The cause of PCOS is not fully understood. High androgens, inappropriate LH secretion, and insulin resistance all play a role. Is it Genetic? Maybe, you are more likely to have PCOS if your mother did1.
Conventionally PCOS is treated with The Pill, which is a hormonal contraceptive. 2 This regulates your cycle and decreases androgens. Additional medication, such as metformin and spironolactone, may be used for insulin resistance and for symptoms of high androgens such as acne and unwanted hair growth. 2,3
For many women conventional treatment is adequate but side effects from the pill (weight gain, mood changes, or breast tenderness) or from other medications can be undesirable or unmanageable. For others, they do not wish to take medications or the medications are not working as anticipated. Lastly, for women trying to get pregnant the pill is not an option.
If conventional treatment isn’t right for you, or you would like adjunctive care, there are many alternative options that are effective for PCOS.
First things first – lifestyle! Exercise not only helps with weight management but with blood sugar, cardiovascular health. 2 Additionally it can help with more regular menstrual cycles. 4 Additionally, avoiding detrimental environmental factors can be helpful for PCOS. 5
Due to insulin resistance, diet plans focus on regulating blood sugar, such as decreasing carbohydrates, can also help. Avoidance of dairy has also been possibly associated with better outcomes for PCOS patients although further research is needed. 6
There are various supplements and botanical medicines that are used in PCOS. For example, nutrients to help manage blood sugar and herbals to safely and effectively regulate the menstrual cycle. Herbs and supplements have to be chosen to best meet a person’s unique symptoms and goals, there is no one prescription fits all.
Lastly, acupuncture can be a great addition to any of the care options discussed above. Acupuncture can be beneficial for managing PCOS symptoms and to regulate cycles 3 but it also can help to calm and reset the body, setting the groundwork for good health.
Conventional treatments are effective for many patients with PCOS. Alternative treatments can help not only help with managing symptoms but also with increasing fertility. When all aspects of health are addressed, hormonal balance can be restored.
Before deciding on a treatment option or change to your treatment plan, please speak to your doctor.
If you have been diagnosed with PCOS or think you may have PCOS and are interested in alternative treatments I am here to answer questions and help get you back to feeling well again!
Kahsar-Miller MD, Nixon C, Boots LR, Go RC, Azziz R. Prevalence of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in first-degree relatives of patients with PCOS. Fertil Steril. 2001;75(1):53-58. doi:10.1016/S0015-0282(00)01662-9 ↩
Legro RS, Arslanian SA, Ehrmann DA, et al. Diagnosis and treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome: an Endocrine Society clinical practice guideline. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2013;98(12):4565-4592. doi:10.1210/jc.2013-2350 ↩ ↩2
Badawy A, Elnashar A. Treatment options for polycystic ovary syndrome. Int J Womens Health. 2011;3:25-35. doi:10.2147/IJWH.S11304 ↩
Turan V, Mutlu EK, Solmaz U, et al. Benefits of short-term structured exercise in non-overweight women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a prospective randomized controlled study. J Phys Ther Sci. 2015;27(7):2293-2297. doi:10.1589/jpts.27.2293 ↩
Barrett ES, Sobolewski M. Polycystic ovary syndrome: do endocrine-disrupting chemicals play a role? Semin Reprod Med. 2014;32(3):166-176. doi:10.1055/s-0034-1371088 ↩
Rajaeieh G, Marasi M, Shahshahan Z, Hassanbeigi F, Safavi SM. The Relationship between Intake of Dairy Products and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome in Women Who Referred to Isfahan University of Medical Science Clinics in 2013. Int J Prev Med. 2014;5(6):687-694. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25013687. Accessed May 27, 2019. ↩
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