Natural solutions for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), one of the most common endocrine (hormone) disorders, are sought by many women. PCOS affects approximately 10 million women of all races and ethnic groups worldwide.
The leading cause of infertility in women, PCOS can present at any life stage – from puberty through post-menopause. Women are most likely to be diagnosed with PCOS in their twenties or thirties. 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, including obstructive sleep apnea
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
Obesity and insulin resistance are linked to PCOS; both affect hormonal function in the body.
Insulin resistance relates to problems with regulating insulin, a hormone that allows the body to properly use glucose (blood sugar) for energy, and store fat. When the body isn’t as responsive to insulin as it needs to be, too much of it circulates in the bloodstream, causing a hormone imbalance. Its fat storage function can then become predominant.
PCOS can also result from abnormal function of the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian (HPO) axis. Women with PCOS also have problems with other hormones, such as androgens and estrogen, including androgen production.
PCOS is principally a metabolic problem: the approaches that work for insulin resistance can also work for PCOS. With the goal of enhancing a woman’s quality of life, clinicians can use prescription medication (such as birth control pills for hormone regulation, and metformin for elevated glucose), and they can also use lifestyle medicine.
A thorough lifestyle assessment, blood tests, and dietary analysis are the foundation of such an assessment. Some natural approaches often recommended to manage and heal from PCOS include:
Lifestyle Improvements. A whole foods, anti-inflammatory 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. Successful approaches will differ based on a woman’s stage of life and complexity of symptoms.
Supplement Support. Some of the herbs and nutrition supplements that may be used for PCOS aim to balance blood sugar level as well as hormones. These can include Nettle Root, Green Tea, Flax Seeds, Saw Palmetto, Licorice Root, Chaste Tree Extract, Trace Minerals, Vitamin D3, and Chromium.
Metabolic Support. Magnesium may be especially helpful. A small, placebo-controlled research report of overweight, insulin-resistant subjects who took 300 mg of magnesium at bedtime had markedly improved fasting blood glucose and insulin levels, and lower insulin resistance. Magnesium can also support cognitive balance, and magnesium threonate is especially well-absorbed.
If you think you have PCOS, speak with your clinician about the approaches best suited to your symptoms and needs.