Seem unfamiliar? Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is a common cause of menstrual irregularity and infertility affecting up to 10% of women! PCOS doesn’t necessarily mean that you have cysts on your ovaries, but that can be one of the features. Even though the cause of PCOS is unknown, natural treatments tend to be very successful in treating it.
How is PCOS Diagnosed?
PCOS is diagnosed based on the Rotterdam criteria, which state that a woman has to have two of the following three symptoms of PCOS:
- Oligo-ovulation or anovulation – Meaning you either ovulate less often than you should (normal is every 28 days, close to day 14 of your cycle), or you don’t ovulate at all. This usually shows up as menstrual irregularities like very long cycles.
- Signs of hyperandrogenism – Meaning high levels of male hormones, including extra hair growth particularly on your upper lip, chin, and around your nipples, and acne around your jawline.
- Polycystic ovaries – When there are one more cysts on your ovaries and are visible by ultrasound.
There are a some other features that may be part of a PCOS picture, including:
- Metabolic dysfunction
- Type II diabetes
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
- Mood disorders like depression and anxiety
Many patients can be diagnosed based on a history and physical exam since only two of the three main criteria are required. Most women with PCOS have a long history of irregular periods, usually since their teenage years. If further testing is required, blood tests that looks for high levels of male hormones and a transvaginal ultrasound may be ordered.
How is PCOS Treated?
Conventional treatment of PCOS focuses on management of symptoms. Lifestyle changes, like weight loss and increasing exercise can help improve symptoms and lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes. Eating low-sugar foods too can help with blood sugar regulation and help control the syndrome.
In some cases even birth control pills are sometimes recommended to help reduce the levels of male hormones in the blood, and to help promote a regular period. This works for some women, but many women don’t want to take the pill, and it’s definitely not an option for women who are trying to get pregnant. Diabetes medications like metformin may also be prescribed. They help control blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity, and may help ovulation to return.
For patients who are trying to get pregnant, hormone treatments like clomiphene might be used by your medical doctor.
How Can Naturopathic Medicine Help?
Natural solutions for PCOS work very well. Diet and lifestyle modification are imperative, and your naturopathic doctor can help you develop a diet and exercise plan that works for your lifestyle. Naturopathic doctors are trained in supplementation and herbal medicine, and there are options from each category that can help.
In PCOS, the ovaries themselves become less sensitive to insulin and targeting the ovaries seems to help get women ovulating again. Inositol is one supplement that helps make this possible. There are also natural non-pharmaceutical options to help regulate blood sugar that work in a similar way to metformin.
Herbal medicine can help regulate hormone levels, and one of the best herbs for helping women with PCOS is chaste tree. There are also many other herbs that can reduce symptoms, and your ND can help choose the ones that are perfect for you.
Take action now with education on how naturopathic medicine can help! Call and book an appointment now, we would love to help!