I know that you can’t possibly give a medical evaluation over email, but I thought I might ask a few questions that might help with any upcoming posts on PCOS. I want to have more children, and I am determined to lose weight before I get pregnant again (for my health, the health of my pregnancy, and the baby).
PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) is a hormonal condition that is thought to affect more than 5 million women in the US alone. In fact, 50 to 70% of women with PCOS demonstrate measurable insulin resistance beyond that which would be expected by their body weight or degree of obesity.
While there appears to be a strong genetic component that increases onea€™s risk of developing PCOS, this risk is modified by environmental and lifestyle factors such as diet and stress. While testing can confirm PCOS, lack of abnormalities on hormonal testing including the typically checked LH, FSH, and testosterone does not mean that you dona€™t have this condition.
Symptoms of PCOS can include any of the following: infertility, irregular periods or lapses between periods for months at time (without being pregnant or breastfeeding), acne, weight gain, unwanted facial hair, hair thinning or hair loss, and less commonly, darkening of the skin in the armpits, back of the neck, or groin. Women with PCOS are also more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety, and to have eating disorders, particularly binge eating. When I think about the escalating rates of PCOS globally, and how they parallel skyrocketing rates for all kinds of inflammatory and hormonal conditions related to insulin resistance, particularly diabetes, my functional medicine brain kicks into gear looking for root causes. The ones to think about are those that can have an impact on blood sugar and hormonal balance.
One question you might have is how can a healthy woman who eats well and exercises, like our friend MC above, possibly have PCOS? First of all, most of us didna€™t grow up with moms who ate healthy during their pregnancy with us, and most of us of a certain age grew up on less-than-optimally healthy diets. Add this to our crazy-busy adult lifestyles that create chronic stress, which in turn impacts our food choices, sleep patterns, exercise, and adrenal stress, and youa€™ve got an even more jacked up blood sugar situation. A natural approach to PCOS means taking an approach to your lifestyle with the overall goals of keeping your blood sugar in balance, reducing stress and nourishing your adrenals, reducing your environmental hormone exposures, supporting your body’s natural detox pathways, and reducing inflammation.
A number of supplements, including vitamins, minerals, and herbs, have been shown in scientific studies to have positive effects in reversing PCOS. Legumes are also rich in inositol, so including garbanzo beans, kidney beans, and non-GMO organic soy in your diet can also increase your intake. Pinitol, similar to d-chiro-inositol, at 600 mg twice daily for three months lowered blood glucose levels by 19%, lowered average glucose levels by 12% and significantly improved insulin resistance. Practice meditation, even for just 5 minutes at a time, with a quick meditation in the morning, and a refresher to pick your energy back up without caffeine. Over-exercise contributes to increased cortisol production and hormonal imbalances; dial back on your exercise if PCOS is a problem and youa€™re highly athletic. Reduce or remove caffeine include coffee, tea, and if you are sensitive, chocolate; green tea is ok as it has great antioxidants but if youa€™re caffeine sensitive, skip it too. Adaptogens including Ginseng, Schisandra, Ashwagandha, Rhodiola, Rhaponticum, and Maitake mushroom support adrenal function, regulate cortisol, and help to regulate blood sugar and insulin. Just by improving your blood sugar balance and reducing insulin resistance your hormones will start to find their natural balance. Peony and Licorice Combination (Kan Herbs): reduced testosterone, increased ovulation, improved fertility in women with PCOS. Vitex (also called Chaste Berry) Extract: regulates ovulation, increases fertility, and improves progesterone in women with PCOS.
Black cohosh Extract: Improves ovulation and reduces effects of excess androgens in women with PCOS. NAC is a naturally occurring detox chemical in our bodies, and supplementation has also been shown to improve insulin resistance and reduce testosterone levels as well as hirsutism (unwanted facial hair) in women with PCOS, while improving menstrual regularity.
CoQ10 taken with clomiphene significantly increases ovulation and pregnancy rates compared to clomiphene alone. L-Carnitine taken with clomiphene significantly increases ovulation and pregnancy rates compared to clomiphene alone, and also less to a reduction in miscarriage rates. I hope this article helps you to find your natural hormonal balance, improve your insulin resistance, and achieve your dream whether that is losing weight, feeling great, or getting pregnant! It sounds like a the normal tests done to diagnosis PCOS, hormonal testing and ultrasound, aren’t fool proof. I actually find the labs generally unhelpful, though elevated testosterone is sometimes revealing. I was first diagnosed with PCOS when I was 13, I went to the doctor because I have a family history of diabetes and with all the problems I was having, we thought maybe that was it. Although i find the above information quite useful, I find it very confusing when it comes to food.
There are a number of combo products on the market targeted at PCOS treatment that contain some, if not all of these, to reduce your number of overall separate supplements.
It moved me so much that I decided to weave some of her story into this article, because it brings up a lot of good questions that many of you have probably faced if you are struggling with PCOS or wondering if you have it. I do high-intensity workouts for an hour 4-5 times per week and I trained for and ran a half marathon a few months ago.
I could cry when I think about all of the help you have provided my family – from ear infection prevention to opening my eyes to the role stress plays in my physical health. Insulin stimulates secretion of testosterone by the ovaries, and inhibits hepatic sex-hormone binding globulin (SHBG) production leading to increased circulating testosterone a€“ this accounts for the acne, facial hair, and male-pattern hair loss in many women. In other words, your genetic history doesna€™t dictate your destiny – but you may have to work a little harder to prevent insulin resistance if you come from a family that is overweight, diabetic, or have close relatives with PCOS. Test results are very variable based on the time of the month tests were done in relationship to your period, your weight, and other factors.
The reasons for this are unclear but likely have to do with blood sugar dysregulation, which may in turn worsen the problem. Because PCOS is due to insulin resistance and is related to blood sugar problems, untreated, it carries with it all of the potential risks for diabetes, and with it, heart disease and stroke. Because PCOS is so complex, Ia€™ve put the root solutions into a Guide that you can download and print out as a PDF – it’s just below!
So when you take genetics and add in a heaping dose of prenatal and childhood exposures that increase our lifetime risks for insulin resistance and inflammation, wea€™ve got a set up for developing conditions like PCOS. Too much exercise can also send your adrenals into red alert and drive up inflammation, which can also make you insulin resistant.
The real benefits come from a combination of making the dietary and lifestyle changes it takes to prevent and reverse insulin resistance, along with taking the supplements.
When this becomes our chronic state, we pump out too much cortisol on a regular basis, which increases blood sugar and puts a heavy demand on our bodies to produce insulin to manage this. See my friend Gabrielle Bernsteina€™s website for great meditation guidance that is easy to follow. In addition, we want to reduce our environmental hormonal exposure whenever possible by reducing our use of BPA-containing cans, food storage containers and water bottles, cosmetics, body products, household cleaners, and pesticides and herbicides in our foods.
Bye-bye chiro-inositol a€“ myo-inositol: true progress in the treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome and ovulation induction. Chromium picolinate improves insulin sensitivity in obese subjects with polycystic ovary syndrome. The effects of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet on the polycystic ovary syndrome: A pilot study. The combined therapy with myo-inositol and D-chiro-inositol reduces the risk of metabolic disease in PCOS overweight patients compared to myo-inositol supplementation alone. Clinical, endocrine and metabolic effects of metformin vs N-acteyl-cytseine in women with polycystic ovary syndrome.
I was first diagnosed with PCOS when I was 13 (after thinking I had diabetes) and started taking Metformin then, but I stopped taking it a few years later because it made my blood sugar go nuts and my body just couldn’t handle it and I had THE WORST periods ever.
Ginseng, however, can be stimulating to baby and high doses of vitex have historically been used to suppress lactation, though lower doses to stimulate it so pay attention to your milk supply or skip the vitex in your personal plan. Thank you so much for this amazing article… No words can describe how grateful I am for the wealth of information you provide us everyday. I am an electrologist and see many women with these conditions looking to manage more naturally. A good description and I think folks will still like chocolate chip cookies without thinking of your ovaries!!!
Or just the ones that pertain to my specific needs…I am done having children so no need to worry about my fertility.
I have never been diagnosed with PCOS and only have a couple of the trademark symptoms so I don’t think I have this – but still think these tips could apply to somene who is just looking to balance their hormones naturally? For a combined condition of hypothyroidism and PCOS what are the common ground foods someone can aim? Lots of good quality organic protein and veggies, no white flour products or processed foods, not too many grains, and very low-to-no sugar. I was wondering what your thoughts were on using berberine instead of Metformin for insulin resistance? I start my patients out with a natural approach unless their blood sugars are sky high, or their A1Cs are over 10. I wonder if the treatments that you offer would be helpful for anyone hoping to address abnormally high androgens, or whether they’d only be suitable for someone who truly has PCOS? I’ve been told that I have PCOS and IBS, and trying to find a diet that works for both is exhausting. Mark Hyman — so many of my patients have found it a do-able dietary approach and it really does help regulate blood sugar and reduce insulin resistance! It can be especially helpful to know what to do about PCOS if you are already trying to live a healthy lifestyle, eat a great diet, and you pay attention to your exposure to environmental toxins. My symptoms also include fatigue, postpartum depression & anxiety, weight gain, and acne. Initially, PCOS was thought to be a condition caused by imbalances in the a€?sex hormonesa€? (estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone) but now we know that the condition is due to insulin resistance (a condition whereby your cells don’t respond to the normal actions of insulin). And not everyone with PCOS has abnormal hormone tests or multiple cysts on the ovaries when an ultrasound is done. Although obesity worsens PCOS and increases insulin resistance, not everyone with PCOS has obvious problems with weight or blood sugar, so just because youa€™re skinny, doesna€™t mean you dona€™t have PCOS.
I recommend taking at least one from each category, and sticking with these for a minimum 3 months, ideally 6-12 months, while working on your diet and stress.
Additionally, when we are under stress, we tend to crave more sugar, carbs, and fats, which further imbalance our blood sugar. Making sure your diet is rich in antioxidant fresh vegetables, especially dark leafy greens like kale and broccoli, and berries like blueberries and raspberries, youa€™ll boost your own natural detoxification.
I know this isn’t for everyone, but now I take the lowest dose of birth control available and it has helped me tremendously, with pain and the side effects of having PCOS. I’m concerned if I got pregnant while taking any of these if threw would be adverse effects or that insulin resistance would return if I have to stop taking any of these.
I would love your permission to share this with them on my page or website or email with your permission. I appreciate all the time and effort you’ve put into this so that we women who suffer with PCOS can begin to effectively help ourselves. I had my tubes tied 3 years ago after the birth of my 3 rd daughter, but then after a nasty health crash last summer (I was on 2 doses of antibiotics for a reaction to something versus and actual infection and had a horrible reaction to it) my hormones went haywire! The research that I’ve done has been exceptional, in my opinion, instead of using the Rx. Pregnant, neither berberine or metformin are ideal, but I wouldn’t stay on the berberine if you get pregnant. Other than that, my periods are fairly regular, and although I do suffer from menstrual migraine, there’s nothing particularly abnormal about my cycle other than that. Thus, PCOS is considered to be a harbinger of metabolic syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes, which makes it important to pay attention to and treat properly. Sometimes the answer is to exercise less intensely, and to sub in more restorative forms of exercise like yoga, or gentle hikes. You can do this naturally with the dietary recommendations described in the accompanying download.
Unchecked this eventually leads to insulin resistance, increased inflammation, downstream hormonal problems, and also affects our sleep which just adds to the vicious cycle of stress, fatigue, and sugar cravings. Making sure you are having a daily bowel movement is essential for eliminating excess environmental estrogens.
Our electrologist association is looking to provide alternatives to be pills, spirolacton and met forming when possible.
I am 36 and my doctor thought I am not procuring enough estrogen though my symptoms seem to be of estrogen dominance so she put me on ortho try cyclen.
For those who may not be up for the challenge of completely revamping their whole way of eating (obviously, the healthier we eat, the better any natural solution is going to work) Plexus products may be an option. There are also a number of herbal supplements, listed in the accompanying guide, that can help along the way. We are attempting to bring more awareness, compassion and resources to women and their doctors as well.
I wanted to point you to an article that Aviva wrote specifically on flax that is so incredibly insightful. I have struggled with hormone imbalance my entire life, and after 3 months on these products, my hormones are at near perfect levels!!! In the meanwhile, I was prescribed 1000 mg of Metformin daily, and advised to stop eating a high fat diet (eggs, grass fed ground beef, avocado) but that grain wasn’t something to avoid.
My question is that I know having babies can change our hormones and such, but can they totally change you from having the PCOS?
Plexus is a company with supplements to balance blood sugar by producing insulin sensitivity (a side affect of that is weight loss), and products to heal the gut. The nice thing is that by taking 3 supplements from Plexus, you can do everything in the article above!
The reason I’m asking is that I recently switched insurance and lost my former OBGYN.
My new one has told me that Metformin would not be her first choice for me unless their were signs of blood sugar issues.



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