Polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, is a common hormonal condition among reproductive-aged women. Comprised of metabolic, genetic, hormonal, nutrition and lifestyle factors, it can be devastating on many levels. Aside from unwanted physical signs like acne, obesity, and unwanted facial hair, infertility leaves women feeling helpless and hopeless. With so many health advancements evolving daily, this syndrome tends to baffle sufferers and doctors alike because no one treatment or medication works the same for all women. Some ladies find great success controlling their hormone imbalance by lowering blood sugar with medication typically prescribed to diabetes patients. Others find natural treatments for PCOS, like diet and exercise, just as helpful. Like everything we promote with the 131 Method, we believe exploring natural routes first. Read on for our best natural recommendations.
Polycystic ovary syndrome is a condition that changes a female’s hormone levels. Women with PCOS often generate excess amounts of male hormones. This hormone inequality creates menstrual cycle challenges, often leading to infertility because ovarian function is suppressed. Cysts form like pearls around ovaries (which can also be quite painful), preventing an egg from releasing each month. The complicated symphony of a woman’s cycle then becomes disrupted, causing embarrassing side effects, which we list below.
Common Sign & Symptoms of PCOS
If you experience a few of the following, it’s probably time to visit your gynecologist and/or endocrinologist. At your visit your doctor will often ask a series of questions, draw blood to determine hormone levels, and even perform an ultrasound to check for the telltale “ring of pearls” around the ovaries.
- Excess weight
- Hair growth on face and body
- Irregular periods
- Male-patterned baldness
- Darkening of the skin
- Excess insulin
- Pelvic pain
It’s important to note that diagnosing a syndrome (versus an illness, virus or disease) can be complicated. Not everyone fits the profile for PCOS. You might be thin with beautiful skin and a healthy diet and still have it. Or, you could present with a few symptoms and not get diagnosed. Very often, however, blood tests along with an ultrasound tend to be pretty conclusive. Once you receive confirmation, it’s time to research and decide the course of action that’s best for you. We highly recommend a natural approach to healing PCOS, or at least start there. The drugs prescribed for PCOS, like Metformin used for diabetics, aid with insulin levels. But, you can often control insulin levels using diet. So why not start there?
Typical PCOS Treatments
Prescription medication rarely comes without a cost. Metformin, for example, works by decreasing secretion and absorption of glucose into the blood. This increases the insulin sensitivity of muscles and tissues of the body for more efficient glucose uptake. However, like most drugs, side effects do occur. Common side effects associated with Metformin (or Glucophage) include (1):
- Digestive issues like nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and loose stools
- Fatigue and general malaise
- Vitamin B-12 malabsorption
- Liver or kidney issues after long-term use
Birth control pills are another commonly prescribed medicine for controlling PCOS by artificially controlling sex hormones. Don’t even get us started on the devastating effects of the pill for some women. Aside from affecting gut health, the effects on the brain are pretty serious. Listen here for more info.
Natural Treatments for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Natural treatments are less painful, and much less costly. Let’s start by discussing what the 131 Method does best… NUTRITION!
Less sugar (or no sugar), fewer carbs and balancing blood sugar help combat PCOS immensely. Try smaller, balanced meals at predictable intervals while focusing on protein and fat, with small amounts of slow burning carbs. Too much sugar leaves people insulin resistant, which triggers the chain of hormone imbalances that affect the ratio of male/female hormones.
Losing as little as 5 percent of your body weight can improve insulin levels responsible for PCOS. Combining a healthy diet with exercises provides the best combination for success. Learn how to do this without having to diet in the traditional sense here.
Is there anything exercise can’t fix? From mood disorders to heart disease, this one addition radically improves your health. Regular exercise helps with blood sugar control (sensing a pattern here yet?), which therefore balances hormones. It also provides stress relief, which is one of the contributing factors to PCOS. Insulin resistance is typical in those with PCOS. The pancreas secretes insulin to regulate blood-glucose levels, but many women with PCOS are resistant to its effects. To compensate, more insulin is produced (to excess). These high levels lead to the excess adrogens (male hormones), responsible for the undesirable physical effects like thinning hair, acne and facial hair.
Vitamin D is an essential vitamin for optimal reproductive functioning in women. It plays a pivotal role in various ovarian functions and affects glucose levels. This is why many herbs for PCOS contain vitamin D. The right amount and combination helps normalize metabolic and reproductive functioning, which often reverses menstrual abnormality and stimulates ovulation.
PCOS Super Foods
Aside from sticking to a lower carb diet, adding in a few super foods can help. Increasing omega 3s, detoxing the body, and reducing insulin all help combat PCOS naturally. Therefore, consume more of the foods that do each of these things (2).
- Spirulina detoxifies and helps remove toxins and heavy metals out of the body. It supports infertility and a healthy pregnancy.
- Apple cider vinegar helps the gut because it’s rich in probiotics. A healthy gut promotes balance in the entire body, helps with weight and reduces inflammation (one of the triggers of PCOS).
- Omega 3 rich foods foods like salmon, chia and flax combat inflammation and help balance out of whack omega 3-6 imbalances.
- Maca Root “balances hormones naturally, which helps increase fertility. It helps reduce growth of unwanted hair and regulate menstruation (2).” It also helps with sex drive.
- Cinnamon helps to balance blood sugar (and it tastes SO good!).
Sometimes, ya need a little medical intervention. Especially if what you’re going through affects your fertility, mood, weight and physical appearance. But you’re smart. And capable. And fierce! So why not warrior through some natural treatments for PCOS first? Comment below on the strategies that worked for you!
This article was written in collaboration by the 131 Method team and author, Henna, from the site How to Cure.com.