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Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome – Symptoms and Natural Remedies

Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome - Symptoms and Natural Remedies

Greetings friends. Today I am taking a look at Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS as it is more widely known. This is a common problem that I see in more and more women and particularly those that are looking to conceive a child. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS, is a health condition that affects about 10 million women in the world. The exact cause is unknown, but it is considered a hormonal problem. Genetics and environmental factors are believed to be involved in the development of PCOS. It is a leading cause of female infertility and is responsible for a number of symptoms that can affect the body physically and emotionally. Despite the name, many women do not have cysts on their ovaries. In 2013, an independent panel of experts recommended to the National Institutes of Health that the name be changed because the name is confusing and hinders patient care and research efforts.

PCOS is often characterized by insulin resistance. The endocrine system is very complex; while PCOS has been recognized and diagnosed for over 75 years and is now considered the leading form of endocrine disruption in women of reproductive age, there’s still a lot to learn about how exactly this hormonal imbalance occurs in different women and how it can most effectively be reversed. Alarmingly, current estimates show that somewhere between 5 percent to 20 percent of women of childbearing age are affected by PCOS. However, less than 50 percent of women are properly diagnosed. This means millions have no idea what’s causing their underlying symptoms. Common symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome include weight gain and stubborn weight retention, changes in mood, low libido, irregular periods, irregular hair loss and growth, and acne — plus, it’s considered to be the major cause of infertility issues in women.

PCOS can develop for a number of different reasons, and symptoms can vary a lot from woman to woman, although it is generally accepted that insulin resistance plays a large part in the development of the disease. Currently, there is no known “cure” for PCOS, although the underlying hormonal causes are believed to be mostly reversible, and many women find effective ways to lower their symptoms without the use of medications. For doctors, one of the challenges of identifying and treating polycystic ovarian syndrome is that it cannot be diagnosed with one test alone. Plus, PCOS symptoms closely mimic those of other hormonal disorders, like adrenal fatigue, chronic fatigue and thyroid disorders and in many cases these are present also with PCOS. While PCOS symptoms can come and go depending on fluctuations in someone’s lifestyle, insulin resistance affects 50 percent–70 percent of all women with polycystic ovarian syndrome. And when left untreated, this can increase the risk for metabolic syndrome, hypertension, dyslipidemia (high cholesterol and/or triglycerides) and diabetes down the road.

Hormones involved in PCOS include:

  • Androgens. All females make androgens (also referred to as “male hormones”), but there are often higher levels of androgens in women with PCOS. The excess androgens are produced mostly by the ovaries, but the adrenal glands can also be involved. Excess androgens are responsible for many PCOS symptoms including acne, unwanted hair, thinning hair, and irregular periods.
  • Insulin. This hormone allows the body to absorb glucose (blood sugar) into the cells for energy. In PCOS, the body isn’t as responsive to insulin as it should be. This can lead to elevated blood glucose levels and cause the body to make more insulin. Having too much insulin can cause the body to make more androgens.
  • Progesterone. In PCOS, a lack of progesterone contributes to irregular periods.

Symptoms of PCOS

Symptoms of PCOS may begin shortly after puberty, but can also develop during the later teen years and early adulthood. Because symptoms may be attributed to other causes or go unnoticed, PCOS may go undiagnosed for some time. Women with PCOS typically have irregular or missed periods as a result of not ovulating. Although some women may develop cysts on their ovaries, many women do not.

General symptoms include:

  • Weight gain. About half of women with PCOS will have weight gain and obesity that is difficult to manage.
  • Fatigue. Many women with PCOS report increased fatigue and low energy. Related issues such as poor sleep may contribute to the feeling of fatigue.
  • Unwanted hair growth (also known as hirsutism). Areas affected by excess hair growth may include the face, arms, back, chest, thumbs, toes, and abdomen.Hirsutism  related to PCOS is due to hormonal changes in androgens. Thinning hair on the head. Hair loss related to PCOS may increase in middle age.
  • Infertility. PCOS is a leading cause of female infertility. However, not every woman with PCOS is the same. Although some women may need the assistance of fertility treatments, others are able to conceive naturally.
  • Acne. Hormonal changes related to androgens can lead to acne problems. Other skin changes such as the development of skin tags and darkened patches of skin are also related to PCOS.
  • Mood changes. Having PCOS can increase the likelihood of mood swings, depression, and anxiety.
  • Pelvic pain. Pelvic pain may occur with periods, along with heavy bleeding. It may also occur when a woman isn’t bleeding.
  • Headaches. Hormonal changes prompt headaches.
  • Sleep problems. Women with PCOS often report problems such as insomnia or poor sleep. There are many factors that can affect sleep, but PCOS has been linked to a sleep disorder called sleep apnea.  With sleep apnea, a person will stop breathing for short periods of time during sleep.

Natural Remedies for PCOS Symptoms

1. Eat a Nutrient-Dense Diet – As you’ve learned, an “appropriate diet” is a bit different for everybody. In women who are overweight, mostly sedentary and battling insulin resistance, following a diet aimed at healthy weight loss that’s low-glycemic, low-sugar and nutrient-dense helps. On the other hand, in women who are battling adrenal or thyroid “burnout,” who are underfed, overly stressed and fatigued, resting and focusing on eating more nutrient-dense calories is likely the best approach. No matter the cause of hormonal imbalance, nutrient density and eliminating exposure to toxins are important. It’s crucial for everybody, whether hormonally balanced or not, to boost metabolism and therefore help with hormone production by eliminating various toxins that enter our bodies through modern and processed foods. Hormones can easily go awry when the body’s bombarded by things like artificial sweeteners, pesticides, preservatives and so on. Rather than focusing on what needs to be eliminated from the diet, think about “nourishment” being the goal, especially eating a variety of natural anti-inflammatory foods like vegetables, fruits, grass-fed/pasture-raised meat, wild-caught fish, nuts/seeds – like chia, flax, hemp, almonds and walnuts and unrefined oils & fats (including coconut oil, olive oil and avocado). Something positive to remember is that the same dietary treatment used to fight PCOS also helps treat a whole host of other common diseases, including obesity, heart disease, autoimmune diseases, adrenal fatigue, thyroid issues and diabetes.
Anything that does not come in a bag or a box is more supportive than packaged, processed foods. Support your thyroid and adrenal glands by reducing stress placed on them caused by a poor diet. Adrenal and thyroid imbalance often comes with PCOS . This means experimenting with removing common allergens or sensitivities, toxins, and chemicals, including:

  • Too much alcohol or caffeine
  • Most sources of sugar and sweeteners (including high-fructose corn syrup, packaged sweet products and refined grains that trigger insulin spikes and are inflammatory and irritating to the gut)
  • Packaged and processed foods eliminated as possible, since these are filled with many types of artificial ingredients, preservatives, sugars, sodium and potential endocrine disruptors.
  • Hydrogenated and refined vegetable oils (soybean, canola, safflower, sunflower and corn), which are highly inflammatory
  • common sensitivities, including conventional dairy products and gluten

2. Reduce Stress (Both Physical and Psychological) – One of the keys to solving any hormonal problem is to take a close look at the “mind-body connection.” That’s because stress can have drastic impacts on the endocrine system and therefore on hormone production. Different things work for different people when it comes to combatting chronic stress, whether it’s spending more time in nature, yoga, meditation, prayer, journaling and so on. Try to address which areas of your life cause the most stress and how you can handle them appropriately. Remember that stress can show up in the body in many different ways. Even lack of sleep, your diet, and exercise routine all can be perceived as stressful if they aren’t quite what your body needs. Adaptogen herbs are a unique class of healing plants that can help promote hormone balance and protect the body from the effects of cortisol caused by chronic stress. They also can be used to treat polycystic ovarian syndrome, along with tonic herbs. These herbs include ashwagandha, holy basil, Rhodiola and maca root. While they won’t take the place of a healthy diet and dealing with stressful circumstances in your life at their root, they can help the body improve thyroid function, adrenal function, lower cholesterol, reduce anxiety and depression and offer support against PCOS symptoms.

3. Get Enough Rest  – Sleep is crucial for cell regeneration, hormone production, stress control and even weight management. In fact, sleep deprivation can have the same negative effects on health and hormones as a lack of activity and a poor diet can. In a review published in Human Reproduction, researchers looked at a cross-sectional study of women with and without PCOS. They found that “sleep disturbances were twice as common in women with PCOS compared with those without,” and women with PCOS especially had difficulty falling asleep. According to a large cross-sectional study, PCOS sufferers who get less sleep are at more risk for mental issues and insulin resistance. Consistently going without enough sleep increases stress hormones in the body, including cortisol, and changes levels of hormones that control your weight and appetite, including insulin and ghrelin. The more stressed you are, the more sleep you likely need — but the general recommendation that works well for most people is aiming for seven to nine hours each night.

4. Exercise in an Appropriate Way – If you have a predisposition to developing hormonal imbalances, keep in mind there’s a fine line between too little activity and too much. Generally speaking, women’s bodies are more susceptible to hormonal changes when exercise is increased beyond healthy levels. For example, “female athlete triad” is a condition that can contribute to PCOS. It’s caused by too much exercise coupled with a restrictive diet and too few calories. Female athletes also can be more susceptible to irregular periods, according to multiple studies. Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to cut out exercise altogether, since there are many benefits of exercise that can help with hormonal balance. It’s just a matter of finding which amount works best for you. If you’re someone who battles high levels of cortisol and chronically unstable blood sugar levels, you might be dealing with some extra body weight and turning to exercise to help shed unwanted kilos although exercise on it’s own will not reduce weight. This is still a good approach, but more isn’t always better. And pushing yourself too hard when you’re struggling with exhaustion can cause even more hormonal stress. Take a close look at all of the types of stress that are being placed on your body, and consider if doing gentler exercise, or intense exercise but for shorter periods of time (such as high intensity interval raining), will help you. Focus on getting enough activity to help with insulin sensitivity and burning excess fat, without causing the adrenals to become overstimulated.

5. Avoid Exposure to Endocrine Disruptors – Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interfere with the production, release, transport, metabolism or elimination of the body’s natural hormones. In today’s industrialized society, we come across these more than ever before: in the air we breathe, water we drink, soil we use to grow food, and in the beauty or household products we buy. These disruptors can mimic naturally occurring hormones, especially estrogen, which can result in either overproduction or underproduction of actual hormones. Lot’s of these are not surprisingly found in junk and packaged foods. While it doesn’t pay to stress over air pollution, you can do your best to avoid chemical products, including:

  • Dry-cleaning chemicals
  • Skin care products loaded with artificial ingredients
  • Non-organic produce sprayed with pesticides and chemical compounds known as xenoestrogens — including industrial compounds such as polychlorinated biphenyl, bisphenol A and phthalates used in plastic and aluminum cans

6. Try Healthy Ways to Lose Weight – Most traditional health practitioners begin treatment plans for PCOS by advising women to lose weight. While this blanket statement is often unhelpful due to its broad nature, it’s true that by altering your lifestyle and losing weight, you can likely decrease symptoms of insulin resistance and irregular periods. In a randomized, controlled trial of women with PCOS conducted by the Penn State College of Medicine, women who underwent lifestyle adjustments including restricted caloric intake and a regular exercise regimen experienced significant weight loss without the metabolic syndrome occurrence found in the group who used only birth control to manage the condition. Ovulation increased by 60 percent in the “lifestyle” group (with a 67 percent increase in the “combined” group who underwent lifestyle changes as well as took birth control pills) and 26 percent of the women in the “lifestyle” group achieved live births during the duration of the study. This method of treating PCOS symptoms is also important because PCOS increases the risk of high cholesterol, diabetes, sleep apnea and high blood pressure. A smaller risk for all of these conditions can be achieved by healthy weight loss. In general, obesity exacerbates symptoms of PCOS. While weight loss can be challenging with this condition, it can greatly reduce the severity of symptoms and promote fertility, improve glucose tolerance and regulate menstruation.


7. Supplement with Inositol – One particularly significant natural method of treating PCOS is inositol, a sugar alcohol chemical compound found in fruits, beans, grains and nuts (although it is not always bioavailable in these foods if presented with phytates). In nutrition, inositol is present in the highest levels in cantaloupe and oranges. Most sources investigate inositol in supplement form, although the specifics can get a little tricky as there are two types of inositol: myo-inositol and D-chiro-inositol. However, the research seems to support that, at doses somewhere between 1,200-2,400 milligrams per day, inositol can greatly improve PCOS symptoms. Multiple studies have shown that supplementation may improve insulin resistance, decrease male hormones in the bloodstream, and lower blood pressure and high triglycerides. Most notably, inositol seems to promote ovulation, which, in turn, may support fertility. In one study, only 6 percent of control group participants experienced menstrual cycles versus 86 percent in the inositol group, results that seem to be supported by follow-up research.

8. Support Your Body Using Complimentary Treatments – Some women with PCOS find relief from symptoms when turning to complimentary practices like chiropractic care, acupuncture, massage therapy and osteopathy. These can help relieve stress and restore proper “energy” to the body, likely by lowering stress hormones and improving a sense of well-being. For example, according to the Journal of the International Society of Gynecological Endocrinology: Acupuncture therapy may have a role in PCOS by increasing blood flow to the ovaries, reducing of ovarian volume and the number of ovarian cysts, controlling hyperglycaemia through increasing insulin sensitivity and decreasing blood glucose and insulin levels. Experiment with different options to see which ones work best for you, whether it’s receiving adjustments from a chiropractor who can help with managing chronic pain and getting you back on your feet, or trying herbs to help you sleep and unwind more easily.

PCOS is a condition that is able to be reversed and controlled using natural health care approaches and is often one that is included in an approach to thyroid and or adrenal imbalances by most natural health care practitioners as in women these frequently occur together. If you are suffering from these symptoms or are constantly tired, having problems conceiving or anxious and not sleeping, then make an appointment to see your natural health professional today and get some help to get this condition under control.

Well that’s about it from me. Until next time, be well, naturally.

Craig Hitchens – Natural Health Practitioner & Remedial Therapist

 

 

Sources:

www.pcosaa.org/symptoms
www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pcos/basics/definition/con-20028841
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3872139/
www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/polycystic-ovary-syndrome
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26642102
www.pcosaa.org/pcos-symptoms
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3752890/
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4525389/
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www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25432918
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www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/202303
www.draxe.com/polycystic-ovarian-syndrome/

 

 

Alternative & Natural Health Disclaimer:

The information contained in this article is accurate at the time of posting but may change thereafter. The information provided on the various natural health subjects from this website of www.craighitchenstherapies.com is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as any form of medical advice. The information in the article this disclaimer is linked from is not meant to treat, diagnose, prescribe or cure any ailment. Always check with your health professional before taking any products or following any advice that you believe may conflict with other forms of health care. Always consult your health care professional before you start, stop or change anything that has been previously prescribed. Certain herbs and holistic remedies are unsuitable to take if you are pregnant or nursing and must always be cleared by your health professional before use.

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