If you’ve ever experienced being told you have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) it can be confusing and disheartening.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a reproductive hormonal imbalance in your body and is one of the most common reasons why women have trouble getting pregnant. But the good news is you have options. You don’t have to immediately hit the meds or start IVF just because your doctor doesn’t fully know or understand other natural options that may help. Most traditional doctors do not get this type of training in medical school.
There are ways to treat PCOS naturally and still get pregnant, and/or achieve hormone balance. It might feel like it’s the end of the road but I assure you, it’s not. Balancing your hormones naturally just takes better understanding of the possible contributing factors, and the domino effect happening in your body.
PCOS: It’s All in the Hormones
Polycystic ovarian syndrome affects 5-13% of women in the reproductive age making it the most common hormonal endocrine disorder in women. With PCOS, your ovaries are larger than normal and have tiny little cysts containing immature eggs.
These immature eggs aren’t able to mature into healthy viable eggs, disrupting ovulation and your normal menstrual cycle process. This makes it difficult to get pregnant, and the infertility rate could be up to 80% if untreated.
Many doctors aren’t always aware of what exactly causes the growth of these fluid-like sacs on the ovaries, but they’ve attributed it to excess hormone production of androgen. This hormone imbalance in your body can be caused by:
- Insulin resistance – When your insulin doesn’t work as it should by turning glucose (sugar) into energy you can become insulin resistant. This is seen in people who are obese, diabetic, have metabolic syndrome, but even women with normal weight can have insulin resistance too.
When you have a high level of insulin in your system it signals your ovaries to overproduce testosterone, which is an androgen hormone resulting in the excess production of androgens.
Insulin resistance has also been shown to decrease the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and increase the luteinizing hormone (LH) this imbalance in ratio henders your ovulation cycle again resulting in infertility.
- Inflammation – Chronic systemic inflammation can be caused by insulin resistance or even stress. In response to stress, your adrenal glands release not only your stress hormone, cortisol, but adrenal androgen hormones as well.
Environmental endocrine disruptors (BPA, dioxin, atrazine, phthalates) found in pesticides, make-up, tampons, and cleaning products can also induce systemic inflammation in your body causing your hormones to go haywire.
- Genes – Our genes are our genes for life – we can’t change that, but we can be more aware that our actions and what we put in our body affect us differently if we have a family history of PCOS. This is what is called epigenetics, how the environment can influence your genes.
The excess of androgens is what gives women unwanted hair on their face and body, thinning hair, increased acne, irregular or missed periods, mood changes like depression, and weight gain especially in the mid-section.
With any hormone imbalance in your system, whether it’s excess androgens or not, it causes all of your other hormones to become imbalanced as well.
5 Ways to Treat PCOS Naturally
It’s important to know that you can still get pregnant if you have PCOS! And the best part about that is you can even treat PCOS naturally. You aren’t born with PCOS, it’s a reaction your genes have on the environment you surround yourself with such as toxins, diet, exercise, and stress level. You can’t change your genes, but you can change the following environmental exposures to improve fertility.
Here are 5 ways you can work to treat your PCOS naturally:
1. Eat Hormone Healing Foods
What you put in your body is one of the most important steps in balancing your hormones. If you’re loading up on processed foods you can be sure you’re not only gaining weight, but your also sending your hormones into a frenzy.
A PCOS diet should include organic, anti-inflammatory whole/real foods. The following list should go with you to the grocery store every week:
- Green leafy vegetables
- Bok choy
- Wild Caught Salmon
- Coconut oil
Avoid dairy and gluten as these foods can cause inflammation in your body as well. I typically recommend Paleo-style nutrition, as it provides an anti-inflammatory nutrient dense way to eat.
2. Control Your Blood Sugar
Your cells become resistant to insulin because of the constant interaction between insulin and sugar.It’s as if the cells are “sick of” seeing insulin constantly. So they shut the door, to these two leaving high levels of insulin and sugar in your blood.
This is by far the strongest link to PCOS – insulin resistance – and this has to do with the sugar in your body. Everything these days has added hidden sugars in them. So reading the labels for your food is very important, and even more so, trying to minimize foods that are processed and packaged and labels on them to begin with. For many women with PCOS a lower carbohydrate version of Paleo nutrition appears to work well, however, if you are new to diet changes reducing sugar is the place to start.
3. Get Your Nutrient Levels and Hormones Tested
Making sure you have optimal status on several key nutrients involved in hormone metabolism is important! Get tested for vitamin D, B vitamins, magnesium, and zinc especially. And of course as part of a PCOS work up ask your doctor to test your blood sugar levels (fasting blood glucose and HbA1c), fasting insulin level, as well as your hormones, including adrenal, thyroid and sex hormones. If you do go on supplements, make sure you are using brands that are third-party quality tested.
Supplements know to support PCOS include the following:
4. Lower Your Stress Levels
Take care of your stress levels. As I said before, stress can induce the release of adrenal androgens. Androgens are released from your ovaries and your adrenal glands. If you are in a constant state of stress from your job, homelife, or even from your body having to detox too many toxins, your hormones can be affected.
Try adding moderate exercise into your daily routine, make sure you’re getting enough restful sleep at night, and we could all use a little meditation to balance us out and help with stressful situations.
5. Use Natural Personal Care Products
Our skin is the largest organ on our body and can absorb up to 60-70% of toxins we put on it in seconds. Summertime is here and what is the main thing we do before getting under the blazing sun? Apply our sunscreen to protect us from UV light! You might think you are protecting yourself from the sun, but what chemicals are in that lotion? Not anything good.
Whenever you put anything on your skin such as make-up, skin care products, sunscreen it absorbs right into your bloodstream. To learn about what to look for on labels read more here. The EWG (environmental working group) has also created an app called Skin Deep that rates products on there toxicity levels.
Vaginas are even more permeable than the skin as they have a mucous membrane, which is why making sure your tampons and pads are toxin/chemical free. Some brands have been found to contain these chemicals that are endocrine disruptor affecting your reproductive system! Luckily, there are now natural tampon products on the shelves now so just read the label on your box before purchasing. I recommend using a 100% organic cotton brand if possible.
Find a Functional Medicine Doctor Who Understands PCOS
It’s important to understand the root cause of your PCOS and to educate yourself on this disease. I recommend asking your doctor about testing your hormones to see what other hormones could possibly be imbalanced. Get a complete hormone panel which includes estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, AMH, cortisol and DHEA. Thyroid function, insulin and blood sugar levels, as well as key nutrients are important to check also, as I previously mentioned.
Treatment is highly individualized – if you have PCOS you can get treatment, no matter how old you are, or if you’re trying to get pregnant or not. It’s an imbalance in your hormones that is affecting your body not only by cysts on your ovaries but other ways as well. If you struggle with PCOS and need help in balancing your hormones call (602) 892-4727 to book an appointment with Dr. Emily Parke today.