Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a complex condition of the ovaries, which affects approximately 6% of females of reproductive age.
Symptoms of PCOS include irregular periods, excessive hair growth (chin, upper lip and, very often on the forearms, lower legs and lower abdomen), acne (particularly along the jawline), infertility and obesity.
Elevated testosterone is one of the features of this condition and is responsible for the symptoms of facial acne, excess body hair and in some cases male pattern baldness. This is secondary to increased levels of a hormone caused Luteinising Hormone (LH) and a decreased level of a carrier protein called Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG). This carrier protein binds to sex hormones in the blood to help keep the circulating levels under control.
Another feature of PCOS is elevated circulating insulin and ensuing resistance to its action at a cellular level. This results in excess fat storage around the middle. Excess insulin further compounds the problem of increased testosterone since insulin can also increase androgen (male hormone) production through the actions of insulin or IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1) receptors on the ovaries. The extra fat tissue around the middle converts excess androgens to an estrogen called estrone, which further disrupts hormonal balance.
Another hormone called prolactin tends to be elevated in women suffering from PCOS. This suppresses ovulation (the release of the egg from the ovary) and interferes with the menstrual cycle. Elevated prolactin can also lead to fluid retention, breast tenderness and loss of sex drive.
In traditional medical practice, therapy is focused on synthetic hormone combinations, e.g. Dianette, which contains an estrogen agonist (amplifying the actions of estrogens) and an androgen antagonist (blocks testosterone). However, this does not offer a real solution to the problem and tends to cause a number of side effects.
At Invigorate Clinic, we take a multifaceted approach to PCOS that involves comprehensive hormone testing (click here for more information on testing) and a personalized lifestyle, nutrition and supplement program.
Many females with PCOS respond well to measures employed to reduce weight. A low carbohydrate approach works well for most but there is no gold standard. Nutrition plans are always highly individualized.
A low carbohydrate diet, however, does help to reduce excess insulin, decrease inflammation and encourage fat loss, all of which are beneficial for females with PCOS.
Relaxation induction methods such as Biofeedback, Autogenic Training, Mindfulness Meditation are also useful. These techniques help to reduce a hormone that is released from the brain (CRH) resulting in reduced cortisol, blood sugar and insulin. Ultimately this helps to alleviate the overstimulation of androgen production by the adrenal gland and ovaries.
A good multivitamin/multimineral complex containing B vitamins and magnesium along with chrominum, zinc and managanese is often helpful. Herbs such as fenugreek, licorice and cinnamon are also useful for helping to re-sensitize the cells of the body to insulin and improve regulation of blood sugars.
Adding 2 heaped tablespoons of cold-milled flax to your diet each day is often recommended. The fiber in flax aids elimination of toxic hormone metabolites through the gastro-intestinal tract while the lignans act as phytoestrogens, which help to raise the levels of SHBG and rebalance excess estrogen levels.
Saw palmetto is particularly useful for the symptoms of acne and excess hair growth in PCOS sufferers. This is because it blocks an enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase. Research has shown that women with PCOS tend to have higher levels of this enzyme, which converts testosterone into the more potent dihydrotestosterone. DHT appears to be responsible for the excessive growth of body hair and acne that accompanies polycystic ovaries.
At Invigorate Clinic, we also assess liver and gastrointestinal functional in females presenting with symptoms of PCOS. These aspects are important for biotransformation (detoxification and elimination) of hormone metabolites. Impaired liver or gastrointestinal functional can frequently cause hormonal imbalances that present with features similar to those of PCOS.
If you or someone you know is suffering from PCOS and would like a natural solution to symptoms, contact us today to begin diagnostic testing.