PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) – Facts And Myths
The statistics are that Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) affects 5-10% of women of childbearing age, personally I think the numbers should be much higher. I think current diets and lifestyles are making the condition more prevalent. Higher than normal blood sugar levels interfere with normal egg development each month. These improperly developed eggs can remain on the ovary as a cyst. Since ovulation is either delayed or doesn’t occur at all, the hormone progesterone is either reduced or absent in that cycle, leading to many of the symptoms of PCOS. Lack of progesterone leads to a relative imbalance between estrogen and progesterone so that estrogen’s activity isn’t balanced out properly by progesterone; this is referred to as estrogen dominance. The two hormones tend to have equal and opposite functions: estrogen causes proliferation of the lining of the uterus, while progesterone helps maintain it, estrogen causes proliferation of breast tissue while progesterone keeps it healthy, estrogen tends to provoke emotions like sadness and progesterone had anti-depressant qualities. Progesterone reduces spasm of smooth muscle, normalizes clotting and vascular strength, helps thyroid function and bone building and helps prevent endometrial cancer. PCOS women have more circulating, active testosterone to cause problems like anovulation, infertility, acne, excess body and facial hair growth and loss of head hair. Regulation of dietary starch and sugar intake can greatly improve symptoms of PCOS including infertility, hair loss, weight gain, absence of regular periods, lack of ovulation, and facial hair growth. PCOS is not an infertility sentence and can be treated naturally through diet, exercise and nutritional supplements.
Because of the hormone imbalances associated with PCOS (high insulin, high androgens, low progesterone, and imbalanced ratio of estrogen to progesterone), women can suffer from the following symptoms:
· High levels of male hormones, androgens
· An irregular or no menstrual cycle
· There may or may not be many small cysts in ovaries
· Infertility or inability to get pregnant or maintain a pregnancy
· Acne, oily skin or dandruff
· Pelvic pain
· Weight gain
· Lack of ovulation
· Heavy painful periods
Naturopathic treatment of PCOS focuses on:
· Regulating blood sugar and insulin levels
· Decreasing excess male hormones and hormonal activity and so therefore improving acne, oily skin, excessive hair growth, hair loss
· Improving progesterone production
· Ensuring regular ovulation and menstruation and improving fertility
· Weight loss and regular exercise
Because most women are poorly educated with regards to what’s healthy with regards to menstruation and fertility, because of this, many will make some wrong assumptions with regards to menstruation, fertility and PCOS:
Myth #1: I don’t plan to have children so it doesn’t matter if I don’t ovulate
Truth: it doesn’t matter if you plan on having children or not, if you don’t ovulate each month, your body is deprived of a vital hormone, progesterone, which means you may be more susceptible to estrogen dominance conditions like fibroids, breast cancer and endometriosis.
Myth #2: I get a period regularly so I must be ovulating
Truth: Having regular periods does not mean that you are ovulating. It just means that estrogen production increases and decreases each month to signal development of the uterine lining and subsequent shedding. Regular ovulation is vital to healthy hormone balance regardless of parenthood plans.
Myth #3: The ultrasound showed no cysts on my ovaries so I can’t have PCOS
Truth: The name is misleading, people with Polycystic ovarian syndrome, do not have to have cysts present on the ovaries. The body breaks down and resolves cysts regularly so cysts can come and go. The syndrome is diagnosed on the basis of the presence of a collection of symptoms that can include some (but not all) of the following: head hair loss, excess facial/body hair, weight gain, insulin resistance, poor glucose tolerance, irregular menstrual cycles, anovulation, infertility, acne and oily skin.
Myth #4: The blood tests were fine so there’s nothing wrong hormonally
Truth: Hormone blood tests are notoriously poor predictors of health or disease. The reference ranges are incredibly broad (eg. for and are set based on an average of the values measured amongst the general population. Reference ranges for hormones should be set by health screening the people being used to set the range for any reproductive disorders such as fibroids, breast cancer, endometriosis, PCOS, irregular menses, heavy menses, painful periods, infertility, anovulation etc. Select only those who have perfectly regular periods, who ovulate every month at midcycle, have no evidence of fibroids or endometriosis, no history of reproductive organ problems etc, then use those people to set a healthy range.
Myth #5: If I have endometriosis, PCOS or fibroids, I can’t have children or I can only have children if I undergo aggressive fertility treatments like In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
Truth: You can have children with any of these conditions, they do not automatically spell infertility. Depending on the severity of the condition, the best course of action may be either combination conventional therapies like drugs and surgery with naturopathic treatment or naturopathic treatment alone may be sufficient to solve the problem.
Myth #6: If there was something that could help with my problem, my specialist would know about it
Truth: Unfortunately not. Most medical doctors have quite enough on their plate to keep abreast of the latest drugs and surgical options and see a wealth of patients every day. They have neither the time nor the interest in investigating naturopathic treatments for disease.
Myth #7: There is no research to support naturopathic therapies
Truth: There is plenty of research to support acupuncture, herbal medicine, vitamins and nutritional supplements. There was a time as little as 10 years ago when research was sparse. Public interest in using more natural therapies has sparked interest in researching remedies that have stood the test of time for hundreds if not thousands of years.