What I Tell My Patients Who Want To Treat Their PCOS Naturally
One of the most common reproductive health issues is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS, which affects roughly 5 million women in the U.S. alone, per the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
As defined by the CDC, PCOS happens when a woman’s ovaries or adrenal glands produce more male hormones than normal, often resulting in cysts on the ovaries. Common symptoms of PCOS include:
- pelvic pain
- excess hair growth on the body
- baldness or thinning hair
- oily skin
- patches of thickened dark brown or black skin
So, how does someone develop PCOS? While the exact cause is unknown, it's often associated with diet. I see PCOS as a nutritional problem first, hormone imbalance issue second. Women with PCOS are at an increased risk of developing diabetes and metabolic syndrome, according to the American College Of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
In my experience, one of the keys to correcting PCOS is to treat the metabolic syndrome first. Once you correct the blood sugar and insulin imbalance, the hormone imbalance can follow suit. I've seen it many times in my practice, where a woman with PCOS goes on a low-carb diet, her periods become regular, and her metabolic syndrome improves.
Of course, there are a number of viable treatment options for PCOS, and you should always consult with your doctor to determine the best option for your body. As a holistic doctor, I try to keep my patients off medicine as much as possible. That said, once my patients make dietary changes, I sometimes even recommend adding a prescription drug, Metformin, as a short-term course of treatment.
If you're interested in natural ways to manage your PCOS symptoms, there are a number worth discussing with your doctor.
Cut back on sugary or starchy foods
A good low-glycemic diet has been shown to improve fasting blood sugar and insulin and hemoglobin A1c levels in patients with metabolic syndrome, according to research published in Nutrition and Metabolism.
Swap your sugary, frothy latte in the morning for black coffee or tea, your pastry for oatmeal and your white-bread sandwich at lunch for a salad. Focus on more lean proteins and greens, and less starchy and sugary foods.
Eat frequently throughout the day
To prevent blood sugar spikes, feed your body low sugar, high protein and healthy fat more frequently throughout the day. I recommend eating five to six small meals a day.
As a holistic doctor, I suspect a large portion of root causes begin in the gut, so be sure to fill your diet with clean, organic, whole foods to promote positive gut health.
Consider a supplement
In addition, I recommend adding supplements such as chromium, cinnamon, gymnema, and berberine, an herb that may be as effective as metformin in treating hyperinsulinemia, according to research in the journal Metabolism. This could help clear up the issue while subsequently cleaning up your diet.
Treat your body with love and respect — and it’ll do the same back for you.
I would also consider adding the natural supplements N-acetylcysteine at 1200mg/day and L-arginine at 1600/mg a day, both in divided doses. A study published in Journal of Endocrinological Investigation found the supplements to be effective in restoring hormonal function.
But as with anything, there's no "one size fits all" treatment plan, and some individuals are harder to treat than others. So for those patients, I may add an androgen (male hormone) blocker such as spironolactone for those with high testosterone levels, especially at the beginning while the blood sugar is getting balanced. Again, you should always speak to your doctor before adding any of these options to your diet.
I believe acupuncture is a great adjunct in the treatment of PCOS. While I'm not an acupuncturist, I have seen over and over again that acupuncture can help hormonal issues in general.
Adjusting your diet and taking natural supplements as recommended may help you see significant improvements in about six months. However, when it comes to PCOS, it's important to discuss the best treatment plan for you with your doctor.
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