September is officially PCOS awareness month. It’s a good thing too. Most women who come to me with menstrual issues including infertility will also mention their not so recent diagnosis of PCOS. While this is sad and not a fun group of symptoms to be dealing with, PCOS can be managed, or comanaged, naturally. There are several forms of PCOS and we will address some of them here, along with how to obtain a proper diagnosis and natural methods to help with this syndrome.
There are three different forms of PCOS according to the Schaefer protocol. Insulin Resistant, Pill Induced and Inflammatory. Other sources may site Adrenal PCOS also known as stress PCOS, Hidden Cause PCOS, and idiopathic PCOS. First and foremost, it is a good idea to ensure that your diagnosis can be backed up with blood work. If only an ultrasound was done, and it was done during the time of ovulation of course multiple cysts were present, or at least normally there would be. It’s always a good idea to obtain a second opinion if the only options presented to you were medication especially if you’re looking for something more natural.
Insulin Resistant PCOS is probably the most common form so we’ll start there. This form of PCOS usually presents with heavy periods, weight gain and higher chances of diabetes, cancer and heart disease. While medical professionals often link this to the thyroid, we like to start with decreasing the intake of processed refined sugar. High amounts of this, along with smoking, consuming trans fats, sleep deprivation, magnesium deficiency, stress, birth control, and environmental toxins can impair ovulation by stimulating the pituitary gland to make Luteinizing Hormone which decreases the sex hormone binding globulin and increases the free testosterone in the blood. Put in English, most cases of PCOS have an insulin problem that in turn leads to male like characteristics in the female along with this diagnosis.
To naturally combat this, QUIT SUGAR. This is much harder than it sounds but you have to do it…cold turkey. A magnesium supplement can help with the symptoms along with better sleep habits. The magnesium will re-sensitize the insulin receptors in the cells and over time will help them take in the excess insulin in the blood, this supplement is so amazing we call it the natural metformin. A fasting glucose level of less than 60 is ideal. Intermittent fasting can also help with the insulin sensitivity and helps with both insulin and leptin sensitivity and has also been shown to ‘turn on’ the genes for longevity. Living longer is always a good idea.
Sometimes cutting out sugar is just too intimidating for patients. While this is something that has to be done eventually increasing foods high in alpha lipoic acid which is a fat like molecule made by the body but also found in organ meats like liver and adrenals and in green leafy veggies like spinach and broccoli will help sensitize the insulin receptors in cells as well. Foods like oranges and buckwheat that are high in inositol can also improve insulin sensitivity by decreasing the blood androgens found in PCOS patients. If someone is struggling to get these foods in every day or even every week there are supplements available to help in this department. Just make sure they’re from a whole food source and/or provided from a trusted chiropractor or holistic practitioner. A good vitamin D3 supplement is also an excellent additive to help promote follicle maturation and increase insulin receptor sensitivity if your goal is pregnancy. Just make sure to take it with fat as it is a fat-soluble vitamin and steer clear of generic or “cheap” brands. Chances are it’s not a great source if you’re paying $6.99 for 12 ml.
Another form of PCOS we see is pill induced PCOS. This is only a true diagnosis if a patient had a normal period BEFORE starting the pill OR if she never had the chance to see if her cycle was normal and started the pill at a very young age or shortly after she started her period. The purpose of birth control is of course, to avoid pregnancy by suppressing ovulation. Sometimes women will not see a return of her period for up to several years after being on the pill. While other women get pregnant the following month. As frustrating as this can be, it’s a good idea to know the side effects of any form of birth control before starting it. It is also not recommended to start the pill to treat PCOS. While you may still bleed every month, this is not a true period, it just creates the illusion of one and is doing nothing to help the actual PCOS. Pill induced patients also see high androgens in their blood work, but they are not insulin resistant. Instead they will have high luteinizing hormone and high FSH. Peony and Licorice supplements can often help with these symptoms.
Finally, Inflammatory PCOS patients meet all criteria of the “textbook” PCOS patient (high androgen, irregular periods, insulin resistant, and periods unaffected by the pill) along with all the signs and symptoms of inflammation, headaches, fatigue, joint pain, skin conditions etc. Usually our 120-day program is enough to help with this form of PCOS however if you need more support, things like zinc, probiotics, prebiotics, and stress reduction can aide in this department. Underlying causes of this kind of PCOS may be soy intake, thyroid disease, low carb diet, or artificial sweeteners. Seriously, who still uses that stuff? Certain deficiencies in iodine, Vitamin D3 and selenium may also be linked to this form of PCOS but before starting these, talk with your chiropractor or naturopath.
I think it’s also important to point out that with the rise in low carb diets many of our patients have benefited from adding carbs into their diet again. Of course, not the high calorie, low nutrient, white, processed stuff, but rather through fruits, veggies, and good grains women have seen an improvement. Make sure to follow up with a holistic practitioner if you’re interested in beginning any of these helpful tips in the quest to improve your PCOS.