Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), sometimes called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, is a condition that affects many women of reproductive age. Although the exact cause of PCOS is unknown, we do know that an imbalance in hormones and metabolism plays a big role. In this article, we will cover the symptoms and issues that PCOS causes as well as explore a PCOS natural treatment plan that you could consider if you suffer from the condition.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a set of symptoms that result from hormonal imbalance. It affects ten to twenty percent of women of childbearing age.
It usually means having cysts on one or both ovaries, although there are women who are diagnosed with PCOS without actually having cysts on their ovaries. A cyst is a sac or pouch that can have fluid inside of it, and there are a few different types that affect the human body.
The main symptoms of PCOS are: irregular or non-existent periods, anovulation (absence of ovulation), and the presence of higher amounts of androgens (male hormones) in the system, which can cause other common symptoms such as excess hair growth. In some women with PCOS, the ovaries are enlarged.
Other symptoms can include:
Other than having these frustrating symptoms, women with PCOS are also at risk for other health issues, such as:
The insulin resistance and metabolic imbalances that commonly occur with PCOS are also linked to adrenal fatigue.
Adrenal fatigue happens when the adrenal glands, two small organs that sit atop the kidneys, begin to dysregulate subclinically. This usually happens due to prolonged or chronic stress – whether mental or physical. As their functionality is hindered, they produce a collection of symptoms that fall under the term Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS).
AFS symptoms include fatigue, weight issues, sleep problems, weaker immunity, frequent colds and flus, low libido, PMS, fertility issues, inability to cope with stress, mild depression, brain fog, among many others.
The adrenal glands are actually just one component of one of the body’s six circuits for handling stress. The NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response is the body’s global reaction to stress, which employs many organs and systems together. Though the adrenals are at the forefront of this stress response, as they produce cortisol, the main anti-stress hormone.
The six NEM stress response circuits are the neuro-affective, the metabolic, the hormonal, the cardionomic, the detoxification and the inflammatory responses.
When stress is chronic, it not only affects the adrenal glands, but it can throw the entire NEM off balance, causing many problems such as chronic inflammation, heart palpitations, digestive disorders and more.
There is also a more specific link between stress and the female reproductive system, which we will now discuss.
Stress signals the adrenal glands to produce another important hormone: adrenaline (also called epinephrine). This is the hormone that is responsible for the “fight or flight” response, which readies the heart, lungs, muscles and brain to either fight off or run away from danger.
It gets energy and blood flow to them, taking the energy and blood flow away from other systems, such as the digestive and reproductive. The logic here is that at such moments of threat, digestion and reproduction can wait.
This is perfectly healthy and needed. The issue arises when the stress is chronic and there is no actual or real need for the “fight or flight” response because there is no threat to survival.
For women, PCOS and adrenal fatigue can come together in a combination that is very challenging. The release of adrenaline can also trigger the release of insulin to help cells take in glucose from the blood and get energy for the “fight or flight” response.
When stress is chronic and this insulin release is continuous, an excess of insulin occurs in the system, which then triggers the ovaries to produce androgens, the male hormones, as well as more estrogen, which can cause an imbalance in the ratio of estrogen to progesterone. This can produce estrogen dominance, a state of relative imbalance.
Estrogen dominance is a continuum that starts with obscure symptoms such as water retention, mild PMS. Over time, it can progress to include endometriosis, PCOS, fibrocystic breast disease, dysmenorrhea, and cancer. This is problematic for women, and AFS can actually add to this condition. Addition sign and symptoms of estrogen dominance include swollen breasts, brain fog, anxiety, sugar craving, irritable mood, fibroids and irregular periods. Estrogen and progesterone imbalances can also cause or worsen PCOS.
As you can see each condition can trigger or aggravate the other, making for a vicious cycle.
Unfortunately, for many women, these conditions are sometimes undiagnosed, and if diagnosed, they are treated on a purely surface-level – the handling of the symptoms rather than the root causes.
The good thing about holistic PCOS natural treatment is that once hormonal balance is achieved, the symptoms of AFS will also begin to naturally subside as they are so closely linked hormonally.
At the moment, there is no cure for PCOS, and the typical approach is to just manage the symptoms through medication and some lifestyle changes.
Medications are prescribed according to whether you want to conceive or not – as some hinder conception while others are given to boost fertility.
For example, oral contraceptives are commonly prescribed to regulate menstruation, lower androgen levels and help with acne and excess facial and body hair. Yet, while on birth control pills, you will not be able to conceive, so if you wish to have a baby, this would not be an option.
Some health-care providers may in addition prescribe insulin-sensitizers in order to combat insulin-resistance, which would lower the risk of, or help manage diabetes in women with PCOS, as well as help with fertility.
Other medications include anti-androgens, acne medications, and of course any medications needed to counter concomitant conditions such as high cholesterol or blood pressure.
Doctors will also recommend weight loss through dieting and exercise. Although that is part of what we recommend in our PCOS natural treatment plan, the approach is different. We will focus much more on lifestyle and natural herbal supplements, while also making sure it does not adversely affect the AFS.
Here is our holistic approach to PCOS natural treatment:
The first and most important step in any PCOS natural treatment involving AFS is to reduce and manage stress. Stress is one of the biggest causes of hormonal imbalance, as well as many other health issues. It is a modern-day culprit that has our “fight or flight” response triggered by non-life-threatening situations such as pressure at work or relationship problems.
But the great thing about it is that it’s not only solvable, once solved it will affect every other aspect of health and wellbeing, such as better sleep, more energy and more motivation to exercise and eat well.
Breath-work, meditation, psychotherapy, stress-relieving exercises and surrounding yourself with supportive people are just a few ways you can begin to lower stress.
Nutrition is one of the biggest influencers on hormones, that’s why it is where most of the focus will be with regards to the AFS and PCOS natural treatment.
If you suffer from PCOS and AFS and carry extra weight, shedding a few pounds will benefit you greatly. It is a little easier said than done as with these conditions there are hormonal and energy problems making it more difficult to lose weight. However, with a more gradual, healthy and systematic approach to nutrition, it is absolutely possible.
Following the adrenal fatigue diet will support you in losing weight and increasing energy levels so that you are able to exercise, helping you to lose even more weight and feel healthier.
It is also important to eliminate allergens and inflammatory foods from your diet, such as gluten for example. Keeping blood sugar at a healthy level in order to reduce the need for insulin is another significant step, so avoid refined sugars and high-carb meals.
Next, you can begin to support your system using supplementation. This is where we give our first big cautionary warning – Be careful with taking supplements if you have PCOS and AFS. Certain supplements that work for boosting energy may actually offer a temporary increase and then lead to a crash later. Some that are good for one condition may hinder recovery from another.
Although we will give you some recommendations for supplements here, we highly advise that you get personalized nutritional coaching with an experienced professional. This will then reduce the risk of mistakes or, even worse, taking the “shotgun” approach – trying many different supplements thinking there’s no harm and then finding out later that they have caused damage in the long run.
To bring down testosterone levels, and help with acne and excess face and body hair, you can try saw palmetto. Cinnamon, turmeric, omega-3s and chromium are helpful pcos natural treatment for inflammation and blood sugar levels.
Again, it is imperative to be well informed about the possibility of adverse reactions from supplementation if you suffer from AFS, especially the later stages.
Supplements that can be helpful and support the body include natural progesterone, magnesium, Vitamin C, vitamin B5, chromium, cinnamon, pantethine, digestive enzymes, probiotics, glutathione, and milk thistle. One seldom mentioned but can be considered is tribulus terrestris - an herb traditionally used to enhance male libido.
Although this is one of our supplementation suggestions, we are dedicating an entire section on tribulus terrestris as it has some very interesting effects on fertility and ovulation.
Tribulus is a medicinal plant that is used for a variety of purposes, including circulation, athletic performance and sexual issues. Some of the claims have been corroborated by scientific studies, while others still remain to be seen.
Tribulus terrestris is a fruit-bearing plant found in many climates and regions. It has the ability to grow in dry and difficult climates, and has been used medicinally for many centuries. It is covered in spines, which makes it difficult to eat. That is why it is taken in supplement form rather than added to a person’s diet. It can also be called puncturevine.
Different parts of the plant can be used for different issues, though the main parts used are the root and fruit.
Tribulus is used in Ayurvedic medicine for male virility, libido, cardiovascular health, urogenital issues and jaundice. Other Ayurvedic uses include for help with back pain, sciatica, respiratory problems and pelvic inflammation.
According to some animal studies, the fruits seem to have compounds that act as adaptogens, which are protection against the harmful effects of stress on the body. Though this claim needs further research, this means it may eventually be found useful for those with mild adrenal fatigue. Because this compound is stimulatory in nature, those in advanced stages of AFS may suffer adrenal crashes with this compound.
Tribulus has also had a long history of helping with urinary issues (such as for urinary stones) and helping to increase appetite. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, tribulus has been used for hypertension, edemas, cardiovascular health, abdominal distension and eye health.
The most interesting findings on tribulus, however, come from its effects on fertility in women. It has demonstrated the ability to increase follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) levels and improve ovulation rates in women with PCOS.
A study of eight healthy women showed that their FHS levels increased from 11 to 17.75 mIU/ml after using a pcos natural treatment with a 750 mg dose of tribulus. After the pcos natural treatment, FHS levels returned to normal.
Another study of 148 women who suffered from infertility caused by anovulation compared the effects of tribulus with certain medications. Ovulation was at 74 percent with Epimestrol, 60 percent with tribulus, and only 24 percent with Cyclofenil.
If you are healthy and looking for more PCOS natural treatments for your PCOS-induced fertility issues, it may be a good idea to discuss this option with your healthcare provider. This applies especially if you’ve been trying many different conventional treatments and medications without much improvement.
As mentioned earlier, if you have AFS, be very careful with using this compound as it can cause overstimulation of the adrenal glands and precipitate adrenal crashes.
Side effects include: acne, anxiety, panic attack, brain fog, fatigue, improper lactation, breast swelling, and water retention.
Rest is essential for good health and can be used as pcos natural treatment, but even more so if you suffer from adrenal fatigue. The body needs the time off to repair itself and restore its energy levels. Good sleep can be quite a challenge for those with AFS. In fact, one of the most common symptoms is waking up in the middle of the night and difficulty going back to sleep.
Make sure you are in bed by 10 p.m. and that your room is dark and cool. Eating a snack that does not contain carbohydrates or sugar might help maintain your blood sugar throughout the night so you don’t wake up from hypoglycemia. Avoid using anything with blue light, such as smartphones and computers, at least two hours before bed.
If you need to rest or take naps during the day, that is your body’s way of telling you to slow down and recuperate. Naps are best during the earlier half of the day. If naps are taken later on, they may interfere with your sleep at night.
As for exercise, we suggest you approach it with care. It is a vital part of any health routine, especially if you need to lose a bit of weight. However, if you have AFS you will have to be careful as it can exhaust the adrenals further.
The right type of exercise, at the right time, with the right frequency, will be the order of the day. Different stages of adrenal fatigue call for different exercise plans. You can start with adrenal restorative exercises, then adrenal circulation exercises and then adrenal yoga exercises.
For women with PCOS, exercise will help with weight loss and also the other issues that sometimes arise alongside PCOS such as circulation, cardiovascular health, diabetes and even mood regulation.
A holistic approach that is gradual is the best PCOS natural treatment to recover from PCOS and AFS, but because of the complexity of both conditions and the way they interplay, we highly suggest that you find a medical professional experienced in both.
Patience and information are your best allies, and, paradoxically, what was at first bad news – the fact that one condition will adversely affect the other – will become the good news. Improving one condition will automatically begin to improve the other.
© Copyright 2017 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.