What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition characterized by hormonal imbalances. The name “Polycystic ovary syndrome” is used because many women with the condition often have small fluid-filled cysts on their ovaries; however, this is not a requirement for diagnosis.
What are the Different Subtypes of PCOS?
There are different types of PCOS (reasons why PCOS occurs). While they all share common underlying symptoms and characteristics, each type presents different challenges. Identifying the type of PCOS can help to streamline treatment and provide better outcomes. Often, an individual with polycystic ovarian syndrome can fit within one of the following subtypes:
Type 1: Insulin-Resistant PCOS
This is the most common type of PCOS. High insulin levels prevent ovulation and trigger the ovaries to create testosterone. Women with this type are more likely to develop complications such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Type 2: Pill-Induced PCOS
Pill-induced PCOS is often seen in women after coming off the birth control pill, which suppresses ovulation. Some women do not resume regular ovulation after discontinuing the pill.
Type 3: Inflammatory PCOS
In women with inflammatory PCOS, ovulation is suppressed due to chronic levels of inflammation. Chronic inflammation has many possible causes, including stress, environmental toxins or a pro-inflammatory diet.
Type 4: Hidden PCOS
Hidden PCOS is caused by other underlying health conditions, such as thyroid disease or deficiencies of vitamins or minerals. These women often do not respond well to conventional or naturopathic treatments for PCOS but will see improvement when the underlying condition is addressed.
How is PCOS Diagnosed?
PCOS is diagnosed using the Rotterdam Criteria. The presence of 2/3 of the following findings is diagnostic for PCOS:
- Oligomenoreha (menstrual cycles that are longer than 35 days) or Anovulation (absence of ovulation).
- Hyperandrogenism: high levels of the hormones DHEA and Testosterone. Clinically, this can lead to acne, irregular hair growth, menstrual irregularities and deepened voice.
- Polycystic Ovaries: ≥ 12 follicles measuring 2‐9 mm in diameter and/or an ovarian volume > 10 mL in at least one ovary viewed on transvaginal ultrasound.
Once a diagnosis is made, other tests are often run to help determine the type of PCOS and to help guide further treatment.
Some hormones that are tested include:
- Follicular Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Luteinizing Hormone (LH)
- Total Testosterone
- Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)
- Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG)
Some additional tests that can be helpful for women with insulin-resistant PCOS or those struggling to lose weight include:
- Fasting insulin
- 2-hour glucose challenge test
- CRP/ ESR
- Thyroid hormones (TSH, free T3, Free T4, Thyroid antibodies)
- Vitamin D
What are the Symptoms of PCOS?
While signs and symptoms of PCOS can vary significantly from woman to woman, some of the most common symptoms experienced include:
- Skipped menstrual cycles, or cycles that are longer than 35 days.
- Acne, especially on the jawline.
- Hair loss, especially on the head.
- Increased hair growth, especially on the face, chest and armpits.
- Weight gain or weight loss resistance.
- Mood disturbances, depression, and anxiety.
- Skin tags or oily skin.
In addition to the symptoms, there are further complications of undiagnosed or unmanaged PCOS. These include:
- Metabolic syndrome
- Cardiometabolic complications
- Fatty liver disease
- Infertility, subfertility, or miscarriages
Naturopathic Solutions for PCOS Available in Toronto:
There are several different treatment options for PCOS. The type of treatment will be highly dependent on the cause, symptoms and type of PCOS. It is important to consult with an experienced and informed healthcare practitioner before initiating treatment. The naturopathic doctors at Annex Naturopathic Clinic can support you.
Some treatments that are commonly used to treat PCOS include:
- Myo-inositol: Myo-inositol is commonly used in those with PCOS to help improve insulin sensitivity, decrease inflammation, and improve cycle regulation. It may also be beneficial for those looking to conceive.
- Fish oil: Fish oil (omega 3) is commonly used to decrease inflammation. It has been shown to help improve metabolic and hormonal markers in women with PCOS.
- Vitamin D: Low vitamin D status is commonly seen in women with PCOS. Low vitamin D status may exacerbate symptoms that are already present. Supplementation in those with a pre-existing deficiency can be beneficial.
- Magnesium: Magnesium is required for many enzymatic reactions, including many involved in metabolic function. Low magnesium levels may exacerbate metabolic dysfunction in women with PCOS.
- Coenzyme Q 10: CoQ10 can be helpful for both the symptomatic management of PCOS and improving fertility outcomes in those looking to convince.
- Spearmint is commonly used to help reduce androgen levels and improve symptoms such as acne, abnormal hair growth and oily skin.
- Liquorice is often used by women with PCOS. It has been shown to help improve hormonal levels and improve insulin sensitivity. It may be beneficial in women with insulin-resistant type PCOS.
- Cinnamon is commonly used in women with PCOS as it has been shown to help improve insulin sensitivity.
- Fennel has potent antioxidant qualities and can help reduce inflammation, especially in those women with a pro-inflammatory type PCOS.
- Black Cohosh has been shown to help improve fertility markers in women with PCOS; it may benefit those looking to conceive.
- Dietary changes will be highly specific to the individual. However, common nutritional recommendations are shown to be especially helpful in those with PCOS. A diet low in processed foods and sugar and high in fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, lean protein and fibre-rich carbohydrates is an excellent place to start for any woman with PCOS.
- Low Glycemic Diet: A diet focusing on foods lower on the glycemic scale has been shown to help improve menstrual regularity in women with PCOS.
- A Mediterranean-style diet can also be helpful for women with PCOS. A Mediterranean diet focuses on reducing saturated fat, sugars and red meat. It focuses on increasing fruit, vegetables, lean protein, nuts and seeds, and healthy fats.
Other foods that are helpful to include in the diet are:
- Fatty fish: Fish, such as salmon, mackerel, cod and sardines, are high in omega-3 fatty acids, helping to lower inflammation
- Flax seeds: Flax seeds are high in fibre, lignans and omega-3 fatty acids. All of these can be helpful for women with PCOS.
- Soy: Organic soy products, such as tofu or tempeh, have a phytoestrogen effect. This can help to modulate estrogen in the body and can be helpful for women with PCOS.
- Fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are high in fibre; this can help promote a healthy weight or weight maintenance.
Exercise for PCOS
- Strength training: Resistance training helps women build muscle. Increased muscle mass can help increase the body’s base metabolic rate, aiding in weight loss. Increased muscle mass can help increase glucose uptake and improve insulin sensitivity. Strength training 2-4 times per week can increase muscle mass.
- Cardio: Moderate amounts of cardio can help to aid in weight loss and support cardiovascular health.
- PCOS can come with many emotional and psychological challenges. The physical changes, fertility challenges, and difficult diagnosis can often lead to decreased mood and feelings of hopelessness.
- Introducing mindfulness and stress-reducing practices with the treatments discussed is critical for effectively managing PCOS.
What are the Benefits of Naturopathic Treatments for PCOS?
Regulation of the Menstrual Cycle
Regardless of whether fertility and achieving pregnancy is a goal for women, regulating the menstrual cycle is important for women with PCOS. Regulation of the menstrual cycle is a sign that the body is producing the appropriate levels of sex hormones. This is important not only for reproductive health but also for cardiovascular support, bone health, cognitive function, weight management and overall well-being.
Improvement in Insulin Sensitivity and Metabolic Function
Insulin resistance and poor metabolic health are more common in women with PCOS. This can not only cause weight gain, low energy, and increased cravings but can have lasting chronic health implications. Metabolic dysfunction can increase the risk of metabolic disease, fertility issues, miscarriages, and other health complications. Addressing metabolic health early on will help improve symptoms of PCOS and overall health and decrease the risk of PCOS-related complications.
Reduced Androgen Levels
Increased androgens contribute to many of the symptoms commonly seen in PCOS, such as acne, oily skin and abnormal hair growth. Lowering androgens can help reduce these symptoms and lead to an increase in quality of life.
A combination of diet changes, lifestyle changes, and supplementation can help aid in weight loss in women with PCOS, especially those who have found it difficult to lose weight before seeking treatment.
Management of Symptoms
PCOS can not be cured; therefore, management of symptoms is essential for many women. Woking with a Naturopathic Doctor can help to create a sustainable and ongoing treatment plan to manage and reduce symptoms of PCOS.
Improvement of Fertility
Whether women are looking to conceive naturally or using IVF, naturopathic treatment can help to improve fertility outcomes and decrease the risk of complications during pregnancy.
Questions About Naturopathic Treatment for PCOS.
Can PCOS be Cured?
No, PCOS can not be cured. However, working closely with a Naturopathic Doctor can help manage symptoms, regulate menstruation and prevent further complications.
Do PCOS and Infertility go Hand in Hand?
The hormonal imbalances in PCOS can lead to difficulty conceiving and an increased risk of miscarriage. However, a diagnosis of PCOS does not mean a woman can not conceive. Proper PCOS management can help improve the chances of conceiving and improve pregnancy outcomes.
Can I Work with a Naturopathic Doctor if I am on Medication For My PCOS?
Yes! Treatments provided by Naturopathic Doctors can be used alongside conventional treatments for PCOS. However, ensuring that your Naturopathic Doctor is aware of any medication you are taking is essential, as some herbs and natural health products can interact with certain medications.
Contact Annex Naturopathic Clinic
There are, of course, a number of other women’s health concerns not listed here. Some of them include:
- Other menstrual irregularities
- Urinary incontinence
- Bacterial vaginosis
- Uterine fibroids
- Hormonal acne
- Cervical dysplasia
- Vaginal dryness or pain
- Pre-conception care
- Painful periods
- Ovarian and cervical cancer
If you’re experiencing any of the above, you’re concerned about any of the above, or you’re just looking to live a healthier life, Annex Naturopathic can help.
Call us today to book your FREE introductory consultation today. You’ll get to sit down with one of our licensed naturopathic doctors in a relaxing, laid-back environment. You’ll get all your questions answered, and your concerns addressed, and you’ll walk away with a better understanding of your health concerns and how naturopathic medicine can help.
Book your FREE naturopathic consultation today!