The Naturopathic Approach to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
By Aidanne MacDonald-Milewski, ND • January 21, 2021
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal concern that brings patients to see Naturopathic doctors. It is the leading cause of female infertility and approximately 5-10% of women nationwide currently live with PCOS.
How is it Diagnosed?
A diagnosis of PCOS is generally based on clinical suspicion. Hormone testing and a trans-vaginal ultrasound (to identify the presence of cysts) can be useful in supporting a diagnosis of PCOS. Where Naturopathic doctors in Wisconsin cannot perform an ultrasound, we can order hormone testing to provide insight into which herbs or nutrients will be a good fit to reinstate proper hormonal balance.
PCOS is characterized by a combination of two or more of the following:
- Hyperandrogenism (excess estrogen or testosterone production)
- Irregular or absent menstrual periods
- Formation of multiple cysts on one or both ovaries.
What are the Symptoms?
Excess estrogen and testosterone can cause women to experience:
- Weight gain
- Excess hair growth on the head or body
- Male pattern hair thinning or baldness
- Acne along the jawline
- Menstrual cycle irregularities.
Aside from the cosmetic effects of these hormones, this unchecked imbalance can impair ones’ ability to conceive.
How do you develop PCOS?
Genetic makeup, environmental exposures, obesity, and insulin resistance are common factors in the development of PCOS.
The standard American diet contains a high concentration of refined grains, sugars, and excess sodium. When consumed, this combination causes insulin to spike and can lead to what is called insulin resistance over time. Insulin spikes can suppress sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) which is needed to keep androgens balanced in the blood stream. When SHBG levels go down, androgens go up and the symptoms above can lead to the typical presentation of PCOS.
How do Naturopathic Doctors address PCOS?
Diet and lifestyle modifications are often where Naturopathic doctors will start when working with those living with PCOS. Additionally, support with nutritional supplements and botanicals can be very helpful in improving insulin sensitivity and reducing symptoms.
Stress management and exercise are key! Any form of exercise has been found to support ovulation, insulin resistance, and weight loss in those living with PCOS.
With regards to the diet, Naturopathic doctors will work with patients to lower grain based carbohydrates and increase fiber, good fats, protein, and antioxidants to combat insulin resistance. This both addresses hormone imbalances at a foundational level and reduces the long-term risk of cardiovascular effects of insulin resistance (i.e. metabolic syndrome, diabetes, high cholesterol, etc.).
Herbal medicines used to address PCOS include (But are not limited to):
- Spearmint and Green Tea
- Saw Palmetto
- Vitex (Chastetree berry)
Nutritional supplements used to address PCOS include (But are not limited to):
- N-acetyl cysteine
- Vitamin D
If you are living with confirmed or suspected PCOS, talk with your Naturopathic doctor today to discuss which options and doses will be best for you!
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.