WHAT IS POLYCYSTIC OVARIAN SYNDROME
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is one of the most common hormonal problem women have and is seen in up to 10% – 20% of the women in practice. PCOS and endometriosis are the two most common conditions that may cause fertility issues in women.
WHAT DOES PCOS MEAN?
The term polycystic—or polyfollicular ovaries, refers to ovaries that contain 10 or more immature follicles with a maximum of 9mm diameter. With PCOS, these follicles fail to ovulate and get trapped inside the ovary. These follicles can then swell up with fluid or blood or harden outside the ovary causing fluid filled or chocolate colored blood filled cysts, which can often burst on the ovary causing excruciating pain before the menstrual
cycle begins. With polycystic ovaries, ovulation fails to take place causing menstrual periods to be irregular or absent, which in turn affects fertility.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF PCOS
PCOS SYNDROME includes several symptoms including hyper-androgenism (increased amount or high amount of male sex hormones). The source of the androgens can be the ovaries themselves or the adrenal cortex. The consecutive disturbance in follicular maturation is an important cause of unwanted fertility and absent menstruation. Some of the symptoms seen in women with PCOS include:
- Menstrual disorders (absent or irregular menstrual periods)
- Increased body hair and facial hair
- Changes in the fat and carbohydrate metabolism
- Male pattern hair loss
- Weight gain in the mid section
- Insulin resistance and Metabolic syndrome
Special consideration: PCOS may also increase risk of endometrial cancer as the endometrial tissue will not be shed in the absence of a period.
WHAT CAUSES PCOS?
Different hormonal and cellular regulatory disturbances cause PCOS. To summarize, the proper cooperation of hypothalamus, hypophysis, and ovaries or the so-called axis of reproduction is disturbed. The ovaries produce an excessively high amount of testosterone, a male hormone, which is normally produced in small quantities.
Along with increased testosterone, high amounts of LH and FSH are produced as well, most likely due to high blood insulin levels and insulin sensitive ovaries. This causes an impairment of the follicle maturation, which in turn affects fertility and ovulation. The effects of these hormonal imbalances cause an absence of ovulation and irregular periods, obesity, insulin resistance or diabetic metabolism, and an irregular distribution of
body fat (usually obesity or significant weight gain in the mid section), and thicker hair growth on different areas of the body such as the chin, around the nipples and abdomen.
DIAGNOSTIC TESTING FOR PCOS / POLYCYSTIC OVARIAN SYNDROME
Once an assessment of your health issues is done, and if our naturopathic doctor suspects PCOS, you may be suggested to get some blood and saliva hormone tests to check your levels of various female and male hormones. Metabolic testing may also be suggested if insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome X is suspected. Our naturopath may also suggest for you to get an ultrasound done with your medical doctor to confirm the presence of cysts
and also check the size of the cysts.
TREATMENT FOR POLYCYSTIC OVARIAN SYNDROME (PCOS)
1. Conventional Treatments for PCOS
There is no known cure for PCOS based on conventional medicine, so treatment is mostly based on management of symptoms. Depending on the severity of the symptoms and the size of the cysts, surgery may be suggested. Quite often drugs or the birth control pill to suppress production of hormones is suggested. Excess weight reduction to decrease elevated estrogen levels, along with metformin, a drug for diabetes, may also be recommended to help
with the symptoms of insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome. For women who want to get pregnant, ovulatory drugs may also be suggested along with laparoscopic surgery and fertility treatments / procedures such as IVF.
Ovarian stimulation syndrome and an undesired multiple pregnancies are a risk in these therapies.
The ovarian stimulation needs to be distinguished from an overstimulation syndrome. This rare but serious complication can vary in its manifestation - from mildly affecting the well-being to life-threatening consequences. Its unclear what causes the overstimulation syndrome but it involves a massive increase in blood vessel permeability. This leads to the formation of edemas (significant water retention), ascites, and pleural and pericardial
effusions. Thickening of the blood and the risk of thromboembolic complications can also occur. Talk to your medical doctor if you have any concerns or have experienced any of these symptoms if you are taking fertility drugs.
2. Naturopathic Treatments for PCOS
The naturopathic approach for the treatment of PCOS is geared towards treating the root cause of the problem as well as reducing / improving the symptoms associated with PCOS such as obesity, weight gain, insulin resistance and regulating irregular menstrual cycles with safe and effective therapies.
At the Nature’s Intentions Naturopathic Clinic, we have found that a combination of natural therapies such as Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese medicine, certain supplements and life style changes have been very effective to balance the hormones, regulate the menstrual cycle, which in turn has helped improve fertility, decrease cyst formation, along with optimizing the individual’s health.
During your initial consultation, our naturopathic doctor will do a comprehensive symptom intake to get a better understanding of your health issues
and goals, and may suggest specific testing based on your symptoms.
Once our naturopathic doctor has done a proper assessment, she will recommend the most appropriate natural course of treatment* based on your individual health, as opposed to recipe book approach or one size fits all approach. She may suggest various naturopathic therapies / treatments such as diet, herbs, and supplements, exercise to help treat and improve PCOS symptoms. She will also help educate you on how your hormones and lifestyle may be impacting your health and will provide you with suggestions and natural treatments to better balance your hormones and lifestyle changes in order to alleviate your health issues and optimize your well being to match your health goals.
Some of the natural therapies that may be used for PCOS treatment include:
- Nutrition & Lifestyle Modifications: Nutritional deficiencies will be addressed based on the your individual health concerns, along with lifestyle factors such as diet and stress will be addressed in your treatment plan for PCOS.
- Traditional Chinese Medicine may be used to help reduce pain associated with the period and balance hormone levels, which are quite often imbalanced in PCOS. Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine treatments offered at our clinic have been extremely effective for our patients in reducing the pelvic pain and cramping during menstruation, PMS symptoms such as emotional instability, water retention and bloating, and to improve fertility related to PCOS and other hormonal imbalances. Acupuncture and herbal medicine that we use at the clinic have also been very effective in reducing cyst formation.
Read more for tips to help reduce menstrual and PMS symptoms.
If you or any of your family member has been diagnosed with PCOS or any other hormonal health issue, and would like to get a better understanding of how your symptoms and health issues maybe affect you, and you would like to improve your health and resolve / treat your health symptoms naturally using natural therapies, please call the clinic at 416 913 4325 (HEAL) to schedule your initial naturopathic consultation.
For more information on what to expect during your initial naturopathic consultation, please click here.
* DISCLAIMER: The information on this article is the property of Dr. Sushma Shah, Naturopathic Doctor, and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure any diseases or promote any services or products mentioned on the website.