Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is an endocrine disorder that affects approximately 10% of women and is more complex than just having polycystic ovaries. Twenty per cent of all women have multiple ovarian cysts but only those with additional hormonal irregularities have polycystic ovarian syndrome. PCOS is a condition that can present at any age, including children. The symptoms and the severity vary greatly between women and can be treated naturopathically. The principal features are:
- Lack of regular ovulation and/or menstruation, hirsutism (excessive hair growth) and weight gain.
- Other features may include pain during sexual intercourse, Acanthosis nigricans (dark patches of skin, a sign of insulin resistance), acrochordorns (skin tags),
prolonged periods of PMS like symptoms (bloating, mood swings, pelvic pain, backache) and depression.
- The causes are unknown but insulin resistance), diabetes, and obesity (present in 40% of PCOS patients) are strongly correlated.
- Prolonged periods of not ovulating leads to infertility (75%), menstrual bleeding disorders (1/3), hirsutism (60%), acne and increased risk of endometrial cancer, miscarriage, cardiovascular disease including stroke, high blood pressure and dyslipidaemia and diabetes mellitus in women with hyperinsulinaemia (high blood sugar levels).
- In PCOS the ovary is intrinsically without defects.
- Imbalances in Follicle Stimulating Hormones levels and Luteinizing Hormone levels (these hormones control what is happening in the ovaries) can lead to an increase in male hormones from the ovaries.
- The ovaries are affected by the excess amounts of male hormones and their conversion to oestrogen (a female hormone) in the ovaries’ peripheral tissues.
- PCOS is therefore characterised by excessive oestrogen and androgen production.
- Increased male hormone production (androgens) by the ovaries contributes to the ovarian follicles premature break down and reabsorption into the ovaries leading to poly (many) cystic ovaries and persistent non ovulation occurring.
- Diagnosis includes: – pelvic ultrasound often identifying a ‘string of pearls’ effect due to follicles remaining in the ovaries, ovary 1.5 to 3 times larger than normal.
- History taking for menstrual patterns, obesity, hirsutism.
- Elevated serum (blood) levels of androgens including dehdroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) and testosterone.
Common assessments for associated conditions are:
- Fasting biochemical screen and lipid profile.
- A 2 hour oral glucose tolerance test (GTT) in patients with risk factors such as obesity and family history may indicate impaired glucose tolerance in 15 –30% of women with PCOS.
How I Can Help You As A Naturopath
- Reducing weight and insulin resistance are key in addressing what is believed to be the underlying cause of the syndrome.
- If you are overweight, losing weight will help lower insulin levels. Following a low GI diet and taking specific minerals and herbs such as Gymnema sylvestra, magnesium and chromium, would be some of the steps factored into a tailored weight loss program to achieve this crucial aim.
- If hirsutism and acne are features of your condition, decreasing male hormones is very important. This can be done with certain herbs such as Paeonia lactiflora, weight loss and phytoestrogens.
- Regulating your menstrual cycle, and restoring fertility can also be achieved with certain herbs such as Paeonia lactiflora and Chamaelirium luteum.
- If you are menstruating every three months there probably is no medical need to regulate your periods if not desired. However if you don’t menstruate regularly, endometrial hyperplasia (overgrowth of cells in the uterine lining) is likely to occur and is a significant risk factor for the development of endometrial cancer.
I hope this was informative and of some help to those who have the condition. If you would like specific tailored advice and support with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome ring Monique on
0432 540 996.