PCOS is a common endocrine disorder that affects women primarily in their 20’s through 40’s. Symptoms can vary from woman to woman, and you may or may not have enlarged ovaries with multiple small cysts (which is typically diagnosed via ultrasound).
The symptoms you might have can vary, but common ones we see in our office include:
- Irregular periods that are either really short and scanty, really long and heavy, or no period at all.
- Signs of too much androgens, like facial hair and abnormal amounts of body hair, acne, and oily skin.
- Fat around the waist.
The common conventional fix for these symptoms is commonly birth control and metformin, which unfortunately don’t do anything to address the cause of all of this.
The good news is, we can fix all of this naturally without resorting to birth control pills. We do this by first understanding what the cause is and then by recognizing how nutrient deficiencies and diet play a role. So what’s the cause of these symptoms? Insulin Resistance! Many of the common symptoms of PCOS are caused by insulin resistance and defects in insulin secretion.
So, what causes insulin resistance then?
- Sugar (in all of its forms, including honey, maple syrup, high fructose corn syrup and agave nectar)
- Too many refined carbs (refined carbs are flours, white rice, breads, pastas, crackers, etc)
- Low muscle mass
- Too much fat mass
- Too many trans fats
- Nutrient deficiencies (primarily zinc, chromium, and selenium)
- High cortisol levels and stress
- Lack of sleep
In addition to insulin resistance, the other contributing causes to PCOS include inflammation and genetics.
Inflammation and Fat
You might think that the fat on your hips, belly, and butt does nothing more than make your jeans feel too tight. Interestingly, we now know that fat is a metabolically active tissue that makes hormones and other molecules that cause inflammation. Your body is able to handle a certain amount of fat without causing all kinds of damage. But once your fat tipping point is reached, your fat cells ramp up activation of inflammatory molecules that then causes insulin resistance which can lead to PCOS.
Certain people have the unfortunate genetics that just don’t handle carbs that well. It’s a sad reality, but true. If your one of those people (or you would like to know if you are, we have a genetic test for that), you’ll likely do well on a lower carb paleo diet.
High Estrogen and PCOS Symptoms
Many PCOS women have high estrogen levels in addition to high androgen levels, which leads to the symptoms of estrogen dominance. So where does the estrogen come from? Estrogens go up when the androgens, like testosterone, get converted into estrogens in the fat cells via an aromatase enzyme. This is why overweight women with PCOS also have estrogen dominance and androgen dominance simultaneously.
Lab Tests for PCOS
- Fasting insulin
- Comprehensive metabolic panel
- Hemaglobin A1C
- Cholesterol panel
- Sex hormone binding globulin
- Free and total testosterone
- Urinary cortisol, estrogen, and progesterone
How Can You Reverse PCOS Symptoms?
A comprehensive treatment for PCOS involves addressing several key areas including:
- Nutritional Supplements
- Prescription medications (if the above are not enough, or if fertility remains an issue)
Nutrition for PCOS Symptoms
There are some simple steps you can take to manage your PCOS with nutrition.
- Get your blood sugar stable by following a lower-carb paleo diet.
- Avoid sugars, refined carbs, soda, and fruit juices.
- Minimize your intake of fast food and restaurant food. Studies show that we eat 500+ MORE calories when we eat out!!
- Get protein at every meal
- Try intermittent fasting. This means you stop eating around 7 or 8 pm and you don’t eat until the next day around 8 am.
Exercise for PCOS
The best form of exercise for women with PCOS is high intensity interval training and resistance or weight training, 4 – 5 days per week. You’ll also want to get in at least 1 hour per day of low intensity activity, such as leisure walking or biking.
Nutritional Supplements for PCOS Symptoms
Several nutritional supplements that I find work well for my PCOS patients include:
- Myo-inositol and d-chiro-inositol
- Multivitamin/mineral that is specific for metabolic support
- Broad spectrum antioxidants
- 14 day or 28 day metabolic detox
Prescription Medications for PCOS Symptoms
I usually save prescription medications as a last resort for women who need extra help. Some of the common medications used in women who have PCOS include:
- Birth control
If you’re a woman with PCOS, we can help. We offer a complimentary consultation so you can find out how we can help you get control over your PCOS.