PCOS: Integrative Therapies and Fertility Treatment
PCOS is one of the leading causes of ovulatory infertility in the U.S and affects anywhere from 6% to 12% of women during their childbearing years.
And though many women with PCOS struggle with fertility, it’s often more obvious symptoms like weight gain, acne, or hair loss that are the first clue. The good news for those looking for answers is that PCOS symptoms are treatable with integrative medicine.
In this article you’ll learn what causes PCOS, what role inflammation plays, and how integrative medicine can help you manage PCOS symptoms naturally.
What is PCOS?
PCOS is the abbreviation for polycystic ovarian syndrome. PCOS gets its name due to the cysts which commonly form upon a woman’s ovaries as a result of a partially stimulated egg follicle, which would ordinarily be released during ovulation. Often, with PCOS, the egg is never released from the ovary, and then forms a fluid-filled sac called a cyst.
However, cysts aren’t always present when a woman has PCOS, and this misconception frequently leads to a delayed diagnosis and much frustration.
PCOS is also associated with increased production of androgens (male sex hormones) by the ovaries in response to an increase in circulating insulin, which is a hormone made by your pancreas that controls blood sugar.
PCOS can cause weight gain, an increase in body hair (called hirsutism), irregular or absent periods, and is the leading cause of infertility.
Tired of being at the mercy of PCOS symptoms? Take control of PCOS with integrative medicine. Scheduling an appointment is simple and easy.
PCOS, Pregnancy, and Fertility
For decades, the only available solution for women with PCOS was birth control, but if a woman is trying to become pregnant, birth control becomes the opposite of what she needs, and the question of fertility remains.
Because with PCOS, an egg is often not released from the ovaries, fertilization and a subsequent pregnancy cannot happen.
PCOS is considered the most common cause of ovulatory infertility, which means ovulation isn’t occurring. To become pregnant while managing PCOS, you’ll want to first find out if you’re ovulating.
Why You Should See A Holistic Gynecologist for PCOS
Because PCOS often begins with menstrual problems and difficulty with fertility, the first stop on your PCOS journey is likely to be your gynecologist. A holistic gynecologist will help you determine if you’re ovulating, and find out if there are cysts present on your ovaries that could be impacting fertility and causing discomfort, and whether any of those cysts could become problematic.
A holistic gynecologist will also explain the risks and benefits of birth control, so you can make an informed decision about your PCOS treatment. Birth control is one option, but it’s not the only one.
Depending on your needs, a holistic gynecologist may continue to treat you, but will often refer you to an endocrinologist to provide integrative care.
PCOS and Inflammation
Historically, conventional medical wisdom assumed that PCOS itself caused insulin resistance and inflammation.
However, recent evidence suggests the opposite may be true: that insulin resistance as a result of low-grade inflammation may be the root cause of PCOS, rather than being the result (1).
How would this be possible?
Inflammation itself can lead to high blood sugar and insulin resistance, even in the presence of a healthy diet.
This type of chronic, low-grade inflammation can make your cells less likely to respond to the message insulin sends–which is to allow glucose inside the cell for energy. If cells are unresponsive to insulin, the pancreas makes more, bombarding cells even more.
Eventually, cells become desensitized to insulin, creating high blood sugar, more inflammation, and usually weight gain–especially around the midsection. Imbalanced blood sugar then negatively impacts the ovaries, causing hormone imbalance and high levels of androgens.
Insulin and Your Ovaries
Blood sugar imbalance is often the dysregulation responsible for increased weight gain in PCOS and a difficulty losing weight despite a very healthy diet and exercise.
The complicated part, however, is that you can be thin, and still have insulin resistance triggered by inflammation within the body (2).
What impact does this have on your ovaries?
In response to being overwhelmed with insulin, your ovaries begin to produce androgens (male sex hormones) like testrosterone. Women normally produce some testosterone, but with PCOS, high testosterone levels are partly responsible for:
- Hair loss
- Hair growth (everywhere except your head!)
Managing PCOS Symptoms with Holistic Medicine
Managing PCOS symptoms naturally requires consistent effort and often the teamwork with an integrative doctor who will help you determine your genetic, dietary, and lifestyle factors.
Ready to heal your PCOS? Speak with an integrative women’s health doctor today.
1. The Gut and Liver Detoxification
When treating PCOS with integrative medicine, it’s important to identify any underlying sources of inflammation. And the first place to look is your gut. Almost three-quarters of your immune system resides here, and it’s responsible for creating that systemic inflammation, or for calming it.
As mentioned above, inflammation contributes to insulin resistance and causes the ovaries to produce more testosterone, worsening PCOS symptoms.
A frequent occurrence with PCOS is an overgrowth of yeast, or Candida. Candia can also spike insulin, which then spikes androgen production in the ovaries as well
To reduce inflammation in the gut, heal any underlying bacterial overgrowth (like Candida), and work on removing inflammatory triggers such as gluten, dairy, or soy.
Core-7 is a comprehensive and effective 7- or 14-day detox which supports phase I and II of liver detox, while promoting digestive health and glutathione production.
Your liver is responsible for packaging up and getting rid of substances your body is no longer using–this goes for excess hormones and toxins which can cause inflammation. You can think of your liver as kind of like the laundromat for your body.
When toxins linger in the body longer than they should, they can interfere with a healthy hormone balance. This can be due to:
- Poor detox function due to poor methylation in the body
- Not having regular bowel movements as a result of poor digestion or constipation
For healthy hormones, support your liver’s detox function.
2. Hormone Balance
If you’re experiencing PCOS symptoms, getting your hormones tested by an integrative medicine doctor is very important to your journey.
3. Toxic Load
Environmental toxins are altering hormone balance in many people, not just those with PCOS. It’s important we support detoxification processes which can support hormonal balance.
Studies have shown that PCOS is correlated with reduced methylation determined by the expression of certain genes. Poor methylation means your body’s natural detox pathways aren’t able to properly metabolize and get rid of certain toxins (3).
The longer your body holds onto toxins, the more potential they have to build up and alter hormone function.
Integrative Nutrition – A PCOS Diet
The best diet for PCOS symptoms will keep blood sugar in control, and inflammation down, which will in turn help regulate insulin. There isn’t one diet that works for everyone, but these guidelines are a good starting point.
- Reduce or eliminate gluten (and minimize other processed grains which contribute to insulin resistance)
- Get 3-6 cups of vegetables per day (the more, the better)
- Include PROTEIN AND FAT at every meal (this helps modulate insulin production as well)
- Eliminate added sugar as much as possible
The goal with any PCOS diet is to keep blood sugar stable, and provide you with adequate nutrients and calories so you feel satisfied and have the right nutrients for healthy hormone balance.
If the liver is like a laundromat for your body, think of your gut like the hormone production center. Without a healthy gut on board, hormone balance is a struggle.
- Eat more probiotic-rich foods
- Eliminate added sugars (which can help get candida overgrowth in check)
- Focus on prebiotic fiber to nourish GOOD gut bacteria (ideally from veggies)
- Leverage the use of supplements like Belly Fix to aid the healing process
Modern humans deal with more stress now than ever before, and it’s taking a huge toll on our health. Stress increases inflammation. And inflammation worsens PCOS. Here are a few ways to turn things around when you’re stressed:
- Adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha and rhodiola
- Guided meditation or calming apps (Headspace, Calm)
Treating PCOS with Functional Medicine
PCOS Symptoms can be difficult to manage, and for many, an actual PCOS diagnosis can take up to two years, and as many as three different doctors.
When you experience functional medicine at CentreSpringMD, you can be assured we’ll listen to your concerns, and provide you with solutions to heal your body, not merely mask symptoms.
Whether your goal is hormone balance, becoming pregnant, or better health overall, your CentreSpringMD team will help you manage PCOS in the way that’s best for you.
Learn more about what to expect with functional women’s health.