Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a relatively common disorder characterized by a number of symptoms. While some of these symptoms are strictly reproductive (irregular/infrequent menses), others (elevated insulin levels) may have a more detrimental affect on long-term health. And, treating PCOS as simply a reproductive disorder isn’t likely to be as effective as a more holistic approach.
The most common signs and symptoms of PCOS include:
- Irregular/Absent menses
- Hair growth – chin, abdomen, etc.
- Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
- Multiple, small cysts on the ovaries
- Elevated insulin, glucose and LH levels.
When women seek naturopathic care for PCOS, their priorities usually include getting pregnant. As a result, many women are on a combination of Clomid and/or Provera to “bring on” their menstrual cycle. For some this is effective, but for many women this does not result in a normal ovulatory cycle and as a result, pregnancy isn’t achieved.
The Naturopathic Approach to PCOS
1. Treat the person: Not every woman with PCOS experiences the same set of symptoms. The most common symptoms are irregular ovulation, dark hair growth and difficulty losing weight (which often includes insulin resistance). But, I’ve seen many women with PCOS who have regular periods are at a normal BMI. So, in order to develop the most effective treatment plan you have to treat the person, not the symptoms.
2. Establish a normal menstrual cycle: As I mentioned, most women with PCOS who come to see me are also looking to conceive. The first step is to establish a normal menstrual cycle. This is often achieved with a combination of dietary interventions, herbal medicine and/or selected nutritional supplements, and acupuncture. There are a number of very effective therapies aimed specifically at the hormonal imbalance created by PCOS. While most people think of PCOS as being a condition characterized by low progesterone levels (which it is), it’s also a condition of estrogen dominance and both of these hormones need to be addressed. The usual time frame is 3-6 months, but of course this may vary from person to person.
3. Support Conception: Once a healthy menstrual cycle has been established, the focus shifts to optimizing chances of conception and pregnancy.
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