Polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, has become more common over the last couple of decades, affecting up to 12% of reproductive-age women. The condition was named after its most prominent feature – cysts in the ovaries, which cause pain and cramping. It is also one of the most frequent causes of female infertility. Over time, we’ve come to understand PCOS as a complex metabolic disorder.
PCOS is not just about cysts – in fact, some women have this syndrome without actual ovarian cysts. One of the main underlying issues is a problem with the body’s handling of blood sugar, called insulin resistance — similar to diabetes. This has consequences ranging from high cholesterol to weight gain.
There are also imbalances in hormones. Women with PCOS often have higher than normal levels of male hormones, or androgens. This can cause some of the disruptions that lead to fertility problems, as well as symptoms such as facial hair growth or acne.
The conventional approach to PCOS includes the diabetes drug metformin, and artificial hormones. By contrast, naturopathic medicine seeks to find and treat the causes of disease rather than the symptoms.
We start with lifestyle. It’s essential to shift from the standard American diet based on sugar and white flour to whole, natural foods. Exercise is another key to improving insulin sensitivity.
Based on lab results, there may be specific nutritional and herbal supplements that can help support the body’s blood sugar and hormonal systems. Vitamin D deficiency is quite common in PCOS; it’s critical to replenish vitamin D to treat this condition.
Additionally, naturopathic doctors look at the whole person, which means addressing emotional factors that are involved as well.
This holistic approach will help not only with your PCOS symptoms, but put you on the road to lifelong optimal wellness. With the improved fertility, that’s important, so you can be the healthiest mom you can.