Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is an increasingly common hormone imbalance that affects more and more people every year. All too often, however, the underlying root causes and potential natural remedies for PCOS can be overlooked.
Yet, there are plenty of supportive strategies and natural remedies for PCOS that can help alleviate common troubling symptoms like irregular periods, excessive tiredness, acne and excessive unwanted body hair growth - usually on the face, chest, back or buttocks. First, it's important to understand exactly what PCOS is and how the condition develops. Then, you can plan out what steps to take to better support your health.
PCOS is a hormonal disorder that mainly affects women of reproductive age. Fluid can develop in the ovaries, which, in turn, don't release eggs on a regular schedule. Aside from ovulation problems, the symptoms of PCOS can include fatigue, painful and irregular menstrual cycles, infertility, acne and unwanted body hair.
This condition shows how imbalanced hormones can have a wide range of effects. Even if our hormones are in range they may not be optimal, and they also need to be in the correct ratio with any counter-balancing hormones. In PCOS, estrogen may be out of balance with high levels of androgens (sometimes known as "male hormones"), causing symptoms like facial hair and menstrual problems. PCOS can also lead to more serious long-term complications outside the reproductive system, including heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
But with an early diagnosis and a commitment to natural remedies for PCOS, many people can successfully reverse their symptoms and rebalance their health.
Disruptions to the menstrual cycle — including heavy bleeding — are often the first symptom of PCOS that a person experiences. These symptoms typically start around the time of a young person's first menstrual cycle, though they can happen later in life, too, such as after significant weight gain. Some people with the condition may only realize they have it when they begin to recognize problems with infertility.
A PCOS diagnosis is made when a person experiences at least two out of the following three signs: irregular periods, excess levels of androgens or polycystic ovaries. A doctor will usually use a combination of blood tests, ultrasound and a pelvic exam to reach this conclusion.
Several key hormones are at play when it comes to PCOS. These include:
There are several underlying root causes of PCOS to consider, including thyroid issues, imbalanced androgens or female hormones, high levels of stress and blood sugar dysregulation. Research suggests that there can also be a genetic predisposition in the development of PCOS; hypothyroidism and the accompanying hormonal changes may also be a factor.
Another possible cause of PCOS is chronic levels of inflammation. One study found that people with PCOS often have chronic low-grade inflammation in their system. That level of inflammation can then prompt the ovaries to produce more androgens.
As there are many possible underlying causes of PCOS, alleviating symptoms through identifying underlying hormonal imbalances requires taking a holistic approach, including a nutritious, balanced whole food diet, adequate exercise and stress management. Here are a few key lifestyle factors to consider:
Rather than going on a crash diet, it's important to make sustainable changes that you can keep up for the long term. You may have heard that some people with PCOS anecdotally report feeling better after eliminating common inflammatory trigger foods like gluten and dairy. Since PCOS is closely connected to insulin resistance, you should aim to eat balanced meals throughout the day, limit processed sugar and choose whole foods, such as lean protein and whole grains, says Empowered Women's Health.
Exercise can help lower blood sugar levels. Being active every day may help keep insulin levels stable and your weight from increasing. Often, focusing on shorter, gentler exercise sessions with lighter weights is beneficial because it encourages lean muscle development. Keep workouts from 20 to 45 minutes for maximum supportive benefits.
If you are carrying excess body fat, getting to a healthier body weight may help with relieving PCOS symptoms. Weight loss may lower androgen levels and help regulate ovulation.
As you explore how to manage your PCOS or suspected PCOS, understanding your hormone imbalances can provide an deeper understanding of where to start. Using a simple at-home lab test that looks at your hormone levels and other key markers in detail and working with a certified health coach on diet and lifestyle recommendations based on your results, you can start to rebalance your hormones, alleviate your symptoms and improve your overall health.
Did you know that PCOS can affect 1 in 10 women of reproductive age and often goes undiagnosed leaving many to suffer with common symptoms? The good news is you can rebalance your hormones and reverse PCOS symptoms through key foundational changes in diet and exercise. To learn more, take a listen to this podcast for specific tips about PCOS, hormones and simple steps you can start today.