Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS, is one of the most common causes of menstrual irregularities. Studies have shown that it affects about 4%-10% of women of reproductive age. Other symptoms of PCOS include multiple small cysts on both ovaries, infertility, insulin resistance, obesity, excess hair growth and acne. Women with PCOS might have regular periods, irregular periods or no periods at all and often have problems with ovulation.
PCOS can be diagnosed through an ultrasound, which would most commonly show multiple small cysts on both ovaries. Further lab tests might also be helpful in assessing the severity of the condition. Blood tests that might be requested include prolactin, LH, FSH, testosterone and glucose. Prolactin, LH and FSH are hormones that are involved in a female’s menstrual reproductive cycle. Glucose is affected by insulin which can be abnormal in women with PCOS. Another test that can be done at home involves taking your basal body temperature. If your temperature (taken immediately upon waking) is consistently low throughout the month, it might indicate an elevated estrogen/progesterone ratio, which could mean that there is a problem with ovulation.
Conventionally, patients with PCOS are often put on the birth control pill. This typically helps to eliminate many of the symptoms. However, if a patient is trying to get pregnant and depending on how severe the case, the patient might need to go on fertility drugs.
Naturopathically, there is a lot that can be done to treat PCOS. Naturopathic medicine addresses the root cause of a condition, so rather than just removing the symptoms temporarily, it would work to correct the underlying problem. Simple diet changes, such as reducing sugar consumption can make a huge difference. Increasing nutrients such as vitamin B6, magnesium and essential fatty acids can also be beneficial. Herbal remedies such as Vitex, Eleutherococcus, Dioscorea, Mitchella and Saw Palmetto have shown to correct an imbalance of the female hormones. Acupuncture is also an excellent treatment option when it comes to addressing woman’s health issues, especially PCOS. Acupuncture is based on the idea of energy channels, whereby in a “healthy state”, energy is freely flowing. It also helps to increase blood flow and nourish the uterus and break down cysts.
Many women are not aware of their menstrual cycles and if they are, they simply ignore the signs of a possible underlying medical issue. Generally speaking, a “normal” menstrual cycle should be between 26 to 35 days with ovulation in the middle of the cycle. Extremely heavy periods with or without clotting, light periods or spotting are all possible signs of a hormone imbalance. Whether or not you want to get pregnant, it is important to regulate your cycles as soon as possible. Untreated PCOS is associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, lipid metabolism abnormalities, insulin problems, estrogen-associated cancers including breast and endometrial cancer, type 2 diabetes and infertility. Therefore, it is important to take matters into your own hands, get to know your body and your menstrual cycles, so you can be as healthy as you can be.