What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition in women characterized by irregular or no menstrual periods, acne, obesity, and excess hair growth. PCOS is frequently associated with insulin resistance, metabolic disorders and cardiovascular risk factors. PCOS is increasing day by day and is the major cause of infertility.
What are the signs and symptoms?
- Menstrual: abnormal menstruation, absence of menstruation, heavy menstruation, irregular menstruation, short and light menstruation, or spotting
- Weight: obesity, predominantly abdominal fat, weight gain or difficult weight loss
- Skin: acne or oily skin
- Common: depression, facial or chin hair, infertility, loss of scalp hair
High androgen (male hormone) levels is common and presents as increased hair growth in areas such as the upper lip, chin and around the areola of the nipple. This is known as Hirsutism. 50 – 80% of women with PCOS have hirsutism due to the high testosterone levels.
How is it diagnosed?
There are 3 criteria look for:
- High androgen levels on blood tests which is a specific panel of hormones. Secondly I look for physical signs of high androgen levels (acne and hirsutism).
- Problems with ovulation – presents as no period, irregular periods or extended cycles. Tracking periods is important which I teach all my female patients how to do correctly.
- On Ultrasound – poly cystic ovaries tend to be enlarged and will show tiny cysts about 8mm on average. There can be up to 12 cysts like a chain of pearls on the edgeof the ovary. These are small, fluid-filled sacs that grow inside of the ovaries. The word “polycystic” means “many cysts.” These sacs are actually follicles, each one containing an immature egg. The eggs never mature enough to trigger ovulation and therefore remain in the ovary. The aim in PCOS is to help regulate the hormone levels to allow for the maturation of these follicles for ovulation to take place on a monthly basis which will prevent the build-up of these follicles in the ovaries.
There is no specific test you can do for a definitive diagnosis. The reason why it’s called a syndrome is because it is a grouping of a number of different symptoms. It is important to note that you do NOT have to have all 3 criteria to be diagnosed with PCOS.
How do I treat PCOS?
The focus of homeopathic treatment is treating the cause and not the symptoms in order to regulate hormones so the patient may ovulate naturally and have regular periods. The overall health of the patient is also very important as these factors influence the hormones. Lifestyle such as diet, exercise, energy levels, sleep and stress are very important factors to consider which I address in consult and advise accordingly.
In practice, I find that the one of the most common reasons for which PCOS patients seek treatment is acne and excessive hair growth on the face and chin. Irregular or delayed periods may be accompanied by severe pain and heavy bleeding which can be very debilitating. On the other hand, patients also report extremely limited menstrual flow leading to discomfort. Homeopathic treatment can provide quick relief for menstrual cramps. In addition to medication for quick relief, patients can be given a homeopathic injection to alleviate cramping and pain.
Conventionally, the first question asked is “Are you trying to fall pregnant?” If they want to fall pregnant, the first line of treatment is metformin conventionally because it is an insulin sensitizer because in PCOS insulin resistance is very common. However, there are other natural alternatives that are proven to be as effective such as Berberine which I dispense extensively in my practice. I aim for my patients’ fasting insulin to be between 3 – 7. Insulin resistance is what makes it hard for women with PCOS to lose weight even if they are eating healthy and exercising regularly.
On the other hand, if they do not want to fall pregnant, conventionally they are prescribed the Birth Control Pill. As a homeopath, I apply a systems based biology approach for management and treatment of PCOS. This means I aim to treat the cause not the symptoms.
The most effective tool I have found in treating this metabolic endocrine disorder is my 12 week PCOS Protocol. I designed the protocol to help patients regulate their cycle, lose weight, eat healthier, increase energy, sleep better and be less stressed. A patient will come in every 4 weeks for a scan to track their weight loss and homeopathic injection for hormone regulation as well the follow up consult to track symptoms and healing. Some cases resolve faster than others as it depends on the severity of the case.
Why does PCOS occur?
The incidence of PCOS is on the increase. Some factors that may contribute to PCOS:
- long term use of the contraceptive pill
- mental and emotional stress
- hormones in our diet – dairy, red meat, chicken and eggs all contain hormones.