PCOS

.….Understand it…. Reverse it… Get Pregnant!

What is PCOS?

PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. It is the most common endocrine health issue that many women face today. It now affects 1 out of every 4 women and is a main cause for infertility.

There are 3 signs or symptoms doctors look for in order to be diagnosed with PCOS:

#1 Irregular periods or anovulation (ovulation doesn’t occur)

#2 Signs of increased androgenic hormones such as facial hair growth, hair thinning, weight gain, and acne

#3 Many small cysts on one or both ovaries usually found by doing an ultrasound

Other symptoms that can also be found in women suffering from PCOS include:

  • Infertility
  • GI complaints
  • Metabolic issues
  • Insulin resistance
  • Depression
  • Vaginitis
  • Sleep problems
  • Arthritis

What’s the Cause?

PCOS has multiple factors that play a role including genetics, the environment, and the intra-uterine environment (what the baby was exposed while in her mother’s uterus). The interaction of these factors can lead to the development of PCOS.

Genetics

Women with PCOS usually have a first-degree relative with PCOS also so we know there’s an inheritance component. Also, a higher frequency of specific genetic polymorphisms are found in women with PCOS.

Environment

Our environment plays a huge role in the development of PCOS and these environmental factors include diet, exercise, weight management, and environmental toxins.

As for many other chronic health conditions, we know that inflammation is a main driving force for PCOS.

Our diet is a main contributing factor to increased inflammation. The Standard American Diet (SAD), GMOs, high sugar foods and processed foods all contribute to inflammation.

Intrauterine environment

The prenatal environment plays a big role in the development of PCOS. Intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR) and excess exposure to hormones during critical windows of development can predispose a baby to PCOS.  Obesity, diabetes, insulin resistance, and excessive weight gain in the mother may also be predictors for PCOS in the developing baby.

Endocrine disruptors are substances (toxins, foods, chemicals) that interfere with the normal physiology of the endocrine system and can cause hormonal imbalances.

While in utero a baby can be exposed to these endocrine disruptors which can contribute to the development of PCOS.

A common disruptor, BPA, is known to effect the development of hormone receptors in the developing baby.

Treatment options

Standard medical treatment includes

Birth control pills to help “regulate and normalize” menstrual cycles

Spironolactone (which is really a diuretic) to help lower the excess androgens which may help with acne, facial hair growth and hair thinning.

Metformin for blood sugar balance

Clomid or other fertility drugs to help women get pregnant

Although these medications may help with some of the symptoms they are doing nothing to address the underlying cause and the side effects of each are too negative for some women.

Birth control pills and Metformin rob the body of essential B vitamins. Remember, B vitamins are critical for fertility and for making a healthy baby!

Metformin can impact the permeability of the GI tract making it more leaky… this is not a good thing! Studies are showing that it does not improve fertility which doesn’t help if you’re trying to get pregnant! Metformin has also been found to be an endocrine disruptor—male fish are turning into female fish in water that has Metformin dumped into it!

There are much better alternatives to Metformin!

So, are there natural options?

Well, Yes there are!

There are many things a woman can do to help get PCOS under control and regain hormonal balance, blood sugar balance, ideal weight, and reverse abnormal hair growth patterns.

Some natural therapies include:

  • A whole foods diet emphasizing lots of vegetables, healthy fats, easy to digest protein
  • A diet plan that balances blood sugar and decreases inflammation
  • Foods that feed the gut bacteria
  • An exercise plan
  • Supplements or herbs may include: B vitamins, Vit D, Calcium/ Magnesium, Chromium, Fish oil, Fiber, NAC, Inositol, Vitex, Berberine, Cinammon, Maitake

A plan incorporating each one of these therapies is customized for you based on your history and individual symptoms. It is highly effective and works to address the underlying imbalances and strengthen the foundation.

PCOS and Fertility

It’s important to remember that in PCOS the hormones are imbalanced and inflammation is present.  Inflammation affects the whole body so even the follicular fluid surrounding the egg in your ovaries is inflamed. The vaginal flora can also be affected which can make it hostile for sperm to live in. The hair-like projections in the fallopian tubes may not function properly. There’s also a higher rate of thyroid issues with PCOS. All of these things can directly impact fertility. And more importantly these issues can effect the health of your future baby. It doesn’t matter if you are planning to conceive naturally or via IVF – it’s critical to address the inflammation and hormonal balance prior to conception in order to give your future baby the healthiest start possible.

Another thing to remember is that AMH levels are typically higher in women with PCOS so if you’re using AMH to monitor fertility and you have PCOS it can be misleading.

Complications with Pregnancy and PCOS

It’s important to keep in mind that forcing the body to get pregnant without addressing the underlying causes of PCOS can lead to undesirable effects during pregnancy and in the health of your baby. Some effects during pregnancy can include pre-term delivery, gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, and higher rate of miscarriage.

Babies can be larger in size which can then predispose them to diabetes or metabolic issues in the future. It’s so important to address the underlying causes of PCOS, reduce inflammation, and optimize nutrient status to help overcome infertility and make your healthiest baby possible!

Final thoughts

If you have PCOS and would like to have a baby in the future I highly encourage you to seek out the many natural therapies that are available to help address the hormonal imbalances, inflammation, gastrointestinal issues, and blood sugar balance. Not only will fertility be much easier for you but more importantly your future baby will have the healthiest start possible.

Sources:
Anderson Sanches de Melo1, Sabrine Vilan Dias1, Ricardo de Carvalho Cavalli. Pathogenesis of polycystic ovary syndrome: multifactorial assessment from the foetal stage to menopause. Reproduction (2015) 150 R11–R24.      DOI: 10.1530/REP-14-0499. www.reproduction-online.org

Susiarjo M, Hassold TJ, Freeman E, Hunt PA (2007) Bisphenol A Exposure In Utero Disrupts Early Oogenesis in the Mouse.  PLoS Genet 3(1): e5. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.0030005

Carlsen SM Metformin increases total serum homocysteine levels in non-diabetic male patients with coronary heart disease. Scand J Clin Lab Invest. 1997 Oct;57(6):521-7

Brian Bienkowski Exposure to metformin, a first-line treatment for type-2 diabetes, feminizes male minnows and impacts fertility at levels common in wastewater effluent. Environmental Health News April 28, 2015. http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2015/apr/diabetes-fish-endocrine-disruption-hormones-metformin