Holistic help for PCOS
Q. I have been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome. Can natural remedies help?
A. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a complex condition, where multiple, small, fluid-filled follicles on the ovaries fail to mature and develop into eggs. It is also a leading cause of infertility.
How PCOS develops is not fully understood but tissue resistance to insulin is involved. Some or all of the following may result: an imbalance of sex hormones (androgen, prolactin, testosterone, follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinising hormone, DHEA); oestrogen dominance; erratic or no ovulation; insulin resistance and/or blood sugar imbalance; elevated cholesterol and triglycerides; infrequent or stalled menstruation, all of which undermine fertility.
Other problems include hair growth on the face and body, acne, and obesity. In some cases cysts are present but there is no hormonal imbalance: according to Ruth Trickey, author of Women, Hormones and the Menstrual Cycle, out of 20 per cent of women with ovarian follicles, only eight per cent have PCOS. Weight loss, dietary changes, and herbal medicine can help, while the depression which often accompanies difficulty conceiving can be eased with hypnotherapy.
Clearance of hormones through the liver is vital for healthy endocrine function, so a supervised detoxification regime is a priority for PCOS sufferers. Bitter greens, lemons, and artichokes support liver function.
Organic, low GI (glycaemic index) foods are especially important, due to PCOS’s link with obesity and blood sugar problems. Avoid processed, high carbohydrate foods; focus instead on fresh vegetables, fruit and wholegrains.
Eggs and meat should be organic – your liver doesn’t need more hormones to metabolise! The nutrients chromium, magnesium and vitamin B3 help maintain stable levels of blood sugar and lower insulin levels.
Peony and licorice: Reduce ovarian testosterone production, induce ovulation, promote healthy androgen levels, and modulate oestrogen levels. Licorice is also an adrenal restorative, working on the adrenal axis. Take care using licorice long-term and note that it is contraindicated in high blood pressure.
Chaste berry: This is often used to treat PCOS, for its hormone-balancing properties.
Black cohosh: Regulates the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis and normalises follicular development and ovulation.
Siberian ginseng: For adrenal fatigue and long-term chronic stress, which may be precursors to illness.
This is well-documented as being useful for the hormonal disruption of PCOS, especially in normalising elevated androgen levels and regulating ovulation.
Charting your cycle
For centuries, women have been disempowered and shamed about their bodies. Increasingly, I see female patients who are disconnected from their bodies, especially their genitals and reproductive systems, and this eventually leads to disease. It’s time we took back our power, and knowledge is the key.
When you learn how your body and hormones work, you will see how your lifestyle affects your reproductive cycle. Charting your menstrual cycle, identifying changes in mucus patterns and what they mean, and plotting your temperature each morning will all foster an intimate relationship between you and your body, as well as aid in conception and contraception.
If you have PCOS, you can track your progress through treatment and see the effects hormonal changes have on your cycle. For courses on cycle charting, contact Rochelle McKay-Masterton, a naturopathic specialist in female reproductive health, at the Sheoak Natural Fertility Clinic. www.sheoaknaturalfertility.com.au
Nina Barnes is a qualified naturopath. Contact her at email@example.com.