Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, widely known as PCOS, is characterized by irregular menstrual cycles, unwanted hair growth or laboratory signs of high androgens (testosterone, DHEA), and ovaries with multiple cysts. Technically to fulfill the Rotterdam criteria for PCOS, only two out of the three major features are needed. Therefore, even if cysts are not present but there is a history of abnormal menstrual cycle lengths and high testosterone, then PCOS is diagnosed. Sadly, many doctors will only make the diagnosis once an individual is 100 pounds overweight and has severe cysts on the ovaries.
PCOS can often result in infertility. In fact, PCOS is the most common cause of infertility in the United States and it is the most common endocrine imbalance among women. With two thirds of those cases being related to insulin resistance and one third being stress related.
Most Doctors agree that the main cause of PCOS is insulin resistance, also known as IR. Insulin is made in the pancreas and is secreted at a greater rate when carbohydrates are consumed. IR occurs when the body becomes less responsive to insulin. When produced in healthy levels, insulin aids in ovarian function. When insulin resistance is present, it causes the ovaries to respond by increasing androgens, such as testosterone. This is why many PCOS patients may experience facial hair growth, weight gain and anovulation.
In a standard medical office, PCOS is treated with anti-diabetic medications. Another common intervention is placing the patient on birth control to regulate cycles and help with hirsutism (facial hair growth that occurs in a male-like pattern). Though these interventions have proven to be effective to some degree, they offer temporary relief and do not get to the root of the dysfunction.
How do we work with this on a functional level? At Gates Brain Health, we use dietary changes and supplementation to help improve the resistance to insulin. Supplements are also used to help normalize estrogen and testosterone production from the ovaries. Additionally, a large percentage of PCOS patients actually make significantly elevated levels of testosterone when under stress, and we help their brain to become less responsive to stress.
Zafari Zangeneh, Farideh. “Psychological Distress in Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome from Imam Khomeini Hospital, Tehran.” PubMed.Com, PubMed, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3719335. Accessed 23 Oct. 2020.
Anadu Ndefo, Uche. “Polycystic Ovary Syndrome A Review of Treatment Options With a Focus on Pharmacological Approaches.” PubMed, PubMed, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3737989. Accessed 23 Oct. 2020.