Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) or polycystic ovary syndrome is a condition many women struggle with. But while it’s a common hormonal disorder (prevalence is 1 out of 10 women worldwide), the cause is said to be unknown. That alone can be distressing, but it’s just the beginning. PCOS can cause a range of symptoms, which may be life-altering. Is there hope? YES! PCOS may be common, but it isn’t normal. The key is finding what’s causing hormonal imbalance and reducing the impact of those stressors.
What is PCOS?
According to Mayo Clinic, PCOS is an endocrine disorder that commonly affects women of reproductive age. With PCOS, the ovaries can develop small sacs of fluid around their outer edges called cysts. The fluid-filled cysts contain immature eggs called follicles, but the follicles don’t regularly release eggs. 
The result is that women with PCOS have either infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods. They may also build up excess male hormones (androgens) like testosterone. Elevated testosterone levels can lead to some characteristic signs of PCOS, like acne, hair loss, and excess facial hair –even just a random long hair on your chin.
The hormone and metabolic imbalances that result from this condition affect multiple body systems leading to a variety of unpleasant and sometimes devastating symptoms.
Symptoms of PCOS
The main symptoms of PCOS center around the menstrual cycle and the impact of dysregulated blood sugar levels. While there are many common symptoms, they vary from woman to woman. Here are some common symptoms of PCOS:
- Irregular periods or no menstruation (amenorrhea)
- Lack of ovulation
- Ovarian cysts
- Insulin resistance/metabolic syndrome
- Hirsutism (excess hair growth on the face and body)
- Oily skin and acne
- Thinning hair
- Weight gain/obesity
- Depression or mood changes
- Abnormal uterine bleeding
It’s important to note that not all women with PCOS experience each one of these symptoms. The severity and combination of symptoms can vary widely. Keeping track of your symptoms can help healthcare providers in the process of diagnosing PCOS.
How is PCOS Diagnosed?
There’s no one definitive test to diagnose PCOS. Instead, your healthcare provider will generally discuss symptoms and health history. If PCOS sounds like a possibility, they may recommend one or more of the following: 
- Pelvic exam – A pelvic exam checks for masses or growths on the reproductive organs.
- Blood tests – Blood tests can measure hormone levels, glucose tolerance, cholesterol, and triglycerides.
- Ultrasound – Ultrasounds can evaluate the ovaries and check the thickness of the uterine lining.
Meeting two out of three criteria are now required for diagnosing PCOS: 1) Irregular or infrequent ovulation, 2) excess male hormone activity, and 3) polycystic ovaries (diagnosed via ultrasound).  Once PCOS is diagnosed, your practitioner may recommend more testing to check for complications.
The Fireman vs. The Carpenter in Healthcare
At The Wellness Way, we describe the mainstream method of healthcare versus ours as the “fireman approach” or the “carpenter approach.”
“Fireman doctors” have two tools: an axe and a hose. The axe represents cutting things out in a surgical procedure. The hose is similar because it represents medications used to extinguish inflammation and symptoms.
The Wellness Way doctors are like carpenters. They first assess the damage with testing. Then they create a personalized plan to rebuild the body with the appropriate tools. These include the proper nutrients from foods and supplements.
Sunshine, rest, and positive relationships are other natural therapies that help the body heal itself.
Mainstream Medicine’s Approach to PCOS
Mainstream medicine claims the cause of PCOS is unknown. Conventional treatment of PCOS focuses on managing symptoms, lowering androgen levels, balancing blood sugar, and aiding weight loss. These goals may be achieved via a low-calorie diet, exercise, and medications.
Common Medications For PCOS
Common medications given for PCOS include: 
- Oral contraceptives: Birth control pills are given to manipulate a woman’s menstrual cycle, lower androgen levels, and reduce acne. (Whether they are effective at these things is another conversation).
- Diabetes medications: Diabetes drugs like Metformin may help lower insulin resistance and androgen levels in PCOS.
- Fertility drugs: Drugs like Clomid and Serophene can trigger ovulation, manipulating the cycle and possibly reducing PCOS symptoms.
- Anti-androgen drugs: Medications like Spironolactone may help reduce PCOS symptoms by lowering male hormones.
Medications may help with symptoms by synthetically manipulating women’s hormones, reducing blood sugar, or promoting fertility. However, they all have adverse side effects and may cause other health problems over time. The side effects are often why women seek out natural remedies and herbal medicines for PCOS.
What Causes PCOS? Traumas, Toxins, and Thoughts
The body isn’t programmed for illness–there is no PCOS gene that says you’re guaranteed to develop it. PCOS comes from the way the body reacts and interacts with its surroundings. If you eat something you’re allergic to or encounter toxins, the body does what it’s supposed to; it protects itself by ramping up the immune response and becoming inflamed. Inflammation is part of the healing process, but chronic illnesses and imbalances may develop when the body is constantly under some form of stress (traumas, toxins, or thoughts).
Traumas (Physical Stressors)
Traumas or physical stressors can be acute or chronic. Chronic subluxations in the spine can inhibit nerve and blood flow to the small intestine, leading to dis-ease. Other potential traumas may include:
- Car accidents/Whiplash
- A fall
- Physical abuse
The initial physical trauma may lead to biochemical stressors, like an infection following surgery or medication following an injury.
Toxins (Biochemical Stressors)
Toxins are biochemical stressors that may be either natural or synthetic.
- Nutrient deficiencies – Several key nutrient deficiencies are common in women with PCOS: calcium, potassium, magnesium, folate, vitamin B12, and vitamin C. 
- Sugar – Not only can sugar create or aggravate nutrient deficiencies, but it also acts like a toxin in the body, raising inflammation. 
- Toxic metals – Lead, mercury, arsenic, barium, and cadmium exposures are all associated with an increased risk of PCOS. 
- Endocrine-disrupting chemicals – Bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, and other chemicals mimic naturally made hormones and may lead to PCOS and other hormone issues. 
- Advanced Glycation End-products (AGEs) – AGEs are created during the browning process of cooking. They can interfere with metabolism and lead to insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia, worsening PCOS and contributing to related conditions like type 2 diabetes. 
- Hormone Therapy – Taking synthetic hormones can also aggravate PCOS symptoms, as estrogen dominance is already one of the imbalances associated with PCOS.
Anything that compromises the integrity of the gut lining, leading to a “leaky gut,” can lead to chronic inflammation and hormone imbalance, leading to PCOS.
Thoughts (Emotional Stressors)
Emotional stress is not to be underestimated. It’s as powerful as physical and biochemical stressors in triggering dis-eases. Our thoughts can be influenced by the following:
- Relationship issues
- Financial stress
- Watching the news (fear/worry)
- A feeling of overwhelm due to significant life changes, like a recent marriage, a new baby, graduation, a divorce, or even moving to a new city.
- Holding a grudge/pent-up anger
- Grief/feelings of loss
The cumulative effect of these traumas, toxins, and thoughts can create inflammation and increase the risk of dis-ease in the body and brain.
The Wellness Way Approach to PCOS: Natural Solutions
At The Wellness Way, we dig deeper to solve the health challenges others can’t. We don’t just address symptoms; we run tests to find out what’s going on behind the scenes.
Important Tests For Assessing Your Gut, Hormone, and Immune Health
Here are some commonly recommended tests at The Wellness Way:
- Food Allergy Test: Immuno Food Allergy Test
- Hormone Panel: Female Hormone Panel
- DUTCH Hormone Test: DUTCH Complete Hormone Panel
- Gut Health Test: Genova GI Effects with Parasitology
- Thyroid with Hormones Panel: Thyroid with Hormones Panel
Your Wellness Way practitioner will order tests based on what he or she considers most relevant based on your health history.
Dietary Changes for Women with PCOS and Hormone Imbalance
It’s critical to, first and foremost, lower inflammation so the gut can heal. One study even concluded that PCOS is a form of low-level chronic inflammation.  Eliminating sugar, avoiding your food allergies, and following a personalized nutrition program can go a long way toward reducing inflammation and promoting hormone balance. These are some additional guidelines for inflammatory conditions.
- No sugar or processed foods – Both increase inflammation. Balancing blood sugar is critical for overcoming insulin resistance and allowing the body to heal.
- Overall low carbohydrate, non-inflammatory diet of organic whole foods.
- Gluten-free, mostly grain-free – Gluten is known to aggravate the gut lining, contributing to chronic inflammation in the gut and brain. 
- No cow’s milk dairy products – Goat and sheep’s milk products may be better tolerated –and even beneficial for gut inflammation. 
- Avoid high omega-6 vegetable oils, like corn, canola, soybean, cottonseed oil, sunflower, grapeseed, and others, which can alter the omega-6 to omega-3 balance to be more inflammatory.  Instead, use fruit oils like olive, coconut, avocado, and palm oil; or animal fats like beef tallow, bacon grease, and duck fat.
- Avoid alcoholic beverages – Popular alcoholic drinks compromise the intestinal lining and increase inflammation. Believe it or not, alcohol is also very high glycemic, meaning it aggravates insulin resistance and PCOS. 
- Personalized nutrition, based on your food allergy test results, can help lower systemic inflammation and allow the body to return to balance.
- Nutrient-dense foods: Specific foods like Liver/organ meats, sauerkraut, and micro greens help add nutrition.
- Focus on antioxidants – Including things like turmeric, green tea, berries, dark chocolate, and foods high in polyphenols can lower oxidative stress and keep inflammation under control.
- Omega-3-rich foods – Wild-caught salmon, herring, sardines, walnuts, and ground flaxseeds supply omega-3 fatty acids and help lower inflammation. 
Diet is paramount, but supplements can help the body heal the digestive tract.
Potential Supplements for Women with PCOS and Hormone Imbalance
Every patient is different, but evidence-based supplements used at The Wellness Way for those struggling with hormonal, digestive, and immune imbalances may include the following:
- Aloe vera – Aloe gel may be protective against PCOS as it restores ovarian steroid levels. 
- Gymnema – Gymnema is excellent for balancing blood sugar levels and modulating insulin levels, which can greatly improve certain PCOS symptoms. 
- Licorice – Licorice has anti-androgen (testosterone-lowering) and estrogen-like qualities, which are especially beneficial for PCOS.  It’s especially beneficial when combined with White Peony (Paeonia lactiflora). 
- Chaste Tree – Chaste tree is also known as Vitex (vitex agnus-castus). Its ability to increase progesterone and balance testosterone levels makes it a helpful herb for PCOS patients. 
- Black Cohosh – Black cohosh may improve hormone regulation while also supporting fertility. 
- Dong Quai – Dong Quai is a crucial herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for supporting women’s health. It may be helpful for those with PCOS. 
- Ashwagandha – Ashwagandha is a popular treatment for PCOS is Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India. It may reduce PCOS symptoms by lowering elevated cortisol levels and normalizing the cycle. 
- Spearmint – Spearmint has anti-androgen properties and helps balance the atretic follicles with graafian follicles, ultimately reducing cysts and improving PCOS symptoms. It may be used as a tea or essential oil. 
- Inositol – Inositol plays a role in insulin signaling and can improve insulin sensitivity, ovarian function, and menstrual regularity. Several studies support its use for PCOS. 
- NAC – N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) helps raise levels of the master antioxidant glutathione in the body. It has improved ovulation, fertility, insulin resistance, and lipid profiles (cholesterol levels) in some women with PCOS. 
- Cinnamon – Cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia) can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood glucose, improving metabolic issues related to PCOS. 
Everyone is different – herbal remedies that work for one person may not work for another. This is due to body chemistry, including genetics, allergenic responses, and unique contributing causes to PCOS.
Lifestyle Changes to Support Women with PCOS and Hormone Imbalance
Other natural treatments for PCOS are lifestyle changes and other complementary therapies that bring balance to blood sugar and hormones, such as the following:
- Regular chiropractic care – Chiropractic care helps improve blood flow and nerve flow while decreasing overall physical stress on the body. It also supports balance in the autonomic nervous system and hormone levels.
- Weight loss – Losing 5 to 10% of body weight can help lower the burden on the body and alleviate some PCOS symptoms.
- Physical activity – Regular exercise has been shown to promote balanced blood sugar levels, a healthy body weight, a positive mood, and cardiovascular fitness.
Be a well-informed patient! In this “Quick Tips” video (pre-cursor to ADP), Dr. Patrick Flynn shares how to overcome PCOS naturally:
Here are some additional resources for learning more about PCOS:
Educational Resources for PCOS and Hormone Imbalance
Videos & Webinars Related to PCOS and Hormone Imbalance
Overcoming PCOS: Discover a Healthier Approach | TWW Quick Tips
High Testosterone in Women | The DPF Show | Episode 65
PCOS, Endometriosis, Circumcision | The DPF Show | Episode 69
Testosterone & Estrogen | A Different Perspective | Episode 134
Articles to Support Those With PCOS and Hormone Imbalance
CONNECT WITH US!
We invite you to connect with us! Find an event at a clinic near you! Follow us on social media. Tune in to A Different Perspective each Saturday morning LIVE to get cutting-edge training directly from Dr. Patrick Flynn. Set up a no-obligation health consult with one of our doctors today. The best is yet to come! Think differently – and THRIVE. Reach out to a Wellness Way clinic today to get thorough testing and start on your health journey. We are here to help!
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- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – Diagnosis and treatment – Mayo Clinic
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