Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome)

PCOS is an endocrine disorder associated with hormonal and cardiometabolic complications. It has become highly prevalent in Western countries, in Australia affecting up to 26% of women. While half of all PCOS patients present with insulin resistance and obesity, all patients share a primary defect in androgen production. The majority of PCOS patients tend to remain undiagnosed until later in life, with treatment only sought when reduced fertility is experienced. The consequences of PCOS extend far beyond elevated androgen levels, hirsutism, male pattern baldness and hair thinning, acne, infertility and growth of cysts. It has also been linked with conditions such as metabolic syndrome and certain cardiovascular risk factors including obesity, elevated blood pressure and dyslipidaemia. Unfortunately, insulin resistance can cause low-grade inflammation and increase cortisol levels. This can contribute to an overactive stress response and the symptoms of anxiety and depression, which are often increased in patients with PCOS.

Major causes and risk factors

Risk factors that contribute to the incidence of PCOS include:

  •  Insulin resistance
  •  Obesity
  •  Family history of PCOS
  •  Stress
  •  Nutritional deficiencies
  •  Diet high in processed foods (high glycaemic load)
  •  Sedentary lifestyle 

Common signs and symptoms of PCOS

  • Enlarged ovaries, resulting from multiple cysts 
  • Irregular menstrual cycles (eg. amenorrhoea)
  •  Hirsuitism (especially facial hair)
  •  Central obesity – ‘apple-shaped’ obesity centred around the lower half of the torso
  •  Infertility, resulting from a lack of ovulation
  •  Elevated androgens, specifically testosterone and DHEA, causing hirsuitism
  •  Androgenic alopecia (male-pattern baldness)
  •  Jaw-line acne, oily skin, seborrhoea
  •  Prolonged periods of PMS-like symptoms
  •  Sleep apnoea
  •  Chronic pelvic pain
  • Blood sugar dysregulation – eg. hypoglycaemic episodes, diabetes
  •  Hypothyroidism

Treatment

  • A balanced anti-inflammatory diet aimed at improving insulin sensitivity.
  •  Avoid refined and processed carbohydrates including sugar, sweets, fruit juices, soft drinks, bread, pasta, biscuits, cereals, etc.
  •  Avoid smoking.
  •  Regular exercise including cardio and weight bearing to promote glucose transport into the cells and increase insulin sensitivity. 

With the right anti-inflammatory diet, herbs that support clearance of
excess testosterone and nutrients to support deficiencies, we can
optimise the health of a woman with PCOS. This improves the fertility
and ability to fall pregnant.