Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common hormonal health issues in women, affecting an estimated 1 in 10 women of reproductive age. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition caused by significant imbalances to the endocrine system in women. One of the biggest concerns with PCOS is that it is widely under-diagnosed due to the wide discrepancy in diagnostic criteria. Its approximated that roughly 7 million women experience symptoms of this condition in the US alone, yet only half of these women are accurately diagnosed!
The first step to treating PCOS is understanding how it occurs. Two major hormones, estrogen and progesterone, control a women's menstrual cycles. While estrogen tends to elevate throughout the full cycle, progesterone only occurs in the second half, known as your luteal phase. It's produced from the lutein cells in the ovaries after ovulation. In women with PCOS, ovulation is often a struggle (for a number of reasons, which I'll talk about in a moment), leading to rippening of an egg (or multiple eggs) that do not release, ultimately remaining as cysts on the ovaries. As a result, progesterone production suffers, menstrual cycles become irregular, and the hormone disruption follows.
As you can see, PCOS is a complex disorder that presents itself as a group of symptoms resulting from hormonal imbalances -- usually an excess of androgens like testosterone, low progesterone, and high levels of insulin. These symptoms include:
However, not all PCOS is a result of high insulin, not all PCOS presents with cysts on the ovaries, and not all cysts on the ovaries results in hormone disruption (sorry, what did she just say? Insert a naturopathic doctor's help here).
For a long time, the root cause to PCOS was believed to be a result of an overproduction of male hormones, called androgens. In more recent years, research has confirmed PCOS is correlated to a desensitization in insulin production within the body, which in turn leads to increased production of these androgenic hormones, acne formation, and difficulty managing weight. Secondly, not all PCOS stems from the ovaries. Adrenal glands, which sit above our kidney's and help us respond to stress stimuli, also make up a large portion of our steroid hormone known as DHEA. This precursor hormone directly coverts into testosterone and estrogen. That means that high stress and overproduction of DHEA can create polycystic ovarian syndrome without blaming the ovaries. Read more about adrenal function and fatigue here.
Assessment for PCOS
The most important thing to remember is that while PCOS may physically manifest with cysts on the ovaries, it is ultimately a hormonal syndrome. While symptoms are a great place to start, this syndrome can also be tested for via ultrasound and particular hormonal markers.
The following lab markers should be tested in PCOS to help understand the root of the problem, your likelihood of fertility, and your course of treatment. All these markers will be ordered by Dr. Holmberg, ND.
Treatment of PCOS
Goals of treatment include understanding the mechanism as to why PCOS is occurring, and implementing the proper diet, lifestyle, and supplement routine to correct the hormonal imbalanced uncovered. Some patients may be anovulatory, so supporting healthy ovulation becomes the goal. Other patients may be resistant to insulin, so emphases is placed on the diet and supporting the re-sensitization of your cells to insulin and sugar so weight will be better managed, acne will resolved, and moods will balance. Inflammation support is always at the core of every treatment plan.
No two people are the same. PCOS can present differently in everyone, and is therefore treated differently in everyone.
If you think you may have PCOS, or have been diagnosed with PCOS and wish to look at other alternatives to a birth control pill, please use the link below to connect with Dr. Holmberg, ND or call the office at 647 351 7282
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Discontinuing Birth Control
Crohns & Colitis
Gas & Bloating
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Leaky Gut Syndrome
Frequent Colds & Flu