PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) is one of the most common hormone disorders in women. In this article you will learn a very common cause of PCOS and how it can be cured. First off, let’s get a good understanding of what PCOS is and what it does.
Basically, PCOS results when the ovaries make too much testosterone and not enough estrogen. When the female has too much testosterone in her body it can cause:
- Trouble getting pregnant
- Irregular periods
- No periods
- Few periods
- Heavy bleeding
- Weight gain
- Especially around the waist
- Hair irregularities
- Extra hair on the face, back, chest or belly
- Thinning hair on the scalp
- Skin Problems
- Skin tags
- Darkening skin
PCOS is a real bummer!
As with every health problem, understanding what has gone wrong is the key to getting rid of the problem. The most common origin of PCOS is stress. This could be any kind of prolonged stress. It can be a good stress, like having a baby or buying a house, or it could be a bad stress like relationship issues or trouble at work. The stress could be physiological, like the presence of toxins, or a chronic illness, or even a long term painful condition. Often we are under several different stresses at the same time. All this stress is hard on the adrenal glands. When the adrenal glands are under stress they make more cortisol (Click here to learn more about adrenal gland problems). Increased cortisol causes the blood sugar to increase. The increase in blood sugar leads to really high insulin. Over time, for different reasons, the cells in the body stop responding to the insulin.
At this point a person has a condition called insulin resistance. It means that the cells are no longer sensitive to insulin, and as a result it takes more and more insulin to keep the blood sugar from getting too high. Insulin resistance can cause:
- Metabolic Syndrome
- High Blood Pressure
- Cardiovascular disease
As you can see when the body starts to have too much insulin lots of bad things can happen. I could just copy and paste this article up to this point and use it for articles on Metabolic Syndrome, Hypoglycemia, Obesity, Diabetes, High Blood pressure or Cardiovascular Disease. Read my article on “The Key to Weight loss” to learn the best way to eat to help keep insulin levels low.
In PCOS this high insulin causes the ovaries to make more testosterone and less estrogen. If you look back over this article, the progression of PCOS looks like this:
I hope you feel that you have an good idea of what PCOS is and how a woman can get it. I expect you will be disappointed when I tell you what the standard medical treatment for PCOS is.
The first medical treatment for PCOS is to use birth control drugs. The thinking is that if the patient gets more estrogen it will counteract the surplus of testosterone. The obvious flaw is that this does nothing to fix the cause of PCOS. Think about it. Does giving estrogen even address any of the steps above that led to the PCOS?
The second popular medical treatment for PCOS is to use diabetic drugs like Metformin. The thinking here is to decrease the blood sugar thereby reducing the high insulin. At least this approach is an attempt at helping reduce the insulin levels. However, this does nothing to fix the adrenal dysfunction that is really at the root of this problem.
The functional medicine approach to PCOS is all about fixing the root cause.
In addition to correcting any diet and lifestyle choices that are contributing to high insulin, the first thing that needs to be done with a person that has PCOS is identifying the sources of stress. Like I wrote earlier, the sources can be varied, from physical to emotional. Usually people know the circumstances in their life that are stressing them out, but often they are not aware of the physical problems that are stressing their bodies. This is where a comprehensive history is so valuable. Conditions like Leaky Gut Syndrome , viral infections like Epstein Barr or Cytomegalo, Heavy Metal toxins or toxins like Phthalates can be major stresses to the body and be the root cause PCOS. The history is often the best tool a functional medicine doctor has.
Once a thorough history is obtained, laboratory testing is needed to uncover the exact source of the stress. For example if a patient has signs in their history of a possible Leaky Gut, blood, stool and possibly food sensitivity testing will be needed. As you can see, discovering the underlying causes of the physical stress is necessary in order to cure PCOS.
Every patient with PCOS needs Adrenal testing to determine what treatment is needed to heal and correct the Adrenal function. I wrote all about Adrenal testing HERE.
Believe it or not, once these foundational issues are corrected, the hormone imbalances with PCOS correct themselves, and PCOS is cured. Too good to be true? Let me tell you about a patient I am currently treating for PCOS. My patient is a delightful 35 year old woman who came to me because she had been feeling worse and worse, and her MD did not have any answers other than drugs which were not helping. She was suffering from depression, fatigue, low blood pressure and getting lightheaded when she stood up, ringing in her ears, being very nervous, and a very abnormal or absent menstrual cycle. My patient was on Celexa for depression, Claritin for allergies and Metformin HCL and female hormone replacement therapy for PCOS.
We did blood, adrenal, leaky gut, stool and heavy metal testing. The highlights of what we found were:
- HYPOCHOLESTEROLEMIA That’s right, her cholesterol was too low. This makes making hormones very difficult since the body uses cholesterol to make hormones.
- INFLAMMATION OF LIVER The liver is central to all hormones.
- THYROID DYSFUNCTION
- HIGH TESTOSTERONE
- LOW ESTROGEN
- B12/FOLATE DEFICIENCY
- VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY
- VERY HIGH LEAD
- HIGH CADMIUM
- ALLERGY TO GLUTEN
- LOW QUANTITY OF GOOD MICROBES IN THE COLON
- LEAKY GUT
- ADRENAL DYSFUNCTION
Knowing what you’ve learned in this article, do you think that birth control pills or diabetic drugs would fix the problems causing the PCOS?
The treatment was focused on using the right foods and nutrients to heal the problems listed above. After four months of treatment, my patient was feeling much better. Her cycle had come back, energy, attitude, ringing in the ears, depression, light headedness were all better. The lab tests showed that her hypocholesterolemia, B12/ folate deficiency, vitamin D deficiency, liver inflammation, gastrointestinal and thyroid dysfunction were GONE. All this while the patient had decided to quit taking the drugs she was on. This patient is not cured yet, but she if she continues on the path she’s on, and keeps working on fixing the root causes of PCOS, I am confident that she will be fine.
Obviously every patient is unique, and there are other causes of PCOS. I can’t guarantee that every patient with PCOS can be cured. I hope though that you can see how powerful the functional medicine approach is to resolving conditions like PCOS. As always, please let me know your questions or comments in the comment section below.
1. Textbook of Medical Physiology, 11th ed., Guyton and Hall
2. Laboratory Evaluations for Integrative and Functional Medicine, 2nd ed., Richard S. Lord, J. Alexander Bralley
3. Insulin Resistance and Pre-diabetes, National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse; National Institutes of Health
4. Unraveling the Cellular Mechanism of Insulin Resistance in Humans: New Insights from Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy; Physiology, Vol. 19, No.4, pp 183-190, August 2004