It’s funny how some assume drugs are stronger, better, more awesome than some woosy “natural” medicine. But thanks to research, there’s some great news on the PCOS treatment front using natural medicine – equal if not better efficacy than generally prescribed medications with the added bonus of fewer side effects.
For the 20% of women diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), most will have heard of Metformin, the insulin-sensitising drug most commonly prescribed for PCOS treatment.
For women suffering PCOS, it can be a rocky road of irregular cycles, infertility, acne and increased facial/body hair, weight gain and insulin resistance. And the standard drugs of choice for PCOS treatment are Metformin and the oral contraceptive pill (OCP).
What’s wrong with that?
- Metformin is effective, but can cause digestive issues such as diarrhoea, reflux/heartburn, nausea and a change in healthy gut flora that can have longer-term health ramifications.
- The Pill: There’s some fuzzy logic surrounding the recommendation for women with PCOS to take the OCP.
The Pill can aggravate insulin resistance and increase the risk for Type 2 diabetes in women with PCOS. And it appears renowned expert Dr Warren Kidson, the leading endocrinologist on PCOS at the Prince of Wales and Sydney Children’s Hospitals agrees, stating OCPs make insulin resistance worse. Not only does the commonly prescribed OCP Yasmin increase blood glucose levels by 19%, it was found the occurrence of Type 2 diabetes in women currently taking the OCP was 60% higher than those who had never been on the Pill.
Well that sucks! So who’s up for some natural wonderment instead?
First up, in insulin-resistant PCOS, reducing fructose is key.
I adhere to the belief that 1-2 pieces of whole fruit per day is fine but what is not as fine are all those “healthy” or “raw” food treats based on copious amounts of dates and dried fruit, honey, agave etc. Processed sugars need to be reduced, along with their inflammatory effects on the body, but so do those high-fructose dried fruits along with hidden sugars in sauces, mayonnaise, take away foods, juices and breakfast cereals.
But this is the exciting bit. In addition to diet, there’s some positive research in the use of N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) in insulin-resistant PCOS, especially with fertility and metabolic issues:
- NAC was found to improve egg quality in those undergoing IVF, reducing the number of immature and abnormal mature oocytes and increasing the number of grade one embryos on day three.
- But it’s not just for the pregnancy peeps. A 2017 study found NAC out-performed Metformin in managing cholesterol, fasting blood glucose and fasting insulin in women with PCOS. And in fact, the plant constituent berberine achieves similar results in a head to head battle with Metformin re: improving blood glucose levels, insulin sensitivity and lipid profiles in Type 2 diabetics. In terms of the long-term health risks associated with PCOS, this study demonstrated the superiority of berberine versus metformin.
But that’s not all… There are even more natural PCOS treatment options at hand
From reducing sugar cravings and improving insulin sensitivity, metabolic functioning and oestrogen detoxification to androgen blocking, supplements like: magnesium, zinc, vitamin D, inositol, alpha lipoic acid, DIM, berberine, peony & licorice, coleus, gymnema and in some cases, vitex may offer success.
However, with the exception perhaps of magnesium, which is relatively safe, none of these should be taken without professional guidance. Apart from wasting your money on 20 supplements you’ve heard are “good for PCOS,” remember we are not dealing with one cause-and-effect condition here.
PCOS is really an umbrella term that may stem from different roots in different individuals. What may work for insulin-resistant PCOS may not be efficacious if you sit on the high adrenal-androgen side of the fence. Additionally there are some specific guidelines around how and when to dose certain herbs and/or minerals and vitamins and some situations where they could make the condition worse and should be avoided.
The upshot is, if the solutions you’ve been offered to manage your PCOS are pseudo-solutions, you have alternatives.
We as women have the right to question, to research and to make our own decisions about the risk:benefit ratio of what may be old school, limited PCOS treatment options and what the latest research is finding regarding less harmful, more natural and more efficacious treatments to support our bodies back to health.
Kate is a qualified naturopath who is passionate about helping women heal from hormonal havoc and inspiring women to know their own power, worth and wisdom.
Kate offers one-on-one Skype consults for irregular cycles, PMS and period pain, endometriosis, PCOS, peri-menopause, mood swings, fatigue and mental and emotional stress.
Simply drop me an email to see how I can help you!