PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrom)PCOS (Polycystic ovarian syndrome) is a condition that is becoming more and more common. If left untreated, women with PCOS have an increased risk of developing gynecological cancers as well as developing Type 2 Diabetes.
Women with PCOS may present with one or more of the following: irregular periods, abnormal or excessive hair growth on areas of the body other than the head, armpit area or pubic area, history of ovarian cysts, abdominal weight gain, cystic acne, elevated testosterone levels, infertility or difficulty conceiving, abnormal uterine bleeding, heavy periods, male pattern hair loss, and fatigue. Elevated serum testosterone levels in women are fairly diagnostic for this condition, however I not all PCOS patients will have elevated testosterone levels. Nor will all PCOS patients be overweight. Patients with PCOS exist on a spectrum. Some will exhibit all of the classic symptoms and some will have only a few symptoms. I had a patient once who came in for irregular periods and migraines. She was very thin in build so I did not initially consider PCOS. I only checked for PCOS after she mentioned her sister had it. Tests confirmed that she also had PCOS and once we corrected her hormonal imbalance, the headaches disappeared. For this reason I like to do a 24 hour urine functional medicine test with patients I suspect of having PCOS which also looks at all of the hormonal interactions occurring in the body to get a more thorough picture of what is happening in their body
Allopathic, or traditional orthodox medicine commonly prescribes birth control pills for this issue, as well as Metformin once the patient is exhibiting elevated blood sugar levels. Naturopathic works well to identify the exact hormonal imbalance and works to correct it and prevent the sequelae as well as working nutritionally to prevent Type 2 Diabetes from developing or worsening. There are many botanical extracts which have been shown to help the body detoxify the excess estrogen levels as well as ones that lower the testosterone metabolites which cause the acne, abnormal hair growth and male pattern baldness.
As to why we are seeing more of this, I think the answer is quite complex. This condition often has a genetic component (runs in families), as well as an epigenetic component (mother exposed to hormones or environmental pollutants which impact hormone balance). I think as the use of pesticides increases, we are seeing more women with this condition as many pesticides are endocrine disruptors.
Whatever the original cause, naturopathic medicine seems to have more answers to lower the testosterone levels in a safe, non-toxic manner, correct the hormonal imbalance, and improve fertility as well as to prevent the development of diabetes and estrogen dependent cancers of the female reproductive system.