September is PCOS awareness month, but many people still don’t know how widespread the problem really is.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (a.k.a. PCOS or Stein-Leventhal Syndrome) is a hormonal-endocrine imbalance that affects a staggering amount of women.
Up to 1 in 10 women of childbearing age have PCOS, but less than 50% are ever diagnosed.
This means that there are millions of women suffering from the signs and symptoms related to PCOS without ever knowing what’s really the matter with them.
To make matters worse, the majority of conventional medical doctors haven’t been trained to help women with the lifestyle changes needed to manage (or in some cases eliminate) PCOS symptoms.
Many doctors aren’t even aware that there are treatment options beyond pharmaceuticals drugs.
The result of this lack of training is that millions of women think there is nothing that can be done for them (besides taking prescription medications to try to reduce their symptoms).
Women are told that in order to manage their PCOS they’ll have take a not-so-delicious cocktail of different pills, such as hormone replacement therapies (i.e. going on the pill or other birth control), fertility drugs (like Clomid), pharmaceutical blood sugar regulators (such as Metformin), skin meds (like Accutane)…the list goes on.
But there is a huge, gaping, elephant-sized hole in this cover-up approach that doctors are blatantly failing to address, and it’s that women are never taught how to regulate the underlying hormonal imbalance that is causing their symptoms in the first place!
Simply covering up symptoms with medications doesn’t actually solve much.
The symptoms might be tucked away, clouded in a pharmaceutical haze to help them snooze for a while, but take away the drugs and the symptoms are wide awake and ready to party.
In women with PCOS the pharmaceutical approach alone (without lifestyle modification) can actually be dangerous in the long-term because of the high risk of developing diabetes, heart-attack, high blood pressure, elevated LDL cholesterol, cancer, liver disease, and sleep apnea.
I’ll get into ways you can regulate the underlying hormonal imbalance in a moment, but first I want to clarify what PCOS actually is.
PCOS is a hormonal imbalance that causes multiple cysts to develop on the ovaries (hence the name).
Western medicine doesn’t know why some women develop PCOS, but from a Chinese medicine standpoint it can be understood as a Phlegm accumulation and Blood stagnation caused by pent up emotions as well as lifestyle & dietary imbalances.
PCOS is the most common cause of infertility in women of child-bearing age, making it difficult for women to both conceive a baby and carry a healthy baby to term.
But PCOS can wreak havoc on a woman’s life long before she’s ready to have children.
PCOS can cause a host of uncomfortable signs and symptoms, including:
- Menstrual irregularities (like menstrual pain, missed periods, excessively heavy or light periods, etc.)
- Pelvic pain
- Hirsutism (increased hair growth on the face, chest, stomach, back, thumbs, or toes)
- Male pattern baldness or thinning hair
- Skin problems (like acne, eczema, lack of luster, dandruff)
- Dark patches of skin around the neck, elbows, knees, knuckles, and/or armpits (associated with insulin resistance)
- Excessive weight gain, obesity, and difficulty losing weight
- Digestive disturbance
- Depression, anxiety, and mood swings
However, keep in mind that PCOS symptoms are inconsistent, so each woman’s experience of PCOS will be different.
How are you supposed to know that you have PCOS?
The most conclusive test for PCOS is to get a transvaginal ultrasound, but if you suspect that’s something’s up you might also ask your doctor to conduct blood tests to see if you have androgen and thyroid imbalances and check your antibody levels for possible food intolerances and/or autoimmune disease (all of which are very common in women who have PCOS).
Here’s the truth about PCOS.
Even if you don’t have a formal PCOS diagnosis, if you have any of the symptoms mentioned in this article it shows that you have an underlying hormonal imbalance that could use some serious TLC.
If this sounds like you, consider taking steps toward lasting lifestyle changes, because once you get your inner world more balanced, your entire world will feel more vibrant. (Click to tweet!)
Here are 5 things you can do right away to start feeling more balanced & better in your body (whether or not you’ve been diagnosed with PCOS):
1. Put together a holistic-health dream-team.
Find a naturopathic and/or functional medicine doctor, Chinese medicine practitioner and/or visceral bodyworker to get the support you and your body need as you shift into a more healthy lifestyle.
2. Eat at least a cup of vegetables with EVERY meal (including breakfast).
3. Create self-care regimens to manage the impact of stress.
Yoga & Qigong, walking in the woods, taking long epsom-salt baths, using lavender essential oils, reading a book for fun, practicing mindfulness and meditation, journaling, doing arts and crafts, and getting regular acupuncture & bodywork are all great options.
4. Reduce (or even better, eliminate!) consumption of refined, processed, and sugary foods, as well as alcohol, gluten, dairy, and GMO foods (especially soy).
5. Go outside and exercise regularly.
But it doesn’t end there.
Want to learn
The full step-by-step process to manage (or even eliminate) PCOS symptoms,
Prepare your body to conceive healthy babies naturally (even if it’s within the next 10 years),
Reach your healthiest weight,
- & Feel friggin’ awesome in your body?!
You might be susceptible to PCOS symptoms, but that doesn’t mean you have to live with them.
Educate yourself and modify your lifestyle so you can reclaim your health once and for all!
Talk to you soon,
P.S. Please share this post on social media!
As I said in this article, millions of women don’t know that their symptoms are related to an underlying hormonal imbalance that can be regulated.
The more people who know about PCOS, the more women will learn how to take care of themselves naturally so they can be free of the symptoms that make their lives so difficult.
Thanks in advance!
P.P.S. Here are some other resources that night help you out:
Feed Your Fertility by Emily Bartlett, LAc, and Laura Erlich, LAc
Woman Code by Alisa Vitti, HHC
Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom by Christiane Northrup, MD
(Full disclosure: if you buy these books through the links provided I get a small affiliate bonus from Amazon. That said, I personally LOVE these books and recommend them regularly to my female friends and patients, so whether you buy them here or check them out from your local library, I hope you spend some time perusing their content because it’s really stellar!)