Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a health condition that affects periods, hormones and ovulation. Also known as hyperandrogenic anovulation, teenagers and women with PCOS typically complain of acne, excessive facial hair and irregular periods in addition to the ovarian cysts that resemble a “string of pearls” on their pelvic ultrasound.1 Their lab results may show increased levels of testosterone and insulin resistance.
Women with PCOS don’t ovulate regularly, resulting in irregular menstruation or amenorrhea (absence of period) and ovulation-related infertility. The high levels of testosterone lead to acne, excessive facial/ body hair growth and head hair loss. They also present with blood sugar imbalances and insulin resistance, which are often—but not always—associated with obesity and type 2 diabetes. These imbalances affect egg development and ovulation, and ultimately, fertility.
Many women who stumble upon this diagnosis, perhaps while investigating causes for infertility, are disheartened. They are often told they won’t be able to conceive naturally and to consider assisted reproductive techniques (e.g. IVF) if they ever want a child.
But PCOS doesn’t automatically spell infertility!
Many women with PCOS feel 'stagnant'. Their periods are stagnant, they're not getting pregnant, things just feel stuck. One of my goals is to resolve stagnation by promoting proper balance of hormones and pelvic circulation. In my practice, I have helped numerous women with PCOS attain regular periods, reduce acne as well as excessive hair growth and even fall pregnant using natural medicine.
One of my recent success cases involves a client with PCOS, who conceived within 3 months of naturopathic treatment. A combination of natural medicine, dietary recommendations and lifestyle changes were used to restore healthy menstrual cycles and promote ovulation.
My treatment looks at all factors—from optimal egg health, cervical mucus, ovulation and adequate luteal phase to the impact of environmental toxins and stress.
How can Natural Medicine Help?
Firstly, certain dietary and lifestyle changes can improve symptoms of PCOS including infertility, hair loss, weight gain, absence of regular periods, lack of ovulation, and facial hair growth. Around 60% of women with PCOS are overweight.
If you are overweight, bringing your weight down to a healthy level will also lessen PCOS symptoms. (I offer a weight loss program in a realistic, easy-to-follow plan with clinically proven food supplements that help to control appetite, lose body fat and help stabilise blood sugar and cholesterol levels.)
Secondly, blood sugar imbalances affect egg development and ovulation, and this is one of the reasons why women with this condition find it difficult to conceive. Also, foods with a high glycemic index (causing glucose and insulin levels to spike) affect the development and severity of acne. Metformin is the drug generally given to PCOS patients to control blood sugar imbalances. For women who cannot tolerate the side effects of Metformin or who prefer natural alternatives, D-Pinitol and Gymnema are nutraceuticals that can help.
Firstly, there are medicinal herbs that help women with PCOS promote hormonal balance. Some herbs regulate menstrual cycles by supporting release of hormones responsible for stimulating ovulation and reducing high testosterone levels, while others tonify the reproductive system, enhance egg quality and boost overall fertility.
Vitex(Chaste tree) is an herb that exhibits a regulating effect on the pituitary gland, which supports proper function of the entire menstrual cycle. White Peony helps to reduce elevated testosterone and acts as an anti-inflammatory, promoting circulation to the reproductive system to reduce pelvic congestion and support ovulation. It is often combined with Licorice, which supports liver and adrenal health. Tribulus is a nourishing tonic for the reproductive system and studies show that it can help stimulate ovulation in women who are not ovulating in addition to reducing ovarian cysts.
In naturopathic medicine, both Western and Chinese medicinal herbs are combined to suit the individual’s needs. Since symptoms and their severity are different in every case, seeing a licensed naturopathic doctor to get properly assessed is crucial so that appropriate treatment can be prescribed.
I also treat men with fertility issues, too. Often times, I see the couple together, which is great, because we can openly discuss their concerns together.
About Dr Yik
Dr. Ardyce Yik is a licensed naturopathic doctor who has treated many women dealing with hormonal imbalances, PCOS, secondary infertility (inability to conceive after naturally conceiving first child), ovarian cysts and uterine fibroids. She helps to rebalance hormones, boost fertility and increase chances of a successful IVF/ IUI using natural medicines, nutraceuticals and nutritional therapy.
1Please note, some women may have multiple cysts in their ovaries (polycystic ovaries), but this is not the same medical condition as PCOS.