Herbs For PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome)
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome may be one of the most complex female health issues of our time. It is the most common endocrine disorder in women of reproductive age. PCOS is accompanied by a variety of different health issues, many of which directly impact fertility. Classic PCOS presents with obesity, polycystic ovaries (multiple ovarian cysts that look like a strand of pearls), elevated levels of androgens and absent or irregular menstrual cycles. Not all women who will go on to be diagnosed with PCOS will have these issues though.
When you have PCOS, your reproductive hormones are out of balance. This can lead to problems with your ovaries, such as not having your period on time or not getting it. Your body makes hormones to make different things happen. Some affect your menstrual cycle and are tied to your ability to have a baby. Signs and symptoms of PCOS often develop around the time of the first menstrual period during puberty. Sometimes PCOS develops later, for example, in response to substantial weight gain. Signs and symptoms of PCOS vary.
Empress Organics PCOS Herbal Blend help with hormone regulation, insulin resistance, and inflammation associated with PCOS.
BENEFITS OF EMPRESS ORGANICS PCOS HERBS:
- Increases Fertility
- Reduce inflammation
- Boost immunity
- Strengthen and rejuvenate reproductive system
- Helps the body to maintain proper hormone production and release
- Supports healthy insulin levels and liver
- Balance estrogen and progesterone in the body which will help to encourage a healthy menstrual cycle.
- Supports hormonal balance in the body by having an effect on the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis (hormonal feedback loop), correcting the problem at the source.
- Encourage regular ovulation in infertile women
- Regulate menstrual irregularities, improving the timing of the entire menstrual cycle.
- Relaxes muscles, reducing painful menstruation, as well as lowering serum and free testosterone levels
- Balances the hormones and aids in the breakdown of estrogen
- Lower high blood sugar
- Have a positive effect on insulin resistance
- Inhibit DHT production by reducing 5 alpha-reductase production
- Reduce endometrial hyperplasia and hormonal acne symptoms
What Causes PCOS?
Doctors are unsure of what causes PCOS, but information suggests there are several links including genes, possible abnormal fetal development, insulin resistance and inflammatory response contributing to the cause. We know that insulin resistance plays a key role in PCOS, but what leads to the development of this has not been pinned down. PCOS is also negatively affected by diet, lifestyle and exposure to certain environmental toxins. PCOS directly impacts fertility, but has serious health implications as well, especially if left untreated. Research suggests that exposure to excessive amounts of male hormones (androgens) by the developing fetus may alter proper gene expression. This means that the affected genes will not function correctly later in life, which may cause PCOS during the reproductive years of a woman’s life.
Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas and is responsible for signaling cells in the body to function correctly, most importantly to convert glucose to energy and to control their growth. It also plays a key role in the metabolism of carbohydrates, lipids and proteins.
Insulin resistance happens when the body’s cells become resistant to the effects of insulin. When this happens, higher levels of insulin are needed so that insulin can have the proper effects. At this point, the pancreas must overcompensate, working harder and harder to produce more insulin. Insulin drives glucose into the cells and promotes fat storage that leads to obesity and difficulty losing weight in PCOS.
Insulin signals the ovaries to secrete testosterone and inhibit hepatic sex-hormone binding globulin (SHBG) production which leads to an increased level of circulating testosterone. This is why many women with PCOS experience acne, facial hair growth and male pattern baldness (hirsutism). Excess insulin in the bloodstream also signals the ovaries to release more estrogen which can suppress ovulation, and can lead to excessive irregular periods.
It has also been found that women with PCOS have low-grade inflammation, which may be a cause for insulin resistance. White blood cells produce substances to fight infection, this is known as inflammatory response. In some predisposed people eating certain foods, or exposure to certain environmental factors may trigger an inflammatory response. When inflammatory response is triggered, white blood cells produce substances that may contribute to insulin resistance and atherosclerosis. Research has shown that women with PCOS have a type of low-grade inflammation that stimulates polycystic ovaries to produce androgens, which can lead to heart and blood vessel problems.
Androgens are sometimes called "male hormones," although all women make small amounts of androgens. Androgens control the development of male traits, such as male-pattern baldness. Women with PCOS have more androgens than normal. Higher than normal androgen levels in women can prevent the ovaries from releasing an egg (ovulation) during each menstrual cycle, and can cause extra hair growth and acne, two signs of PCOS.
Signs, Symptoms and Health Risks
Signs and Symptoms of PCOS
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Absent period
- Anovulatory cycles (no egg released)
- Abnormal mid-cycle bleeding
- Excessive or heavy menstrual bleeding
- Alopecia (balding)
- Hirsutism (excessive body hair)
- Acanthosis nigricans – a darkening of the skin in the armpits, back of the neck, or groin
- Polycystic ovaries
- History of ovarian cysts
- Mood disorders
- Recurrent Miscarriage
Health and Fertility Risks Associated with PCOS
- Menstrual cycle irregularities
- Possible increased risk for endometrial and breast cancer due to unopposed estrogen
- Cardiovascular disease
- Gestational diabetes
How is PCOS Diagnosed?
When PCOS was first discovered it was named Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome because of the presence of polycystic ovaries seen by ultrasound. Over time doctors began to realize that PCOS was a complex array of health issues. Some women with PCOS do not have polycystic ovaries. In order to be diagnosed with PCOS the following should be evaluated by your healthcare practitioner:
Pituitary and Ovarian Hormone serum levels:
- Luteinizing Hormone (LH)
- Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH)
- Free testosterone
- Free androgen index (FAI): 17-hydroxyprogesterone
- Sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG): 24 hr. urinary free cortisol
- Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S)
- Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF)-1
How PCOS Affects the Menstrual Cycle
What happens in a normal menstrual cycle?
In very simple terms the hypothalamus produces GnRH (gonadotrophin-releasing hormone) which signals to the pituitary to produce LH (luteinizing hormone) and FSH (follicle stimulating hormone). The release of GnRH is pulsatile in women with regular menstrual cycles. The normal pulsatile release of GnRH signals some of the follicles in the ovary to begin maturing and for the ovaries to release estrogen and progesterone. This estrogen/progesterone signal is recognized by the pituitary gland. As the follicles begin maturing they release and increase the hormone estrogen over time. The rising estrogen level signals the pituitary gland to curb the release of FSH. This communication allows for ovulation to occur. In women with PCOS the menstrual cycle follows a different pattern of endocrine function and communication.
What the menstrual cycle is typically like in a woman with PCOS…
In women with PCOS the menstrual cycle starts off irregular, with the hypothalamus releasing GnRH in a higher than normal pulsatile frequency. This allows for increased LH and decreased FSH, which in turn leads to excessive production of the androgens androstenedione and testosterone. This causes the follicle to only mature some, but not enough to achieve full maturity in order to be released for ovulation. This also allows for continued increase of estrogen, primarily estrone. During a woman’s reproductive years, estrone levels are relatively low. Typically we associate estrone with menopause, not the fertile years of a woman’s life. The higher levels of androgens and estrogen create a chronic state of low to very low progesterone and anovulatory cycles.
Classic polycystic ovaries are a result of chronic anovulation. Endocrine function is imbalanced from the very beginning of the menstrual cycle causing mild to severe hormonal imbalance, depending on the individual.
Excessive levels of estrogen may also cause uterine hypertrophy, also known as endometrial hyperplasia. Unopposed estrogen may cause excessive cell proliferation of the endometrium. The endometrium is the innermost layer of the uterus that is shed during menstruation. Endometrial hyperplasia may cause heavy menstrual bleeding or prolonged bleeding during menstruation. The uterus may become bulky and larger than normal. Endometrial hyperplasia can lead to uterine cancer.
Important note: It takes at least 6-12 months of consistent lifestyle and diet changes, along with natural therapies to bring about real change in the body when living with PCOS. In addition to eating the PCOS diet, supplements have shown to be effective in helping those with PCOS boost their fertility and give birth to healthy babies. The overall goal with PCOS is to balance blood sugar levels, maintain hormonal balance, promote healthy digestion for improved estrogen metabolism, while also working to promote regular ovulation and menses. Adaptogen herbs are also important, this is because adaptogens increase resistance to mind-body stress and enhance overall vitality and health through non-specific adrenal (known as stress glands) support. Plants recognized as adaptogens help to normalize the body’s functions, most importantly the endocrine system, even during diseased states, are non-toxic, nutritive, and have been deemed safe for long term use.
Herbs and supplements are not meant to be a substitute for dietary and lifestyle changes! If diet and lifestyles changes specific to PCOS are not in place, herbs and supplements cannot aid the body properly!
Supplements That Are Beneficial for PCOS…
Whole Food Multivitamin
A major part of decreasing the effects of PCOS on your health and preparing the uterine lining is to take a prenatal multivitamin. Making sure your body has all of the nutrients necessary is a lot easier when you are taking a whole food multivitamin. Synthetic multivitamins won’t have the same effect.
Other vitamin and mineral considerations…
Chromium - This trace mineral enhances the action of insulin, according to the National Institutes of Health. In one study in
Fertility and Sterility, women with PCOS were given 1,000 mcg per day of chromium for two months and results showed improved insulin sensitivity by 30% in average weight women and by 38% in obese women with PCOS.
Foods that are high in chromium are onions, tomatoes, brewer’s yeast, oysters, whole grains, and bran. Most foods contain very little chromium, so supplementation may need to be considered.
Calcium and Vitamin D
Both calcium and vitamin D play significant roles in the health of many parts of the body. Where PCOS is concerned, calcium protects cardiovascular health. Vitamin D plays a role in glucose metabolism. The American Heart Association links people with type 2 diabetes in part with Vitamin D deficiency. A Colombia University small study of 13 women with PCOS showed that 7 out of the 9 who had absent or irregular menstrual cycles, had a return of normal menstrual cycles within two months after being given 50,000 IU once or twice per week of vitamin D and 1,500 mg per day of calcium. This is a marked improvement! Of the 13 women, 5 were shown to be vitamin D deficient.
Vitamin D can also be obtained for free by sitting out in the sun for 15 to 20 minutes per day. Forget using sunscreen because it will actually block the ultraviolet light that is needed to produce Vitamin D. The warm sun helps your skin to create Vitamin D3 that is then transformed into the active hormone form of Vitamin D by the kidneys and the liver. In fact, by being out in the sun for just a few minutes a day, a woman’s body can create between 10,000 to 25,000 IU of Vitamin D.
Calcium can be found in kale, turnips, collards, mustard greens, kelp and wakame seaweed. Hiziki, a type of seaweed has 10 times more calcium.