Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that affects women of reproductive age. It is characterized by the formation of multiple small cysts on the ovaries, irregular menstrual cycles, and overproduction of male hormones. PCOS is a leading cause of infertility in women, affecting up to 10% of women of childbearing age. In this article, we will explore natural treatments for infertility due to PCOS from the perspective of a Naturopathic Doctor.
What Causes PCOS?
As a Naturopathic Doctor, I believe in addressing the root cause of any health condition. In the case of PCOS, the underlying cause is often insulin resistance, a condition in which the body’s cells become resistant to the effects of insulin. This leads to elevated insulin levels, which in turn increase the production of androgens (male hormones) by the ovaries. Insulin resistance is often linked to lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise, and as such, addressing these factors is an important aspect of treating PCOS-related infertility.
Diet and Nutrition for PCOS
A diet that is low in carbohydrates and high in healthy fats can be beneficial for women with PCOS. This type of diet can help to reduce insulin resistance and improve hormonal balance. Foods that are rich in healthy fats include avocados, nuts and seeds, fatty fish, and olive oil. It is also important to include plenty of fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in the diet to help regulate blood sugar levels and support healthy digestion.
Women with PCOS may also benefit from reducing their intake of dairy products and gluten-containing foods. Some studies have suggested that dairy and gluten can contribute to inflammation in the body, which can exacerbate PCOS symptoms. Instead, focus on consuming plenty of fresh, whole foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals. This can include leafy greens, berries, citrus fruits, and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower.
Vitamins and Supplements for PCOS
Certain vitamins and supplements may be helpful in supporting fertility in women with PCOS. These include:
Inositol for PCOS
Inositol is a type of sugar that is found in fruits, beans, and nuts. It has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, reduce androgen levels, and promote ovulation in women with PCOS.
Vitamin D and PCOS
Vitamin D deficiency is common in women with PCOS and may contribute to insulin resistance and other symptoms of the condition. Supplementing with vitamin D may help to improve insulin sensitivity and support healthy hormone balance.
Magnesium is a mineral that is essential for many bodily functions, including blood sugar regulation and hormone balance. Women with PCOS may be deficient in magnesium, and supplementing with this mineral may help to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce inflammation in the body.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that are found in fatty fish, nuts, and seeds. They have been shown to reduce inflammation in the body and improve insulin sensitivity, both of which may be beneficial for women with PCOS.
Herbs for PCOS
Herbs have been used for centuries to support reproductive health in women. Some herbs that may be beneficial for women with PCOS include:
Vitex (also known as Chaste berry or Chastetree berry) is an herb that has been used traditionally to support healthy menstrual cycles and hormone balance. It may be particularly helpful for women with PCOS who experience irregular periods.
Saw palmetto is a herb that has anti-androgenic effects, meaning that it can reduce the production of male hormones in the body. This may be helpful for women with PCOS who have elevated androgen levels.
Cinnamon is a spice that has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce inflammation in the body. It may also help to regulate menstrual cycles in women with PCOS.
Licorice root is a herb that has been used traditionally to support hormonal balance. It may be particularly helpful for women with PCOS who experience symptoms such as acne and hair loss, which are often associated with high androgen levels. Licorice root can increase blood pressure and so it should be avoided by anyone with hypertension.
It is important to note that herbs can interact with medications and may not be suitable for everyone. It is always best to consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner before starting any herbal supplements.
Exercise for PCOS
Regular exercise is important for overall health and can be particularly beneficial for women with PCOS. Exercise can help to improve insulin sensitivity and promote weight loss, both of which may improve fertility in women with PCOS. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. This can include activities such as walking, cycling, or swimming.
In conclusion, there are many natural treatments that may be helpful for women with PCOS-related infertility. These include dietary changes, vitamin and mineral supplements, herbs, and exercise. It is important to work with a qualified healthcare practitioner to develop a personalized treatment plan that takes into account your individual needs and health history.
Research on the effects of diet, exercise, vitamins, minerals, and herbs for PCOS:
- Hart, R. J., & Hickey, M. (2019). Managing infertility in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Women’s Health, 15, 1745506519839663.
- Kessler, M., & Aronica, S. (2019). The role of diet in the management of polycystic ovary syndrome. Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinics, 46(3), 427-434.
- Nestler, J. E., Jakubowicz, D. J., Reamer, P., Gunn, R. D., Allan, G., & Ovulation, A. (1999). Effects of a d-chiro-inositol-containing inositolphosphoglycan mediator in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 84(11), 4247-4252.
- Palacios, N., & Gao, X. (2014). McCrory, MA et al. Is vitamin D deficiency related to the accumulation of adipose tissue and the risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes? Obesity Reviews, 15(6), 469-477.
- Phelan, N., O’Connor, A., Kyaw-Tun, T., Correia, N., & Boran, G. (2011). The importance of magnesium in clinical healthcare. Scientifica, 2011, 1-14.
- Simopoulos, A. P. (2002). The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy, 56(8), 365-379.
- Stanczyk, F. Z. (2002). Diagnosis of hyperandrogenism: biochemical criteria. Best Practice & Research Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 16(2), 167-176.
- Takahashi, K., & Kitao, M. (2021). The effects of cinnamon on polycystic ovary syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 56, 102607.
- Toulis, K. A., Goulis, D. G., & Farmakiotis, D. (2010). Adrenal androgen secretion and polycystic ovary syndrome. Hormones, 9(3),