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Natural Treatments for PCOS

written by: Deborah Walstad • edited by: BStone • updated: 5/24/2011

Treating PCOS naturally for women involves making changes in her diet, exercise program, stress level, toxic substances, herb and supplement intake, as well as other factors. Often PCOS can be managed without medication and relief of symptoms leads to improved health.

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    Defining PCOS

    Managing PCOS is a huge stress relief! Someone that is diagnosed with PCOS should first understand the background of this condition. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) affects between one in ten and one in twenty women, with an estimated five million women suffering from this common female endocrine disorder in America alone. The exact cause of PCOS is unknown although a hormonal imbalance and insulin problems appear to play a role. Genetics are also a likely factor. PCOS can affect young girls and menopausal women. PCOS is one of the leading causes of infertility.

    Symptoms of PCOS can vary among women, but commonly include irregular or absent periods, irregular ovulation, acne, excessive hair growth on the body and face, thinning of scalp hair, accumulation of unruptured follicles on the ovaries and weight management issues.

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    PCOS and Natural Treatments

    Treating PCOS naturally includes diet, exercise, detoxing, destressing, supplements and more. Often no medication is needed for an individual that takes control of their PCOS. These natural ways to treat PCOS can be a guideline, though always consult your doctor about how to best treat your individual PCOS symptoms and maintain good health. Additional treatments may be needed if you are trying to get pregnant.

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    Diet

    Healthy eating is very important for a woman with PCOS because it will even out her hormones and insulin and blood sugar levels. When the body is insulin resistant, it stores carbohydrates as fat. A low carbohydrate diet is recommended for PCOS. Eat complex carbohydrates, rather than simple. Avoid processed foods and eat more natural or organic foods. Avoid too many sweets that will spike blood sugar levels and affect hormone levels. Eat protein with every meal, such as, white meat, seafood, eggs, nuts, seeds and yogurt. Include phytoestrogens in your diet as they may help reduce excess endogenous oestrogen. Phytoestrogens can be found in alfalfa, fermented soy, linseeds, chickpeas and lentils. Reduce the amount of saturated fats you eat. Eat plenty of essential fatty acids, such as nuts, seeds, linseed, flaxseed and oily fish (mackerel, mullet, salmon). Drink two liters of water a day. Avoid caffeine and alcohol
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    Exercise

    Regular exercise is important to any fitness program, particularly for a woman with PCOS. For the 60 percent of women that experience weight management issues with PCOS, regular exercise is effective for weight loss. Losing weight can help reduce the severity of insulin resistance. Exercise along with healthy eating can do a lot for managing PCOS and relieving symptoms. Sometimes the easiest way to start exercising more is by setting goals for what you want to accomplish. Set aside a time each day to exercise and keep your workouts varied by type, intensity and duration for the best health effects.

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    Stress

    Stress has a major effect on a woman's hormones. Being diagnosed with PCOS and dealing with the symptoms can be stressful. Finding ways to relieve stress will help you avoid a lowered immune system and an increase in cortisol, one hormone that leads to symptoms of PCOS as well as infertility. Find ways to simplify your life as much as possible and take time out for yourself. Make sure you relax as needed and get enough sleep. Exercise can also often help release stress.
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    Detox

    Detoxing involves ridding your home of toxic substances (chemicals, sprays) and replacing them with natural products or even switching to homemade cleaning supplies. If you are unsure of the contents of a product, read the labels. This will help flush your body of harmful substances that may contribute to PCOS.
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    Supplements

    Vitamins and minerals can help regulate a hormone imbalance, particularly if you are also taking oral contraceptives to regulate your periods. You should take a multivitiamin and mineral tablet. You'll want it to include the following vitamins.

    • Chromium to help with insulin response to blood sugar, cravings, hunger and weight loss.
    • Zinc for appetite control and controlling insulin and blood sugar levels, as well as for manufacturing the thyroid hormone along with vitamins A and E.
    • Magnesium is important for balancing blood sugar levels and protecting against insulin resistance.
    • Co-enzyme Q10 helps with energy production and carbohydrate metabolism.
    • B Vitamins are also important for energy production as well as fat burning and hormone imbalances, particularly for metabolism and the thyroid gland.
    • A supplement, DIM, aids in the conversion of oestrogen to a healthier form.
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    Herbs

    Taking herbs is another natural treatment for PCOS. These supplements can help balance blood sugar levels and control weight. Herbs go further to target problems associated with hormone imbalance.

    • Chaste tree (Vitex Agnus castus) helps stimulate and normalize the pituitary gland functions, which control the release of luteinising hormone (LH). Chaste tree is also often used to treat infertility because it enhances progesterone levels, which lengthen the menstrual cycle. It also decreases oestrogen and androgens associated with ovulation.
    • Adrenal tonics, including rehmannia, rhodiola, Siberian ginseng and withania, support the adrenal stress response to help balance the adrenal glands.
    • Paeonia lactiflora (peony) targets low progesterone, modulates oestrogen and prolactin and reduces elevated androgens, or testosterone.
    • Licorice, especially combined with peony, aids in regulating hormones, reducing androgen levels and improving the LH to FSH ratio.
    • Gymnema helps to reduce carbohydrate and sugar cravings, which can help with weight loss. It also improves insulin resistance.
    • Tribulus helps restore regular menstrual cycles and ovulation.
    • Blue cohosh acts as a uterine and ovarian tonic, as well as a pelvic anti-inflammatory.
    • Saw palmetto is traditionally prescribed to males to control excess testosterone.
    • Milk thistle, rosemary, schizandra and bupleurum are liver herbs that assist in removing excess oestrogen.

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    Other Natural Treatments

    In addition to treating PCOS naturally by diet, exercise, destressing, detoxing, supplements and herbs, a doctor may want you to try other methods. Acupuncture can help energy flow freely in the body and relieve pain. Aromatherapy can help support the reproductive system and aid in balancing hormones. For problems with congestion, lymphatic drainage can help. This is done by massage, skin brushing and rebounding exercises. Castor oil packs or linseed packs can relieve pain associated with PCOS. Homeopathic or naturopath medicines may be appropriate. There are also natural progesterone creams.