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Natural Treatments for PCOS
December 12, 2012
There is good news for women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) who have experienced previous intolerance to prescription treatments of insulin resistance. More and more data is surfacing on the ability of natural supplements to regulate endocrine function, and ovulation, in women with PCOS with little to no gastrointestinal side effects.
PCOS and Insulin Resistance
Approximately 10% of women of reproductive age have PCOS, an endocrine disorder characterized by hormonal imbalance and often anovulation. Women with PCOS have ovaries that contain many small follicles, called cysts, which appear like a string of pearls on an ultrasound scan. A woman with PCOS does not experience the typical hormonal surge that would induce ovulation, therefore these follicles don't grow or ovulate normally and can contribute to the overproduction of the hormone testosterone.
According to studies, around 30 to 40 percent of women with PCOS have insulin resistance, a condition in which the hormone insulin doesn’t work as effectively or as efficiently as it normally should, says Scott Roseff, MD, a fertility expert with the South Florida Institute for Reproductive Medicine (SFIRM) in Jupiter and Boca Raton, FL.
"When it is left untreated, insulin resistance causes the pancreas to pump out larger and larger quantities of insulin to try and get the glucose molecules into our cells," says Dr. Roseff. "This overproduction of insulin can cause the pancreas to 'burn out' over time, resulting in increased blood levels of glucose and subsequent diabetes. In addition, insulin stimulates the ovaries to produce testosterone, and high testosterone levels can lead to unwanted symptoms such as acne, male-type hair growth, irregular menstrual cycles (abnormal or absent ovulation), obesity, increased levels of blood lipids, heart disease and infertility."
Treating Insulin Resistance
Women with PCOS who have insulin resistance are often prescribed Metformin, a prescription drug that can restore ovulation where Clomid alone might not be affective. The biggest complaint, however, are the side effects of Metformin- nausea and gastrointestinal upset- rendering women too ill to tolerate the drug. Rarely, women are hospitalized with lactic acidosis, which can result in death in very severe cases.
Natural Alternatives to Metformin for Insulin Resistance
Many fertility doctors encourage their patients to continue taking Metformin despite these symptoms, assuring patients the side effects will dissipate after approximately 3 months. However, if you simply can’t tolerate the drug, ask your doctor about natural alternatives to Metformin.
- Pregnitude is a natural supplement which was previously only available in Europe. Pregnitude contains myo-inositol and folic acid.
- OvaBoost is a natural supplement which contains myo-inositol, folic acid, and melatonin. OvaBoost also includes alpha-lipoic acide, grapeseed extract, Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), and vitamin E which repair egg cell membrane damage from free radicals.
Both supplements improve insulin resistance in the same manner as the prescription drug Metformin, without any of the side effects. They may also boost the frequency of ovulation, regulate menstrual cycles, and improve the quality of eggs and embryos in an IVF cycle. Women with PCOS are often deficient in these nutrients. Therefore taking a supplement may be beneficial, but should be discussed with your fertility doctor to rule out potential adverse risks or interactions with prescription drugs.
- Cinnamon, peppermint leaf, and other plant extracts may also aid in insulin regulation, thereby inducing ovulation in women with PCOS. Consult your doctor before use.
- Diet and exercise are the most important tools for regulating insulin resistance and reproductive function. PCOS increases a woman’s risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other health conditions.
Whether trying to conceive or managing symptoms, a woman with PCOS should work closely with her doctor to reduce health risks.