PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome – a condition characterized by hormonal imbalance and metabolism problems that affect women’s overall health and appearance… and is a common and treatable cause of infertility.
The hormonal imbalances seen in PCOS alter the healthy menstrual cycle, where the egg may not develop as it should or it may not be released during ovulation as it should be – giving rise to the condition’s name.
This is one of the many reasons why there is still confusion around this condition. In fact, the “cysts” aren’t your standard cysts that need removal. They are actually small follicles (a normal part of the ovulating ovary), each containing an egg. The buildup in the ovary due to eggs not being released (or fertilized) over time impacts the ovaries’ ability to produce important female hormones to regulate your cycle.
Here are some of the more common symptoms of PCOS:
- Difficulty getting pregnant (infertility)
- Irregular menstrual cycle
- Hirsutism (with hair growth on the face, chin, or parts of the body where men usually have hair)
- Acne on the face, chest, and upper back
- Thinning hair or hair loss on the scalp; male-pattern baldness
- Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
- Darkening of skin, particularly along neck creases, in the groin, and underneath breasts, which is commonly associated with insulin resistance
- Anxiety and/or depression
- Elevated waist-to-hip ratios, overweight and obesity
When patients receive a medical diagnosis of PCOS, this can create even more fear and confusion… because they are led to believe that it can’t be healed, and that you can only treat it with medications and just hope for the best.
The Conventional Approach
When patients present with hormonal imbalances or conditions like PCOS most traditionally-trained clinicians focus on a diagnosis along with a synthetic drug protocol to treat the symptoms. PCOS is typically treated with oral birth control, which may lessen the symptoms but can be a real concern for several reasons.
Unfortunately, this can bring on more unwanted side effects, especially for woman who are estrogen dominant and greatly increase their breast cancer risk. Taking additional estrogen without receiving the proper, in depth hormonal testing, not only may put you at serious risk but oftentimes does not deal with the root causes of PCOS with typically have multi-faceted causes.
One of the reasons why many conventional health practitioners are at a loss to treat PCOS, is that it’s a complex condition that is brought on by a combo of hormonal imbalances and gut issues that they are not trained to treat.
The Functional Medicine Approach
Many women suffer from PCOS, 1 in 10 in fact, and sadly, over half of those go undiagnosed. PCOS is also the leading cause of why women have such a hard time getting pregnant.
The really sad part is… some of these women have been diagnosed with PCOS only to be told that they just have to manage the symptoms and nothing can be done.
As a result, their doctors often place them on medications that don’t even begin to deal with the root cause of this imbalance.
The Functional Medicine approach is to not only understand the root cause of any imbalance but also how other systems in your body may impacted or connected to the imbalance.
We begin with a more effective and cutting-edge type of testing. This gives us a clearer picture of where you may need the most support in the areas of insulin, gut and hormone imbalances that are typically part of PCOS.
We do this thorough testing because when patients present with hormone imbalances or symptoms, it’s so important to discover why the imbalances are occurring beyond just hormonal symptoms.
In functional medicine, we treat the body as a whole. We approach PCOS from a holistic viewpoint and first see if the imbalance can be adjusted through natural mean, so other systems won’t be offset.
This also allows your body to re-establish function so your hormonal health can rebalance naturally. Only after, we will explore if hormone replacement is necessary, along with any lifestyle changes needed, and also consider what the risks may be based on your unique challenges.
That’s why at Functional Nutrition Resources, we’re focusing on identifying the root cause of your PCOS so we can craft a personalized plan that addresses the imbalances for good.