Why It's Essential To Nip PCOS In The Bud
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most prevalent conditions affecting women’s reproductive health. And why it's often the gynecological issues (irregular menstrual cycles and infertility) and androgenization (undesirable hair growth and acne), that prompt women to seek treatment, it's actually more of an endocrine disorder than a hormonal condition.
Hyperinsulinemia drives ovarian androgen production and decreases sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), increasing serum free testosterone.Insulin resistance also leads to elevated LDL cholesterol and increases the risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease—known complications of PCOS.
Although insulin-sensitizing pharmaceuticals are traditional recommendations for addressing the hyperinsulinemia associated with PCOS, more conservative and natural approaches often focus on a low-carb, Paleolithic or Ketogenic styles to control blood sugar and insulin levels. While these diets certainly can be effective in those who also experience obesity coupled with PCOS, in the leaner PCOS population (and even in many of the obese patients with severe cases of PCOS), a low carb lifestyle alone might not be enough to get insulin levels down where they need to be. But there is help.
Various botanicals and nutraceuticals are helpful in improving insulin sensitivity when the dietary changes alone fall short. In one study of 50 women with PCOS, 4 g per day of myo-inositol performed just as well as the commonly prescribed insulin-sensitizing drug, metformin.
Berberine, an isoquinoline derivative alkaloid extracted from various Chinese medicinal herbs that has also been used as an insulin sensitizer. In a randomized trial of 89 women with PCOS and insulin resistance, berberine treatment effectively improved body composition, lipid levels (which are often imbalanced in PCOS due to sugar dysregulation), sex hormone-binding globulin, fasting plasma glucose, fasting insulin, and insulin resistance. Numerous other studies appear to confirm that berberine improves insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism.
Something as simple as cinnamon, a spice used for centuries in both traditional Chinese medicine and Aryuveda, has also been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, glucose metabolism, and lipid profiles in women with PCOS. Dosed at 1.5 grams per day, pharmaceutical grade cinnamon for 12 weeks lead to significant improvements in fasting insulin and insulin resistance compared to those taking placebo.
It is the tradition (and perhaps genius) of Chinese medicine to combine several herbs into what is called an herbal formula for best results. Constituent herbs both potentiate one another as well as to aid in absorption and digestive comfort. While an individualized treatment plan is always preferred, a general PCOS herbal treatment protocol is available at Root Resolution Health's Wellevate dispensary. Upon registration I will be able to share it with you. -Mike