PCOS | Hormone Imbalances, Natural Remedies and Lifestyle Changes
PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) is a reproductive health issue that women are starting to deal with more and more.
One of its most significant challenges: diagnosis can be difficult. Treatments can be few (and not 100% guaranteed effective), too. Fortunately, history and science point to some natural supportive therapies for the condition.
Some of these even involve botanical use, though they cannot ever fully remedy the condition.
What exactly is PCOS?
PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.
It’s a disorder of the female reproductive system occurring due to hormonal imbalance. Women with PCOS may have deficient levels of female hormones (estrogen, phytoestrogen, etc.) compared to androgens, or male hormones (like testosterone). This leads to cyst-like growths on the ovaries, irregular periods, depleted fertility, male characteristics, and lots of other symptoms.
Some more of these symptoms may include:
- Unhealthy weight or obesity
- Metabolic problems (like type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance)
- Low (or no) fertility
- Irregular (or no) menstrual cycles
- Chronic fatigue
- Brain fog
- Anxiety, depression, irritability, mood swings
- Hair growth in areas abnormal to women (but typical for men)
- Acne where men typically grow body/facial hair
- Hair thinning/balding on the scalp
- Skin problems (darkened skin patches, skin tags)
The tricky thing about PCOS is that there’s no easy way to diagnose it.
It manifests differently in every individual, and it can also get easily confused with other health problems. Some of these include thyroid problems, autoimmune conditions, and more.
PCOS NATURAL TREATMENT
PCOS is becoming more and more common. Almost 1 in every 10 women (and increasingly more women) of fertile age have it or will have it.
On the other hand, direct treatments and management approaches are few. That, or they may pose certain risks or side effects women might want to avoid.
The natural question is: are there less risky natural treatments for PCOS?
A closer look at some traditional women’s health approaches shows some hope. This is especially the case in the realms of alternative and holistic support.
The best treatments may involve botanicals, like herbs, as supplements daily. Best of all: scientific studies are showing some of these to be provably effective, too. This makes them just as relevant and compelling today as they could have been in ancient times.
HERBS AND SUPPLEMENTS FOR PCOS
PCOS cannot be completely remedied. It can only be managed.
No conventional mainstream approaches can fully heal it—and neither can certain herbs or supplements. But that’s not to say some natural treatments for PCOS can’t help support the condition long-term.
The following number among some of the most prominent and well-studied herbal remedies for PCOS. These may help with some symptoms, help reduce its severity, and more.
If experiencing severe symptoms or seeking a diagnosis, make sure to talk to a doctor.
Women have been turning to ashwagandha as a healing herb for hundreds (if not thousands) of years. It has perks for men, too, when it comes to reproductive health and hormonal balance. It also helps boost immunity.
And yet, ashwagandha’s powers shine an extra special spotlight on women’s health—and the herb may even have a particular corner for PCOS.
As the first line of defense, ashwagandha could help smooth over many PCOS symptoms.
It’s shown to help with stress, anxiety, and depression in this high-quality study, all of which are possible PCOS issues. It’s also known that the Ayurvedic root is overall beneficial health tonic, according to this study.
No doubt fortifying health at its foundation has automatic holistic benefits for women with PCOS. But some research suggests ashwagandha could have some even more intriguing (and more direct) benefits for the condition, too.
In this study, for example, researchers specifically tested ashwagandha for how it affected PCOS. Results showed the Indian herb helped re-regulate menstrual cycles, balance hormones, restore fertility, and even adjust weight and metabolism to healthier levels.
Is the herb a for sure remedy for PCOS? Far from it.
But it could be the healthy holistic boost women with PCOS are looking for.
It’s safe to compare damiana with ashwagandha in some regards. Though it’s not from India (but rather a flower from the Americas), both of these do have anxiety-relief and health-boosting in common.
Anxiety and mood swings are possible symptoms in those with PCOS.
In that case, damiana—which recent studies show helps relieve anxiety— could be a useful herbal tool for promoting relaxation. Better yet, another study shows it has a particularly soothing effect on female physiology. But is that all it brings to the table?
Interestingly, one study in 2015 proved damiana to be one of many different herbs considered “estrogenic.” This means the plant mimics estrogen. When taken, it can create the same effects as estrogen in the body (to a certain extent). It does this by binding quickly to estrogen receptors in the brain.
Of the many herbs studied, results dubbed damiana one of the most effective.
This means that taking damiana can give one a natural lift in estrogen, or an estrogen-like effect. For PCOS people, this can bring relief on many counts. More studies are needed to determine how this works, though.
It’s hard not to get a kick out of an herb like epimedium. (And especially so with its memorable nickname, horny goat weed).
Its best-known contribution to reproductive health (regardless of male or female), epimedium is famous for bringing some spice into the bedroom. But (especially for PCOS health) it should be given much more credit than that.
Like damiana, epimedium has a unique relationship to estrogen receptors.
It, too, helps increase natural estrogen in the body (studies show). A boon to people with PCOS, getting some estrogen—even from a subtle natural source like epimedium— may help balance out excess androgen. This, in turn, may help PCOS symptoms.
This 2013 study also shows good signs that epimedium naturally helps support PCOS. In it, researchers used flavonoid compounds extracted from the plant; when given to test subjects, their PCOS symptoms improved. The most notable result was that androgen levels seemed to go down back to normal.
But that wasn’t all epimedium accomplished.
Another result from the herb: PCOS subjects experienced weight changes that brought them back to normal, healthier levels. By increasing estrogen, lowering androgens, and helping weight, epimedium is undoubtedly not an herb to pass up.
“Isn’t this just a berry found at natural grocers?” That’s what some people may say in disbelief after hearing that goji berry can be a powerful healer.
Most people don’t realize it, but goji berry was initially an ancient medicine.
Herbalists used it in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to treat and remedy a wide range of illnesses. People usually took it in supplement formulas packed with dozens of other herbs.
And yes, goji berry was popular for helping women’s health issues in particular.
But does goji berry hold its weight when entering the arena of PCOS? It turns out this tiny little fruit can naturally support the condition in a variety of different ways. For one, this study shows goji berry helps boost estrogen AND maintain a healthy weight in women (both PCOS issues).
Most excitingly, this study directly tested the berry’s effects on a person with PCOS. The results revealed that goji had a role to play in naturally recovering the test subject’s fertility levels.
8 months after the subject took this goji-containing formula, she achieved pregnancy when she wasn’t able to before. Keep in mind: this was one study, and these effects aren’t guaranteed.
Maca is the name given to a Peruvian root made into a potent healing powder. It can be added to teas and foods and used for many ailments. The most famous can be ascribed to women’s health issues like painful periods, menopause, and much more.
It’s possible that benefits for PCOS may seem very likely and evident at first.
But, interestingly (and perhaps shockingly) enough, there are no direct studies yet on how maca benefits people with PCOS. More studies on this are needed, especially considering how helpful and established the Andean herb is for women’s health already.
That’s not to say there are no potential benefits to be found whatsoever.
Maca is an herb famous for syncing up unhealthy menstrual cycles and replenishing estrogen (shown in this study and this study). As an indirect benefit from these effects, maca boosts fertility and stabilizes hormone levels. All of these are hurdles people with PCOS may experience, or which may stem from the condition.
Though the best healing maca might provide is indirect, it’s still holistic and foundational to reproductive health in the female population nonetheless.
Like maca root, muira puama is yet another herb hailing from South America. Unlike maca, this helper for PCOS originates from deep within the Amazon rainforest— a very different part of the continent.
It’s greatest claim to fame is increasing or enhancing drive, desire, and energy.
This goes for both men and women, though men more commonly use muira puama. Science doesn’t yet fully understand why (or how) this Amazonian herb helps with energy and performance so much. And though it benefits women, too, how it does so is even more of a mystery.
Could this jungle plant be the right choice for women, especially those dealing with PCOS?
The research is unclear here, too, and more research is ultimately needed.
However, this study may be the most revealing of muira puama’s inner workings thus far. Along with other supposedly estrogenic herbs, muira puama was tested and found to help raise estrogen levels in the human body considerably.
This suggests that muira puama may help reduce PCOS symptoms. It’s especially likely since raising estrogen can help lower the effects of high androgens, the cause of PCOS. Still, more studies on muira puama and PCOS are needed.
It turns out ashwagandha isn’t the only Indian and Ayurvedic herb that may support PCOS.
Shatavari, a healing botanical closely related to asparagus, is widely used for female health, especially in its homeland. Many (herbalists and natural health practitioners alike) would recommend it as an everyday tonic for women. It’s enjoyed all around as a beautiful houseplant, too.
But how does it benefit women exactly? And can it do anything for PCOS?
So far, it’s generally accepted (and supported by science) that shatavari is a women’s herb through and through. It can combat infertility, help regulate cycles, relieve stress, and even boost drive and desire.
But here’s the real hand it lends to PCOS: shatavari is traditionally used to balance female hormones. When it comes to female health disorders, this type of balancing may be very supportive and reduce symptoms, and that includes PCOS.
This study here proves that shatavari balances hormones as an “estrogenic,” much like damiana or muira puama. For someone with PCOS, having a supplement like this—even if it’s subtle and natural—could be very helpful to PCOS symptoms. It may help by counteracting high androgens, primarily when used for an extended period.
This prickly, thorny vine with yellow flowers might not look like a source of medicine at a glance. Nevertheless, tribulus found an excellent place in herbalist practices in Europe, Asia, Africa, and even Australia despite its thorny appearance. Its value to athletes and reproductive health is widely known and studied.
Tribulus has perks for women in particular, as well.
And when it comes to PCOS specifically, women may be tempted to give it a chance. This study showed that extracts of tribulus helped reduce testosterone, regulate metabolism to a healthier weight, and restore fertility in subjects with PCOS.
Along with the other herbs in this article, tribulus is another indispensable option for supporting PCOS holistically.
FIND THESE HERBS IN YIN SYNERGY (AND ENDO ADRENAL)
People can find many of the above herbs for PCOS in our women-focused supplement powder, Yin Synergy. These include damiana, epimedium, goji berry, maca root, muira puama, shatavari, and tribulus.
Find ashwagandha in our stress and hormone-supporting blend, Endo Adrenal.
Endo Adrenal contains herbs and mushrooms with some support for women’s hormones and may also support PCOS by improving metabolism, in addition to (or when used with) Yin Synergy. Endo Adrenal also includes astragalus, cordyceps, licorice root, gynostemma, schisandra, rhodiola, and Siberian eleuthero.
In addition to the help of natural herbal treatments, diet changes can be pivotal to managing PCOS symptoms at home. These could reduce one’s dependence on mainstream treatments (such as hormonal birth control, hormone treatments, and more), but there’s no guarantee they will.
Some popular recommended diets are:
This diet calls one to cut down on sugars (and processed foods too). Insulin resistance is common in people with PCOS and can eventually increase one’s risk of diabetes. As such, following a diet low in sugar—and only including foods low on the glycemic index in a pinch—can help this aspect of the condition and reduce symptoms.
Getting a glucose meter and testing one’s self after meals is an excellent way to learn what foods will spike one’s insulin.
High Fat and High Protein
High fat and high protein diets (sometimes called keto diets) may help women with PCOS lose weight. Weight gain (or difficulty losing weight) can be one of many PCOS symptoms or struggles. For those facing this or desiring change in this aspect, diets high in fat and protein have been shown to help with weight loss, or even merely supporting metabolism and maintaining a healthy weight.
It’s essential, however, that dieters focus on healthy beneficial fats, and that protein sources are also nutrient-dense, too.
Fighting inflammation through diet is highly recommended for everyone, not just those with PCOS. Still, anti-inflammatory foods may be the right choice for those dealing with inflammatory issues related to their PCOS.
These issues include tiredness, fatigue, and brain fog symptoms, which can sometimes be inflammation-caused. PCOS sufferers may experience these symptoms from time to time. Anti-inflammatory diets may help and are typically low in meat, gluten, dairy, or sugars. Instead, they’re high in nutrient-dense foods, vegetables, and plenty of fiber-rich foods as well.
PCOS LIFESTYLE HACKS
Just like diet changes and herbs, there’s nothing that can for sure remedy or get rid of PCOS. Alterations and shifts in one’s lifestyle can certainly help. Many with PCOS can lead healthy, normal lives if they commit themselves to these changes.
The following are significant lifestyle changes and habits for a bit of extra PCOS support.
- Exercise and stay active regularly
- Manage stress, depression, and anxiety
- Manage cortisol levels (keep them low)
- Focus on adrenal health (and kidney health)
- Give liver health a boost
- Get regular, deep, and restorative sleep
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