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Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a complex disorder of the female reproductive system that results in multiple ovarian cysts which enlarge the appearance of the ovaries and may make the ovaries feel lumpy. 

PCOS can occur at any age and affects about 6% of women. Most women with this condition have elevated insulin levels, in part because the body is resistant to the effects of the hormone. Other hormones are out of balance, including the prolactin level  (which is high), the testosterone and DHEA levels (which are generally high) and abnormalities in the luteinizing hormone levels. The individual often doesn’t ovulate, leading to persistently low progesterone levels and infertility. This may be accompanied by a prolonged time between periods. PCOS is often temporary. PCOS can be seen in girls who are going through puberty and in women who are transitioning into perimenopause. Clinically, PCOS responds by balancing your unique individual chemistry along with dietary changes to correct these imbalances. 

What causes PCOS?
The exact cause of PCOS is not known; however, many healthcare providers feel that the consumption of sugary processed foods and foods high in trans-fats contribute to both insulin resistance and PCOS. Some consider that insulin resistance is the initial effect of eating unhealthy foods and that this abnormality triggers hormonal imbalances that ultimately support the presence of multiple ovarian cysts. The increase in intake of xenohormones, which are hormones derived from outside the body like plastics, cosmetics, environmental toxins and the consumption of hormone-laden beef, contribute to the abnormal hormonal environment that becomes PCOS

How do I know if I have PCOS?
PCOS causes women to have an increase in weight and, because of the elevated male hormones, the skin is often greasy and contains excess acne. Women often crave sweets or other carbohydrates and suffer from infertility. The excess male hormones also cause infertility and excess body hair. In some situations, a woman with PCOS will become hypothyroid or can develop diabetes, high blood pressure and/or cardiovascular disease. 

What is the Treatment of PCOS?

Traditional Medical Approach:
Doctors have generally done nothing about PCOS unless there is a fertility issue or a woman has markedly irregular periods. Often the treatment was simply to use birth control pills to override the ovaries and regulate the periods. The birth control pill reduces the symptoms of PCOS by blocking ovulation and giving the ovaries a rest from follicle production. This is a good choice for women looking to avoid pregnancy. Testosterone levels will go down when on the birth control pill and it is good for regulating cycles but it won’t address the basic issue of insulin resistance. Some doctors are now prescribing a diabetes drug called Metformin (Glucophage) for blood sugar control; however, the ovaries become polycystic again when the patient goes off either type of pill. This is particularly problematic for women trying to get pregnant. Women who wish to get pregnant often have to resort to fertility treatment like in vitro fertilization in order to conceive a child. 

Functional Medicine Approach
The first thing that needs to be evaluated in a PCOS patient is her blood sugar levels to see if she is in insulin resistance. This is another prime example of how we have to look at the whole body and endocrine systems that intercommunicate with one another. By addressing the blood sugar problems and hormonal imbalance, the body will work the way it was designed by our Creator. If you do not correct the underlying sugar cravings and make them go away by balancing your chemistry, then it is very difficult to break the vicious cycle. As you balance out the chemistry, the cravings will go away. Proper supplementation based upon your individual chemistry is a must. Dietary and healthy lifestyle changes play a significant role. These programs are individually customized based upon your unique chemistry.

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