I frequently talk about polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) in my practice. And I’m not a gynecologist (GYN), as you well know—just a holistic-minded physician who actually pays attention to his patients’ complaints.
In fact, I’ve diagnosed a lot of women with this condition, who later go on to hear their GYNs say, “how did I miss that?” Because despite the fact that we’ve known about PCOS for some 80 years now, most docs still don’t know the first thing about it.
That’s why it’s essential that you do. (Even if you’re well past childbearing age.) Because while PCOS is the most common cause of female infertility, it carries many more risks to your health.
PCOS is a metabolic condition
The first thing you should know about PCOS is that it’s common. In fact, it affects as many as one in ten women—and that’s just looking at the women who’ve actually been diagnosed.
If my patient pool is any indication, there are many more flying under the radar. And it’s really no wonder why, as the condition’s name alone is rather misleading.
Yes, ovarian cysts are a feature of the syndrome—but they’re not the most important one. Hormone imbalances are actually the main driver behind the hallmark symptoms of PCOS.
The vast majority of women with PCOS will have fewer than nine menstrual cycles per year. This is due to elevations in the hormones testosterone and DHEA, which are important markers to look for—along with clinical evidence of imbalance, like excess hair and acne.
Most patients with PCOS will be diagnosed due to the presence of these factors. But that’s changing, as more doctors—myself included—are more often going by the condition’s metabolic features.
Which is why I’m able to diagnose PCOS more frequently. Here’s what I look for:
- Obesity (at least half of all women with the condition are obese)
- Higher rates of insulin resistance
- Blood sugar imbalance
- Type 2 diabetes
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Blood vessel dysfunction
I routinely test my patients for all of these things. But I can’t say the same for most doctors. Which is probably why a third of PCOS patients report that it took years to find out what was wrong with them—despite ongoing struggles with weight, menstrual irregularity, and infertility. (Not to mention the distress of acne and excess body hair.)
Risks persist beyond menopause
Clearly, PCOS isn’t just a reproductive disorder—in fact, when a woman has this condition, it has health consequences that reach far beyond her childbearing years.
As I mentioned above, heart disease risk factors and obesity are all significantly more common in PCOS patients. In fact…
- Risk for insulin resistance more than doubles
- Risk for metabolic syndrome nearly triples
- Risk for diabetes more than quadruples
And there’s even evidence that PCOS may have links to cancer—with data pointing to a threefold increase in risk for endometrial cancer, and a higher risk of ovarian cancer, too.
These risks persist well into menopause. And that’s often when and why I get involved. Older women with undiagnosed PCOS are almost always metabolically challenged… and not once did their doctors ever think that was a problem.
It is a problem, of course. A very serious one, at that. But fortunately, it’s also one with a rather simple answer—namely, the diet and supplements I’ve been recommending to my readers and patients for years now.
So if you struggle with PCOS, even losing just five percent of your body weight can help balance your hormones and restore normal ovarian function. (Especially with the help of relatively safe drugs like metformin for blood sugar, and perhaps spironolactone for blood pressure.)
But there are a handful of supplements that can make a world of difference, too. All of which I devoted a lengthy article to in the July 2019 issue of my monthly newsletter, Logical Health Alternatives (“The natural cancer-fighting nutrient every PCOS patient needs to know about”).
“Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: 5 Things You Might Not Know.” Medscape Medical News, 08/02/2019. (medscape.com/viewarticle/916211)