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Case Study: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

by Mary Miller(more info)

listed in case studies, originally published in issue 151 - October 2008

PCOS is the number one cause of infertility in non-menopausal women.  This in itself is a major problem… but PCOS can cause other havoc too. Some women start suffering from devastating symptoms, such as uncontrollable mood swings and excessive facial hair growth, from as young as 16 years of age.

In the UK, it is estimated that one in ten women have polycystic ovaries, and PCOS is the number one cause of infertility in non-menopausal women. Because so many women suffer from these symptoms, it is useful to know what it is and what your options are.

So What Is It?

Polycystic literally means ‘many cysts’ and the ovaries are where the eggs in a woman’s body are produced.

During the menstrual cycle (usually once a month), an egg is released from the ovaries into the uterus. Before the eggs are ready to be released, they develop inside tiny swellings (called follicles) on the ovary. Once a month during ovulation one mature egg will be released into the uterus for fertilization. The remaining follicles will degenerate. In the case of polycystic ovaries, however, the ovaries are enlarged and a series of undeveloped follicles appear in lumps (like grapes) on the ovaries. Polycystic ovaries are when the ovaries are covered with these small fluid-filled follicles. These swollen cysts are usually 2-9mm in size and are benign, which means they are not cancerous. This is usually not a problem and does not affect fertility, until the cysts start to cause hormonal imbalances, which is where the problems begin.

What Causes It?

It is not known what the exact cause for PCOS is, but is believed to run in families.

It may also result from an increased level of some other hormones in the body. One of these hormones is insulin, which is the hormone that lowers blood sugar levels. Many women who have polycystic ovaries also have a resistance to insulin, which means that they need more insulin than normal to bring blood sugar levels down. Women with PCOS are seven times more likely to develop diabetes due to this insulin resistance.

The ovaries are also responsible for producing hormones such as oestrogen and small amounts of testosterone. An increase in insulin results in the ovaries producing more testosterone than necessary. This increase in testosterone
production is what results in the telltale signs of PCOS:

•    Excess hair growth often on the face, breasts and inside of legs;
•    Acne;
•    Irregular or no periods;
•    Problems with falling pregnant/ frequent miscarriages;
•    Weight gain;
•    Mood swings.

Among other things, this excess of insulin and testosterone interferes with the follicle’s development in the ovaries, which in turn can prevent an egg from being released into the uterus and thus reducing fertility levels.

Case Study – Susan, aged 30

Susan came to see me because she was not herself – her mood swings were out of control, and she was growing more and more dark hair on her face, breasts and back of her legs. The hair growth was causing her embarrassment, and the mood swings were exhausting. She had also put on 1½ stone in the last year,
and her menstrual cycle was all over the place.

She went to the GP who diagnosed her with PCOS. He suggested that she try to lose weight and start a course of hormone treatment. Susan decided to look for a more natural option to start with, before committing to hormone therapy.

The problem with hormone treatment is that when one hormone goes out of balance it often has a knock-on effect on many others, e.g. increase in insulin, increase in testosterone, etc. Suppressing some hormones and stimulating others can often throw an already unbalanced system even further out of kilter. I would recommend that intensive hormone treatment be used as a very last resort.

Thankfully there is much that can be done in treating PCOS with homeopathic remedies, nutrition and herbs. The advantage of treating PCOS in this way is that your body is kick-started into its own natural healing process. Your body not only heals the imbalances itself but also strengthens the life force, enabling it to keep in balance for longer.

Homeopathy

Susan started off by taking a homeopathic remedy called Sepia.
Sepia is made from cuttlefish, and is an excellent remedy for regulating hormones, and its main focus is on the ovaries, uterus and vagina. Sepia patients often suffer from extreme mood swings with family members and especially their partner. The swings usually involve much anger and irritability. 

They are often seen as having quite a masculine energy about them, and are quite independent and strong.

Nutrition

Nutrition is very important and especially getting your blood sugar levels and cravings under control so that you can lose weight. The symptoms of PCOS include weight gain, but paradoxically it is weight loss that will often result in a lessoning of all other symptoms.

Susan was having problems controlling her weight because of her constant sugar cravings. I suggested she start taking Chromium supplements.
Chromium is a really important mineral if you have PCOS, because it makes insulin more efficient, which means it is more effective in lowering blood sugar levels. A deficiency in chromium can also increase resistance to insulin.  So in essence, Chromium reduces cravings and hunger.

If you are diabetic please see your Homeopath or doctor before taking chromium.

I also suggested Susan take the following:

Vitamin B Complex – the B vitamins are essential in converting food into energy; they regulate fat metabolism and blood sugar levels.  B2, B3 and B6 are also important in hormone regulation;
Zinc – A deficiency in zinc may result in a loss of taste, thereby requiring you to eat spicier, saltier and probably more fattening food. Zinc is essential in helping your hormones act appropriately, and in balancing sugar levels;
Magnesium – There is a link between magnesium and insulin resistance;
Omega-3 oils (e.g. fish oil or flaxseed oil) – PCOS is also associated with unhealthy blood cholesterol ratios. Research shows that the omega-3 fatty acids in particular will assist in reducing cardiovascular risk markers such as bad cholesterol.

Herbs

Agnus castus – This is one of the most important herbs for PCOS because it helps to stimulate and normalize the function of the pituitary gland, which controls the release of LH (luteinising hormone). LH is normally high in PCOS sufferers which increases the likelihood of miscarriage;
Saw Palmetto – Research shows that Saw Palmetto works as an anti-androgen, which can be very helpful given the high levels of testosterone in PCOS. Take this herb if you have excessive hair growth. If not I would just stick with the Agnus Castus;
Milk Thistle – This herb is key to keeping the liver healthy. The liver is essential in breaking down all hormones in the body. If the liver does not process these hormones efficiently there can be a hormone, as well as a toxic, build-up.
***Please note that none of the herbs listed above should be taken when on any hormone treatment such as the pill, HRT, fertility drugs or any other hormonal treatment unless recommended by your Homeopath or doctor.


Susan three months later…

Susan’s hair growth started to slow down, food cravings had reduced and mood swings were better. Her periods were still a bit out of kilter but she had managed to lose over half stone and was feeling much better.

Natural treatment for PCOS is not a quick fix – it will take a minimum of three months before you see any noticeable improvements. Susan’s improvements were faster than usual, and after five months she felt that her symptoms had improved by 90%! Please see a professional Homeopath or Naturopath if you are worried about your symptoms and/or treatment.

Comments:

  1. Niti said..


    Hello, I am suffering from poly cystic ovarian syndrome and have had treatment via acupuncture and homeopathy which proved to be very useful for a few months. However, I have missed my periods for the last three months or so and was looking into herbal treatment.

    I have tailored my diet in line with that of Pcos since I have also been seeing a nutritionist which advised me that I was low in zinc and magnesium etc.

    I was wondering what your charges are for treatment?

    Thanks, Niti


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About Mary Miller

Mary Miller BSc (Hons) LCCH RS Hom is a Homeopath practising in Kew, London. For advice, or to make an appointment, you may contact her via Tel: 020-8392 9505, Mon-Fri 10-6pm; mary@vital-homeopathy.com

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