PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) is one of the most common hormonal endocrine disorders in women. While there is still more to be learned about PCOS and how it can most effectively be treated and reversed, there is SO much we already know! PCOS is a common cause of infertility, but it is one that can easily be improved through diet and lifestyle changes.
Some common PCOS symptoms include:
✔️ Irregular periods or none at all
✔️ Trouble losing weight
✔️ Insulin resistance / diabetes
✔️ Excessive hair growth (often face and abdomen)
✔️ Mood swings
Trying to get pregnant with PCOS can be a bit more difficult as PCOS often causes hormone imbalances such as increased insulin and testosterone. Increased testosterone is often to blame for excessive hair growth, acne, and trouble losing weight, while increased insulin (along with testosterone) can lead to irregular ovulation. Irregular ovulation pushes you further into hormonal imbalance because without ovulation, progesterone is not made. Progesterone is vital to balancing estrogen and sustaining pregnancy. Without adequate progesterone, estrogen dominance (and its many symptoms) takes over.
PCOS can impair the maturation process of the egg and produces many cysts with small underdeveloped eggs (aka polycystic). Without regular ovulation with mature eggs, getting pregnant with PCOS can be a struggle.
The good news…if you address PCOS at its root causes and add in nutrients to support the body, you can rebalance your hormones, normalize your cycle, and get pregnant!
So let’s look at some common root causes of PCOS:
✔️ High insulin levels
✔️ High levels of inflammation
✔️ Poor diet
✔️ Chronic stress
✔️ Thyroid imbalances
✔️ Exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (xenoestrogens)
✔️ Too high or too low body fat percentage
✔️ Genetic predisposition
The good news….all of the above (except for genetic predisposition) can be improved through diet and lifestyle. Here’s how…
How to get pregnant with PCOS:
- Manage blood sugars and reverse insulin resistance – this is typically done through a lower carbohydrate, nutrient dense diet. Getting your fasting insulin checked is a good gauge for seeing progress with insulin resistance. Some supplements such as berberine, alpha lipoic acid, chromium, inositol, and Ceylon cinnamon can also improve your insulin. In one study a mixture of myo-inositol and folate significantly improved ovulation and conception in those with PCOS, even better than Metformin.
- Manage your weight: even a 5-10% weight loss can improve your risk factors and improve your cycle regularity! Hint: addressing insulin resistance makes this much easier!
- Check your thyroid function: It’s important to get a full thyroid panel, not just TSH, as even subclinical hypothyroidism can exacerbate insulin resistance and make pregnancy more difficult. Check TSH, Free T3, Free T4, Reverse T3, and TPO/Thyroid Antibodies.
- Balance your sex hormones: high estrogen and testosterone along with low progesterone may be causing many of your PMS symptoms, increased body and facial hair, acne, and much more. The root to balancing your sex hormones is improving your insulin resistance, inflammation, and adrenals. There are many other herbs and supplements that can also support your hormone balance. I often recommend doing the DUTCH hormone test to get a good picture of where your hormones are at.
- Check for nutrient deficiencies: I’ve already mentioned a few, but some common nutrient deficiencies in women with PCOS are:
- Vitamin D – involved in the maturation and development of eggs. Can help improve cycle regularity, weight loss, and fertility.
- Chromium – helps insulin work more effectively and decrease blood sugar levels
- Alpha Lipoic Acid – improves insulin sensitivity
- Magnesium – deficiency is associated with diabetes (insulin resistance). Can improve blood sugars, insulin, menstrual cramps and more.
- Zinc – inhibits the enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT (which causes acne and hair growth)
- Omega 3 fatty acids – can help reduce testosterone and regulate menstrual cycles. May also increase sex hormone binding globulin (binds up some excess estrogen and testosterone to help restore hormonal balance)
- Manage stress and get adequate sleep: Stress and poor sleep exacerbate hormonal imbalances. Stress increases your blood sugar, increases cortisol production (which decrease progesterone production), and tells your body that you are just trying to survive – that it isn’t a good time to make a baby.
- Get rid of xenoestrogens: Xenoestrogens are chemicals that mimic estrogen in the body and wreak havoc with your hormones. Xenoestrogens are found in many cleaning products, personal hygiene products, receipts, hand sanitizers with triclosan, and many pesticides. Try to become familiar with xenoestrogens and make and effort to decrease your exposure!
- Address inflammation: Diet plays a HUGE role in inflammation. Start by eating a diet based on whole foods with adequate protein and healthy fats. For PCOS you want to limit all carbohydrates to help restore insulin sensitivity. Focus on adding in lots of omega 3 fatty acids (salmon, flax seeds, walnuts), colorful veggies, berries, and fresh spices and herbs like ginger and turmeric. Also check out the optimal fertility diet.Foods that you are sensitive to can also cause major inflammation in the body, so you may want to consider food sensitivity testing.
As you can see, there are SO many things you can do to reverse PCOS and improve your fertility. While PCOS can be very discouraging, don’t give up hope. Addressing the root causes helps your whole body rebalance so that you can get pregnant naturally!
If you don’t know where to start with your PCOS, contact me! I would be happy to help!