That depends on who you ask. If you ask a medical doctor, gynecologist or endocrinologist, the answer will be yes or possibly a drug called spironolactone and Accutane for the acne. If you ask a naturopathic doctor, the answer will be “not by a long shot!”. There are numerous natural treatments for PCOS that can not only ease the symptoms, but also address the underlying cause of the condition and build up your body at the same time. Why the disparity in answers? Because Medical Doctors are not trained in and have little or no knowledge of naturopathic medicine. If you are looking for an alternative to drugs for PCOS, the best person to ask is not the person who is only trained in the drugs. It’s like asking your mechanic “what is the best dog food?” He or she may offer up an opinion on what to feed Rover, but it’s not coming from an expert on the subject. The best person to consult regarding natural remedies or alternatives to drugs for PCOS is a licensed naturopathic doctor who specializes in women’s health and PCOS.
A study published in 2014 found that women who self treated with neroli oil aromatherapy experienced significant improvement in menopause symptoms, increased libido and reduced blood pressure. The women self-treated for 10 sessions twice daily for five consecutive days. Each participant poured 1 mL of 0.1% or 0.5% neroli oil or an almond oil control onto a fragrance pad while sitting, with the pad 30 cm away from the nose for five minutes.
Source: Yeon Choi S, Kang P, Su Lee H, Hee Seol G Effects of inhalation of essential oil of Citrus aurantium L. var. amara on menopausal symptoms, stress, and estrogen in postmenopausal women: A randomized controlled trial. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2014;2014:796518
A study published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms has found that after two months of treatment with 2 mushroom extracts, Trametes versicolor and Ganoderma lucidum, polymerase chain reaction testing for HPV demonstrated 88% (P<0.001) clearance of the HPV virus, versus only 5% for those given a different mushroom extract (Laetiporus sulphureus). This was for the high risk strains, HPV16 and HPV18. Source: Int J Med Mushrooms. 2014;16(5):497-8.
There’s a new drug on the market that is a “selective progesterone receptor modulator”. What that means is that the drug moderates the effects of progesterone. I have had a couple of patients on this medication prior to fibroid surgery and for both it does seem to have shrunk their fibroid. The thinking with fibroids has always been that estrogen was the culprit causing the fibroids to enlarge and in many of the women that I’ve treated for fibroids, that has been the case. However, in some fibroid patients, that’s not the case as demonstrated by the efficacy of this drug. For these women, we need more of a progesterone moderating approach.
How can we moderate the effects of progesterone naturally, without drugs?
- Ensure a healthy balance of all of the sex hormones so that no one hormone dominates over the others. That means two main things to me: a) keep insulin levels low by avoiding processed starches and sugars and b) keep the endocrine system working optimally, that includes the ovaries, thyroid, adrenal glands, pituitary and hypothalamus.
- Vitamin B6 in it’s active state, pyridoxal-5-phosphate (P5P) modulates the cell’s capacity to respond to steroid hormones. Although some of the professional lines contain the active P5P, most vitamin supplements don’t contain the active form of B6, relying on the body’s capacity to convert the inactive pyridoxine hydrochloride into the active P5P. Source: FASEB J. 1994 Mar 1;8(3):343-9.
- Scutellaria barbata is a Chinese herb that has been shown to have progesterone moderating and anti-proliferative effects. Source: Phytother Res. 2008 May;22(5):583-90
Some of the prevailing theories as to what is going on with women with PCOS include:
1. A defect in insulin action and secretion that leads to higher blood insulin levels and insulin resistance.
2. A defect in the nervous and endocrine systems leading to an exaggerated LH (luteinizing hormone) pulse frequency and amplitude
3. A defect of androgen (male hormone) production that results in enhanced ovarian testosterone, DHEAs and/or androstenedione production
4. An alteration in cortisol metabolism resulting in enhanced adrenal androgen production (Tasoula et al, Clin Endocrinol, 2004)
5. Intrinsic theca (ovarian) cell hypersensitivity to LH stimulation that results from defective inhibition by FSH that may involve inhibin-B signalling. (Hirshfeld-Cytron et al, J Clin Endocrinol Metab, 2009)
In any case, improvement is usually seen through measures that lower insulin such as low glycemic index, low glycemic load diet, stress reduction and daily exercise. Additional support from insulin sensitizing agents like inositol, NAC, zinc, and cinnamon is also helpful.