**Parts of this article first appeared on Lara Briden's Healthy Hormone Blog.
I invite you to think differently about polycystic ovarian syndrome.
PCOS is not one thing. It is not one disease. PCOS is a set of symptoms. The key primary symptom is a failure to ovulate regularly. Failure to ovulate is why you are deficient in estradiol and progesterone. It's why you have high testosterone, and why you develop secondary PCOS symptoms like hair loss, acne, and infertility.
You cannot treat PCOS until you first ask: "WHY — in your particular case — do you not ovulate?"
I say "in your particular case" because your reason may be different than someone else's reason. That's why there are so many different natural treatments, and that's why only some of them will work for you.
The Pill causes blood clots, depression, weight gain, and cancer, but doctors continue to prescribe it.
The medical community is locked in a paradigm. Because the Birth Control Pill is backed by a very strong pharmaceutical lobby, it remains entrenched as standard care, with hardly a voice of dissent. Despite the evidence, our regulatory Health agencies are simply not able to admit the obvious thing: The Pill is bad for women's health. It is the Elephant in the Room.
During my twenty years clinical work in women's health, I have been continually mystified as to why women take the Pill so willingly. One explanation is the faulty information that they obtain from their doctors. But there is something deeper: Both women and their doctors have a basic misunderstanding of what the Pill is.
What's happening to our reproductive health? Leading health experts have predicted that infertility rates will rise from a current 1 in 7 couples, to a shocking 1 in 3 couples by next decade. (1)
In January 2013, an expert panel from the NHI called for PCOS to be renamed. It needs a new name because PCOS is not an ovarian condition. It is a hormonal condition.
When women are told that they have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, many of them are left to believe that they have abnormal growths on their ovaries. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Fluid-filled sacs are normal for the ovary. They are the follicles that contain the developing eggs. In other words, ovaries are meant to be cystic. The abnormality with PCOS is not the cysts, but - in a way - the fact that they're not cystic enough. Normally, as the follicles progress to ovulation, one or two of them increase in size and become larger cysts - the dominant follicles - the ones that will release an egg.
In PCOS, the underlying hormonal issues prevent the dominant follicles from forming. The ovary is left with too many small undeveloped follicles - and no ovulation. Too many small follicles, and no big follicles.
Did you know that you have a symphony of steroid hormones? You have oestrogen and progesterone from your ovaries, AND you have cortisol, testosterone, and DHEA from your adrenal glands. These steroids form an interchangeable pool of hormones, which are converted one to the other as the body needs them. Consider that, and then consider the fact that there is only a limited amount of steroid hormone to go around. Now you know why stress affects our reproductive hormones SO MUCH.
Tired of your doctor offering you the Pill for every female problem? Fortunately, there are other options. Herbal medicine is effective female hormone balance.
Woman are scared of oestrogen, because it causes oestrogen dominance, and because it carries a cancer risk. But is that the whole story with oestrogen? Oestrogen is extremely important for mood and well-being, so we don't want to avoid it completely. In fact, oestrogen may not be as bad for you as you think. (Please see Lara's blog post In Defense of Estrogen.)
According to the new KEEPS study, modern types of HRT such as low-dose oestradiol and micronised progesterone (natural progesterone) are SAFER than the HRT used in the WHI study 10 years ago.
The old style of HRT has heavily dosed horse estrogen and medroxyprogesterone (Provera). Toxic, nasty drugs. The small doses of bio-identical oestradiol and progesterone used in the KEEPS study are a very different thing (so no wonder they gave such different results!). The KEEPS study hormones provided significant relief for mood, libido, and flushes, and they appear to be safe - at least in the short term.
Another recent study found that 73% of Australian women who use natural progesterone find relief from irritability, foggy thinking, and sleep problems. (1)
"... DHEA... appears poised to make the transition from trendy health food supplement to ...hormone worthy of study." - Dr Richard F. Spark, MD. Harvard Medical School. (1)
"These data support and confirm that DHEA must be considered a valid compound and drug for [hormone therapy] in postmenopausal women and not just a 'dietary supplement" - Dr Genazzani, MD, Ph.D. (2)
Oestrogen is not the only hormone to change at menopause. One of the most influential hormones to decline is, in fact, DHEA. According to research from the Monash University, menopausal women with the lowest level of DHEA are the most likely to experience a decline in cognitive function and well-being. (3)