Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) reflects elevated testosterone and DHEA (which turns into testosterone in the body) hormone levels. This often comes from insulin resistance, often caused by excess sugar in the diet. As in men, high levels of testosterone trigger facial hair growth in women as well. The high testosterone is the most common cause of excess facial hair in women. The high testosterone can also trigger other problems including acne, irregular periods, weight gain, infertility, and ovarian cysts (although many people with PCOS do not have ovarian cysts).
- Some common triggers for the elevated testosterone include:
- Excess sugar in the diet.
- Adrenal fatigue.
- Menopause (causes an increase in the ratio of estrogen to testosterone, which controls facial hair growth).
- Supplementation with testosterone or DHEA.
Treatment for PCOS
Treatment often helps in many ways, including restoration of fertility. To start, be sure you are not taking any supplements with DHEA or testosterone, and cut out the excess sweets/sugar in your diet, especially sodas and fruit juices. Sweets worsen the insulin resistance. Stevia is OK. See my book Beat Sugar Addiction NOW! for help with this.
- The supplement D-chiro inositol 600 milligrams (mg) 1 to 2 times a day lowered elevated testosterone levels by over 70% in one study.
- Take chromium 200 to 1,000 µg daily (it has a modest effect).
- The weight loss is easier after you do the above. Also address any thyroid hormone deficiencies.
- Metformin (prescription) 500-1,000 mg 2x day is a very helpful and safe medication. It’s so wonderful and safe I think it should be classified as an honorary natural supplement! The main concern is that it will cause B12 deficiency if not taking B12 along with it. In addition to helping the overall process, it often restores fertility (and is both safe and healthy to take during the pregnancy).
- Cortef (prescription) up to 15 mg a day if symptoms/labs suggest the need for adrenal support (e.g., irritable when hungry). Adrenal expert professor William Jefferies routinely recommends ultra low-dose Cortef for PCOS. Half of a woman’s testosterone is made by the adrenal gland, and taking Cortef decreases stimulation of the adrenal. Using a natural adrenal support product may also help and is especially worth considering if the ACTH blood test is in the upper half of the normal range.
- Birth control pills can help the menstrual irregularity if it persists despite the above.