If you have polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, your ovaries produce an excess of androgens--the group of male hormones that includes testosterone. Such an excess can lead to a number of troublesome symptoms, such as acne, excess body hair and fertility problems. The exact causes of PCOS remain unknown, but several factors might contribute, such as excess insulin production, genetics and chronic inflammation. You can take action to lower the production of testosterone and other androgens to help curb these symptoms. Use caution with alternative treatments; scientific evidence is lacking and you should work with a professional experienced in using herbs and other natural supplements to ensure safe and effective usage.
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Use conventional medications that reduce the production of testosterone and other androgens in the body. The Mayo Clinic notes that birth control pills that contain female hormones and the anti-androgen medication spironolactone both affect androgen levels and may help reduce symptoms such as unwanted hair growth and acne.
Eat a diet low in carbohydrates that lead to elevated blood sugar levels and the release of large amounts of insulin at once. The Mayo Clinic notes that the inability of the body to use insulin efficiently can contribute to the production of excess androgens, which seems to be a major factor in causing PCOS. Cut back on fast-digesting carbohydrates such as white bread and pasta; soda; fruit juice; and sugary items like cookies, cake and ice cream.
Consume complex carbohydrates--their more complex structure leads to a slower breakdown in the body, which encourages a steadier release of glucose into the bloodstream and the release of less insulin. Good choices include whole grains like whole wheat, oatmeal, barley, bulgur and brown rice. Other good choices include vegetables and fruits. The Mayo Clinic notes that some health professionals advocate a diet low in all carbohydrates, regardless of type, to treat PCOS, but this approach requires more research. Additionally, this type of diet would naturally increase your intake of unhealthy fats since it would require you to consume greater amounts of protein.
Eat whole soy foods like tofu, tempeh and soybeans as recommended by physician and integrative medicine expert Dr. Andrew Weil. These foods contain phytoestrogens--a weaker type of estrogen than found in the body--that can help alleviate the hormonal imbalances of PCOS.
Experiment with herbal therapy under the supervision of a qualified professional. Dr. Weil makes mention of a study that appeared in the July 2007 volume of “Fertility and Sterility” that found consuming cinnamon powder lowered insulin resistance in women who have PCOS. He also notes a study in Turkey that found drinking spearmint tea twice a day for five days lowered androgen levels in women with hirsuitism, or excess hair growth; 12 of the 21 women in the test had PCOS. Traditional Chinese medicine commonly uses the herbs peony and licorice to treat PCOS. Taking herbs that promote balanced hormone production in females, such as vitex, or that help the liver remove excess hormones from the body, such as dandelion root, have also been touted as treatments to reduce testosterone production but lack scientific evidence.