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PCOS... how to naturally raise estrogen to cycle normally, increase libido as well?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created February 11, 2013 at 7:11 PM

Technically this is more than one question, but since they're all related, I think they can be in the same post...

In a nutshell, I have a PCOS diagnosis, which came about from me stopping birth control and not getting a period for 10 months. My bloodwork shows that everything is "normal," but my GYN explained that because one of the hormones or levels was a certain times smaller than another, it was a sign of PCOS. I am sorry I don't have the specifics, I can't find the bloodwork results paperwork right now. My issue is that I don't produce enough estrogen to cycle properly. No insulin issues or any of that. I was put back on birth control but would prefer to be off of this and naturally raise my estrogen if that is possible. I want to start trying to conceive later this year and would like to already have myself ready to go at that point if possible. I also have suffered from little to no libido over the past few years; birth control seemed to kill that, and that's why I went off of it. Then I think it did not return because my estrogen levels are low. Or so I am assuming.

So, I would like a way to start naturally increasing my estrogen levels- whether it be through certain foods, supplements, etc. Hopefully this will also help with my libido, but I am open to suggestions for ways to naturally fix that, too- I am getting sick of essentially forcing myself to put out once a week because I feel obligated to do so- what an awful way to live. But the other thing is that even though I'd love to quit taking birth control right now, every time I start or stop BC, I seem to have awful breakouts for months on end... I'm getting married in 6 months and finally have my skin under control, and would hate to lose what I have worked so hard on and be broken out when we get married. Should I start trying to naturally increase my estrogen, etc., now, but keep taking the BC (even though it's awful and I really want to stop taking it for good) for the sake of my skin?

If it helps, before my young, naive college self decided to start taking BC to prevent pregnancy long ago, I did get very regular periods (every 2 months like clockwork, but from what I understand that's actually fine and healthy), I had a great libido (which remained so on BC, it didn't die until I switched to Seasonale... now no matter what I do I can't seem to get that back)

I will also note that I am not technically "overweight," but am working on losing about 10 pounds (or a few inches, anyway). I weight 150 and am 5'7"

Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab

(32564)

on February 26, 2013
at 01:43 AM

My experience is that it can take 6-18 months of focused nutrient-dense eating to correct a hormone imbalance. Vitex works for some, but again, think of 4-6 months, not weeks. Be patient!

753e1b824fbe0b11c797a244b1a4c7e3

(369)

on February 25, 2013
at 10:15 PM

And I hate, hate, hate that the first thing they do is insist you take birth control pills. As I stated, I did start taking them again with that suggestion, but after I finished my pack last month I decided 'no more.' Along with my diet changes that I started in August, I have now, recently, started taking Vitex after reading up on it possibly boosting progesterone production, and therefore, estrogen. It seemed more harmless and natural to try...

753e1b824fbe0b11c797a244b1a4c7e3

(369)

on February 25, 2013
at 10:03 PM

I definitely agree with you, and am still hoping that cleaning up my eating will help. It's been maybe 6 months since being diagnosed, and I started eating way better soon after. I also often wonder if there is really something else going on; I feel like PCOS is a diagnosis that can be quickly handed out... After all as a teenager, college student, etc, my eating was far worse but I had none of the problems I have now. Plus, the reaction of the doctor who ordered the hormone testing was that everything was normal, it was the GYN that I then took them to who walked in and said "You have PCOS."

3491e51730101b18724dc57c86601173

(8395)

on February 11, 2013
at 11:20 PM

Added: I'd certainly want to know what's going on metabolically before I'd let the doctor talk me into hormone treatments for PCOS. BCP's generally don't fix the problem, just mask the problem, and some of them cause more problems in the long run (especially the tri-cyclic ones). I understand about the skin, but a good anti-inflammatory paleo diet can really help the skin.

3491e51730101b18724dc57c86601173

(8395)

on February 11, 2013
at 11:16 PM

If you are trying to conceive it helps to know what you are up against and have something to track. But if you're not ready to conceive yet, then you can just try doing it empirically. If you're trying to conceive and all your dietary tweaks haven't worked, you might consider Metformin at that point. I was not TTC when I first went low carb, just trying to improve my health, and I took Metformin too. And I conceived. I was thrilled but I was 41 and NOT expecting it, having gone through IVF to conceive my eldest (before we knew there was a metabolic connection).

753e1b824fbe0b11c797a244b1a4c7e3

(369)

on February 11, 2013
at 09:44 PM

Great point-I do not know for total certainty that I am not insulin resistant based off of the testing I had. However, I have been eating paleo for 6 months now, so for the most part, I think I do a decent job of LCHF, which is probably a big part of already losing 10lbs with no dieting and not a major increase in exercise from what I did pre-paleo. I probably could lower my carbs by limiting my fruit intake, which is an easy modification to make to my current lifestyle/something I should do anyway. Do you think it is necessary to request more bloodwork (specifically the test you recommended)?

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3 Answers

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Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab

(32564)

on February 25, 2013
at 09:26 PM

My opinion is that most PCOS is caused by malnutrition (lack of certain nutrients) or environmental factors.

I wrote a couple of blog articles that may be helpful:

http://www.sondrarose.com/optimum-fertility-nutrition

http://www.sondrarose.com/optimum-fertility-environment

753e1b824fbe0b11c797a244b1a4c7e3

(369)

on February 25, 2013
at 10:03 PM

I definitely agree with you, and am still hoping that cleaning up my eating will help. It's been maybe 6 months since being diagnosed, and I started eating way better soon after. I also often wonder if there is really something else going on; I feel like PCOS is a diagnosis that can be quickly handed out... After all as a teenager, college student, etc, my eating was far worse but I had none of the problems I have now. Plus, the reaction of the doctor who ordered the hormone testing was that everything was normal, it was the GYN that I then took them to who walked in and said "You have PCOS."

Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab

(32564)

on February 26, 2013
at 01:43 AM

My experience is that it can take 6-18 months of focused nutrient-dense eating to correct a hormone imbalance. Vitex works for some, but again, think of 4-6 months, not weeks. Be patient!

753e1b824fbe0b11c797a244b1a4c7e3

(369)

on February 25, 2013
at 10:15 PM

And I hate, hate, hate that the first thing they do is insist you take birth control pills. As I stated, I did start taking them again with that suggestion, but after I finished my pack last month I decided 'no more.' Along with my diet changes that I started in August, I have now, recently, started taking Vitex after reading up on it possibly boosting progesterone production, and therefore, estrogen. It seemed more harmless and natural to try...

0
3491e51730101b18724dc57c86601173

(8395)

on February 11, 2013
at 09:07 PM

How do you know you're not insulin resistant? Very few doctors run the correct tests. The best is a C-Peptide test, which measures your levels of insulin. Testing glucose, including glucose tolerance tests, may miss insulin resistance. And not everyone has classic symptoms. Plenty of thin people are insulin resistant.

I'm saying this to indicate that you should not write off insulin resistance and treating it that way, out of hand. It may be that you truly are not insulin resistant, but I think that insulin resistance is often missed because it is too easily discounted as an underlying factor in PCOS.

I beleive that there are probably at least three underlying pathways of PCOS. This is my own speculation, not scientific evidence, but from observation: 1. Insulin resistance. This is often hereditary. It responds well to diet (low carb, high fat) and sometimes added Metformin. I believe this is by far the most common pathway for PCOS. 2. Adrenal. This is PCOS caused by adrenal issues and needs to be addressed through the adrenal system, although sometimes it can be mixed with insulin resistance as well. I think this is less common. 3. Obesity induced PCOS. Some women experience PCOS-like symptoms because of obesity. Personally, I think that while this can happen, this is very UNcommon--most obese women with PCOS had the insulin resistance first. Weight comes later, and sometimes not at all. Unfortnuately, the medical community thinks obesity is the primary cause of PCOS, so many women hear "if you'd just lose some weight . . . ". They couldn't say that to me when I weighed 110 lbs at 5'2", but once I gained a lot of weight I was told my PCOS would go away "if I'd just lose some weight". Obviously not if I had it when I was thin, too.

So you may have insulin resistance or you may have adrenal issues. Since insulin resistance is more likely, it's worth absolutely ruling out. I think it's also easier to treat (reduce carbs, up fat).

And a good resource for getting pregnant with PCOS (especially if you do turn out to be insulin resistant) is Dr. Michael Fox--see http://www.dietdoctor.com/how-to-eat-to-get-pregnant

3491e51730101b18724dc57c86601173

(8395)

on February 11, 2013
at 11:20 PM

Added: I'd certainly want to know what's going on metabolically before I'd let the doctor talk me into hormone treatments for PCOS. BCP's generally don't fix the problem, just mask the problem, and some of them cause more problems in the long run (especially the tri-cyclic ones). I understand about the skin, but a good anti-inflammatory paleo diet can really help the skin.

3491e51730101b18724dc57c86601173

(8395)

on February 11, 2013
at 11:16 PM

If you are trying to conceive it helps to know what you are up against and have something to track. But if you're not ready to conceive yet, then you can just try doing it empirically. If you're trying to conceive and all your dietary tweaks haven't worked, you might consider Metformin at that point. I was not TTC when I first went low carb, just trying to improve my health, and I took Metformin too. And I conceived. I was thrilled but I was 41 and NOT expecting it, having gone through IVF to conceive my eldest (before we knew there was a metabolic connection).

753e1b824fbe0b11c797a244b1a4c7e3

(369)

on February 11, 2013
at 09:44 PM

Great point-I do not know for total certainty that I am not insulin resistant based off of the testing I had. However, I have been eating paleo for 6 months now, so for the most part, I think I do a decent job of LCHF, which is probably a big part of already losing 10lbs with no dieting and not a major increase in exercise from what I did pre-paleo. I probably could lower my carbs by limiting my fruit intake, which is an easy modification to make to my current lifestyle/something I should do anyway. Do you think it is necessary to request more bloodwork (specifically the test you recommended)?

0
1568416ef28477d1fa29046218d83ddd

(6235)

on February 11, 2013
at 08:44 PM

This is the only suggestion I have handy- seed cycling.

I have not tried it, but I have heard good things about it.

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