Did you know that the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recommends lifestyle therapy as first-line treatment for PCOS? This includes weight loss, exercise and appropriate healthy eating – all of which we address in the PCOS SOLUTION Program, plus much more.
However, instead of lifestyle therapies, doctors offer medications as first-line therapy for PCOS, such as:
- Birth control pills to control symptoms (especially if you don’t want to get pregnant).
- Spironolactone to block the effects of excess testosterone that causes acne and hair growth.
- Metformin and clomid to help you ovulate if you DO want to get pregnant.
Check out this article we wrote about these medications to learn more.
Is there a disconnect here?
So, first-line therapy for PCOS is embracing important lifestyle changes. But if you have spoken with your doctor, our guess is that the focus of your conversation was not about lifestyle changes. It’s more likely it was about drugs to improve your symptoms.
Make no mistake, combination birth control pills can reduce the symptoms of PCOS. If you suffer from acne, facial hair, hair loss on your scalp and struggle with irregular or heavy and clotty periods, then birth control pills can be a welcome relief.
If you are trying to get pregnant, metformin alone, without changing anything about your health or lifestyle, may help you ovulate and possibly help you lose weight to improve your chances of getting pregnant.
So what’s the downside to this approach?
Here’s what your doctor may not tell you: PCOS is more than just a bunch of annoying cosmetic symptoms and problems getting pregnant.
If you have PCOS and ARE pregnant, you may be at greater risk of miscarriage, diabetes in pregnancy, pre-eclampsia, growth issues for the baby, c-section, and even stillbirth. If you have PCOS and are not concerned about getting pregnant, then you may be at greater risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, and getting certain cancers.
The point is, if the underlying causes are not identified and fixed, you won’t really remove the risks associated with PCOS. What you may not know is that you can REVERSE this hormone imbalance – not just reduce the symptoms you experience.
How the PCOS Solution program reverses PCOS
To actually reverse PCOS and prevent the more serious risks that come with it, you have to address your lifestyle issues – just as AGOG recommends. Why? All of the underlying causes of PCOS have to do with your lifestyle. Here are the top underlying lifestyle issues, all of which we cover in depth in the PCOS SOLUTION Program:
Acute or chronic stressors, both emotional and physical, including constant sleep disruption and inflammation, can mess with your brain-adrenal-ovary communication. This can lead to the hormone imbalance symptoms we see in PCOS:
- High cortisol and insulin
- Abdominal weight gain
- High androgen (“male”) hormones
- Unwanted hair growth
- Lack of ovulation
- Irregular cycles
How to fix stress hormone imbalance? Get your sleep in order and commit to the stress reduction techniques outlined clearly in our program.
Got some extra weight to lose?
PCOS often comes with blood sugar problems. You can be fit or lean and have blood sugar issues, and eventually it progresses to insulin resistance and weight gain, especially abdominal or “muffin top” weight. This can cause these PCOS imbalances:
- High androgens
- Estrogen dominance
- Low progesterone
- Lack of ovulation
- Irregular cycles
How to fix? Address diet and exercise! Find the right way to eat and the exercise that is right for you. There is no one-size-fits-all here.
Got stomach or digestive troubles?
Research shows that women with PCOS have a disrupted intestinal (gut) microbiome. This means you may lack certain beneficial bacteria that transform and regulate your hormones and keep you lean. You can also have an overgrowth of “bad” bacteria that doesn’t allow your good bacteria to thrive.
How to fix? First address diet! Pay attention to prebiotics, probiotics and get rid of foods that support the bad guys. We walk you through this in the PCOS SOLUTION program.
Do you breathe or eat?
Then you’ve got some toxins to deal with. The sheer number of toxic chemicals in our environment can disrupt your hormones in many ways. Many of these chemicals act like estrogens in your body, causing these symptoms:
- Heavy periods
- Breast tenderness
How to fix? Reduce your exposures and improve your detoxification systems through lifestyle! The list of exposures are plenty – we go through them one at a time and teach you easy ways to purify your environment and your life!
the missing link in conventional medical care
Although most doctors know that lifestyle change is important, most physicians just don’t have the time or training to guide you through the steps you need to heal PCOS. It is far easier to hand over a prescription than it is to figure out what changes you need to make in your life, and guide you through them! Our Functional Medicine lifestyle-centric approach can help you with this process step by step, even if you are on medications.
If you are on birth control pills, metformin, aldactone or powerful medications that push you to ovulate, you don’t need to abandon them if they are helpful to you! You can use these medications WITH lifestyle strategies to reduce your risks and improve your symptoms.
navigating medications while healing naturally
If you wish to get off of your medications, please do so ONLY after discussing it with your doctor. She can explain what to expect after stopping the medication and what cautions to look out for. Here are examples of “what to expect:”
What to expect once you stop birth control pills
For starters, your acne may get worse. This is unfortunately a common side effect of stopping the pill. Because your oil glands are suppressed on the pill they go wild once they are released from this inhibition. This is temporary – usually just the first 3 to 4 months off the pill. Your periods will return to their former selves – you may not get any periods or they may be heavy and crampy. It takes time to see lifestyle changes fix your cycle (expect 3 months up to a year), though we have seen periods become more regular within our 6 week program!
What to expect when you stop metformin
You may experience blood sugar changes when you stop metformin, particularly if you are diabetic or pre-diabetic. If you do have significant blood sugar problems, it may be best to stay on this medication while you start lifestyle changes. Then, gradually lower medication dosages (with your doctor’s guidance) as you notice changes in your weight, your blood sugar values or how you feel.
What to expect when you stop spironolactone
Fortunately if you are using it for hair issues there will not be an immediate response to stopping it since it takes 2-3 months to see improvement or worsening in your hair growth cycle.
what to pay attention to when you do the PCOS SOLUTION while on medications
If you wish to stay on your medications while shifting your lifestyle, then be aware that you may have to make adjustments to your meds.
- You may not need quite as much metformin to stabilize your blood sugar once your diet is dialed in or once your exercise is consistent.
- You may start getting your period again, which means you could get pregnant whether you want to or not! So be careful to use another form of contraception if you are having sex and no longer taking birth control pills.
- Those of you on clomid may respond to the medication more effectively, which is great news but beware of the increased risk of twins or triplets, as your ovulation may be more exaggerated than before.
The good news is that shifting your lifestyle to reverse PCOS can be done with or without medication. The only potential downside to keep in mind is that while on a birth control pill, you miss out on a really obvious symptom that shows you are reversing PCOS: the presence of a natural regular period!
You are completely welcome to take the PCOS SOLUTION Program while on any of your meds! It does not have to be an all-or-nothing endeavor. Please ask questions or comment below . . .