How To Treat PCOS, Because It's Important To Know What Your Options Are

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If you or someone you love suffers from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), then you’re probably well aware of the fact that there are still a bunch of specifics that need to be addressed before doctors and scientists can identify, once and for all, where PCOS starts and why. For now, experts only know how to treat PCOS with the intention of helping patients cope with the hormonal disorder, but according to new research, we might be getting closer to a definitive cure. The study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, linked the hormonal imbalance to DNA passed on from mother to daughter at birth, but until more test results come in and science can confirm this is actually the root cause of PCOS, the best doctors can do is prescribe a variety of medications, treatments, and holistic practices that women with the condition can use to ease their pain.

Even though it's downright frustrating that details like where PCOS comes from and why it happens have yet to be concretely identified, if nothing else, experts have succeeded in coming up with all sorts of ways to ease the pain of the women who are suffering. Figuring out what treatments will work for you is ultimately going to depend on your individual body, how it's reacting to the hormonal imbalance, and what your doctor thinks is best. So even though there isn't a one-size-fits-all cure as of now, it's always beneficial to explore your options. Here are a few ways doctors are treating PCOS, as well as a few suggestions regarding how you can ease symptoms at home.

Your OBGYN Might Put You On Hormonal Birth Control

Per UCLA Health's definition of PCOS, the disorder is a "hormonal abnormality" that leads to an overproduction of androgen testosterone, aka the male sex hormone, causing ovulation to plummet and menstrual cycles to become irregular, super painful, or nonexistent altogether. So how do you correct a hormonal imbalance? You balance them with synthetic hormones, and one way to do this is through birth control.

Dr. Azmina Bhayani, a family medicine physician in New York and a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health, tells Elite Daily that things like "birth control pills, patches, and/or vaginal rings" are commonly prescribed to women with PCOS to help "regulate menstrual cycles." According to the PCOS Awareness Association (PCOSAA), however, older forms of birth control are preferred, as they reduce excessive hair growth, hormonal breakouts, and are less likely to cause blood clots than newer options.

Following A Regular Exercise Routine Can Manage Insulin Levels

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According to Dr. Bhayani, lifestyle changes are some of the most "initial, and most important" treatments for PCOS, as she tells Elite Daily they are typically "low-risk and help with long-term outcome improvement." At the top of this list is following a regular exercise routine to not only help women sustain a healthy weight, but also to manage their glucose and insulin levels.

In an article for her website PCOS Diet Support, Tarryn Poulton, a PCOS health expert and former pediatric occupational therapist, explained that engaging in any physical activity, whether it's cardio or strength training, "causes glucose to be taken from the blood and moved into the muscles, lowering the need for insulin at that time and improving the body’s sensitivity to insulin." This is important, she added, because, in order for a woman's body to manage its testosterone (aka the hormone that causes the bulk of PCOS symptoms), it must first balance out its insulin.

Daria Tiesler, a registered nutritional therapist, personal trainer, and performance coach at Ultimate Performance Mayfair, told Cosmopolitan UK that a mixture of cardio, strength, and resistance training is great for women struggling with PCOS because the combination will "manage their insulin resistance" as well as "increase their muscle mass" to better metabolize glucose and carbs.

A Well-Rounded Diet Can Combat Insulin Resistance

Alisa Vitti, author of WomanCode and a women's hormone and functional nutrition expert, says another vital lifestyle change women can make when coping with PCOS is an adjustment in their eating habits. "You have to balance blood sugar, lower cortisol, reset the gut, [and] increase estrogen metabolism to allow the endocrine system to heal," the founder of MyFLO, a menstrual cycle-syncing app, tells Elite Daily. It sounds like a lot, I know, but in practice, it's not really that complicated, and by making these changes, Vitti explains, you can "put PCOS into remission naturally."

Healthline reports that, while you don't necessarily have to eliminate carbs from your diet altogether when struggling with PCOS, carbs do tend to worsen insulin resistance, so it's in your best interest to cut back on them as much as you realistically can. Foods rich in fiber, lean proteins, and anti-inflammatory items and spices, the outlet notes, are key to a PCOS diet because they lower blood sugar and keep your digestive tract on track.

There Are A Few Medical Treatments To Improve Ovulation

Due to the hormonal abnormalities associated with PCOS, women will often have difficulty ovulating and with fertility, according to the Fertility and Reproductive Medicine Center at Washington University in St. Louis. And while there are plenty of holistic treatments to help those struggling with painful symptoms, Dr. Bhayani says your physician might recommend actual medical treatments to improve ovulation.

"There are a few medical therapies for PCOS," she tells Elite Daily, and those include clomiphene citrate, letrozole, metformin, and intrauterine insemination. Clomiphene citrate, she explains, is a kind of medication that helps to induce ovulation, while letrozole controls estrogen levels in order to "increase pregnancy rates."

According to Mayo Clinic, metformin is a type of medication most commonly used to improve and lower insulin levels in type 2 diabetes patients that might be given to women battling PCOS. Intrauterine insemination, on the other hand, is a procedure in which sperm is injected into a woman's egg to encourage pregnancy.

Taking The Right Supplements Is Encouraged

According to the PCOSAA, supplements are a great way to combat painful PCOS symptoms, and it's likely you already have a few of the most important ones stowed away in your kitchen cabinets. For example, spices like cinnamon, as well as vitamins B and D fight inflammation and can help regulate a woman's menstrual cycle, so if you prefer a more holistic way of treating your discomfort, these are a few staples to add to your shopping cart.

Acupuncture Is An Option, Too

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Traditional Chinese medicine is definitely having a moment right now, and if you're suffering from PCOS symptoms, you might want to give this all-natural remedy a try. Now, personally, I'm a little freaked out when it comes to needles, but the ways in which acupuncture can ease PCOS actually make total sense.

According to the PCOS Nutrition Center, acupuncture is multi-purpose: Not only does it "increase blood flow to the uterus," it also improves endorphin production, lowers stress, and can also boost fertility. I'm not saying it's a cure-all by any means, but it might be worth a shot once or twice to see how you feel after the fact.