Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: Identify Symptoms And Eliminate Root Causes Through Functional Medicine

A stethoscope with the words pcos on it.

Identify Symptoms And Eliminate Root Causes Through Functional Medicine

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) affects millions of women and is one of the most common endocrine problems in the world. However, it is often missed as a diagnosis, and when diagnosed, it is not treated appropriately conventionally. Conventional medicine does not address the underlying causes of PCOS and aims to mask its symptoms by prescribing drugs with negative side effects, often doing more harm than any good in the long run.

PCOS is caused by hormone imbalance. But that is not all we are dealing with. Hormone Imbalance is itself triggered by different root causes that can include environmental toxins, pharmaceutical drugs, frequent use of antibiotics, oral contraceptives, abnormal changes in the gut microbiome, adrenal dysfunction, insulin resistance, thyroid dysfunction, inflammation as some examples. We will discuss the symptoms of PCOS so you can recognize the signs of imbalance in your body. We will also discuss some of the underlying causes of PCOS. I will give you more information on how functional medicine tackles PCOS by identifying and addressing its root causes. Through functional medicine you will have tools you can use to restore balance to your hormones naturally, rather than using drugs like synthetic oral contraceptives so you can avoid their side effects and potential negative long term health consequences.


1. What Is PCOS

2. What Causes PCOS

2a. Excess Androgens

2b. Insulin Resistance

2c. Genetic Predisposition

2d. Environmental Toxins

2f. Gut Microbial Imbalance

2g. Thyroid Dysfunction

2h. Inflammation

3. What Are The Symptoms Of PCOS

3a. Irregular Periods

3b. Acne

3c. Excess Facial Hair

3d. Weight Gain

3e. High Cholesterol

3f. Infertility


4. How Is PCOS Diagnosed

5. How Is PCOS Treated Conventionally

6. How Is PCOS Treated With Functional Medicine

What Is PCOS?

Irregular periods, acne, ovarian cyst, hair growth on the body, weight gain, maybe you have one or more of these symptoms, and if you do you may fall on the spectrum of PCOS.

PCOS is a condition that includes one or more of a group of symptoms that include ovarian cysts, irregular periods, abnormal hormone levels, acne, abnormal hair growth, weight gain, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, or high insulin and infertility in some.

Your doctor may have told you that you have PCOS and offered you oral contraceptives as a treatment.

What Causes PCOS?

Although the exact cause of PCOS is unknown as one specific causative factor, several factors can have a causative role in developing PCOS symptoms that can occur individually or together. Below are some of the most common contributing factors to developing PCOS.

Excess Androgens

Although conventionally medical doctors don’t know what is the exact cause of PCOS, research has shown that high androgen levels play a big role. Higher levels of male hormones known as androgens such as testosterone interfere with the balanced production of estrogen and progesterone we normally see under healthy circumstances. Normal ovaries do produce about half of a woman’s testosterone but in PCOS there is excess production which interferes with normal ovarian hormone production and prevent ovulation causing infertility. The imbalance causing high androgen levels can be caused by anything that disrupts healthy ovarian function especially in genetically predisposed individuals. These include obesity, insulin resistance and inflammation a highly processed food diet, environmental toxins, oral contraceptives, and gut microbial imbalance.

Insulin Resistance

The main driving factor causing PCOS is insulin resistance. It is insulin resistance that causes excess androgen production. Insulin is a hormone produced by your pancreas. Its main function is to regulate your blood sugar levels. Under healthy circumstances our pancreas secretes insulin in the right amounts only when we have eaten to manage blood sugar levels. However, factors such as poor dietary habits, physical inactivity, toxic body burden, and imbalanced gut bacteria can cause imbalance in insulin secretion and too much insulin being pumped out. As the pancreas has to pump out more and more insulin as a result of having to work harder and harder to deal with the sugar loads running through the blood stream, Insulin Resistance develops. This happens because the body’s cells like fat, liver and muscle cells are not responding to insulin levels as they would under healthy circumstances so the pancreas has to pump out more insulin to try to deal with the high blood sugar. The higher insulin levels circulating in the blood cause an increase in androgen hormones like testosterone or DHEA which cause some of the symptoms associated with PCOS.

Some of the best ways to address insulin resistance are through an ancestral diet and exercise. Decreasing carbohydrate intake, eliminating processed foods and decreasing chemical exposure and eating more pasture raised organic protein like eggs, poultry, grass-fed meats, and organic leafy vegetable along with healthy fats like olive oil can be a very important process of addressing PCOS and insulin resistance.

Genetic Predisposition

There are studies that show genetic predisposition as one factors causing PCOS. However even when we are genetically predisposed to a condition environmental factors can turn the genes on (up-regulate) or off (down-regulate). Meaning even in those who may have a genetic predisposition to PCOS, environmental factors like what you eat, medications you take, toxins you may be exposed to, your gut microbial health affect those genes and wether they manifest in disease or not. You can learn more about your hormones and how your body metabolizes your hormones with a comprehensive hormone and hormone metabolite profile like the Dutch Complete Female Panel. Based on imbalances you can make sure to take the necessary steps to optimize your health and restore balance to your hormones.

Environmental Toxins

PCOS symptoms can be also be triggered by toxins. Toxins are one of the main underlying causes of disease. Toxins are endocrine disruptors, causing hormone imbalance including insulin resistance.

Unfortunately today toxins are rampant in the environment and this is compounded by confusion around what is a healthy diet, leading people to turn to foods that they think may be healthy but are actually toxic.

Environmental toxins can include heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, mercury, thallium, aluminum, environmental pollutants like PBA’s, Parabens, persistent organic pollutants, and processed and genetically modified foods. The right functional medicine testing can identify your body toxic burden and based on your results together with your unique clinical history and genetics customize personalized targeted integrative treatments that will sport your body’s natural detoxification pathways while using treatments to detoxify the toxins along with prescribed therapeutic lifestyle modification.

Imbalanced Gut Bacteria

Another underlying cause of PCOS can be alterations in gut and microbial balance and changes in short chain fatty acids which are secreted but gut microbes. Not only does gut microbial imbalance cause digestive disorders, a large number of studies have confirmed that imbalanced gut microbes can trigger the development of PCOS. Correctly identifying imbalances in gut microbial health and restoring balance is an important part of treating PCOS root causes and restoring hormone health and balance to your body.

Optimizing thyroid health and correctly identifying deficiencies in thyroid hormones is another important part of addressing hormone Imbalance and root causes of PCOS. Conventional medicine and conventional labs do not correctly identify thyroid hormone deficiency and can miss many people who suffer from thyroid disorders

Stress on the body wether it is physiologic or psychologic can have a negative impact on adrenal health and thereby cause hormone imbalance and PCOS like symptoms. Alterations in cortisol can lead to insulin resistance and symptoms that include increase in body hair growth, weight gain, lipid abnormalities, irregular periods, and ovarian cysts.

In my practice I use Advanced Diagnostic testing that includes more thorough thyroid tests along with clinical expertise and lab ranges that better identify hypothyroidism to identify and address those suffering from thyroid hormone deficiency. Treating thyroid hormone deficiency and thyroid deficiency symptoms that are frequently missed and under diagnosed conventionally is a necessary part of successfully treating root causes of PCOS.

Imbalances between estrogen and progesterone can also result in ovarian cysts and can both mimic PCOS symptoms and contribute to PCOS and PCOS patients often have low progesterone. Correctly identifying hormone imbalance and optimizing estrogen and progesterone balance and levels can help alleviate symptoms of PCOS and help restore menstrual regularity.


Studies have demonstrated a correlation between inflammation and PCOS. In healthy circumstances the body uses inflammation to protect itself in response to to acute injury or infection. This is when your body is in a state of balance and your immune system is working well, your body uses inflammation to protect, for example if there is a wound. In cases like this inflammation is around the local problem like the surrounding skin of a wound and goes away as the wound heals.

This is contrary to inflammation that is ongoing, chronic and throughout the body. This kind of inflammation is one of the main root causes of many chronic diseases. This type of inflammation keeps your body on high alerts all the time and can result in chronic disease such as autoimmune disease.

Studies show that chronic inflammation is also a culprit and underlying cause in PCOS. One way that PCOS results from chronic inflammation is via insulin resistance, excess glucose in your body, which causes oxidative stress and inflammation. Another way that chronic inflammation can be triggered is by imbalanced gut bacteria, negative changes in your gut microbiome causing constant influx of microbial toxins that put your immune system on high alert causing chronic inflammation that can also play a role in PCOS.

Through functional medicine you are able to take back control by finding the root causes of inflammation and addressing them.

What we can do through expertise in Functional Medicine is find the source(s) of inflammation, address, and reverse them. Inflammation is one of the main root causes of disease, including PCOS. One of the best way I begin tackling inflammation in the body is through Health Restore Detox Program, that supports your body while improving your diet, supporting gut health, helping detoxification and setting your body up for success.

What Are The Symptoms Of PCOS?

Symptoms of PCOS are traditionally lumped into a box that includes irregular periods, excess hair growth, acne, high levels of hormones like Testosterone and DHEA, thinning hair or regressed hair line, weight gain, and ovarian cysts. You may get a diagnosis of PCOS conventionally if you have any of these symptoms. However there are other symptoms you can have that fall on the spectrum of PCOS. Regardless, PCOS is a disease name and tells us nothing about the root cause of the problem. Ultimately, each symptom each unique individual experiences has a root causes that when addressed alleviates the symptoms and condition.

Symptoms of PCOS are correlated with hormone imbalance but again it is important to note that even the hormone imbalance can be seen as a symptom that has root causes.

Symptoms Of PCOS Include:

Irregular Periods: Many women with PCOS have irregular periods with cycles that are too long or too short. They can miss periods or stop menstruating for months at a time.

Thinning Hair or Hair line: There can be hair loss, thinning hair throughout the scalp or an increase in receding the frontal hairline.

Acne: Some women with PCOS have pimples on face, chest or upper back

Excess Facial or Body Hair Growth: Most women with PCOS have increase in hair growth on face, chin, arms, chest, abdomen or back. Hair growth is seen on body parts men have more hair on due to increase in Insulin levels that causes hormone imbalance in the women.

Weight Gain: Weight gain or difficulty losing increased weight is common in women with PCOS

High Cholesterol: Hormone imbalance and increase in insulin levels cause high cholesterol in PCOS

Infertility: Some women with PCOS may struggle with fertility or have difficulty conceiving due to abnormal hormone levels.

Hyperpigmentation: Darkening of the skin can happen especially on the back of the neck in creases, under the beasts, armpits or groin can occur.

10 foods that help balance hormones.
How is PCOS Diagnosed?

PCOS can be diagnosed by symptoms or a group of clinical symptoms. The diagnosis can also be made using laboratory testing that may show abnormal levels of hormones, including DHEA or testosterone, elevated cholesterol, elevated fasting insulin, cystic ovaries, or frequent ovarian cysts. Conventional doctors do not look at insulin levels traditionally but abnormal fasting insulin is a driving factor in PCOS. In some women, hormone levels can be normal, and there may be a history of ovarian cyst but not multiple cysts, or cystic ovaries. In these cases if other clinical symptoms are present you may still fall on the spectrum of PCOS.

How Is PCOS Treated Conventionally?

PCOS is conventionally treated with oral contraceptives that unfortunately do nothing to address the root causes and have a lengthy and serious side effect profile. Side Effects of oral Contraceptives and other synthetic hormone options including IUD and Implantable devices like Nexplanon include increased risk of cancer, blood clots that can lead to death, and autoimmune disease. At best oral contraceptives block your natural hormone production and replace them with synthetic hormones that do not have the same effects as your own natural hormones and actually have numerous negative and very serious side effects. In fact oral contraceptives worsen aspects of health such as gut microbial balance, toxicity, that worsen the root causes of PCOS.

Even if temporarily periods seem to be regular when taking oral contraceptives its important to know that bleeding caused by or stopped by oral contraceptive (synthetic hormones) is not a healthy natural period, that under healthy circumstances is the sign that your body is healthy, youthful, and in balance to secrete the right amounts of hormones at the right time.

The synthetic hormones in oral contraceptives work by blocking your natural ovarian hormone production and replacing them with synthetic hormones. The problem is that synthetic hormones in oral contraceptives do not have the same beneficial effects as your body’s natural hormones and comes with a side effect profile that includes blood clots, cancer, and fungal or candida overgrowth, lower thyroid and natural testosterone levels and increased inflammatory markers while also increasing the risk of new onset autoimmunity. These are just a few of the side effects of the synthetic hormones in oral contraceptive.

There is a better way to address imbalances in your body through functional medicine, without putting you at greater risk of drug side effects and masking root causes of your health problem allowing the root causes to worsen as conventionally practiced.

How Is PCOS Treated With Functional Medicine?

Treatment of PCOS through Functional Medicine when working with an experienced physician is Integrative addressing the entire patient and their entire health. The goal is to eliminate the negative symptoms using the most natural means possible while addressing the root causes that trigger the disease process. We use more advanced blood tests, along with functional testing to identify root causes including looking at the health and imbalances in the gut microbiome, identify body burden of environmental toxins, identify nutrient deficiencies, optimize thyroid health, insulin metabolism, balance hormones and identify genetic polymorphisms to bypass using research based nutrients. We use targeted physician formulated nutraceuticals, bioidentical hormone therapy when appropriate, thyroid health optimization, detoxification, gut health and microbiome restoration as treatments to help the body regain balance. Results are regular periods, shedding unwanted pounds, improved energy, focus and improved cholesterol, blood sugar and insulin levels.

Physician Formulated, High Quality, Research Based Supplements Can Help Balance Your Hormones

Along with lifestyle modification targeted, research based, clinically proven supplementation can be very helpful in restoring hormone balance and supporting the body naturally in PCOS.

Below are a few of my favorite supplements I use to help support hormone balance in women and those with PCOS

Adrenal Revive is a cutting edge formula designed to support and restore optimal thyroid gland health, strengthen the adrenal gland integrity along with blend of adaptogenic herbs that supports optimal stress response, adrenal health and stress hormone production.

FemRevive is a natural and effective complimentary herbal formula that work to support hormone level and promote hormone balance particularly in times of stress and anytime the natural intricate balance of hormones needs support.

ThyroComplex provides key nutrients that support optimal thyroid hormone production and supports healthy lipid levels, and metabolism

Glucontrol Lean is an extraordinary combination of natural herbs and nutrients for healthy insulin and blood sugar control, I love this natural formula because it not only supports healthy insulin levels, but also helps curb cravings, supports lean body composition, healthy cholesterol levels, skin hair, nails, and healthy energy metabolism!

The root causes of PCOS are overlooked conventionally You are now empowered with knowledge of some of the root causes of PCOS by reading this article and can take control of your reproductive health. If you think you may be suffering from some of the symptoms of PCOS, you can work with an experienced, certified functional medicine physician to have appropriate testing and balance your hormones and optimize your health. You don’t have to succumb yourself to unnatural and unsafe drugs like oral contraceptives prescribed conventionally to mask PCOS. You can take back your power and incorporate these daily natural solutions that relieve the symptoms of PCOS as you choose to work with a Functional Medicine physician to optimize your health.

I commonly sees young women with a diagnosis of PCOS who have seen numerous physicians, including endocrinologists, hormone specialists, and even contemporary practitioners. Unfortunately they have not had the proper evaluation to address the root causes and eliminate their negative symptoms by restoring a state of health and balance in their body.

Most have had prescriptions of synthetic oral contraceptives, and other drugs including spironolactone, anti-depressants and weight loss drugs, that have not helped the root cause of their problem all of which come with serious side effect profile, that have not helped address the root cause of their problem. Most are completely unaware of the side effect profile that the drugs come with and that likely any benefit does not outweigh the risks. Using Functional Medicine tools we peel away the layers that have contributed to a diagnosis of PCOS and can frequently eliminate the negative symptoms while restoring a state of optimal health and well-being to the whole body.

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