Is your acne hormonally driven? Irregular menstrual cycles, weight gain, fertility issues, high androgen levels, facial hair and acne may all point in the direction of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic ovarian syndrome may sound like a mouthful but it is the most common endocrine disorder affecting women of reproductive age. And its also a pretty massive hormonal cause for acne.
So what exactly IS PCOS?
“Poly” meaning many, and “cyst” meaning egg, the name of the condition translates to too many eggs being produced in the ovaries. In a healthy cycle, one egg (or follicle) will mature at ovulation and either be fertilised to fall pregnant or imbed in the endometrial lining unfertilised resulting in a period. In PCOS, many immature eggs are formed causing disruption to ovulation.
So, if you’re presenting with some of these symptoms, how do you find out if you have PCOS? The first place to start is to measure your androgen/testosterone levels via salivary hormone testing. Saliva is the most accurate medium to show available circulating hormones. It’s always recommended that a full female profile is taken including oestrogen’s, progesterone and adrenal hormones to assess comprehensively. A pelvic ultrasound, referred to by your GP, can allow a good look at the anatomy of your reproductive system and a count of the number of follicles on each ovary.
Although it can be a serious condition, it’s not as scary as it may sound and the good news about PCOS is that it is cyclical, which means each month your lifestyle and diet choices along with natural medicines can have a profound impact in improving or reversing the cycle.
As insulin resistance is a common cause, adequate exercise is so important as physical activity switches on insulin receptor sites for healthy blood sugar metabolism. A low GI diet, specifically low in sugar, grains and dairy will help hugely to reset biochemical pathways in the body and help with hormone balance, slowing down that excess sebum that is essentially feeding the p.acnes bacteria in acne infection. Genetics may play a role in the cause of this condition but your diet and lifestyle can influence how those genes are expressed.
Commonly prescribed, the pill will temporarily break the cycle as it inhibits ovulation, but it is not a long term solution as it won’t be addressing the underlying causes for the hormonal imbalances that caused the condition, often recurring once the pill is ceased.
There is no one-size-fits-all prescription of natural medicines but some commonly prescribed and effective treatments, along with diet and exercise, include peony, licorice, thuja, chaste tree, zinc and chromium.
As always, consult a health professional, don’t Dr Google, and test, don’t guess. For a personalised skin and hormone assessment and salivary hormone test, contact me for an appointment here
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I’m Brooke Venables, I’m a naturopath, acne specialist and an ex-acne sufferer. I’ve been there, I know what you’re going through.