Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a complex disorder of the endocrine system affecting 5 to 10 per cent of women of reproductive age. It is not known what causes PCOS, however it is thought that the exposure to testosterone as a developing fetus may play a role. The hallmark characteristic of PCOS is insulin resistance. With insulin resistance your body has a poor response to glucose in your blood stream which may increase your risk for type 2 diabetes.

Another feature of PCOS is estrogen dominance in which there is a high ratio of estrogen to progesterone in your body which leads to an overstimulation of your cells by estrogen. Many patients with PCOS are placed on blood sugar lowering medication such as metformin or the birth control pill. This may be helpful for some people; however there are also many natural ways to manage this condition.

Characteristics of PCOS

Polycystic ovarian syndrome 1 - testosteronePCOS is diagnosed when 2 of the 3 symptoms are present: multiple cysts present on your ovaries, the absence of ovulation and an elevation of testosterone in your blood and/or the presence of androgenic features such as increased body hair.

Other symptoms include: acne; male pattern hair loss; menstrual irregularities such as amenorrhea or the absence of a period; obesity; and infertility. According to the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada, the first line treatment for managing PCOS should be exercise and diet changes to lose weight.


Weight bearing exercise combined with cardiovascular exercise is imperative for increasing insulin sensitivity and reducing your body fat. Reducing your total body fat is important as your fat cells play a role in the synthesis of estrogen. Another positive feature of exercise is that when you activate your muscles the excess glucose will be taken up into your working muscles and used as fuel. Remember that exercise does not have to be costly. Hiking, dancing, walking, and lifting weights either at a gym or at home are great activities to consider when researching exercise routines that may work for you. Try working with a personal trainer however, if you need some guidance when first starting out.


A good diet for PCOS includes eating meals every 3 to 4 hours to keep your blood sugar levels stable. It will also include protein at each meal along with healthy fat such as extra virgin olive oil, avocado, nut or seed butter to improve satiation and to reduce sugar cravings. Whole, high fiber foods with an emphasis on green leafy vegetables from the cruciferous family such as kale, arugula, brussel sprouts and cabbage will help to regulate your bowel movements, detoxify excess estrogens and prevent estrogen from becoming reabsorbed from your colon back into your blood stream.


Inositol, in particular the two forms, Myo-Inositol and D-chiro Inositol are sugar like molecules which help to regulate blood glucose levels and to manage PCOS. Supplemental inositol plays an important role in improving egg quality. It regulates your hormones which improves the function of your ovaries. Your body is able to make a small amount of inositol and foods sources include brown rice, citrus fruit and whole grain bread; however, it is most common to take it in a supplement form to manage PCOS.

Chaste Tree (Vitex agnes-castus)

Polycystic ovarian syndrome 2 - remediesChaste tree is a plant native to some parts of Europe and Africa; it has been used for centuries to treat hormonal irregularities in women. One hormone often elevated in PCOS is prolactin, leading to a condition called prolactinemia. Elevated prolactin can lead to estrogen dominance and thus contribute to the symptoms of PCOS. Chaste tree extract has been used to decrease prolactin and improve the menstrual cycle, ovulation and premenstrual symptoms. It is usually taken in a liquid extract or a tablet form.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a multifaceted disorder which can be successfully managed through natural means. It is important to consult with your health care provider before taking supplements including herbal remedies to treat this condition. Your health care practitioner will test your hormones; review your diet and lifestyle to determine the treatment protocol that suits you.

Dr. Olivia Rose
About the Author

Dr. Olivia Rose is a naturopathic doctor and a registered acupuncturist with a family practice located in the Beaches area of Toronto. She graduated from the University of Guelph with a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Nutritional and Nutraceutical Sciences. In 2006, she graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine where she completed 4 years of study and a clinical internship at the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic and at the Sherbourne Health Centre where she worked with patients afflicted with HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C.

Olivia is also the director of Fertility Acupuncture Services, a program that brings acupuncture to couples undergoing in vitro fertilization and intrauterine insemination in Toronto fertility clinics. In practice, her special areas of interest include stress management, heart disease, digestive health, infertility, pediatrics and weight management.

In her free time, when she is not at the spa or spending time with her husband and tea-cup Yorkie, Dr. Rose guest lectures at corporate events, local groups and schools. She is featured regularly as a health expert on Global Toronto’s “News at Noon”. For more information on Dr. Rose's practice and upcoming events please visit,