Getting Serious…Birth Control and PCOS

This morning when I came into work, I had an email from a friend in my inbox. After thinking about the question I realized that this may be something other women want to know about too. So, the following is what I found:
Hi Jen,

Hope things are going well back home. 

I’ve got a few questions for you regarding a client of ours who is now 2 weeks into going off of birth control. She’s been on it for 1.5 years, the last year being the Nuva Ring. She also has PCOS (the reason she went on the birth control). Today was a rough day for her, and I wanted to get your thoughts. 

We’re having her check back in with her OBGYN to make sure she hasn’t had any cysts open up. She’s also been talking about very strong nausea, low back pain, and spasms in her ovaries. Do you have any thoughts/remedies/ideas for managing the transition? What worked and what didn’t work for you? 

 
Now, for any of you that may not know me, I am NOT any sort of an expert or authority on this topic…however, I do like to read! This morning when I received this email, the first thing I did was hit the search engines. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t even know what PCOS stood for. PCOS:  Polycystic ovary syndrome. According to womenshealth.gov PCOS is a health problem that can affect a woman’s menstrual cycle, ability to conceive, hormones, heart, blood vessels and even appearance. With Polycystic ovary syndrome, women tend to have high levels of androgens (which is at times referred to as a male hormone, but women make it also), missed or irregular periods and many small cysts (fluid-filled sacs) on her ovaries. One in ten women of child-bearing age have PCOS, and it can occur as young as 11 years old! What causes this?? Well, once again, according to womenshealth.gov, the causes are unknown. Researchers seem to think it is a couple different factors that cause it, one of which is genes. Hmmm. If I have learned ANYTHING in the last 6 months from being around Nick and the rest of the Franson crew, I have learned that while we may have genes in our body that carry certain traits, WE have 100% control over whether or not they are expressed. What do I mean? We have 100% control over our lifestyle, which is a key player in whether or not certain genes are expressed or not. So, researchers say GENES are a factor, and INSULIN! Insulin is that little hormone that is controlling the way sugar, starches and other foods we put into our mouth are being turned into energy for the body to use or store. So how does insulin play a role in PCOS? For many women with PCOS, their bodies are having problems using insulin, SO NOW too much insulin is in the body. This over abundance of insulin hanging out in your body appears to up the production of androgen. “Androgen, also called androgenic hormones or testoids, is the generic term for any natural or synthetic compound, usually a steroid hormone, that stimulates or controls the development and maintenance of male characteristics in vertebrates by binding to androgen receptors” (good ole’ Wikipedia). Androgen is made in the fat cells, ovaries and adrenal glands. When you have higher levels than normal of this hormone in your body, it can lead to acne, excessive hair growth, weight gain and problems with ovulation.
 
Phew! So now that that is all out of the way… So, if someone is living with PCOS, what do the “experts” suggest you do to “treat” it? This is where I realized my paradigm has changed DRASTICALLY. I couldn’t help but hear blaring sirens when I saw the list of “treatments”. Here is what was offered guys:
~Birth Control Pills
~Diabetes Medication (Metaform to be exact…and this is due to the link with insulin).
~Fertility Medication (dear God….)
~Medicine for increased hair growth or extra male hormones (Spiranolactone…first used to treat high blood pressure, or Propecia, a medicine taken by men with hair loss. I may be missing something here…but a medicine taken by men to treat hair loss is going to actually DECREASE excess hair growth? I don’t understand…)
~SURGERY! “”Ovarian drilling” is a surgery that brings on ovulation. It is sometimes used when a woman does not respond to fertility medicines. The doctor makes a very small cut above or below the navel and inserts a small tool that acts like a telescope into the abdomen. This is called laparoscopy. The doctor then punctures the ovary with a small needle carrying an electric current to destroy a small portion of the ovary. This procedure carries a risk of developing scar tissue on the ovary. This surgery can lower male hormone levels and help with ovulation. But these effects may only last a few months. This treatment doesn’t help with loss of scalp hair and increased hair growth on other parts of the body.” (womenshealth.gov) That is just TERRIFYING!
 
Oh!! and way at the bottom of the list, just a small little paragraph; Lifestyle Modification. How about trying this FIRST and FOREMOST! Let’s just look at this for a second; linked to genes and insulin. In some ways, the fact that women with PCOS have trouble using insulin in their bodies, so that there becomes too much insulin is similar to Diabetes 2. Nick gave me a great visual to remember the difference between Diabetes 1 and 2. Diabetes 2 is where the cells start actually IGNORING the insulin in your body. So lets say in each cell of your body, there is a house party (just bear with me for a second)…the insulin is bringing the food. Now, inside this cell, the party is really bumpin’, haha. Insulin comes up and starts ringing the doorbell, then pounding on the door, then screaming “HEY!! FOOOOOD, I got FOOOOD!” Problem is, there is already too much food inside. So after the party is at its max capacity for food, the people inside the party start ignoring the obnoxious insulin outside. Not only is there now an excess of insulin hanging out in your blood stream (and SOMETHING has to happen to that insulin), but that insulin is getting SERIOUSLY annoying, so now your cell is super stressed out! Whats my point? Well, this excess amount of insulin would not have happened back in our ancestors time, because there was balance and harmony with what we put into our bodies. There were no dunkin’ donuts, there were no packaged, processed foods…sugars were hard to come by and grains were not an issue. So what do you think would happen if you eliminated those? Or at least SERIOUSLY limited them? There is a good chance that perhaps our body would restore harmony and start functioning the way it knows best, the way its supposed to.
I was reading some forums for women with PCOS who wanted to go off of birth control. It was frustrating and sad. So many of these women came straight out and said they were craving to know what it felt like to know how THEIR bodies worked! A lot of them weren’t even sure if they still were living with PCOS because they were put on medications or birth control pills so young. Now, however, they are petrified to go off of these medications and pills because they are scared of acne, weight gain, excess hair growth, pain, etc. I found a neat forum, SoulCysters, where you can connect with other women that are going through the same thing as you are. You’re definitely not alone in this guys.
 

Get LOTS of THESE!...

Since I can only tell you what I have experienced myself, I will tell you this: I have gone one full cycle and a couple weeks now without birth control, and my transition (fatigue, moods, general feelings of ill-being) was relatively quick and painless. I can only attribute this to my life changes. I eat VERY few grains (it was a little more than usual while I was on vacation, but I’m back to my life again, thank goodness!), no dairy (except creamer sometimes in my coffee), and very, very little processed sugar (sugar in my coffee); I exercise intensely 3-4 times a week at Crossfit, and I get adjusted regularly. “Chiropractic, while not treating any reproductive issues directly, does have some wonderful results with women with reproductive issues because when the nerves exiting 

...Lots of THIS!...

in the low spine are being irritated by subluxation (silently sprained and misaligned joint decreasing nerve system function) they can compromise the body’s ability to regulate those systems (reproductive, lower digestion, bowel & bladder)” ~Dr. Nick Araza . I did not have much, if any of these healthy components in my life before. Is it the “cure”? I don’t honestly know… Is there a good chance that doing everything you can to be the healthiest person possible allows your body to function in the way it was meant to and keeps those genes that have the capability of expressing PCOS (or any other lifestyle disease) turned OFF, ABSOLUTELY! 

...and lots of THIS!!

I hope this helps even just a little bit. Have a great day guys!!
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9 thoughts on “Getting Serious…Birth Control and PCOS

  1. Amanda Cannon says:

    thanks for this post. I am almost done my LAST PACK of pills. I am ready and excited to see the difference getting off with doing PALEO style eating and moving. I am nervous but I know that Insulin plays a HUGE role in my responses. So hopefully cutting out dairy (except 1/2&1/2 in coffee) and sugar, (Doc informed me even dates are out esp while I am going through the initial stages ahhh! I love Dates) and upping my meat, veggies, water, fish oil I should see a good result. Can’t help but be nervous! Thanks for posting and spreading the word so many women have NO CLUE! I know I didn’t till Franson

  2. Judi says:

    I haven’t been on birth control in months and I have no regrets. I used to get terrible menstrual cycles on the pill and now they’re so much better and shorter. I don’t have incredible mood swings anymore, and my skin has really cleared up. My energy really picked up, and overall it was the best decision for me. The first 2 months were hard because my body was purging itself of the meds I’d been on for years, but nothing but good results after. Great post and very relevant for women today!

    • nadeaujl5 says:

      Thats awesome Judi!! I’m sure it doesnt’ hurt that you’re making allll kinds of healthy changes in your life also 😉 And thank you for the encouraging words…I’m still in the first 2 months…so I’m really excited to see what the future months bring!!

  3. fransonfamilychiropractic says:

    Great post Jen! This is such an important issue that so many are misinformed about. Great job with your explanations! I’ve helped many women get off the pill for the same reasons. You are bang on. Keep up the great work! -Dr.Ryan Hewitt

  4. Nadia says:

    I have been suffering with PCOS since my early teens. I n my lifetime I have only gotten 1 regular period. I have been to 20 different doctors, who have all put me on birth control. A couple years ago I tried getting off and no period for a whole year. So it was back on the pull for me.. I went to an amish doctor a few months ago.and he put me on this exact same diet, and told me to start taking pre-natal vitamins….. And what do you know after all these years I got a regular period, and it came yesterday for the second time.. I hope it continues to stay like this, but I will do everything in my power to continue this way. It truly is a miricle to me, and even though the acne and hair hasnt Completely gone away, I am so happy!

    • nadeaujl5 says:

      Nadia, How cool is that?!! 🙂 It truly is amazing, but when we eat, move and think the way we were intended to, miracles tend to happen 🙂 So happy for you 🙂

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