PCOS is a complex condition. Abnormal control of hormone levels result in tiny cysts developing in the ovaries, and eggs may not be released regularly.
- Acne and excessive body hair (hirsutism) may develop as a result of increased testosterone levels, and some women develop male-pattern balding.
- Women with PCOS often gain, and find it hard to lose, weight – more than half are overweight, usually with central or apple shaped obesity which is particularly linked to diabetes and heart disease.
- A symptom, thought to be linked to insulin resistance is a diffuse velvety thickening and pigmentation of the skin, especially around the neck, armpits, groin, below the breast, and of the elbows and knuckles, known as Acanthosis nigrans.
- Many suffer embarrassment because of their appearance, and can become socially isolated and depressed.
Some women have no symptoms. Most, will have irregular periods or no periods at all. Often women with PCOS find it hard to get pregnant.
Women with PCOS have abnormalities in the production and metabolism of female and male sex hormones such as oestrogen and androgens, which can lead to raised levels of the male hormones in some. These abnormalities disrupt the activity of the ovaries which become enlarged, with a thick outer capsule beneath which cysts may form (these cysts result from problems with egg production and release).
There is also a lack of sensitivity to the hormone insulin (known as insulin resistance) which controls blood sugar levels. As a result the body pumps out high and higher amounts of insulin, which in turn causes raised levels of blood fats and an increased risk of thrombosis.
Being overweight aggravates this situation, so it can become a vicious circle – women with PCOS are especially likely to put on weight and this worsens the condition, so they put on more weight.
Around five to ten per cent of women have the syndrome. It develops during adolescence with the onset of periods.
- Being overweight increases the risk of developing symptoms, so women are advised to determine their ideal weight and maintain it. Losing just five to ten per cent of body weight may be all that's needed to correct the hormonal imbalance, thus restoring ovulation and fertility, and helping improve acne and hirsutism.
- Women with PCOS have found that Vitex, frequently referred to as chaste berry, is a great treatment option. Not only is it inexpensive, but it is also effective. Vitex may be purchased as an extract, capsule, or as berries. There are many mixed herb formulas, like FertilAid, made especially for women that also contain Vitex. These mixed formulas should be reviewed prior to using them for PCOS because they may contain some herbs that are not necessary.
Women who take Vitex for their PCOS will notice quick changes, usually as fast as one to three months to treat the symptoms of PCOS. It takes longer to treat other problems of infertility. However, women are recommended to take this herb for a minimum of 18 months. If you are working with an herbalist it is likely that they will recommend you take vitex for six weeks, then break a week, and then start back. This allows the body time to rest.
Vitex helps women with PCOS by assisting the body to create the necessary hormone phases. When a woman is under stress then she will benefit even more from Vitex as it lowers the levels of prolactin in the body.
In Europe, Vitex is well known and used extensively for many female problems including PMS, lack of ovulation, heavy bleeding, infertility, missed periods, and even uterine fibroids. With regular use of Vitex women with PCOS stand a good chance of having their hormones leveled out, which will increase their chances of getting pregnant.
There was a study conducted to see how well Vitex worked for women with PMS and within a month over 90% of sufferers experienced total relief. Interestingly enough, the Vitex helped women with luteal phase defects too. If you have a luteal phase defect then Vitex may help correct this problem, too.
There are few side effects associated with Vitex, although some women may experience some.