Learning to live with PCOS

by Jessica
(Florence, KY)

I was dx'ed with PCOS in January after being on the pill for 7 years and getting off of it in August due to migraines.

Didn't have a cycle for months, then finally after 2 doctors and multiple blood samples, I found out I had PCOS.

After getting over the shock, I've now done my research and realized what I need to do in order to gain control over my life again, and not think of the negative aspects of my disease.

I'm not overweight, I'm 5'4' 135 lbs... but I am losing more hair than normal, that started in mid December and I've had a few other symptoms.

I've changed my diet, I'm sticking to my work out schedule as much as possible (I've always been active) and I'm more aware of what I'm consuming and how it can affect my insulin resistances.

My doctor has prescribed to take me Provera every 3 months to maintain my cycle, until we are ready to have children. Then a UTI will be in place to thin my uterus.

I guess my question is what supplements should I take in order to help with the hair loss and try to naturally regain my cycle.

I'm very interested in taking Vitex, but would that be sufficient? I am taking flax oil, and a supplement w/ Biotin in it for my hair and Calcium citrate w/ Vitamin D.

Also, to all of those who have just been diagnosed, as devastating as this may seem, it isn't the end of the road and don't let the negative get you down, this is a complex disorder, but it is a case by case issue, you have to think positive about it.


Editor's comments: Hi Jessica, I'm glad you're taking a positive attitude toward PCOS. A negative attitude triggers stress, worry and anxiety, all of which create distress hormones that make your symptoms worse.

And congrats on improving your diet and committing to regular exercise. These are two huge steps in the right direction.

Vitex has been used for centuries to help women normalize their cycles.

We have a fairly extensive article on vitex on this webpage. Vitex extract is a versatile herbal product.

Vitex may be helpful for hair loss, if your prolactin is high. Not many people know this, but some PCOS women have excessively high levels of prolactin. Too much prolactin has been shown to contribute to hair loss.

When purchasing vitex, don't shop by price. There are many products out there that are of insufficient potency and therefore taking those products does not work. I prefer this vitex extract product. It has been tested by independent laboratory analysis for purity and potency.

Another possibility for dealing with hair loss is l-carnitine. Surprisingly, a recent experiment with human hair at the University of Lubeck in Germany showed that carnitine promotes hair growth. Exposure to carnitine stimulated hair shaft elongation and reduced hair cell death in this study.

The authors of this study conclude, "Our findings suggest that L-carnitine stimulates human scalp hair growth..." They further encourage one to explore l-carnitine "…as a well-tolerated, relatively safe adjuvant treatment in the management of androgenetic alopecia and other forms of hair loss."

I don't know if carnitine would work for you.

I suggest you get your vitamin D level checked. Vitamin D adequacy is crucial to reducing PCOS symptoms and improved fertility.

Iron deficiency can contribute to hair loss. Check with your doctor to make sure you don't have that problem.

I would propose that fish oil might be a better oil than flax oil. The fatty acids in flax oil have to go through an extra metabolic step whereas the fish oil fatty acids do not. That extra metabolic step requires an enzyme called D6D. The D6D enzyme is inhibited by high insulin levels and/or liver dysfunction, which is common in PCOS. Therefore fish oil might be more effective.

It sounds like your doctor wants to give you Provera and thin your uterus, perhaps he or she is thinking you have "estrogen dominance" and progesterone deficiency. In this situation, it's not clear that you should be consuming estrogenic foods such as soy. Consult with a health professional who understands the issues involved.

Secondly, we are all exposed to estrogenic chemical hormone disrupters that are pervasive in our environment. Do what you can to keep your food and drink away from plastics. An example is BPA, which is an estrogenic chemical.

One study showed that lean PCOS women had 1.6 times the amount of BPA compared to other lean women. The overweight PCOS women had 1.3 times as much as the other overweight women.

The study concluded: "Higher BPA levels in PCOS women compared to controls and a statistically significant positive association between androgens and BPA point to a potential role of this endocrine disruptor in PCOS pathophysiology."

There are also implications for your future baby. The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill has reported that the 2-year old children of mothers with higher levels of BPA had more disturbed behavior. This was more pronounced in female children than males.

We can't go around pretending this chemical problem does not exist. So, as difficult as it may be, try to minimize your contact with plastics and all other chemicals in your personal environment.

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Vitex, Hair Loss
by: PCOS Editor

Vitex can be taken daily for up to 18 continuous months, unless pregnancy occurs. It can be taken once or twice a day. It may take 2-7 months before any results become evident.

It's certainly possible for someone with PCOS to have more than one type of hair loss. The most common is androgenetic alopecia. But as you say, telogen effluvium hair loss can occur as a result of stress. Androgenetic alopecia is a much more challenging condition than telogen effluvium.

Good luck! And keep us posted about your progress,

- Editor

Thanks to PCOS Editor
by: Jessica

Thank you so much for your elaborate comment! I really appreciate the insight and feedback, any help right now is greatly needed!

To start with the hair loss, I've been to the dermatologists and he thinks it may be Telogen Effluvium, due to the stress of finding out about the PCOS and getting off birth control. So I might just have to wait it out, it isn't an extensive amount, but it is a lot more than normal. I've also had my vitamin D, iron, thyroid, and most of my standard blood levels tested to rule out any deficiency's just to make sure I wasn't lacking any major vitamins. So those have mainly came back fine.

I was not aware of the difference between fish oil and flax oil, which is great to know especially for something like this. I do take a hair, nail, skin supplement that contains fish oil, but I'll check to see if I'm taking my daily requirements. I did order the Vitex you recommended, so I'm looking forward to starting that, but my main question is, how long should I take the Vitex for?

Also, I think the main reason for the Provera is to just have my menstrual cycle every 3 months, she said that if you don't think your uterus every so often that when I'm older I could be more prone to cancer. I believe that was her main concern.

I was completely unaware of the BPA issue, now this is something I will have to majorly research. I'm glad to find out about this now, to be aware of the issue so that I can try to control it and get it out of my system now, before it's too late, but it's scary to think of the things that we drink that we don't think are hurting us (water) could be harming us.

Again, thank you so much for your post!

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