My Daughter Devastated by PCOS Diagnosis but Is Changing Her Life

by Hannah

Hello, my daughter is very new to all of this. She recently went to our obgyn to discuss some issues about her period and he ordered tests on her.

Long story short, she has PCOS, metabolic syndrome, and her estrogen levels are way high. The doctor told her she was producing enough for five people.

My daughter also is also severely overweight.

With all that being said she was very devastated the day she found all this out. But she has for the first time started and stuck with a diet and exercise program.

Also the doctor has started her on metformin which he said will help with the weight loss also and birth control pills to help regulate her periods.

Now the real question that is stumping us is we found out that Herbalife is a soy-based product and Joan has been told to stay away from soy due to her high estrogen.

So what to do? Is Herbalife safe for her?

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by: PCOS Editor

My guess is that it is OK.

Jewish Hospital in Cincinnati did a study and reported: "Metformin improves the endocrinopathy of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), facilitates conception, appears to reduce first trimester miscarriage and gestational diabetes and does not appear to be teratogenic. The concentrations of metformin in breast milk are generally low and the mean infant exposure to metformin has been reported in the range 0.28-1.08% of the weight-normalized maternal dose, well below the level of concern for breastfeeding. No adverse effects on blood glucose of nursing infants have been reported. Metformin during lactation versus formula feeding appears to have no adverse effects on infants' growth, motor-social development and intercurrent illness during the first 6 months of life."

But don't forget, long-term use of metformin induces a vitamin B12 deficiency. So some form of supplemental B12 wouldn't be a bad idea.

Metformin while nursing?
by: Hannah

Can you please tell me your feelings on PCOS women who nurse and who and advised to take metformin?

Joan's doctor has advised her to start back on it and I would like your thoughts on it.

Thank you.

by: PCOS Editor

Hi Hannah,

I'm very sorry but I don't have a good answer to this problem.

Prolactin is necessary for lactation. One researcher said: "Being overweight or obese is negatively associated with the prolactin response to suckling in the first week postpartum and, thus, may contribute to early lactation failure." Another said: "Longer duration of lactation is associated with improved insulin and glucose response among women with prior gestational diabetes."

Since Joan probably is not producing sufficient prolactin in response to suckling, and since she probably has insulin resistance, we can see why there is a problem.

What I don't have is the solution. Ask around for a midwife, lactation specialist or qualified naturopath. These folks might have some ideas.

Beautiful baby!
by: Hannah

My daughter Joan has a baby now, thank God.

She has been trying to breast feed but is not producing enough milk. I have read that PCOS women have issues with this. Can you please offer anything that may help her with this?

We do appreciate your information so much and it was by your help that Joan was able to ever have her beautiful baby Jenny!

Thank you,

Some ideas in spite of the difficulty
by: PCOS Editor

I understand how difficult this is for both you and your daughter.

Soy contains some substances that have a weak estrogenic effect in the body. But since they compete with estrogen for binding sites in cells, they may actually have an anti-estrogen effect in your daughter's case. In other words, the weaker soy estrogen blocks out the more powerful native estrogen hormone.

However, consumption of a lot of soy products has other potential problems that I don't have time to get into here. But for now, some soy should be OK. If the product is a protein powder, she could switch to whey, pea protein or rice protein powders.

Birth control pills provide a monthly bleed and some relief from symptoms of PCOS but aside from providing the illusion of normalcy, they are of little value and may have long term side effects, depending on what's in the pill. For example, some pills appear to affect mental function.

Your daughter was prescribed metformin in order to help control insulin resistance, which she presumably has. So metformin is a good choice in terms of pharmaceuticals. In addition to its gastrointestinal side effects, metformin also induces a vitamin B12 deficiency. I expect your daughter will be on this medication for a long time. Therefore, I strongly advise she take supplemental vitamin B12. In fact, since she is taking both birth control pills and metformin, she needs to take a B-complex vitamin as a minimum.

It appears your daughter has "estrogen dominance". But estrogen cannot be viewed in isolation. The question is WHY is she estrogen dominant? Is she producing too much testosterone (which can be converted into estrogen)? Does she have a progesterone deficiency? Etc.

In spite of the shock of discovery of PCOS, it's vitally important that you both understand that this is a multi-organ, systemic disorder that is chronic and long-lasting. This is not a problem only with her ovaries. Also, don't think of PCOS and metabolic syndrome as two different diseases; they are simply different manifestations of a systemic disorder.

Given that she is severely overweight, I very STRONGLY recommend she get a vitamin D test. She will probably be way too low in vitamin D. She must bring her vitamin D levels up to the mid-range of the "normal" value on a blood test. If her vitamin D levels remain below normal, she will find it quite difficult to overcome her problems.

She must get a COMPLETE thyroid profile. She may have subclinical hypothyroidism. She will get nowhere if this is not corrected.

The overweight and presence of metabolic syndrome suggests she may have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. The best way to diagnose this is with a liver ultrasound.

Is there any good news with all this? Yes. PCOS and metabolic syndrome have their genetic components but they can largely be controlled. But she will have to completely transform her lifestyle. She will need to radically improve the quality of her diet and increase her exercise -- and keep at it for the rest of her life.

Regarding diet and exercise, this e-book would be a good resource.

Selected nutritional supplements play a supportive role.

She might start off with:
- d-pinitol formula
- carnitine
- cinnamon extract
- fish oil.
- vitex (if she has a progesterone insufficiency)

Very high-quality versions of these products are available in our online supplements store.

Given your daughter's probable poor diet and possibly taking antibiotics at various times in the past, I highly recommend a "probiotic" formula, containing at least 6 strains of micro-organisms. Available in a health food store or vitamin shop. Gut bacteria imbalances could be a cause of PCOS.

Regarding the weight issue, I suggest she not obsess about the total weight and focus instead on her waist circumference. It's the waist circumference that must be reduced if she is to get positive results.

If she has a progesterone deficiency, transdermal, "bio-identical" progesterone (not a synthetic progestin) may be helpful.

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