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Can you Reverse PCOS?

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If you have been recently diagnosed with PCOS or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, you may well be wondering what the future holds for you and whether your PCOS can be reversed or cured.

PCOS cannot be cured but its symptoms can be managed over the longer term. With the right management strategies, symptoms can be improved to a point where it may seem that PCOS has been reversed altogether. However, as soon as one returns to their previous lifestyle, symptoms tend to return.

Let’s consider some of the research with regard to whether or not PCOS can be reversed, and more importantly, what we can do to manage the many symptoms of PCOS.

I have also recently released a brand new “Managing PCOS Naturally” Masterclass that goes into great detail on the three main things that you can do to improve your PCOS symptoms. I would love for you to join me on the Masterclass. You can sign up here.

What does it mean to reverse PCOS?

I know that it may feel like semantics but we need to actually understand what it could mean to reverse PCOS. What does a woman mean when she says that she has reversed her PCOS symptoms?

Well, according to Oxford Languages, reverse means to make (something) the opposite of what it was.

So, when we are talking about our PCOS symptoms, can we make them the opposite of what they are? Can we make them go away? Well, perhaps not entirely but there is so much that we can do to improve the symptoms, even if they are not reversed completely.

But here is the thing. Researchers are not 100% sure what causes PCOS in the first place. There does seem to be a large genetic component (very often other members of the family may also have PCOS).

Also, there seems to be an irregularity of the beta cells of the pancreas in women with PCOS (1). This irregularity can lead to problems with insulin regulation which can make us insulin resistant and predisposes women with PCOS to Type 2 Diabetes.

What we are saying is that we have little say over whether or not we have PCOS. It is a function of our genes and the way our bodies are made. This means that fundamentally, right now, there is no cure for PCOS and we cannot reverse the fact that we have it.

So, this is not all doom and gloom and I am not going to leave you hanging. There is a lot that we can do to manage and improve our symptoms, even if we cannot be completely cured of PCOS.

Can different types of PCOS be reversed?

As you have been researching PCOS, you may have heard that there are different types of PCOS and perhaps if you have a certain type of PCOS, you may be able to reverse that?

Well, Dr Lara Briden, a Naturopathic Doctor, has suggested that there are 4 types of PCOS and that if we are to manage our PCOS symptoms, we need to know what the cause of our PCOS is.

Dr Briden suggests that PCOS can be categorised like this:

  • Insulin resistant PCOS
  • Post Pill PCOS
  • Inflammatory PCOS
  • Adrenal PCOS

Insulin Resistant PCOS

Insulin resistant PCOS is caused by that beta cell dysfunction we were talking about. Your pancreas produces too much insulin which causes your body to become resistant to insulin. This means that you need more and more insulin to manage the glucose in your blood stream.

So, let’s ask the question, “Can you reverse insulin resistant PCOS?”

You can absolutely improve your insulin sensitivity by changing the way that you eat and exercising (which I speak a lot about in my “Managing PCOS Naturally” Masterclass) and that will go a long way in improving your PCOS symptoms.

But if you were to revert back to your regular way of eating and become more sedentary, your insulin resistance will return and your PCOS symptoms will get worse.

So, no, insulin-resistant PCOS cannot be reversed.

Post Pill PCOS

Dr Briden suggests that post pill PCOS is caused by the birth control pill. You had no PCOS symptoms prior to starting the pill and as you come off of the pill, you start to display PCOS symptoms.

It seems that coming off of the ill can cause a temporary surge in androgens but this will regulate as your body adapts to being off of the birth control pill.

The symptoms of PCOS are temporary and will go away in time. If this is something that you are experiencing, your PCOS should be reversed.

Inflammatory PCOS

In inflammatory PCOS, as the name suggests, the main cause of PCOS symptoms is inflammation in the body. Now, women with PCOS are prone to chronic inflammation anyway but according to Dr Briden, in inflammatory PCOS, inflammation is the main cause or driver of this kind of PCOS.

So, things like food intolerances, poor gut health or mast cell activation could be causing inflammation which in turn causes the ovaries to produce too much testosterone.

If the underlying cause of inflammation is addressed, theoretically, this type of PCOS can be reversed.

Adrenal PCOS

Lastly, we have adrenal PCOS. Adrenal PCOS is thought to be genetic and is not caused by inflammation or insulin resistance.

The adrenal glands produce a hormone called DHEAS and in adrenal PCOS, there is an excess of DHEAS which causes the symptoms of PCOS.

Although the symptoms of this kind of PCOS can theoretically be managed, it is unlikely that they will be reversed completely.

Type of PCOS Cause Can it be Reversed?
Insulin resistant PCOS Insulin resistance and beta cell dysfunction No, but the symptoms can be managed
Post Pill PCOS Sudden surge in androgens in response to going off the birth control pill Yes, with time
Inflammatory PCOS Inflammation caused by food intolerances, mast cell activation or poor gut health Yes, if the underlying inflammation is addressed
Adrenal PCOS Genetics No, but the symptoms can be improved

A Word of Caution about the 4 Types of PCOS

Dr Lara Briden is a well-known and well-respected naturopath in the PCOS space and she initially defined these 4 types of PCOS. However, I have found no medical literature and research articles that suggest that PCOS can be broken into the categories laid out by Dr Briden.

I no longer have cysts… Do I still have PCOS?

You may have had an ultrasound when you were first diagnosed with PCOS and it showed the classic string of pearls of cysts so often seen in PCOS. If you have a subsequent scan and you’ve lost the string of pearls and you have no cysts, does that mean you no longer have PCOS?

One does not need to have ovarian cysts to be diagnosed with PCOS. It is possible for the cysts to disappear or be resolved but to still have a diagnosis of PCOS. According to the Rotterdam criteria (2), there only need to be 2 out of the following 3 symptoms to be diagnosed with PCOS: an irregular cycle, ovarian cysts and signs of high androgens.

So, if you once had cysts and they have now gone, it is an indication that your PCOS is well-managed, not that your PCOS has been reversed or cured altogether.

If PCOS can’t be reversed, are we doomed for life?

If you have PCOS, like me, you may feel like living with PCOS is a life sentence. And unfortunately, it is. The reality is that we will always live with PCOS unless a cure is found, one day.

That does not, however, mean that our symptoms cannot be managed. There is so much that we can do to improve our PCOS symptoms on a daily basis.

How can we best manage our PCOS symptoms?

The research shows that the most important thing you can do for your PCOS is to manage it through the way that you eat and lifestyle changes. I know that this may seem easier said than done but we must remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint.

I speak a lot about following a good PCOS diet here on this blog but if you want some more in-depth training (including recipes, exercise plans and supplement guides) then you should check out my new PCOS masterclass.

I cover all of these things and more and I would love for you to join me.

So, can PCOS be reversed? The answer is no. But, we manage the symptoms and continue to live our lives to the fullest, without PCOS getting in the way.

I would love to hear from you. What is the most effective way that you have been able to manage some of the symptoms of your PCOS? Leave me a comment and let me know!

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References

1Diamanti-Kandarakis, E; Xyrafis, X; Boutzios, G; Christakou, C. Pancreatic beta-cells dysfunction in polycystic ovary syndrome. PANMINERVA MED, 2008.
2Williams, T; Mortada, R; Porter, S. Diagnosis and Treatment of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. AMERICAN FAMILY PHYSICIAN, 2016.

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Tarryn Poulton

Tarryn Poulton

Tarryn Poulton is a PN1 Certified Nutrition Coach and PCOS expert who has been a leader in the online PCOS space for over 8 years. Tarryn has the support of leading clinicians from around the world who support her scientific approach to understanding and talking about PCOS this includes all medical journals and ongoing research. You can read more about Tarryn and the team here.

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