Imtiaz Ibne Alam
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Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, and Home Remedies

image of normal ovary and polycystic ovary
Normal Ovary vs Polycystic Ovary / Source:, public domain

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common causes of woman's infertility. It is a problem that results from an imbalance of female sex hormones. It may cause irregular menstruation, difficulties in getting pregnant, and cysts in the ovaries. If left untreated, it can eventually lead to diabetes and several other troubling health conditions.

According to, as many as 5 million U.S. women may be affected by PCOS. More shockingly, today between 1 in 10 and 1 in 20 women of reproductive age has this endocrine disorder. And not only that, it can affect girls as young as 11 years old.

So, if you're suspecting you have probably developed PCOS, read on to know about what are the causes and symptoms of PCOS and what lifestyle approaches can help cope your PCOS.

Causes of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

The exact cause(s) of PCOS remains a mystery. Experts believe several factors play a role its development. These include the following:

Heredity or Genetic Factor

Yes, you heard it right! PCOS can run in families.

In fact, many studies have found a genetic linking with PCOS. (1) If your mom, sister, or aunt has PCOS, there is a strong possibility that you might also develop it.

Inflammation and its Role in PCOS

In response to inflammation, our body's white blood cells produce substances that can defend and fight against infection. However, for women who are very likely to have PCOS, eating certain foods can trigger an inflammatory response. When this happens, white blood cells cause the immune system to react on its own tissues and cells.

Many researchers believe this abnormal inflammatory response can lead to insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease (↗️) like atherosclerosis, a disease in which cholesterol is accumulated in blood vessels. (2)

In addition, researchers in a study published, October 2006, in the European Journal of Clinical Investigation reported that they found the presence of low-grade inflammation in young women with PCOS. (3)

Insulin resistance

Insulin is an essential hormone for the human body. It is produced in the pancreas of your body and helps the cells to convert sugar (glucose), starches, and other food into energy.

Researchers believe most women with PCOS develop insulin resistance in their body. This means that the ability to use insulin effectively is impaired, so these women need to produce more insulin to make glucose available to cells.

Studies suggest that excess insulin may cause the ovaries to make more male hormones, androgens. (4) The body makes them to make up for poor insulin sensitivity. In addition, excess insulin in the body is also associated with obesity, another important reason for developing PCOS.

Hormonal Imbalances

As stated above, PCOS results from an imbalance of female hormones. Women with PCOS tend to make more androgens than normal, which causes PCOS symptoms. Androgens are male sex hormones that females also make. However, why these hormonal changes happen in these women is still unknown.

Researchers think this imbalance may start in the ovary itself, in glands responsible for producing these hormones, or part of the nervous system (↗️) that regulates their production. The resistance to insulin is also identified as a possible cause for the hormone imbalance. (5)

High levels of insulin and androgen production affect the normal development of follicles in the ovaries. As a result, many follicles likely to develop but often fail to mature properly. This interferes with the release of eggs during ovulation - hence, irregular menstruation and reduced fertility (↗️) occurs.

Obesity and Lifestyle Factors

Being overweight increases your risk of developing PCOS. This is because excess body fat causes inflammation and reduces insulin sensitivity. Stress, physical inactivity, and poor diet are all lifestyle choices that can lead to PCOS development.

Symptoms of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS symptoms and signs can differ from person to person. Common symptoms that may manifest include:
  • Menstrual abnormality – irregular periods or no periods. It's one of the most common PCOS symptoms. You might experience missed periods, infrequent periods, or even no periods at all.
  • Infertility (problems in getting pregnant). PCOS is a leading cause of infertility. Women with PCOS may find it difficult to conceive due to hormonal and menstrual abnormalities. And even if they somehow get pregnant, PCOS will still be a problem for them! They may experience complications like preterm birth and gestational diabetes.
  • Hirsutism. Women with PCOS will have increased hair growth on their chest, belly, face, and around the nipples.
  • Being overweight. It one of the primary symptoms of PCOS.
  • Polycystic Ovaries. Women with PCOS may have enlarged ovaries with small, fluid-filled sacs called cysts.
  • Thinning hair or hair loss. Androgens can cause hair to thin or fall out, especially on the scalp.
  • Oily skin or acne. These are often a result of excess androgen production.
  • Psychological Issues. In women with PCOS, anxiety and depression are also prevalent.

Ultrasound Imaging of a Polycystic ovary
Transvaginal ultrasound scan of polycystic ovary / Source: Wikimedia Commons

Home Remedies for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Dietary Changes

Eating a balanced diet can help manage PCOS symptoms. Physicians often recommend a heart-healthy diet (↗️) for women with POCS. So, if you have PCOS, consider a low-carbohydrate diet (↗️). But this doesn't mean you need to severely restrict carbohydrates. Instead, to get the maximum benefit, choose complex carbohydrates that are high in fiber.

Try these dietary modifications:

  • Low glycemic index diet: Opt for foods that won't cause a sudden spike in your blood sugar levels. A diet low in carbs typically includes more whole-grain products, vegetables, fruits, nuts, rice, beans (↗️), and lean meats.
  • High in fiber content: As high-fiber foods are more slowly digested in the stomach, eating a diet rich in fiber will provide you with numerous benefits. This means you will have less hunger than usual, so ultimately it will also help restrict your blood sugar levels.
  • Anti-inflammatory foods: Include foods like berries, leafy greens, and fatty fish to help fight inflammation.
  • Balanced macronutrients: Ensure you're getting the right balance of carbs, protein, and healthy fats.
  • Restrict sugars and fats: Limit consuming foods with added sugars and foods that are high in saturated fat, including soda, candy, ice cream, pies, processed fruit juice, cake, cookies, red meats, cheeses, and fried foods.

Overall, you need to have an anti-inflammatory/alkaline approach in your diet. (6) For more suggestion, consult with a dietician who can offer specific diet advice for you.

Lifestyle Approaches that Can Help Treat PCOS

Lifestyle modification is the key approach in treating PCOS. Physicians mostly recommend weight loss and regular exercise to help restore a normal period.

  • Weight loss (↗️). Overweight or obesity is a common issue in women with PCOS. If you're having extra weight, losing weight can help treat your hormone imbalances and health conditions, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes.

According to MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia, losing just about 5% of your body weight can help get your hormones in balance and regulate your menstrual cycle (↗️). So, make it your first priority that you need to lose weight in order to manage PCOS. Here are 8 simple tips to reach your fitness goals (↗️).

  • Regular exercise. This is a key step in managing PCOS. Exercise helps lower blood glucose and cholesterol and reduces the risk of more than hundreds of diseases. If you have PCOS, increase your regular physical activity (↗️) or participate in a regular exercise program (↗️). This can not only help you keep your weight under control but may treat or even prevent insulin resistance.

  • Quit smoking (↗️). If you smoke, consider quitting it as early as possible. Smoking triggers an inflammatory response in the heart and lungs. Smokers are at higher risk for diseases that affect the heart, lungs, and blood vessels. Smoking is also a contributing factor for PCOS symptoms, as women who smoke have higher androgen levels. (7)

Supplements and Herbs

Some supplements and herbs may help alleviate PCOS symptoms:

  • Inositol: This supplement has been shown to improve insulin resistance and hormone levels in women with PCOS.
  • Vitamin D: Many women with PCOS have low vitamin D levels, so supplementing can be beneficial.
  • Cinnamon: This popular spice may help lower insulin resistance and regulate menstrual cycles.
  • Chromium: This essential trace mineral can help improve insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) lead to other health problems?

Yes, PCOS can cause other health problems! In fact, it raises the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, metabolic disorders, and psychological illnesses.

Is it possible to get pregnant with PCOS?

Yes, it's still possible to get pregnant. Medical treatments and lifestyle changes can help improve fertility in women with PCOS.

Can weight loss help improve PCOS symptoms?

Yes, losing weight can help! It improves insulin resistance, hormone levels, and inflammation, which can help manage PCOS symptoms.

How can I manage my PCOS symptoms naturally?

Start by making dietary modifications to include healthier foods. Engage in regular exercise to stay fit and active. Focus on managing stress, and ensure you get enough sleep every night. You may also try supplements and herbs for extra support.

Final Thoughts

The above lifestyle approaches are highly recommended approaches for women with PCOS. But these are not all. If you have developed PCOS, you need to make more lifestyle changes to help get your hormones in balance and regulate your menstrual cycle. Consider consulting with your GP for more suggestions.


  1. Ehrmann D.A. (2005). Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, New England Journal of Medicine, 352 (12) 1223-1236. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMra041536.
  2. Samy N., Hashim M., Sayed M. and Said M. (2009). Clinical Significance of Inflammatory Markers in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Their Relationship to Insulin Resistance and Body Mass Index, Disease Markers, 26 (4) 163-170. DOI: 10.1155/2009/465203.
  3. Diamanti-Kandarakis E., Alexandraki K., Piperi C., Protogerou A., Katsikis I., Paterakis T., Lekakis J. & Panidis D. (2006). Inflammatory and endothelial markers in women with polycystic ovary syndrome, European Journal of Clinical Investigation, 36 (10) 691-697. DOI:10.1111/j.1365-2362.2006.01712.x.
  4. González F. (2012). Inflammation in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Underpinning of insulin resistance and ovarian dysfunction, Steroids, 77 (4) 300-305. DOI:10.1016/j.steroids.2011.12.003.
  5. Saikumar P. (2013). Anti Mullerian Hormone: A Potential Marker for Recruited Non Growing Follicle of Ovarian Pool in Women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, JOURNAL OF CLINICAL AND DIAGNOSTIC RESEARCH, DOI: 10.7860/JCDR/2013/5530.3337.
  6. Marsh K.A., Steinbeck K.S., Atkinson F.S., Petocz P. & Brand-Miller J.C. (2010). Effect of a low glycemic index compared with a conventional healthy diet on polycystic ovary syndrome, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 92 (1) 83-92. DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.2010.29261.
  7. Pau CT, Keefe CC, & Welt CK (2013). Cigarette smoking, nicotine levels and increased risk for metabolic syndrome in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Gynecological endocrinology : the official journal of the International Society of Gynecological Endocrinology, 29 (6), 551-5 PMID:23656383

A Confession for Writing This Article

Well, I suppose I should apologize a little for writing this article. I know many of you would have a question that why I, being a pharmacist, have written an article on Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, as it is outside the scope of my primary area of expertise.

Yes, I agree! I'm not a PCOS specialist. A gynecologist could have written a better post than this one, and I do appreciate your point of view.

However, I have some decent writing skills on my resume. First of all, I'm a pharmacist and pharmacology is the subject where my primary expertise lies in.

Secondly, even though clinical diagnosis is not my area of concern, it is part of my job role to have an adequate knowledge over different diseases and conditions.

Thirdly, I have over 12 years of experience as a freelance medical writer (↗️).

If you've read a few of my earlier posts, you probably already know that I don't write medical articles based solely on my opinions. Instead, I use authoritative websites, peer-reviewed journals, and scientific magazines as sources.

⚠️ Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. Please consult a healthcare professional for personalized advice.