Let’s have a quick chat about PCOS …

Hi Everyone!

I’m Zoe. For those of you who don’t recognise me from my picture, I have been working at Gardenvale TCM for 5 years. You’ll usually find me behind the desk or busy answering your calls.

I am very excited to share the news that in December of last year, I finally graduated from my Chinese Medicine degree. So, on that note, I am officially transitioning from reception to practitioner. I’ll be practising on Wednesday mornings and Friday afternoons starting from the 19th of July. I cannot wait to start to take this next step in my career and put all of my studies, knowledge and skills to use as I start seeing patients.

In the meantime, I thought I would leave you with a blog to have a read through. I am very passionate about women’s health for all of the aches and pains, complexities and annoyances to the joys and blessings that it can bring. So, on that note, I thought it would only be right to start off with a blog on Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Now, lets get into it.


Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a very common hormonal disorder that affects 1 in 3 females. Characterised by imbalances in reproductive hormones, PCOS can lead to various symptoms, long-term health concerns, and, something that is not spoken about as much… a heavy emotional burden. 

Understanding PCOS

To be diagnosed with PCOS you need to meet 2 out of 3 of the following criteria:

  • Ovarian Cysts 
  • Hyperandrogenism 
  • Irregular Periods 
Let’s touch on each dot point briefly to try and understand the mechanisms behind PCOS. 

1. Ovarian Cysts: technically, they aren’t really cysts. They are fluid-filled follicles that form along the ovaries and look just like small cysts. These follicular-like cysts can be identified by an ultrasound, however, not everyone with PCOS will have these cysts.

How they form: an imbalance in hormones can disrupt the normal process of follicle development. Follicles are what contain immature eggs which then develop into mature eggs when it comes to ovulation. If a follicle doesn’t rupture and release the egg in time for ovulation, it becomes a cyst. 

2. Hyperandrogenism: this refers to elevated levels of androgens (male sex hormones such as testosterone). Androgens are meant to be present in both males and females, however, males have higher levels than females. If a female has excess androgens this can lead to symptoms like hirsutism (excess facial or body hair) or acne. Hyperandrogenism is identified through a blood test measuring androgen levels in the blood. 

Why this happens: Hyperandrogenism can occur if androgens are produced in excess by the ovaries and adrenal glands, or if there is a decrease in levels of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) whose job is to regulate the number of androgens produced. Hyperandrogenism may also be a consequence of insulin resistance which leads to increased insulin production. High insulin levels can stimulate the ovaries and tell them to “keep making more androgens”, even when there is enough.  

3. Irregular Periods: Periods are considered irregular if the time between periods is less than 21 days or more than 35.

Why this happens: Irregularity can occur if ovulation is disrupted or stops occurring at all, or if progesterone levels are too low. We’ll touch on this more below.

How does PCOS affect periods? 

A period occurs when the lining of the uterus is shed if the egg created in that cycle is not fertilised (by sperm). If there is an imbalance in hormones (if there are elevated levels of androgens), the whole process of ovulation (the release of an egg from the ovary) and hence menstruation is disrupted. In the same regard, if someone is not ovulating at all (meaning no egg is released in the first place) due to hormonal imbalances (too much testosterone, or not enough progesterone), periods will be affected.

Ok, now that we’ve gotten all of that info out of the way and we now roughly know why and how PCOS happens. Let’s get into what we can do about it. 

Main Symptoms

  • Irregular menstrual cycles 
  • Acne 
  • Hirsutism (excessive hair growth)
  • Weight gain
  • Struggling to lose weight 
  • Fertility issues 
  • Mood swings, stress, anxiety 
  • Insulin sensitivity or resistance 

This condition clearly has many effects on the body physically on not only a pathophysiological level, but on a superficial level affecting the way we look. Not only can fluctuating hormones impact our emotions. But, the physical manifestations of PCOS can, understandably, be incredibly difficult for people to come to terms with and can be a massive burden for females to carry with them daily. 

So, how can you manage it? 

Now, PCOS cannot be cured, but, we can manage the symptoms of it. Here are some key tips: 

  1. Diet: Adopting a well-balanced diet with an emphasis on whole foods, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates can help regulate blood sugar levels and manage weight, addressing insulin resistance often associated with PCOS.
  2. Regular Exercise: Engaging in regular physical activity not only supports weight management but also helps improve insulin sensitivity and promote overall well-being. Choose activities you enjoy, whether it’s brisk walking, yoga, or dancing.
  3. Stress Management: Chronic stress can exacerbate PCOS symptoms. Incorporating stress-reducing practices such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or acupuncture can have a positive impact on hormonal balance.
  4. Adequate Sleep: Prioritise quality sleep to support hormone regulation and overall health. Aim for 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night to promote physical and mental well-being.

Now, I know you may be thinking how basic and obvious those tips are. But, they are what matter here and are our best chance at influencing our hormones. The nitty-gritty of each will differ person to person depending on your presentation. 

Combine those tips with some regular acupuncture and herbs and you have the best shot at balancing your hormones and providing some relief from the pesky symptoms. 

I could ramble on about this for ages, and go into waaaay more detail on all of this but I’m worried about my word count. So, reach out to the clinic if you want to book in or have a chat with me about your symptoms and what game plan we can come up with. 

Now, before I keep rambling on let me sum this up…

PCOS is a multifaceted condition which effects everyone differently and, in the same regard, must be dealt with differently. It is so crucial to have a clear understanding of your symptoms and menstrual cycle to track what your hormones are getting up to each month. This information, combined with easily implemented and sustainable lifestyle and dietary advice that is relevant to your symptoms, your medical/health history, and your routine will give you the best chance at achieving the best possible outcomes.

If you want to learn more, head to my next blog on Insulin resistance and blood-glucose regulation. Alternatively, call the clinic for a chat!

I hope to see you in the clinic soon,


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Published on March 26, 2024