This is the question I’ll be asking myself with each and every client I see – because I take a functional medicine approach, I will push as far upstream as possible to piece together your unique story to understand why androgens are high in your individual case. (As a side note, it’s important to be aware that there can be other reasons beyond PCOS for high androgens.)
But before we get into that, there is something very important that we need to discuss.
Firstly, although research has shown that there very much so is a genetic component to PCOS and high androgens, something that has to be stressed with all the big, bright, flashing neon lights is that genes can be turned on and off by the environment they’re in.
This is called epigenetics.
Let’s use a simple analogy of two apple trees. One apple tree is in one field and producing the sweetest apples you ever did taste while the second apple tree is in another field, with zero sign of fruit and just overall, doesn’t look great. When the farmer comes along, she doesn’t look at the tree with no fruit and blame the tree itself, she’ll look at the environment that it’s in: the soil, the water, the sun, the wind. She asks whether there are pests present? A fungus maybe? Perhaps extra nutrients need to be added? So she looks at the environment that the tree is in and makes changes there.
And this is so true when it comes to PCOS: the syndrome will develop in a given environment *BUT* through tweaking that environment, PCOS symptoms can be reversed.
And we know that high androgens are a big part of the PCOS picture so what are two of the main drivers in the environment that are behind high androgens?
Inflammation and/or Insulin resistance.
We’ll go into a bit more detail about these now but we often need to zoom out even further and see what else within the environment is causing the inflammation and/or insulin resistance. So, inflammation and/or insulin resistance are the drivers to the high androgens but what’s the fuel that keep them going?
This is essentially where we get to finding the root cause.
These can range from really simple things to more complex things.
The root cause(s) allowing the inflammation and/or insulin resistance of PCOS to be present in the environment and therefore trigger high androgens can be anything from digestive issues, presence of parasites or pathogens, food sensitivities, when, what and how we’re eating, a tweaking out thyroid, lack of sleep, stress, strained relationships, a muddled mindset, exercise that’s not suited to your body, environmental toxins, childhood trauma, mould exposure and more.
It’s important to note that there often isn’t just one ‘root cause’ but rather a combination of the above and THIS is why taking a functional approach is so essential, rather than trying to find a silver bullet solution.