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  1. #1
    Grow baby grow! gs78's Avatar
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    Default Vitex Experiences? Worried about Estrogen/ Progesterone Balance

    Hi, I started taking Vitex about 25 days ago (trade name: Elusanes Gattilier, 10 mg dry extract, taken 1-2x daily) and in the past couple of weeks, I've been breaking out like crazy. Granted, I've had more skin trouble since I went off of BCP (Yasmin) last August but this is the worst it's been. And unlike prior breakouts, the acne hasn't gone away on its own; I had to get a prescription for Retin-A last week to start treating it!

    The only other time I had such a bad break out was about 6-7 weeks ago, when I was on synthetic progesterone for 10 days to get AF. I did respond to that but had only one day of light bleeding and my estrogen on Day 2 was only 16. Progesterone was 5.

    My OB said itís possible the Vitex is causing the break-out because of its anti-estrogenic properties. Other research I've done also suggests that Vitex works by shifting the hormonal balance away from excess estrogen in favor of progesterone.

    Given my weak response to the progesterone challenge test, I'm now wondering whether I should really be taking a anti-estrogenic herb? The ONLY reason I hesitate to stop is that I had some stretchy EWCM today, which is very rare for me. My CM is almost always creamy, if itís there at all. So I canít help wondering if this isnít a sign that something positive is happening?

    Iím normal-weight (BMI 21.5) and my most recent b/w showed that my androgens (testosterone, androstenedione) are elevated but within range. Based on my research (especially the fantastic explanation of ďThin PCOSĒ given here, Iím inclined to think my PCOS is a matter of ďrelative hyperandrogenismĒ possibly compounded by low estrogen rather than the ďabsolute hyperandrogenismĒ and/or estrogen dominance which is often observed in obese cysters.

    Currently, my goal is to ovulate naturally, because I canít even REMEMBER the last time I had a natural period. (When I started BCP at 17, I had gone over 18 months without seeing AF). I'm willing to put up with side effects like acne if the Vitex will correct the hormonal imbalance that has been plaguing me since I was a teenager. I just donít want to make matters worse!

    If there are any thin cysters willing to share their experiences (good or bad) on Vitex out there, Iíd love to hear about itÖ Thanks!

    PS: this is cross-listed on the Alternative Meds thread....

  2. #2
    Registered User Roxxie's Avatar
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    I tried Vitex... unfortunately though, it did nothing or me. I wonder if I'm just unlucky though. After prolonged Vitex use my estrogen level was still low and my testosterone level was high.
    Last edited by Roxxie; 03-02-2010 at 04:06 PM.

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    Registered User Peggotty's Avatar
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    gs 78: Sorry dont have any advice re Vitex. I've never tried it because I thought it would make matters worse. But I really thought it was great info regarding Thin PCOS article you linked in there. I've never heard it quite put this way re "relative hyperandrogenismĒ . So if its a matter of thin cysters needing more estrogen, what are we supposed to do? Does IR still play a part in this?

    Sorry, don't mean to hijack your thread regarding Vitex. I can PM you if you want regarding the thin issues as I am really curious as how we are supposed to be treated if we are thin. hmmm.

  4. #4
    Grow baby grow! gs78's Avatar
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    Thanks for the reply girls. I have since stopped the Vitex (after about 3 weeks). I just had a feeling it was taking me in the wrong direction.

    Peggoty: I'm glad you enjoyed the informational handout. I actually found a link to it through this site, on a thread call "PCOS in Non-Obese women" or something like that. Of course, the explanation given in it just one theory, albeit a very convincing one. I don't think the hypothesis put forth there has been proven in sustained clinical studies or research, but I am certainly inclined to believe it.

    As for low estrogen, my doctor, was not too worried about it because I did bleed after taking progesterone-only pills, which means that (after 150 days!) enough estrogen had built up in my system to thicken my endometrial lining. But, I really BARELY bled, just one day of a light flow and the rest was spotting, and so I am still concerned (I'll bring that up to my RE at our appt at the end of the month).

    Some doctors think that women with low estrogen in the early follicular phase are easier to stimulate. But who knows, were all so different, and what works for one may not work for another.

    As for the role of insulin & the use meds like Metformin... after much research and consideration of my personal profile, I'll probably go on Met even though I am not "officially" IR (I did the 2-hour OGTT; my overall response was normal but a bit borderline at 154 at T60; and of course, my fasting glucose & insulin levels are normal).

    I have done a lot of reading of peer-reviewed medical research and itís become clear to me now how Metformin can reduce ovarian androgen production & facilitate conversion of testosterone to estrogen; how it can increase SHBG; and how it can, over the long term, reduce Mullerian Inhibiting Substance (also called Anti-Mullerian hormone, AMH. (My levels are off the charts, which is typical in PCOS & probably the main reason why my follies never get big enough to ovulate). But I also know other thin PCOS women who, based on their own profile, have decided that Metformin, for them, would bring more problems than solutions.

    If you have a good doctor he should be able to justify exactly why he thinks you, with your SPECIFIC PCOS profile, would benefit from any particular treatment. It's hard to find doctors who are thoughtful and knowledgeable enough to "custom-fit" treatment plans like that, but I think we thin cysters need that kind of approach more than anything.

    Good luck to you!
    Lean PCOS (amenorrhea, high androgens, PCO on u/s)
    - 8/09-3/10: Stop BCP. No meds. no O
    - 4/10: Met 1500 mg. Clomid 50 mg. no O
    - 5/10: Clomid 100 mg, Dex. O'd CD 35. BFN
    - 7/10: Met 2000 mg. Clomid 150 mg, Dex, Follistim. Overstim, cancelled.
    -10/10-12/10: 2 natural cycles w/late O. BFN
    -1/11: O'd CD 38. BFP! Hidden Content ; Betas @ 10, 12, 16, & 22 DPO: 29, 94, 351, 3597!
    -Baby girl born on 10/2/2011

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    Registered User July's Avatar
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    gs78, how long have you been taking DCI and what's it been doing for you? Maybe the EWCM was there because of the DCI?

    I take regular myo-inositol because I couldn't find DCI in The Netherlands but also because I've read several threads started by women who either switched from DCI to inositol or added inositol to DCI. It seems you can get many of the results DCI-manufacturers promise with regular inositol as well (and it's less expensive!). I was looking for something like metformin because my doc won't prescribe it for me. Some research shows that inositol works in the same way as met, in that it balances the estrogen:androgen ratio and everything you posted above.

    My experience: in the past I've tried soy and inositol and I've ovulated twice when taken together. Once I only took soy and no inositol and I had an a/o cycle. Just my previous cycle I didn't take soy but I started taking inositol again somewhere midcycle and I ovulated on it (a weak O, I'm sure, but still)

    Now if your doc is willing to let you try met, great! Give it a try for 6 months and see what happens, it can't hurt. If you doc however won't give you a prescription or if the s/e's or too awful for you, you might want to look into regular myo-inositol.
    Me: 27, thin cyster, dx 2008
    - DCI through food (chick peas, yum) Hidden Content
    - Vitamins B-complex, C, D3, folic acid & myo-inositol
    - Green tea & spearmint tea

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    Grow baby grow! gs78's Avatar
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    Hi July! Well, I've been on DCI since late October after 2 months off BCP with no O, no AF. I think I have a pretty extreme case of PCOS; before getting diagnosed and starting BCP at age 17, I had gone over 18 months without AF; and every time I would try to give my body a "break" from BCP in my 20's, sure enough, my acne would come back, and no AF. So I wasn't expecting DCI to be a miracle drug, but maybe just something to help regulate my hormones naturally before I started real meds.

    The one thing the DCI has helped me with (I think!) is hair loss/thinning. I noticed about 4-5 weeks after starting that I was losing a LOT less hair in the shower. At the time, I hadn't yet made any other lifestyle/diet changes, so the DCI is the only thing I can ascribe that improvement to.

    I'm actually on my last pill bottle, and am hesitant to re-order, because I think my RE's going to put me on Met at the end of the month, and as you know, DCI is really expensive. I got mine from chiralbalance.com. Where do you get your inositol from? I'm American, but living in Europe, and I have trouble finding European distributors for a lot of the products recommended on this site. And international shipping costs are OUTRAGEOUS!

    Hope you're well...
    Lean PCOS (amenorrhea, high androgens, PCO on u/s)
    - 8/09-3/10: Stop BCP. No meds. no O
    - 4/10: Met 1500 mg. Clomid 50 mg. no O
    - 5/10: Clomid 100 mg, Dex. O'd CD 35. BFN
    - 7/10: Met 2000 mg. Clomid 150 mg, Dex, Follistim. Overstim, cancelled.
    -10/10-12/10: 2 natural cycles w/late O. BFN
    -1/11: O'd CD 38. BFP! Hidden Content ; Betas @ 10, 12, 16, & 22 DPO: 29, 94, 351, 3597!
    -Baby girl born on 10/2/2011

  7. #7
    Registered User July's Avatar
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    Yes, I noticed your location is in Europe! I always like to 'meet' cysters who live in Europe but I didn't want to bug you about it. I hope you like it on this part of the globe Are you here temporarily or do you intend to stay?

    Sure enough, shipping *is* expensive! And I agree that it's difficult to find many of the supplements people are talking about on these boards. However, inositol luckily isn't one of them I can walk into any shop that sells supplements/health store/(alternative)pharmacy and I'm likely to find a bottle. I used the Solgar brand for quite some time but I recently switched to the NOW brand since I could get order it for a better price on the internet. I'm pretty sure if you do a little search you'll be able to find a store close to where you are or find something online.

    I don't think your case of PCOS is too extreme, it's just that lean PCOS is seen as a deviance of its self next to regular PCOS. I started my period at age 13 1/2 but from the start there were 2 sometimes 3 months in between my periods. When I was 18 I started bcp and I liked having regular periods. Like you, I sometimes quit them to see if I became more regular in the past years. Usually I'd wait for a few weeks, got impatient and started taking them again. I quit bcp in feb 2008, got AF a month later and then nothing until september. Had one more period a month later then got impatient two months later and started them again. Quit in feb '09, got AF a few weeks later. Pretty sure I O'd since I had a pretty biphasic chart. Then again nothing for a few weeks, started bcp april '09 - quit sep '09. Charting again ever since. I'm currently in my fifth cycle and am still not sure if I will O again but have high hopes.

    I'm pleased that your hair loss stopped after taking DCI, I'm hopeful for you that it will stay that way on met too : To me it is important to try natural alternatives before trying real meds, but then again it's also because my doc won't let me try them.. However, when it comes to treating ourselves, there is only so much we can bear to look into, give a try and research etc. If your doc wants you to try met I'd say go for it! If it works you can always decide later to try if an alternative to it gives you the same results if you want to. Sometimes it's for the best to let our docs have their ways with us. I hope it will bring you piece of mind in the mean time to have him/her treat you according to his/her plan.

    I hope you're well as well! It's been a pretty sunny day in Amsterdam, hopefully it's the same where you are
    Me: 27, thin cyster, dx 2008
    - DCI through food (chick peas, yum) Hidden Content
    - Vitamins B-complex, C, D3, folic acid & myo-inositol
    - Green tea & spearmint tea

  8. #8
    Registered User Peggotty's Avatar
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    Wow. Met is sounding more and more like the key here for thin cysters. Or DCI, which I would love to try. I wish health food stores like Whole Foods around here would sell it. I dont like ordering supplements online. Anyhoo, it really gives me hope that DCI has helped with your hair loss gs78! Now I really want to try it.

    I too dont show up as IR according to the GTT test, but I'm starting to think that at some levels something in the insulin/hormone production pathway, there is something off.


    But then I read threads here like " I was right, I am NOT insulin resistant" and then I get confused again.

    I wish I had a great doctor to work with but I dont. Though I am blessed to have great health insurance, none of the endocronologists I have gone to have been able to recommend anything other than BCPs and spirnolactone.

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    Registered User miss62's Avatar
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    Hi GS
    regarding your vitex question.yes it messes up our LH;FSH ratio.infact when I stopped bcp after 3 months my cycles became irregular.I started vitex tincture and although that cycle I got my period,the next cycle I had no luck with it.I went for a blood test and my LH/FSH was 13 to 4.my progesterone was 1 which was very low and estrogen 92.again I could see my levels in postmeno reference
    I even took progestrone pills for 7 days and didnt get my period for another 19 days.
    my estrogen is getting abck to normal after 9 months now.but I'm also taking fennel tea
    its just that my estrogen doesnt go up until cd 20.
    oh one other thing I took iron plus folic acid during my follicular pahse.that might have helped my estrogen too.
    --------------------------------
    symptoms:
    Acne
    mild Hirsutism
    recent hairloss
    Iregular menses
    ----------------
    Meds I'm currently On
    Accutane
    Finasteride 2.5 mg
    supplements and herbs:
    fennel+yarrow tea
    Ultimate goal:
    To find a natural solution for my pcos symptoms Hidden Content

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  10. #10
    Registered User July's Avatar
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    Peggotty, it seems that metformin works in a different way for thin cysters than it does for regular cysters. I recommend you click on 'My favourite article!' in my siggy and read the PDF, not just the summary. (Gs78, the original poster, refers to my favourite article as well - it truly is a must-read!)

    Insulin doesn't seem the big problem for most women with lean pcos, our problem is an imbalance between estrogen and androgen. For most thin cysters androgen is in the normal range or on the high end of the normal range but we have estrogen that (although in range too) is relatively low. This leads to relative androgenism. Taking metformin increases (the action of) aromatase and that leads to a better balance. Metformin affects the way thin cysters' process insulin too, but that doesn't improve our symptoms.

    I just wanted to add that I'm not sure if it is the miracle drug it is made to be when it comes to TTC. I know there's been research that shows that although thin cysters who are on met ovulate more often than cysters who aren't, this (according to the statistics) doesn't mean they get pregnant more often or have more live births. Read this: http://www.soulcysters.net/study-met...gnancy-200044/

    "The researchers found that fewer women in the metformin only group had given birth than had women in either of the clomiphene groups. In the metformin only group, 15 out of 208 women had given birth, or 7.2 percent. In the clomiphene only group, 47 out of 209 women had given birth, or 22.5 percent. In the combined clomiphene-metformin group, 56 out of 209 women had given birth (26.8 percent). The difference in the number of births between the clomiphene only group and the combined clomiphene-metformin group was not statistically significant."

    I'd still say 56 is the highest number of the three groups though, so it couldn't hurt to try both met and clomid!
    Last edited by July; 03-04-2010 at 02:58 PM.
    Me: 27, thin cyster, dx 2008
    - DCI through food (chick peas, yum) Hidden Content
    - Vitamins B-complex, C, D3, folic acid & myo-inositol
    - Green tea & spearmint tea

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    Registered User Roxxie's Avatar
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    My estrogen was around 90 on CD 40 when I tried Vitex. But I've O'ed normally not using anything. So I really think that Vitex LOWERED my estrogen, since my estrogen was never that low before.

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    Love my little girl Snow's Avatar
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    gs78 - hi...I'd noticed on the Thin Cysters Buddy thread that you'd mentioned Vitex and was wondering if it had made your symptoms worse...just noticed this thread and although you've now stopped taking it, I thought I'd add my story in case you or anyone else was interested.

    I started taking Vitex March 08 after no AF since November 07, I'd heard so many wonderful things about it, especially it being the fertility wonder herb and it being recommended to help with getting AF back after stopping BCP. I'd had some breakouts before coming off BCP, which didn't really get any worse after stopping it, but when I started Vitex my skin went crazy. I'd never really had acne problems as a teenager, so going from pretty good skin to really painful scaring acne in my 30s made me pretty miserable. At first though I didn't think it was the Vitex, I hadn't really found any information on Vitex having any problem side-effects. I persevered with Vitex for 5 months, my skin getting worse and worse, but still hadn't really put two and two together, I just thought as I still hadn't had AF it was just my PCOS hormones that were to blame. I'd tried using NPC twice along with the Vitex to get AF, which didn't work. In the end I reluctantly stopped using Vitex (I wanted to get to 6 months to see if it would work for AF), just to see what would happen. My skin cleared up pretty quickly once I'd stopped, I did another round of NPC and instead of it starting AF, I O'd (I was temping so I knew) and then had my first AF in 10 months 2 weeks later. My skin has been pretty clear since. So I'm thinking that if I hadn't been on Vitex all that time, I may have had AF earlier than I did and it was the Vitex that was screwing up hormones even more. Unfortunately I didn't have my hormones checked before or while taking the Vitex (I did see a dr but he wasn't interested, told me it didn't matter I didn't have AF and to come back when I wanted to start fertility drugs). But I did have my hormones checked after my m/c (blighted ovum) in January 09 and that seemed to suggest my LH:FSH ratio was normal.

    It's pretty crazy how strong some of these herbs can be. I'm definitely now very hesitant to try any herbs again.

    Hope that might help

  13. #13
    Registered User Peggotty's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by July View Post
    Peggotty, it seems that metformin works in a different way for thin cysters than it does for regular cysters. I recommend you click on 'My favourite article!' in my siggy and read the PDF, not just the summary. (Gs78, the original poster, refers to my favourite article as well - it truly is a must-read!)

    Insulin doesn't seem the big problem for most women with lean pcos, our problem is an imbalance between estrogen and androgen. For most thin cysters androgen is in the normal range or on the high end of the normal range but we have estrogen that (although in range too) is relatively low. This leads to relative androgenism. Taking metformin increases (the action of) aromatase and that leads to a better balance. Metformin affects the way thin cysters' process insulin too, but that doesn't improve our symptoms.

    I just wanted to add that I'm not sure if it is the miracle drug it is made to be when it comes to TTC. I know there's been research that shows that although thin cysters who are on met ovulate more often than cysters who aren't, this (according to the statistics) doesn't mean they get pregnant more often or have more live births. Read this: http://www.soulcysters.net/study-met...gnancy-200044/

    "The researchers found that fewer women in the metformin only group had given birth than had women in either of the clomiphene groups. In the metformin only group, 15 out of 208 women had given birth, or 7.2 percent. In the clomiphene only group, 47 out of 209 women had given birth, or 22.5 percent. In the combined clomiphene-metformin group, 56 out of 209 women had given birth (26.8 percent). The difference in the number of births between the clomiphene only group and the combined clomiphene-metformin group was not statistically significant."

    I'd still say 56 is the highest number of the three groups though, so it couldn't hurt to try both met and clomid!
    Thanks! Read the articles and re-read them. One of them, the power point one, posted earlier, intrigued me as I mentioned to gs78. I guess my question still is what in the heck do we do to get our bodies back in balance if it is the relative androgenism and not some kind of IR issue? What is not allowing thin cysters not to ovulate? I'm becoming so desperate here to try to find answers and unfortunately doctors don't want to investigate with me. Since I am not actively TTC, they figure, just put be on bcps and call it a day. I want to have a baby, but I want my body to find balance again!

  14. #14
    Registered User July's Avatar
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    I see where you're coming from : From what I've read there isn't anything you can do to change this imbalance once it's set up. I even thought about making my body estrogen dominant on purpose because it seems that is something you can 'undo'. But then again, I'm not that foolish to mess up my hormones even more!
    Me: 27, thin cyster, dx 2008
    - DCI through food (chick peas, yum) Hidden Content
    - Vitamins B-complex, C, D3, folic acid & myo-inositol
    - Green tea & spearmint tea

  15. #15
    Grow baby grow! gs78's Avatar
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    miss62, Roxxie, and Snow: thanks for sharing your stories. Iím glad Iím not the only person whose symptoms seem to have gotten worse on this herb.

    Snow: Wow, you are a MUCH more patient person than me, I canít believe you went through 5 full months on Vitex despite the acne. I was reluctant to believe there was a link as well, because so much wonderful stuff has been written about this herb on these boards, and of course, we all want to find a miracle drug for our symptoms. But I guess this example just goes to show that approaches that might work well for overweight/obese cysters may have totally opposite effects on us lean/ normal-weight cysters.
    By the way, my LH: FSH levels are also in a roughly 1:1 ratio, so whatever is causing my symptoms itís not that.

    Also, may I ask, after you spontaneously Oíed the first time after stopping the Vitex, how regular were your subsequent cycles. Did you use soy isoflavones to help you O and if so, what brand did you use (Iíve found a brand called Phyto Soya, but itís REALLY expensive!). Of course, you can always PM me if you want!
    Lean PCOS (amenorrhea, high androgens, PCO on u/s)
    - 8/09-3/10: Stop BCP. No meds. no O
    - 4/10: Met 1500 mg. Clomid 50 mg. no O
    - 5/10: Clomid 100 mg, Dex. O'd CD 35. BFN
    - 7/10: Met 2000 mg. Clomid 150 mg, Dex, Follistim. Overstim, cancelled.
    -10/10-12/10: 2 natural cycles w/late O. BFN
    -1/11: O'd CD 38. BFP! Hidden Content ; Betas @ 10, 12, 16, & 22 DPO: 29, 94, 351, 3597!
    -Baby girl born on 10/2/2011

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