I am one of the millions of American women with PCOS. Like you, I’ve had to struggle with weight gain, excess hair growth, and fertility challenges. When I was diagnosed in 2017, I was crushed. I had just gotten married and there was NOTHING I wanted more than to get pregnant and become a mother.
Many of you know the pain of being told that you will have difficulty conceiving (or may not be able to conceive at all). I honestly thought all hope was lost until I began working with a naturopathic doctor. She helped me clean up my diet (and my relationship with food as a whole), I started dedicated consistent time to exercise, and I started using powerful herbs to balance my hormones and improve my blood sugar levels. After 3 months of trying, I became pregnant with my son– we just celebrated his 3rd birthday last month!
The truth is the beginning of my story begins with KNOWING & recognizing the signs of PCOS. Too many of us think that these symptoms are normal because our mom, aunties, cousins, etc. have it too. Frankly, they may have PCOS too and just went their whole lives not knowing.
WHAT IS PCOS?
PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) is a hormonal disorder that causes enlarged ovaries and small cysts on the outer edges. It is the most common hormonal condition affecting women of childbearing age, about 8-13 out of 100 people. Many women don’t know they have PCOS until they experience difficulty getting pregnant.
If you have PCOS, more testosterone and insulin is produced than is needed.
This excess hormone stops the release of eggs from your ovary, but it doesn’t stop them being produced. The eggs continue to build up in your ovaries, which is why the condition is referred to as polycystic ovaries (many cysts in your ovaries).
Testosterone is a hormone produced by the ovaries. If you have PCOS, your ovaries produce much more testosterone than they need to. This excess is what causes many of the symptoms of PCOS.
Insulin is a hormone that controls the level of glucose (a type of sugar) in your blood. If you have PCOS, your body may not be able to use the insulin as it should (this is known as insulin resistance(. As a result, the level of glucose in your blood becomes too high. To try to lower your blood glucose levels, your body produces even more insulin. High levels of insulin can lead to weight gain, irregular periods and fertility problems.
WHAT ARE SOME COMMON SIGNS OF PCOS?
- Irregular periods or no periods at all
- Difficulty getting pregnant (because of irregular ovulation or failure to ovulate)
- Oil skin or acne
- Thinning hair and hair loss from the head
- Excess facial, chest, back or other body hair
- Mood Swings
HOW CAN I TREAT PCOS SYMPTOMS NATURALLY?
Go whole: Whole foods are as close to their natural, unprocessed state as possible – free from artificial sugars, hormones, and preservatives. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are whole foods that you can add to your diet. Without hormones and preservatives, your endocrine system can better regulate your blood sugar.
Up your magnesium intake: Magnesium is one of the most essential minerals to help balance hormones. Almonds, cashews, spinach, and bananas are PCOS-friendly foods rich in magnesium.
Cut out coffee: I know this will be a hard one for all the coffee lovers out there! If you can’t go without a caffeine boost, reach for green tea instead. Green tea has been shown to improve insulin resistance and also assist with weight management. There are also caffeine free herbal coffees available such as Teecino
Probiotics: As well as helping with digestion and gut health, probiotics can also play an important role in treating PCOS. They can also reduce inflammation and regulate sex hormones like androgen and estrogen. Yogurt, kombucha and other fermented foods are a great source of probiotics.
Adaptogen Herbs: When your body can’t regulate insulin, it can build up in your body and cause higher levels of male sex hormones called androgens. Adaptogen herbs can assist in balancing these hormones as well as ease other symptoms of PCOS, like irregular periods.My favorite adaptogen herbs include ashwagandha and siberian ginseng.
Reduce stress: This can be hard to do with the busy lives we live, but is oh so important! Reducing stress can regulate cortisol levels. Taking walks outside, yoga, getting enough sleep and creating space in your life for relaxation and self-care can help reduce how stressed you feel.
PCOS symptoms are not fun and being told your chances of fertility are super low or even non-existent, is one of the toughest things to hear. But, all hope is not lost! By making some changes to your diet and lifestyle, these symptoms can be managed and increasing your fertility chances is possible as well. I was a success story and you can be too!
NEED MORE SUPPORT?
If you’d like a more hands on approach to managing PCOS, click here to book a free Welcome to Wellness visit.