I was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) about six years ago. I originally thought it was stomach pain, but after my OBGYN ordered a few blood tests and ultrasound, he realized it was actually PCOS.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is an endocrine (hormonal) disorder that affects between 5 and 10 percent of women of reproductive age. It can present symptoms in many different ways depending on the person and can lead to more serious health issues like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer if left untreated.
For me, my hormones were completely out of whack, and I gained 30 pounds in four months. I had very painful cysts and some slight skin discoloration under my arms. I also experienced pretty aggressive mood swings. What’s more is that PCOS can be something that is hard to get diagnosed with and, put lightly, is not fun to deal with.
While I’m not a doctor, there are some things I’ve done that have helped me personally with managing my PCOS. Always talk to your own doctors about lifestyle changes or treatment options that will work best for you before making any big changes.
Many people with PCOS are insulin resistant. In young women with PCOS, high insulin levels can cause the ovaries to make more androgen hormones, such as testosterone. Metformin (also known as Glucophage) helps to regulate the amount of glucose (sugar) in your blood.
There are some studies that question the effectiveness of Metformin for PCOS, but it has helped a lot with my inflammation and just seems to balance my hormones out. I have noticed a significant reduction in my symptoms when I take it consistently. It’s not for everyone, but check with your doctor to find out more about whether it could help you.
Exercise can be tough with PCOS because if you’re overdoing it, like cardio every day, it can stress you out even more and do more damage than good. Pilates has been my go-to workout since being diagnosed with PCOS and has helped me manage my symptoms very well. I always feel like I’m getting in a really good workout without feeling completely depleted after I’m finished.
Overall, I think it’s just important to find an exercise that you enjoy and do that in moderation. Don’t feel pressured to get into CrossFit or HIIT or something really high energy if that’s not your thing. Again, the point is to help you feel better, not stress yourself out and feel worse.
3. Whole30 and organic foods
Let me start off by saying, I really hated Whole 30. Not only was it really restrictive, but also expensive – and I couldn’t drink alcohol. But I (unfortunately) did see benefits. I didn’t ease back into my regular diet at the end the way they recommend, so I don’t know exactly what it was that helped my inflammation so much. But I did Whole30 the month before my wedding and ended up getting pregnant on my honeymoon, so clearly, it helped balance out my body a lot (PCOS can often make getting pregnant more complicated than it already is).
Organic foods also seem to help with my symptoms overall. Between pesticides and added hormones, there are a lot of chemicals that can have negative effects on our bodies, and since PCOS already makes my body so all over the place, I try not to add anything that might make it worse. I definitely do not eat clean 100 percent of the time, but I do my best to eat clean at home and when I have control over what I’m eating.
4. Stress management
Managing stress has probably been the single most important factor in managing my PCOS. As soon as my stress levels spike, I notice my symptoms creep back up. There are so many factors that can contribute to stress, and it can feel overwhelming if there are many things stressing you out at once. I always try to focus on what I can control and find tools that can get me to a better place mentally and physically.
Meditation has been a very effective tool for me when it comes to stress management. Because stress has such a direct effect on my health, I take managing it much more seriously than I did when I was younger and before I was diagnosed. I’ve also found that exercise is a crucial part of my mental health regimen. Even if it’s just a 10 minute walk, it helps me reset my mind and gets those endorphins flowing.
5. Limiting caffeine
Limiting caffeine has (again, unfortunately) been a game changer for me. I never thought I’d be able to give up my coffee, but it makes such a huge difference in how I feel day-to-day, so I finally committed to decaf 99 percent of the time.
When I first decided to give it up, I switched to matcha, which still has caffeine but is known to have less of a negative effect on hormones. This was a great switch at the beginning, but I can’t drink it on an empty stomach. Decaf works for me at this point – it’s worth playing around with reducing caffeine intake and see how it affects your health and life.