3 Ways to Naturally Manage PCOS
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Many of you have asked how to cure or get rid of PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). Unfortunately, there is currently no cure, and it's not possible to get rid of it. However, the symptoms of PCOS can be managed, both naturally and with medicine. I strongly believe in utilizing natural resources first before jumping into pharmaceuticals, as this is a lifelong disorder. Medical management is often needed for fertility (not always), but many women have testified that natural management has brought back regular cycles and/or resulted in less facial hair, acne, and weight loss. I highly recommend you also check out my previous posts on my personal story and symptoms, as well as the complications associated with PCOS. A lot of women don't realize that PCOS can cause extremely serious and even life-threatening conditions. Being aware of this can give you the extra boost of motivation that is needed to make these natural, but difficult, changes. Keep reading to find out 3 ways to manage PCOS naturally.
Change What You Eat
In my previous blog posts linked above, I discussed how many women with PCOS are insulin resistant. This means that their body cannot break down and use insulin adequately, which results in insulin build up in the body. This is why more than 50% of women with PCOS will develop type 2 diabetes by the time they are 40. However, changing what you consume on a daily basis can greatly reduce this risk and decrease the severity of symptoms associated with PCOS. It's best for women with PCOS to avoid sugars and simple carbohydrates, such as WHITE bread, pasta, and rice, which ultimately end up turning into sugar in the body. For me personally, it's easier to think of what I SHOULD have in my diet, instead of what I SHOULDN'T. No one likes to feel restricted, as this often results in binge eating. So I focus on getting the following items into my daily diet:
Lean protein - I love chicken breast, salmon, and egg white
Green, leafy vegetables - I make smoothies and egg white scrambles using spinach and kale
Other vegetables - I usually do a broccoli, cauliflower, and carrot mix, as well as consume a green smoothie daily
Complex carbohydrates - I choose brown rice, whole grains, whole wheat bread, etc. when I'm in the mood for carbs
Nuts - I love raw almonds, but walnuts, pistaschios, and pine nuts are good too
Healthy fats - I cook with olive oil instead of butter. Avocados and coconut oil are also great.
Berries - I don't eat too many berries but they are a great addition to make
Beans, lentils, legumes - I'm not really a bean person, but this is a way to get lots of good fiber in
Tumeric and cinnamon - I recently discovered this could be helpful and will start incorporating into my cooking
Water - I love juice just as much as the next person, but it has way too much sugar. It's best to stick with water and consumer juice/soda on occasion. I aim for 100 ounces of water a day
When I focus on what I want to have in my diet instead of thinking of what I "can't" have, I find it easier to stick to my changes. By the time I get in everything I want for the day, I'm full and don't desire other things. Just remember this is a lifestyle change, so if you crave something, eat it! It's unrealistic to never have cake or ice cream ever again, but you want to get in the habit of eating the above items regularly.
Regular movement helps to lower insulin levels, so imagine the benefits if you pair that with the above foods that also lower insulin levels. I had a negative relationship with exercise for a long time, which I detail in this blog post. My mind can sometimes equate exercise to hating my body and wanting to change it, but the truth is that daily movement is critical for health. I don't push myself to work out or engage in exercise that I don't enjoy. Instead, I focus on things that bring me joy because if it's a pleasant experience, I will want to continue doing it. We go for walks/runs in our local park, and this provides not only a physical benefit, but a mental one as I'm able to zone out and listen to my music. Pre-pandemic, I enjoyed group classes at the gym, such as Zumba and cycling. So do what is fun and feels right to you because anything is better than nothing at all. You don't have to try to operate at a fitness level that you may not currently be at.
My personal journey has consisted of me naturally managing my PCOS with diet changes and exercise. However, I've heard quite a few people talk about using supplements and decided to do a bit of research on the topic. A review in 2017 analyzing 24 studies found low quality evidence for inositol. The research suggests that it may help to lower androgen (male hormone) levels in women, which could result in regular ovulation and fertility. Simply put, more research is still needed on the topic to accurately determine the benefits and side effects. I strongly recommend doing your own research before trying any supplements. I do believe there are many things that are helpful that simply haven't been studied, and therefore, we don't have the evidence to back it up. Some women swear by their supplements, but I try my best to only provide evidence-based information on this blog. So, I can't tell you if it works or not, and I don't have personal experience with it, but it's worth looking into.
I do think many people are looking for a magic pill or secret to manage PCOS, but honestly it's not rocket science. The most difficult thing to do is make lifestyle changes, but if we can commit to them, they are the answer for most health issues.
What has helped you naturally manage your PCOS? At what point, did you decide to move into medical management?
xoxo, Global Midwife
Disclaimer: This is only to be used for educational purposes, not as medical advice. Always check with your individual healthcare provider.