HORMONE SERIES | Five Steps to Take After Your PCOS Diagnosis
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is on the rise. If you don’t have it, you likely know someone that does. In fact, approximately 1 out of 10 women of childbearing age have been diagnosed with PCOS. So know that you are not alone. Unfortunately, a PCOS diagnosis does not usually occur until women have decided to quit the Pill in an effort to conceive and are finding it very difficult to get pregnant. One of the hallmarks of PCOS is irregular periods and anovulatory cycles. If you don’t ovulate, you can’t get pregnant. This explains why PCOS is the leading cause of infertility.
So how do you know if you have it? According to naturopath Lara Briden, ultrasounds are not a reliable diagnostic tool because cysts are fairly common. A blood test demonstrating elevated levels of androgens is necessary. Elevated androgens lead to common PCOS symptoms like acne, hair growth on the face, hair loss on the head, inability to lose weight, and irregular or absent periods. Additionally, the failure to ovulate leads to chronically low progesterone levels.
There are four types of PCOS:
- Insulin resistant PCOS
- Pill-Induced PCOS
- Inflammatory PCOS
- Hidden Cause PCOS
Before you get overwhelmed, know that insulin resistant PCOS is by far the most common type of PCOS and therefore, I’ve mostly geared my tips below to this type. BUT if you happen to fall into one of the other categories, know that you can benefit from my advice as well. In fact, the following five steps are nourishing to anyone’s endocrine system, PCOS or not.
Before we dive in, I want to mention two of the mainstream Western medicine courses of treatment for PCOS - the Pill and Metformin, a medication that reduces insulin levels. If both of those sound unappealing to you, you’ve likely wondered if there are any drug-free approaches to treatment. You’re in luck!
Let’s get to it!
STEP ONE: Balance Your Blood Sugar
- Minimize and/or eliminate sugar, including high fructose fruits like bananas and healthy sweeteners like dates. Slowly reintroduce fruits and healthy sweeteners to help you find your personal tolerance (for example, some people with PCOS can handle bananas, some can’t).
- Eat within 90 minutes of waking up.
- If you are a person who likes rules and structure, consider an androgen detox to determine your personal sensitivity to sugar and carbohydrates. For 6 weeks, eliminate all grains, white potatoes, processed foods, sugar (including packaged juices), moderate to high glycemic fruits, dairy, soy, and alcohol. Aim for 8 to 10 servings of veggies per day while on the detox. After 6 weeks, slowly reintroduce foods you have eliminated. Take note of whether certain foods or quantities of particular foods exacerbate your symptoms to determine your unique sensitivity.
- If you do not thrive on rules and restriction, read the book Body Love for tips on structuring blood sugar balancing meals. (Hint: at each meal include healthy fat, clean protein, and lots of non-starchy veggies.)
STEP TWO: Supplement Wisely
- Berberine – extremely helpful for balancing blood sugar
- Zinc – helps to reduce androgens
- Magnesium – helpful for blood sugar balance AND anti-inflammatory
- DIM – functions as an androgen blocker, while reducing excess estrogen
- Herbal Teas – particularly Traditional Medicinals Organic Spearmint Tea (reduces free testosterone) and Triple Leaf Tea Sugar Balance (helps with both insulin resistance and excess androgens)
STEP THREE: Move Mindfully
- Limit high intensity exercise to your follicular phase and spend the rest of your cycle practicing more restorative movement.
- Walk after meals, especially carbohydrate-heavy meals.
- Consider strength training to help with insulin resistance.
STEP FOUR: Amp Up The Self Care
- Truly make self care a priority by scheduling monthly massages or acupuncture sessions.
- Take nightly baths with Epsom salts (if a bath is not in the cards, try a foot soak!)
- Experiment with journaling.
- Make time to socialize with friends.
STEP FIVE: Wrap Yourself In Resources
- Find fellow PCOSers that are committed to healing naturally to act as expanders for you (Lee From America is a great example).
- Locate an acupuncturist in your community who is a whiz with hormones.
- Find a health coach or holistic nutritionist who will support you by outlining a game plan, celebrating your victories, and helping you course correct after any setbacks.
- If you choose to avoid the Pill as a means of treatment, find an OBGYN who is understanding and supportive.
- Read the books Woman Code and Period Repair Manual.
I hope this helps and like I said, remember that you are not alone!
If you are ready for that game plan and are dying for some one-on-one support, book a session. I’m here to help!!