Everything You Need to Know — How to Heal PCOS Naturally
It was 2017. I walked into my gynecologist’s office, anxiously awaiting my results. Edie, based on ultrasound imaging, physical symptoms, A1C and testosterone levels, you have PCOS. I was stunned. PCO – what? After living most of my adult life with irregular cycles, I finally have an explanation. During our appointment, she explained the possible next steps: birth control, medication that regulates my blood sugar, and finally fertility medication. I walked out of the office feeling a little more relieved, but mostly, very confused and equally frustrated. Armed as an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, I knew there was another way. And so I began my healing journey.
To this day, I am living proof that you can put your PCOS in remission — with comprehensive treatments. Learning how to heal PCOS naturally can change your life. Let’s dive in.
What is PCOS?
If you’ve been newly diagnosed — or suspect you have PCOS — you’re not alone. In fact, an estimated 5 million US women have PCOS. Although the specific cause is still not fully understood, PCOS is multifaceted. This syndrome has many genetic, endocrine, and environmental catalysts. It’s part hormonal, part metabolic. Like other reproductive disorders, PCOS affects menstrual health, fertility, and more. Currently, it is the most common cause of ovarian dysfunction. Women with PCOS often have higher levels of male hormones, called androgens.
In turn, PCOS causes a variety of undesirable conditions, including:
- irregular (or completely absent) menstrual periods
- persistent acne
- abnormal hair growth patterns in women
Common Symptoms of PCOS
While the name polycystic ovary syndrome describes many small cysts (fluid-filled sacs) that form in the ovaries, it is a bit misleading. Some women with this disorder do not have cysts, while some women without the disorder develop cysts.
These are the general symptoms of PCOS:
- Irregular or rarely menstruating
- Abnormal hair growth in women such as lip, belly, neck, or facial hair (in contrast, some women experience male pattern baldness)
- Infertile, due to infertility
- Tendency to be overweight, especially with abdominal weight
- Insulin resistance with signs of diabetes
- Problems with blood sugar regulation
- High levels of testosterone in the blood
- On ultrasound, one or both ovaries enlarge with many immature eggs.
How to check for PCOS
Unfortunately, there is no single test for PCOS. Often, a physical exam, ultrasound, and blood tests can help diagnose PCOS. You need to meet two of the following three official criteria to be diagnosed:
- Irregular periods, heavy bleeding or missed periods due to not ovulating.
- Higher levels of androgens in the blood (hyperandrogenism), as shown by blood tests OR symptoms (excessive facial or body hair growth, scalp hair loss, or acne).
- On ultrasound, polycystic ovaries can be seen.
Different types of PCOS
Before revealing how to heal PCOS naturally, it is important to understand the three types of PCOS. In mainstream medicine, each type of PCOS is often (and unfortunately) managed the same. But here’s the gist: each has different symptoms. For example, not all women with PCOS are overweight, nor do they grow excessive hair. There may be a combination of these three types of PCOS or because of the root cause that your PCOS develops over time.
Insulin resistant PCOS
This is the most common type of PCOS and it is the one that I have been personally diagnosed with. High insulin levels interfere with ovulation, causing irregular periods and a host of other symptoms. Women with this type of PCOS often have blood sugar and insulin levels that indicate diabetes or prediabetes. Controlling my blood sugar is an absolute game changer.
PCOS is based on inflammation
This type of PCOS is most common in women who are not overweight — nor do they have the classic symptoms of PCOS. Inflammation can be caused by many factors, including food intolerances, exposure to environmental toxins, chronic viruses and/or low-grade chronic trauma, and poor diet.
Synthetic PCOS Caused by Hormones
This type of PCOS usually occurs in women who have been using the pill or other hormonal birth control (for a long time). This is me too. The synthetic hormone of birth control shuts down communication in the body to prevent pregnancy. However, it may take time to reactivate this communication channel.
How is PCOS usually handled?
When it comes to PCOS treatment, you’ll need to consider several factors: your age, the severity of your symptoms, your overall health, and if you want to get pregnant. Also, do you want to take a Western approach? An Eastern approach? Both? In my case I took a more oriental (total) approach. Through trial and error, I have learned to deal with PCOS naturally. But typically, a more standard approach includes the following:
If you’re not trying to get pregnant, birth control pills are often used to regulate a woman’s menstrual cycle, reduce excess androgens, and improve acne. Remember that birth control does not solve PCOS. In fact, it can actually mask a PCOS diagnosis. if you to be If you’re trying to conceive, medications such as clomiphene (Clomid, Serophene) can help stimulate ovulation.
Medicines to treat diabetes
One common drug that treats PCOS is metformin (Glucophage), which is commonly used to treat type 2 diabetes. Although it’s not approved by the FDA to treat PCOS, it’s commonly used to help control control insulin and blood sugar and decrease testosterone production.
How I handle my PCOS
Instead of pursuing the traditional treatments mentioned above, I explored other options. I decided not to use birth control pills or pharmaceuticals. Instead, I spent time researching and seeking help from a functional medicine specialist. Under her guidance and additional testing, I was also diagnosed with an underactive thyroid — possibly from years of over-exercising, not managing stress, and not eating enough calories. Supporting my thyroid became essential in my healing journey.
Under the care of my functional medicine doctor, I have tried a few different ways. First, I changed my diet. Mainly, I focus on balancing my blood sugar. I also incorporate plenty of healthy fats and gut-healthy foods. When it comes to gluten and dairy, I make sure to choose high quality. These habits still hold true to this day. I started cycling seeds and using supplements. Furthermore, I opted for gentler exercise, started periodic acupuncture, and incorporated a daily mindfulness practice.
Everything — from foods, supplements, and lifestyle choices — benefits. It’s hard to know exactly what did the trick. But after three months, I got my cycle back. Ovulation still occurs or is missed, but from 2018 to 2019, I focused on adjusting to my body’s intuitive needs and that changed me for the better. I learned that healing from hormone imbalances is not linear. Trial, error and a lot of patience are my guiding lights. We still need Clomid to get pregnant, but since I weaned my son, my PCOS hasn’t improved.
Keep in mind, this is simply what worked for me! Every PCOS diagnosis is different. I work with countless women with PCOS, and every cure is unique. More about my health coaching, here.
What are the best natural treatments for PCOS?
As for how to treat PCOS naturally, taking a holistic approach is key.
Check blood sugar
Maintaining a healthy weight – through food – is very important. A diet rich in protein, healthy fats, whole grains, fiber, and seasonal fruits and vegetables supports both hormonal and metabolic health, as well as weight management. Furthermore, focus on ingredients that are high in fiber and anti-inflammatory. These substances suppress inflammation, aid digestion and improve blood sugar related problems.
Correcting nutrient deficiencies
When was the last time you checked your vitamin and mineral levels? Micronutrient support is important for women with PCOS. Our bodies need everything from adequate levels of B vitamins and vitamin D, to magnesium and more. Review the complete blood sheet to ensure that you are not lacking in any essential micronutrients. Then, work with your healthcare provider to get the right supplements.
Caffeine and hormones aren’t exactly best friends. Many studies link caffeine to impaired fertility (this is a sign of PCOS) and hormonal problems in general. Coffee also depletes B vitamins, which are necessary for healthy ovulation and hormone balance. Need an alternative to your second cup of coffee? See here.
Eliminate environmental toxins
How to heal PCOS naturally goes far beyond what you’re eating. Consider environmental toxins — also known as endocrine disruptors — that can be devastating. We are exposed to a wide variety of chemicals through our common cleaning products, health and body care products, lawn care products and household pesticides. They are all endocrine disruptors. They have negative effects on the reproductive, nervous and immune systems.
Move your body
Along with maintaining a healthy weight through diet, exercise is also a must. Plus, regular exercise reduces stress, improves sleep, and can help lower insulin levels — thereby keeping blood sugar levels under control. Is there a best form of exercise for PCOS? That is for debate. At the end of the day, the most effective exercise is the one that’s fun (and the one you’ll actually do)! Engaging in some form of movement consistently will yield the most benefits.
Can you fully recover from PCOS?
In short, yes. May put your PCOS in remission. I am living proof! Although there is no cure, many women see results by managing their weight and balance their blood sugar. In fact, one study reported that 36.9% fully restored all PCOS features with weight reduction and only 15.4% had continuous PCOS features. How to heal PCOS naturally is a long game, but with the right resources and commitment, there are brighter days ahead.
This newspaper only gives true information. It is not, nor is it intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. We recommend that you always consult your healthcare provider.