When I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome after 10 years experiencing the symptoms, I felt as if life as I knew it was over. I thought I’d be stuck with painful acne, irregular periods and fluctuating weight and never being able to have children. To try and overcome, I was given prescriptions for the pill, told to lose weight and even had surgery. I never had confidence in the advice or ‘bandaid’ treatment nor saw it as helpful or sustainable.
Eventually, I decided to put my health profession into action by researching my newly diagnosed condition to see if there could be another avenue to go down. After reading countless peer reviewed journals, reviewing evidence based practice and my doing my own trial and error, I put together my own personal PCOS treatment program. Fast forward six months and I had lost 25 kilograms, boasted clear skin, had regular periods and was buzzing with energy – a total one eighty on the lethargy that plagued me for years. I felt that best that I ever had in my WHOLE life.
I finally won the battle against PCOS!
Since finding my healthy lifestyle and sharing my story, I have been asked by many women on how I achieved controlling the condition. This post has everything you will need to know to pursue your own control plan without the help of the pill. However firstly, let’s start with what PCOS is so the rest makes sense!
What is PCOS?
Polycystic Ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that affects the metabolic and reproductive health in women in their reproductive years. Studies have shown more than 10% of women suffer from PCOS and up to 70% who have the condition remain undiagnosed.
Although PCOS is not yet fully understood, it is known that increased androgens are one of the largest contributing factors of PCOS. Androgens are a group of male sex hormones which are responsible for sexual and reproductive health, the classic example is testosterone. Androgens are essential for female fertility however they are normally produced in much lower levels in women than men. When women have high levels of androgens (hyperandrogegism) in their body, hormonal imbalances can occur which can cause a number of issues such as; abnormal follicular development in ovaries, chronic inflammation, continued hyperandroegnism, insulin resistance and weight gain amongst many other symptoms.
Women who have PCOS are at higher risk of developing secondary health issues such as; infertility, type 2 diabetes mellitus, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression and cardiovascular disease, which have been associated with uncontrolled symptoms.
Please don’t panic, I am here to tell you that PCOS can be controlled and managed by making some adjustments to your lifestyle. With the right knowledge, diet and exercise regime, I overcame the symptoms of PCOS very quickly and began to have control of my health again! Here’s five things I did that changed my life for the better.
Cutting out excess carbohydrates and eliminating refined sugar
To put if briefly, insulin resistance is where the pancreas releases an abnormally high amount of the hormone insulin after eating in attempt to break down carbohydrates and sugars into energy. Due to this being a high release of insulin, not all of it is utilised which means some of this remains within the blood stream for a prolonged period of time. This triggers an inflammation response in addition to an excess release of androgen hormones which cause signs and symptoms such as; impaired follicular development in the ovaries and weight gain.
When there is limited carbohydrates and no sugars to breakdown, the pancreas produces less insulin over time which can ultimately improve or even eliminate insulin resistance and excess androgen production. After three months of reducing my carbohydrate intake to 50 grams a day and cutting out refined sugars all together, my blood results confirmed that my insulin resistance had improved so significantly that my insulin levels returned back to normal!
This involves eating within a set time frame of the day and fasting for the rest. I personally fast for 16 hours and eat within an 8 hour time frame (usually from 12pm- 8pm). You’re still able to drink water and non-calorie drinks such as plain tea and coffee in the fasting time frame.
Intermittent fasting allows your body to switch to a fat burning state where it uses up all the sugar and energy that is already stored within the body. This ultimately aids in reducing insulin resistance and sugar cravings, increases weight loss and decreases inflammation within the body.
Low impact exercise
Low impact exercise has been proven to dramatically alleviate an array of PCOS symptoms by increasing insulin sensitivity and regulating hormone production, therefore reducing androgen levels. It also promotes a healthy circulation and therefore decreases cardiovascular related diseases and pushes more nutrient- rich blood to the reproductive organs. A study has shown that exercise has regulated a massive 50% of women’s cycles who have PCOS.
In addition to controlling the root causes of PCOS, exercise aids in weight loss and promotes feel good hormones such as endorphins which decreases stress, reduces anxiety and promotes self-esteem.
When you think of exercise you may think of heavy weight lifting at the gym or long distance running however low impact exercise such as jogging, swimming, yoga and pilates have been proven to be more effective compared to high impact exercise. This is because it reduces stress on the body and therefore reduces inflammation. I personally fell in love with and reaped the benefits of both yoga and pilates. After four months of classes I was toned head to toe, my acne disappeared and I was the fittest that i’d ever been. I also felt my mental health shift from being self conscious and anxious to being happy, motivated and confident! Just remember, persistence and discipline is the key to success.
Drink spearmint tea
It is now part of my daily routine to drink a cup of spearmint tea after I wake up and before going to bed. Drinking spearmint tea has been scientifically proven to dramatically decrease androgen hormone levels in women with PCOS. Studies have proven that women with PCOS who drank two cups of spearmint tea a day for six months had reduced hiritusim, lower insulin resistance and less abnormal ovarian follicles resulting in an improved menstrual cycle.
Eat a balanced and nutrient rich diet
Following intermittent fasting, low carbohydrate intake and eliminating refined sugar, means nothing if you’re not consuming a nutrient rich diet which is absolutely vital to battling symptoms of PCOS and having a healthy functioning body. Eating a nutrient rich diet helps regulate hormone production, control blood sugar levels, aid in healthy weight loss, increase energy and boosts reproductive health.
Women with PCOS also have an increased risk of being deficient in various vitamins and minerals such as; Vitamin D, vitamin B12 and calcium, therefore ensuring you’re micronutrient intake consists of nutrient dense foods is absolutely essential for keeping deficiencies at bay. I advise having regular checkups and blood tests done to detect and/or monitor any deficiencies so they can be addressed by your doctor.
I personally eat according to an anti-inflammatory diet which is heavily plant based and nutrient filled. Here are my dietary do’s and don’ts:
- Unprocessed foods
- fatty fish rich in omega-3’s such as salmon and tuna
- Olive oil, coconuts and other healthy fats
- Spinach, kale and other leafy greens
- Plant based protein such as lentils and legumes
- Blueberries, raspberries and antioxidant rich fruits
- Nuts such as walnuts and almonds
- Anti-inflammatory spices such as cinnamon and turmeric
- Heavily processed foods
- soda and sweetened beverages
- Red meat such as steak and sausages
- Refined grains such as pasta, white bread and pastries
- Fried foods such as French fries
- Unhealthy fats such as margarines and shortening
Consult with your doctor before trying a new diet or supplement, especially if you have an underlying health condition.
What is PCOS?: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Pathophysiology, Presentation, and Treatment With Emphasis on Adolescent Girls.
Cutting out excess carbohydrate and no refined sugar: The Effect of Low Carbohydrate Diet on Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.
Intermittent fasting: Fasting as possible complementary approach for polycystic ovary syndrome: Hope or hype?
Low impact exercise: Exercise Interventions in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
Drink spearmint tea: Spearmint herbal tea has significant anti-androgen effects in polycystic ovarian syndrome. A randomized controlled trial
Eat a balanced and nutrient rich diet: Diet and nutrition in polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): pointers for nutritional management & Quantitative assessment of nutrition in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
I’m an Australian blogger based in Central West NSW who has spent the last few years exploring the four corners of the globe, living as an expat and falling in love with the world just a little bit more everyday. Here you can find my tips, guides and experiences to help inspire you for your next trip!
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