For about a year now, I’ve known that I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS for short. PCOS is essentially a hormonal disorder where a woman’s testosterone levels are too high, which cause a multitude of problems like increased acne, increased body hair but thinning of hair on your head, irregular to no periods at all, and dramatic increases in weight gain. Additionally, cysts (which are sacs filled with liquid that can be big or small) form on your ovaries. Currently, there is no known cure. Fortunately, not everyone has these side-effects and they can be managed through several different methods.
Unfortunately, I’ve had problems with every single one on the list and more. I’ve had problems with acne, thinning of hair on my head (to where you can see my scalp easily), irregular to no periods, and a huge increase in weight gain in short periods of time. If you’re like me, you know that PCOS is a long, uphill battle that involves pain, frustration, and anger. It’s like you’re not in control of your body and that can drive a person crazy! So believe me when I say, I know your struggle. My biggest problem is that in the space of half a year I gained 60 pounds. It was maddening trying to understand why I was gaining so much weight when there was no change to my diet or anything.
I’ve been to doctors and have tried the traditional method of medication. Some of you may have heard of Metformin, which is the leading medication in managing the symptoms of PCOS. I’ve heard it works great for some people. However, my body was like, “Oh no you don’t!” and with just one dose, I broke out in hives all over my body. Not a fun week, let me tell you! When the medication wouldn’t work, I was disheartened, to say the least. So, I went back to the doctors and I was referred to an Endocrinologist, a hormone specialist. Well, it took me a year to get that appointment, and when I came back from Europe (which you can read in another post!) I was all set to go. Then, out of nowhere, everything kind of unraveled really quick. I lost my health insurance and food stamps. I didn’t have a job yet so I didn’t have money and I didn’t have an apartment yet (maybe I should have just stayed in England!). Because of all of these problems, I lost that appointment and couldn’t make another one for a couple of reasons. My new insurance wasn’t accepted, I was frustrated, and I didn’t even have enough money to pay for an appointment. So, I put my problems on hold until I could figure everything out. Well, thankfully, I did resolve all those problems, but I was still left with no treatment options for my PCOS. What were my options?
Well, there were a couple. I could keep taking birth control, which helps to slow down the progression of cysts, but really that doesn’t fix anything, instead it just delays it. I could try and make another appointment with a different physician (but wait another year?!), or I could try and treat it myself. I decided to treat it myself. Now, I wouldn’t recommend to go this route unless you’ve talked to your doctor or done your own research. Medication can work for some people and I would definitely try that route first. It has faster results and there is a lot of scientific research behind Metformin and its success at reducing the effects of PCOS. So, look at all your other options first before deciding to embark on this long and strenuous journey of treating PCOS yourself.
One of the best ways to treat and manage PCOS symptoms naturally is through exercise. I know, it’s like a double-edged sword, where you gain all this weight but need to lose it, and yet you can’t due to insulin resistance. Gah! It’s a struggle, but don’t get discouraged! You can do it. Through my research, and maybe you’ve done your own too (if so, share it with me below!), exercise, dietary changes, and supplementation can make a huge difference in PCOS symptoms.
My journey with PCOS will be an ongoing series, which you can find under the Real Talk tab. But before I end this post, I wanted to share a couple of the changes that I’ve made to my life to start to try and manage my PCOS symptoms naturally. I will go into more detail about different aspects (diet, exercise, supplements) in later posts, but here is a brief overview of what I’ve been doing differently in my life so far!
- Switching to a (mostly) low glycemic diet. What is this? Low glycemic refers to foods that have a low effect on blood glucose levels after eating. Switching to a low glycemic diet helps with insulin resistance (follow my next chapters for more on this!). For example, berries are really low glycemic fruits that you can eat that won’t make your insulin spike. Some other foods I’ve incorporated are nuts and a wide variety of vegetables. I’ve taken out things like pasta (although recently I just had whole wheat pasta, which is a better alternative and has less of an effect on blood sugar), muffins (I miss that chocolatey goodness!), and energy drinks (except during finals week).
- Walking more for longer periods of time. With my new job, I walk a ton during work. Some nights, I’ve had over 12,000 steps in just the time I’m there. So, I’m constantly on my feet. Walking is such an easy way to burn calories and it’s low impact, which is great if you have any bodily conditions that make it harder to exercise.
- Calorie counting, but only for a week! I think it’s beneficial to track your food and caloric intake for a week. This way, you can see what you’ve been eating, what time you’re eating, and how much. I did this for a week using the app MyPlate, it’s free and super easy to use, check it out here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/myplate-calorie-tracker/id502317923?mt=8. In this, I can track the exercises I’m doing, food I’m eating, look at the caloric content of these foods, and how much water I’m consuming. Observing your food habits can be a shocking and sometimes disappointing. However, you can change your habits, your not helpless to an unhealthy lifestyle. Just doing this small step can help you start eating less and being more consciously aware of what you’re consuming.
Alright! Walking, diet, and exercise (those three HUGE words) are what I am currently working on. I hope you’ve found them useful! To date, I’ve lost four pounds, but it took a lot of diet and exercise to accomplish! I know that you can lose it too! Follow my future posts to learn more about treating and managing PCOS and watch my journey from (hopefully) struggle to success! Please like, share, and subscribe, thank you!