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PCOS - also known as polycystic ovary syndrome - is a condition that causes a hormonal imbalance and sometimes fertility issues in women of reproductive age. This syndrome is thought to affect around 10% of women worldwide, yet it is still very misunderstood.
To be diagnosed with PCOS, you must have two out of the three following symptoms:
1 Irregular periods or amenorrhea (indicating irregular or absent ovulation).
2 Excess androgens (high levels of "male" hormones in your body).
3 Polycystic ovaries (ovaries may become enlarged, forming many fluid-filled sacs (follicles) that surround the eggs).
Despite its name, you do not need to have cysts in order to be diagnosed with PCOS. If you think that you might be affected, please speak to your doctor about getting tested. This post is about my personal experience and what has worked for me, so always check with your doctor or dietitian before taking any supplements.
I was diagnosed with PCOS back in 2016. This is my story of how I went from being completely lost to successfully managing it.
I had spent the entire year before my diagnosis struggling with hormonal imbalance symptoms after coming off the contraceptive pill, which I had been taking for 7 years until that point.
The decision to stop taking the pill happened after it made me develop blood clots in my legs, which was the scariest experience I have ever been through. I can’t say for sure that birth control contributed to my PCOS diagnosis, but it definitely masked its symptoms for a very long time.
I thought that once I stopped taking it, my body would go back to normal, but I was wrong. Months passed as I suffered from amenorrhea (absent periods or very long menstrual cycles), hair loss, fast weight gain, anxiety, constant fatigue and acne.
I felt completely lost and couldn’t figure out what was wrong with my body, so I went to several doctors, who all seemed to think that I was ‘just an anxious person’. It wasn’t until then that I realised how damaging a dismissive medical professional could be. It made me believe that I was the problem and that I just needed to ‘lose weight and cheer up’, which also seemed impossible.
After several tries, I finally reached a doctor who prescribed a blood test to check my hormone levels.
To this day, I will never forget how I received the news.
I entered the doctor’s office, with the doctor sitting at her desk with a huge stack of printed paper. She handed it to me saying these exact words: “You have PCOS. Here is some information for you. You will probably have trouble conceiving. Come back if you have any questions.”. That was it.
I was in shock. How could I - a seemingly healthy and active twenty-something year old - have PCOS?
I left the doctor’s office and broke down in tears in my boyfriend’s car, who was waiting for me outside. It felt like my whole world just crashed down on me.
What I didn’t know at the time, however, was that PCOS is completely manageable, to the point where you CAN conceive and you CAN feel normal. Getting a PCOS diagnosis can be an incredibly frustrating and scary experience. It can feel like you’ve lost control over your own body, like no one can help you, and like there isn’t much you can do to fix it.
After the diagnosis, I had my ovaries checked with an ultrasound and luckily there were no cysts. However, I still had the other two symptoms of PCOS.
Doctors kept trying to put me back on the contraceptive pill to ‘manage’ my symptoms, even though they knew that it had caused potentially life-threatening complications for me in the past, but I consistently declined and took matters into my own hands. They’ve also tried putting me on Metformin (a drug for diabetic patients), but I hated the side effects.
I started researching and gradually switched from a vegetarian diet to a vegan diet completely eliminating dairy, which I later found out has been shown to have a negative impact on PCOS. My skin immediately cleared up and my hair began growing back.
I started exercising smarter, focusing on strength training rather than cardio, which can make your body produce cortisol (a stress hormone), which in turn worsens PCOS symptoms.
PCOS makes some women gain weight, as it makes it more difficult for the body to use the hormone insulin, which normally helps convert sugars and starches from foods into energy. This means that I was constantly tired, and gained weight no matter how much I dieted.
In fact, it has been proven that caloric restriction in women with PCOS can cause weight gain, as it puts a lot of stress on the body, which then triggers cortisol production (this makes so much sense, I know!!).
My symptoms improved with lifestyle changes I had made, but I wasn’t fully able to regulate my hormones until finally finding Myo-Inositol and D-Chiro-Inositol. I began alternating between two supplements, Clavella and Ovarifert (alternatively Ovasitol in other countries), and my periods and fertility went back to normal, and my weight was suddenly manageable again. I was left wondering doctors hadn’t prescribed them to me sooner.
I still can’t believe that it took me several years to find out about how to properly manage my condition, and I am still learning (this podcast and this book are great resources). This is because there isn’t enough information out there, and most (not all) doctors tend to prescribe birth control pills instead of helping you fix the root of the problem. I am not trying to speak negatively about all doctors, I’m sure there are some amazing ones out there who truly understand this issue, but this is my personal experience with a select few.
I still have setbacks whenever I am very stressed, as I did recently, but I now know how to manage my PCOS more efficiently, and which tools I can use to help me feel normal again.
What is important to learn as a woman with this disorder, is that your body doesn’t work in the same way as that of a woman without it. You cannot expect the same results or follow the same diet or exercise regime as a healthy individual.
Find what works for you and stick to it. Chart your cycles and begin understanding how your body works. It’s a long process but it’s SO worth it.
I now use a combination of Myo-Inositol and D-Chiro-Insolitol to help balance my hormones, as well as CBD to help lower my cortisol levels, curcumin to help lower my inflammation levels, and Vitamin D.
Breathing exercises and meditation have also done wonders for me, as well as finding PCOS-friendly workouts and reducing stress.
Another thing that I have started doing recently which has been very helpful is a mild form of intermittent fasting, keeping around 14 hours between dinner and breakfast. Anything over that window becomes too stressful for my body, but try different fasting windows and see what works for you.
I am sharing this deeply personal experience in hopes that I can help at least one person who is currently struggling in the way that I was.
If this experience has taught me anything, it is that knowledge is power when it comes to healing your body, and that women are strong as hell for dealing with this type of disorder while building businesses, raising families and generally being amazing!
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