It’s no surprise that PCOS is a naturally inflammatory disease that affect 1 in 10 women in the United States. Many women experience symptoms from PCOS that present as painfully chronic afflictions. These things can present in the forms of:
- Joint Pain
- Muscle Pain
- IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
- Chronic Migraines
- Upset Stomach
- No Ovulation
- Depression and Anxiety
Many women with PCOS will experience anywhere from one to all of these symptoms over the course of their lifetimes. It is important to look at PCOS as a disease that will always be present in our bodies but that we can work to manage at a root level. Unfortunately, there is not a miracle drug or diet that will “cure” PCOS. Rather, there are a lot of small tweaks and changes that we can make to our lifestyles that will allow us to manage our PCOS and the symptoms that can run parallel with it.
The first step in managing PCOS is deciding to make a commitment to yourself that you are going to put in the effort that it takes to feel better. Over the course of our lives, we will likely fall in and out of motivation to “stick with it” because managing PCOS can be incredibly daunting and monotonous. Personally, I have always struggled with the combination of feeling upset that I have it (the ‘why me, God?!’ mentality) and feeling like it was just my lot in life to feel like crap all the time. I wasn’t finding myself worthy of investing my time in as I always was putting my family, my job, and basically everything else before my health. I was depressed, the heaviest I have ever been, barely able to get out of bed in the morning because of the inflammation in my joints, the list goes on and on.
When I decided to take the steps to put myself first for a while, I was shocked to be met with such support from my inner circle of loved ones. It was a change they had been telling me to make for a long time! If you have been looking for a sign that it’s your time to start investing in yourself – let this be it. No seriously, sis. NOW is your time.
And as always, I study herbalism and nutrition, but am not a doctor, so be sure to check in with your doctor before implementing any of the following ideas.
1. Stop eating inflammatory foods.
The things that can be contributing to the inflammation in our bodies are going to be different from woman to woman as our lifestyles and diets are all different. With PCOS, eliminating high starch and refined foods like white bread, sugar and pasta is a great starting point. Many women who suffer from PCOS also have a hard time processing dairy products as well. Now, this is not the case for all women with PCOS, but for the vast majority, it helps to adopt a completely dairy-free diet. Personally, I also eliminated eggs and butter from my diet in addition to all milk-based products and have never felt better.
Many women also like to eliminate gluten from their diets as well. While I was gluten free for many years (for over a decade), I found that dairy was actually the main contributor to my chronic inflammation and weight gain.
Sadly, you might also want to consider lowering your intake of alcoholic beverages as well. The way alcohol is processed in the body disrupts the liver and creation of glutathione.
There are many amazing options on the market now that offer “believable” alternatives to our dairy-based favorites. For those of you who are like, “OMG I NEED MY CHEESE,” I got you! Check out VioLife at Whole Foods or Fresh Thyme. For ice cream, try the Cashew Milk Chocolate Ice Cream by So Delicious! For my coffee is life gals, you need the Silk Half and Half. For chips, try making toasted radish chips in the air fryer (I’ll admit, I hated radishes until I tried them this way). If you need ideas for substitutes and that’s what is holding you back from making the leap, message me!!! I have a ton of affordable ideas to help get you started.
2. Get on a Good Probiotic
I can not say this enough!!!! Seriously, if there is only one supplement you can afford to help manage your inflammation, let it be a probiotic. I have already talked about the benefits of probiotics many times HERE, HERE and HERE. If you want to get the one I take and many of my followers have seen good results with, try this one:
3. Work to repair your Insulin Resistance.
Not all women with PCOS have Insulin Resistance, but studies show that about 70% do (2). This comes as no surprise since one of the main discomforts with PCOS tends to be weight gain, particularly in the abdominal region, but really, all over. Where the change in our thinking should come is in the idea that PCOS causes Insulin Resistance, when really, it’s vice versa.
A brief overview on what Insulin Resistance is… Women with PCOS tend to have a disruption in the insulin transport system of their bodies. This means that after the consumption of food, the pancreas converts carbohydrates into insulin to be put to use for energy in the body. In women with IR, the way the blood transports insulin to cells for use is disrupted which causes stores of excess insulin to be created in the body. This can be in the form of free radicals and in the adipose tissue (or fat tissue). When this happens, our bodies become inflamed which then causes the hormonal imbalances, and a myriad of other symptoms like facial hair and acne. If you want to dig more into Insulin Resistance, read this blog post.
Limit your intake of bad carbs, and look into getting on an Inositol supplement. I have been seeing incredible results with this one (I prefer the powder, but the capsules are amazing as well):
4. Include Vitamin D and Magnesium
Whether this be through your diet by consuming citrus fruits for Vitamin D and almonds for magnesium, or through supplementation, it is important to make sure you are getting sufficient amounts of both Vitamin D and Magnesium, as women with PCOS tend to be deficient in these two areas (3). If you’d like to read more in depth about the role of Vitamin D in PCOS, read this blog post. You don’t have to take supplements for Magnesium if you regularly consume green leafy veggies, legumes, and nuts.
Here is a link to the Vitamin D that I take:
And the Magnesium supplement I like:
5. Get your hormone levels checked!
If you don’t know what you’re fighting against, all of these things will be an exercise in futility. My theme for 2020 is work smarter, not harder. Get to the root of the problem by asking your PCP or Repro Endo to do a hormone panel including androgens via blood work so you can see where your hormone levels are. This list should include but not limited to:
- Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG)
- Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH)
- Luteinizing Hormone (LH)
- Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH)
- Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH)
- Lipid Panel
6. Lower Your Stress, Sis!
This probably seems impossible – especially since a lot of this might be new to you. One of the best pieces of advice that was ever given to me was during therapy when I was in college. My therapist suggested the “take five” strategy to manage my stress levels throughout the day. Start with taking only five uninterrupted minutes for yourself. No phone, no TV or social media. Just you. Close your eyes and do a body scan – where are you tense? Where do you feel stress in your body? If you listen, your body will tell you. Imagine those pains and stressors being put into a bubble and floating away – even if it isn’t realistic, let it be for your five minutes. She suggested to work my way up to a total of 15 minutes per day in three, five minute increments. It did amazing things for my body, my stress, and even my productivity.
A lot of women, myself included, find that meditation can also be of great help in lowering stress levels. I love to spend about 20 minutes on my yoga mat right before bed listening to a guided meditation and stretching. YouTube is a treasure trove for these types of guided meditations.
After Covid-19 is over, try going to a yoga class. There are varying degrees of difficulty and methods. If you’re just starting out, try restorative yoga. If you want a little push, try hot yoga. I have done both, and they are incredible.
7. Lose Weight
This might seem almost counterintuitive if you have PCOS, as weight loss can be one of the most challenging aspects of the disease. However, if you start to make the changes in this list, you will probably start to see the scale move slightly if not dramatically depending on your starting point and commitment level. The main things – healthy diet, lower stress, low-intensity workouts like yoga and weight training, and drinking tons of water! You can do this! (And if you need an accountability partner, I am here for you!)
All of these things probably seem super scary at first, but I am going to challenge you to look at them in a new light. Start to get yourself excited about feeling better! You are SO worth investing in. While I will not say that it is going to be easy, the end result will be so worth it. If you ever need a personal hype-woman, I got you! Just reach out to me modmedpodcast (at) gmail (dot) com!
- Duleba, A. J., & Dokras, A. (2012). Is PCOS an inflammatory process?. Fertility and sterility, 97(1), 7–12. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fertnstert.2011.11.023
- Marshall, J. C., & Dunaif, A. (2012). Should all women with PCOS be treated for insulin resistance?. Fertility and sterility, 97(1), 18–22. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fertnstert.2011.11.036
- Lin, M. W., & Wu, M. H. (2015). The role of vitamin D in polycystic ovary syndrome. The Indian journal of medical research, 142(3), 238–240. https://doi.org/10.4103/0971-5916.166527