Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, also known as PCOS, is the most common hormonal condition in women of reproductive age. It’s estimated that up to 13% of women suffer from the condition, but a huge 70% of cases may remain undiagnosed. PCOS can be life-changing for women, as the symptoms that come with the condition can knock a woman’s confidence, increase feelings of anxiety and depression, and increase the risk of other chronic health conditions. If you’ve got a diagnosis, please know that there are natural treatments for PCOS. Diet and lifestyle changes can have a massive impact on womens wellbeing and help to balance hormones naturally.
My Journey With PCOS
I’m passionate about spreading awareness about this condition because I have PCOS myself, and it took me years to finally get a diagnosis. I first developed whiteheads when I was going through puberty, around age 12. But these whiteheads and blackheads progressively got worse as I got older. I persevered with it as everyone told me it’s a natural part of being a teenager. However, when I got to age 20, my acne truly erupted. It went from fairly manageable breakouts (although I always had a spot!), to cystic, sore acne. It spread from the occasional spot, to a full-blown beard of acne – it was on my cheeks, jawline and neck. I tried all the supplements, medications and creams the skincare and medical industry threw at me, but none of it worked.
Now on throughout my teenage years into my early 20s, I had never considered that my periods could be giving me clues into why my acne was so cystic, and why it wouldn’t clear. I’d never heard of the condition polycystic ovarian syndrome until I started studying nutrition and biomedicine. It was in a lecture that I saw the symptoms of the condition and thought, hey – I have all of those symptoms of PCOS.
Symptoms of PCOS that I was experiencing
At the time, my cycles were pretty long and a little irregular, but I didn’t think anything of it. My cycles could range from 36-42 days, and when they came they were incredibly painful. I needed paracetamol every month to allow me to continue with life. Other symptoms I had were acne and oily skin, increased hair growth on my body and face and very light periods. And no, light periods aren’t a good thing – they’re a sign of a hormonal imbalance. But knowing nothing about my body, I thought I was blessed to have a period every 42 days and when it came, it only lasted two. Oh how wrong I was!
So, I took a trip to the GP and after a series of tests, finally got a diagnosis of PCOS. Now I had an answer to why nothing had cleared my acne. It was because I had polycystic ovarian syndrome that needed to be treated from the inside. All the skincare treatments, antibiotics and supplements I was using for ‘acne’ weren’t targeting the cause (my hormones), they were focusing on the symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome (acne)!
Symptoms of PCOS
Now if you’re thinking, hmm – maybe I have some symptoms of PCOS? Here is the full list of clinical symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome.
- Acne/oily skin
- Irregular or missing periods
- Weight gain (especially on the stomach)
- Struggling to lose weight
- Heavy or very light periods
- Increased hair growth on the face or body
- Loss of hair on the head, or hair thinning
How I managed PCOS naturally
Ok so I’ve got the diagnosis now, and the only treatment option from the doctor was to go on the pill. Or, if I started to gain weight and become pre-diabetic, I could try metformin. Now I’m not against these two options at all, but it didn’t feel good for me – especially just waiting to see if I gained weight and became pre-diabetic. I wanted to see if I could find natural treatments for PCOS. So here’s what I’ve tried (and what’s actually worked).
Nutritional therapy for PCOS
Studying nutritional therapy is what helped me first hear of the condition. But because I was studying at the time, I thought it would be better to see a nutritionist privately so that I could get nutritional treatment for PCOS, and get some tests done (I couldn’t do this myself as a student). I saw a nutritionist and they recommended a blood test and urine test to investigate all areas of my health. This is what we found:
- Blood glucose imbalances and high insulin levels – which are both thought to worsen symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome.
- Liver imbalances – your liver is important for playing a role in regulating blood glucose, clearing out used oestrogen and creating sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) – which basically means your liver is important for regulating your hormones.
- Nutrient deficiencies – I was low in iron, b vitamins, vitamin D and essential fatty acids. All of these nutrients are essential for regulating hormones and reducing inflammation.
- Overgrowth of bacteria and candida – alongside cystic acne, I also had IBS. Again, I’d never linked the two. But gut health is essential for skin and hormone health.
So, over the next year, we worked on each area of my health to treat my PCOS naturally. We added in supplements to correct nutrient deficiencies and support liver function. I changed my diet to help balance my blood glucose. And, I did a gut protocol (food and supplements) to balance my microbiome.
If you want to find out more about functional blood and gut tests, click here.
Why skincare, antibiotics and supplements hadn’t worked
The skincare products I was using were just treating the acne, not my hormones. Skincare alone cannot clear hormonal acne, and that’s because the hormonal imbalance is internal.
Antibiotics might have helped to kill off some of the excess bacteria in my gut, but they don’t kill off candida. And that was why every time I had antibiotics, I’d end up with thrush, and the reoccurrence of acne after I’d finished them.
Also, if I had taken the doctor’s option of the pill, it may have temporarily helped balance my hormones and reduce testosterone. But, the pill, antibiotics and skincare weren’t going to fix those nutrient deficiencies I had, correct my liver function, or balance my blood glucose. Can you see how natural nutritional therapy can fit in to help with PCOS?
Herbal medicine for PCOS
Alongside nutritional changes, I was also given herbal medicine as a natural treatment for PCOS. The herbal blend was focused on reducing my testosterone and increasing my oestrogen. Now, liquid herbs taste pretty bad – but boy did they work! Within a few months of herbal medicine alongside nutrition, my cycle was 29 days! I could not believe it. My period pain practically disappeared. I would get a few cramps the day before I was due on, but nothing that stopped me from living life. I was now able to do gentle exercise while on my period, something I could not do before.
There are a lot of different herbs that may be beneficial for PCOS. I’d always recommend speaking to a herbalist or nutritionist before taking any herbs, and they can interact with medications. But some of the herbs that are popular natural treatments for PCOS include Saw Palmetto, Agnus Castus (also known as Vitex or Chasteberry) and Tribulus.
Acupuncture for PCOS
I’m not trained as an acupuncturist, or in Traditional Chinese Medicine. But it is a technique I have tried, and alongside nutritional therapy, I really believe it works. Acupuncture has been found to help increase blood flow to the ovaries, support ovulation, and regulate blood glucose and testosterone levels. Although more research on acupuncture in women with polycystic ovaries is needed, the current thoughts are so positive. And I can say from first-hand experience, that acupuncture helped me.
Lifestyle changes for PCOS
There are a lot of underlying imbalances in PCOS, which are important to be aware of if you are trying to treat PCOS naturally. These include insulin resistance, inflammation and adrenal imbalances (stress). Lifestyle changes can have a huge effect on all three of these contributors.
Going back to my own journey with PCOS. When the condition was flaring at its worst, I was out on the weekends drinking and staying up late, I did not prioritise my sleep, and I wasn’t doing anything to help manage my stress. In fact, everything I was doing at the time was probably making my stress worse. So, I decided to reduce how often I was out all night drinking. I started going to bed early so that I could get 8 hours sleep in before work. I tried therapy to help work through my stress and emotions, and I included walking, pilates and yoga into my exercise regime.
These lifestyle factors are so essential to get right if you’re exploring natural remedies for PCOS. Getting the correct amount of sleep each night is crucial for your blood glucose control, your immune function and your stress levels. As well, exercise is one of the best ways to help regulate your blood glucose, balance your hormones and manage stress – all of which will help polycystic ovarian syndrome naturally.
Need help with treating PCOS naturally?
Nutritional therapy really does work when it comes to polycystic ovarian syndrome. And, all the natural treatments for PCOS that I’ve mentioned above can be used alongside medications. This will help give you the best results – and give you your life back. I’m telling you this as a fellow #cyster who has been symptom-free for four whole years using natural remedies. If I can manage my PCOS naturally, so can you! If you want to chat about PCOS, and how nutrition or functional testing may help you, please feel free to drop me a message. Or, if you’re ready to get to work – you can book a call here.