I have PCOS – Now What?
Getting the diagnosis of any syndrome seems like a huge weight to bear, especially something that may affect your fertility and disrupt your life plans. However, with a few lifestyle tweaks, you can create a healthy environment where you can thrive, not your PCOS. We’ll explore what PCOS is and how to deal with it after a diagnosis.
What is PCOS?
PCOS, or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, is characterized by a group of symptoms – such as cramps, heavy periods, acne, facial hair, and higher body weight – that affect your body in many ways. However, you could be one of many women who don’t have any of those symptoms, which is even more confusing. PCOS is not an ovarian condition, but rather a metabolic disease that affects women’s reproductive health, which is why it was proposed a re-name of “metabolic reproductive syndrome.”
PCOS is diagnosed by high male hormones such as testosterone or DHEA. A diagnosis made by ultrasound alone is not a solid diagnosis, because depending on the phase of your cycle, your ovaries will be growing follicles and reabsorbing them.
Most people learn about this diagnosis around the time they’re trying to conceive, especially if they’ve taken hormonal birth control in the past. Often, symptoms of PCOS are dealt with by being prescribed the Pill, only masking the underlying issues until women are ready to stop taking it. Unfortunately, in many of these cases, women are met with challenges getting pregnant and other health issues that start to resurface. PCOS is the leading cause for infertility and affects about 10% of the population (1).
How did you get here?
Since PCOS is a set of symptoms, it actually has many different causes. Depending on the cause of your PCOS, your next steps vary.
The most common cause of PCOS is insulin resistance. Other causes are not as clear cut, but still contribute to an imbalance in sex hormones as well as other hormones that play a role in feminine health. These may include post-birth control syndrome, thyroid disease, high levels of stress hormones, and inflammation.
So what do you do about this?
Let’s lay some foundational rules and give specific suggestions based on individual causes.
Embrace the four pillars!
“To functionally train throughout the Motherhood Transition in all planes of motion to develop competencies and physical skills as well as enhance the main metabolic pathways.”
We know that interval and resistance training help improve your insulin resistance and help reduce stress and related stress hormones in your body (4). By moving your body in this way, you will improve your body’s ability to thrive with PCOS.
“To cultivate a relationship with food that is rich in color and nutrients from a wide variety of animals, fish, plants, fruits, fats, and starchy tubers, while nourishing the body through the different rhythms of life and the female cycle.”
We know that eating food in this way not only will help balance your insulin, but also your female hormones as well as reduce inflammation.
If you have been diagnosed with insulin resistance:
Any refined food or carbohydrate causes a dramatic increase or spike in your blood glucose and, in turn, your insulin increases rapidly. This spike happens because processed carbohydrates like white flour lack fiber, and are super easy for your body to break down and extract its nutrients. This process doesn’t happen when you consume whole foods with fiber in them (think fibrous veggies or whole grains), because your body takes more time breaking down the carbohydrates, slowing the rate of an insulin spike.
Most importantly, sugar, especially refined sugar,is not your friend when you have insulin resistance, so the less you intake the better. We want to also limit the amount of fructose (sugar from fruit) you eat as well. Eat it seasonally and savor it!
Consider adding in inositol, D-chiro-inositol (DCI) specifically, to your supplement regimen, which helps with ovarian health as well as blood sugar metabolism.
If you have inflammation and stress:
Fats are your friend! Good quality fats like avocado, coconut oil, wild caught fish, and grass fed beef are great ways to incorporate healthy fats into your diet that will aid healthy hormone production.
Adding a high-quality omega 3 supplement will also help offset the ratios of inflammatory fatty acids (Omega 6s) in your diet and bloodstream. We recommend finding one made from small cold water fish (such as anchovy) and that is also third-party tested for heavy metals. Check out this blog post for more information on fish oil supplementation.
Magnesium is helpful for any cause of PCOS. It helps regulate your stress hormones, like cortisol, reduce your blood sugar, and support your thyroid. The best and most absorbable form of magnesium to take is magnesium glycinate or magnesium bisglycinate (4).
“To create space between a stimulus and a response, to embrace a growth perspective, and create action around values in order to make decisions from a place of love rather than fear.”
Congratulations! By reading this post, you’ve already shown that you have a growth mindset around your PCOS diagnosis. The most important part of this time is knowing and believing that, although you have been diagnosed with PCOS, you have the power to heal and change your body.
“To open pathways from the cellular to the metaphysical level wherein a human can experience and express optimal health in body, mind, and soul.”
You can increase the communication with your body by appreciating its purpose in serving you and communicating these changes in your physiology. Your body has given you the signals or symptoms of PCOS to warn you of other underlying issues like we addressed above (insulin resistance, stress, inflammation). By listening to the messages your body is giving you with this diagnosis, you’re able to honor that signal and respond by working to support your body through this. By embracing a growth mindset, you can also open your mind to understand the possible reasons that PCOS affects you. But most importantly, understand that your body is talking to you and asking for your help and guidance. By implementing just one new strategy for loving yourself through this time, you’re well on your way to thriving with PCOS.
Dr. Whitley Jagnanan, DC, CST, BSBIRTHFIT Houston Heights @birthfithoustonheights