As anyone with PCOS knows, it isn’t curable, only treatable. This means that your personal management of the condition is really your only option to reduce the symptoms and ensure that you’re ready for pregnancy (when/if you decide to have children). I was diagnosed with PCOS when I was 16, sort of by accident during an ultra sound for a stomach pain I was having. The stomach pain turned out to be nothing however the Doctor identified that I had polycystic ovaries and following further tests with a gynaecologist confirmed that I had PCOS and a variety of the symptoms which comes with it, including (but not limited to) insulin resistance, acne and a tendency for anxiety.
It took me about 5 years after diagnosis for me to make the decision to get on top of my PCOS. During my teenage years I decided to ignore it and spent the latter half of my teens and early twenties slightly overweight with bad skin. Since hitting puberty I’d struggled with my weight and skin but I thought I was just ‘one of those people’. In another post I’ve recently shared, I mention that when I was I was 21 I decided to make a change in my life, I was a stone overweight with terrible cystic acne and was desperate to find a solution. Over the following years I researched a great to deal to ensure I was putting all of my effort into the right things and now make 5 daily choices to keep my symptoms at bay. Recent test show that my ovaries have improved. It isn’t easy, making changes and then daily choices takes a lot of work and dedication, but for me, it’s worth it. When researching PCOS, I found that the resources available are largely focused on women who are struggling to get pregnant as opposed to supporting younger women to learn to manage the symptoms, and alleviate the frustration, pain and sadness they can cause. This is why I am now sharing all I’ve learnt to help all women and girls with PCOS.
A lot of these choices centre around weight loss and management, this is no surprise to any PCOS sufferer as losing weight is one of the best ways you can alleviate all symptoms and improve your insulin sensitivity. Not all of these may work for you, and I’m not a Doctor, however I strongly believe that when combining all 5, they work for me.
Let’s get started…
Starting in the morning, the first thing I do is to ensure I have taken my medication. The last 3 years has taught me a huge amount about PCOS and the medication which does and doesn’t work. Every morning I ensure I take the following pills and vitamins, I’d like to reiterate I am not a Doctor, I am only sharing my research
- The contraceptive pill – Daylette/Yaz/Eloine
I spent 8 years trying to find a contraceptive pill that worked for me. During this time I tried 7 different pills and had a coil put in and removed. I spent many months with heightened anxiety, headaches, constant spotting and bad skin until my research led me to ‘Yaz’ (also known as Daylette and Eloine). Yaz is a combined pill, containing 0.2mg of ethinyl estradiol (oestrogen) and the progesterone drospirenone.
The reason I landed on this pill is due to the low oestrogen meaning I don’t experience headaches or increased anxiety. Additionally, the type of progesterone, drospirenone, which is an anti-androgen has completely sorted my skin and helped my hair growth. Yaz is the lower oestrogen version of the well known pill, Yasmin, which due to it’s higher oestrogen content (0.3) caused me headaches and increased anxiety. I started taking Yas in August 2015 and I have not looked back. It has only improved my life, unlike many pills, which have a detrimental affect on your life.
2. Metformin (slow release, 500mg per day in the morning)
Not a medication which is unknown to PCOS sufferers. I was first prescribed metformin at 16 and took it on and off for 5 years before committing to taking it daily. The effect of taking Metformin is that the release of glucose from the liver is lessened, resulting in lower blood sugars. Metformin also works to lower blood sugar in two ways: by increasing your sensitivity to insulin (helping with insulin resistance) and decreasing the amount of glucose that is absorbed from the food you eat.
I take 500mg in the morning, I know many people take more, however I personally find 500mg works for me in terms of managing cravings and keeping my insulin at a steady level.
3. Inositol (4g per day, in the morning)
Inositol is a new medication for me, it is a naturally occurring substance that used to be considered as one of the B vitamins. The body is able to produce it on its own, which is why it is no longer considered a ‘vitamin’ but research has showed that taking 4g per day of Inositol combined with Folic Acid can yield incredible results for women with PCOS. For more information I strongly recommend this article. Beneifts of Inositol include:
- Lowered testosterone levels
- Improved insulin sensitivity
- Decreased luteinizing hormone
- Induced weight loss (that sounds good to me)
I take Inositol in powder form which I buy from Amazon here: Inositol Powder
I think everyone should take a multivitamin everyday, PCOS or not. I personally use Centrum Multivitamins and take one daily. Centrum contains:
- 25 key nutrients including all 13 essential vitamins.
- Supports energy release, immunity and contributes to healthy skin & metabolism.
5. Evening primrose oil
My Mum initially started me on this, it’s a great mood stabiliser and as it’s completely natural I don’t see how taking it can be negative. Having taken it for over 10 years I definitely notice a difference in my mood if I go a few weeks without this (if I run out for example).
I buy mine from Amazon, the link here: Natures Aid Evening Primrose Oil 1000mg (Cold Pressed) – Pack of 90 Capsules
2. Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a n umbrella term for various diets that cycle between a period of fasting and non-fasting. There are many different applications of intermittent fasting including the well know 5:2 and the 18:6 ‘lean gains’ diet. For me intermittent fasting works as it helps me to control the amount I eat and means that for a large proportion of the hours in the day I am not eating and therefore spiking my insulin.
I follow the hours of 16:8, so I eat within an 8 hour period and fast for the other 16, not that much really if you think about the fact you’re asleep for a large part of that. My hours work by ‘breaking my fast’ at 12pm with my largest meal of the day, eating again at around 4 and then ensuring I’ve eaten by dinner by 8pm. IF doesn’t mean you just skip breakfast to lower your calorie intake, you still eat all the calories you need in a day but in an 8 hour period instead of a 12-15 hour period, depending on your eating habits. Obviously, you can’t always stick to this if you’re going out for dinner, or maybe for brunch, but it is my rule 90% of the time. The benefit of not eating before 12pm is huge for me for my mood and weight management. IF also hugely prevents overeating.
It’s important that you know that before 12pm you can drink coffee/tea black or with unsweetened almond milk, or another low calorie milk, the point is, you don’t consume over 30-40 calories before 12pm.
3. Low Carb Diet
Low carb diets are very well known, made famous by celebrities and diet such as Atkins, Paleo and South Beach. I started on a low carb diet in March 2014 and since then have dabbled in other eating styles but have always returned to this one. A low carb diet is pretty self explanatory, you avoid all carbs, even the ‘good ones’ such as fruit or wholemeal bread or pasta and instead eat healthy fats, proteins and low carb vegetables and fruit (berries mainly). It certainly isn’t an easy diet to follow at first, however once you’re adjusted you become used to knowing what you can and can’t eat and what to substitute when out and about.
There are a lot of great low carb alternatives on the market now, including low carb pasta and bread and many restaurants and café’s offer great low carb alternatives using ingredients such as courgetti (courgette pasta). For anyone suffering with PCOS I’m very pro a low carb diet, I have seen it work for me and many others, it’s just a case of getting a good understand of what you can eat, be prepared and keep motivated.
There are plenty of great things you can eat including peanut butter, cheese, dark chocolate and fish. I’m a pescatarian so am slightly more limited by the fact I don’t eat meat, however I always find something I can eat and enjoy finding new recipes to try. To get started I suggest you read up on what you can eat, fill the fridge and the cupboards and make a start. It will be an adjustment at first, as you begin to understand that a spoonful of peanut butter and some blueberries is actually better for you than a mango and pineapple fruit salad, for example. To get yourself started I recommend this article from ‘Ditch the Carbs’ which contains guidance, advice and some brilliant recipes.
Ah exercise, the thing everyone knows they should do, but something many people don’t prioritise. I fell in love with exercise in September 2014, about 6 months after I went low carb. I forced myself to the gym and on runs for about 6 months (and I mean forced, I didn’t want to go at all) until it became an integral part of my life which I now can’t go a few days without. It takes a lot of time and dedication to build exercise into your life, it needs to become a habit, something which you just ‘do’ to experience the long term benefits of not only health and, often, weight loss but the huge impact it as on the mind.
As with anything you need to just get started, try out a few different types of exercise, go with a friend, go to a class. You don’t have to join a gym, you can exercise outside or in your house. There are hundreds of brilliants apps for exercising without a gym, my favourite running app here called ‘Running for Weight Loss‘ however it has brilliant programmes if weight loss is your goal or not. This is the app I used to get myself started 3 years ago. I also used it for my half marathon training as it has a variety of programmes. For a short, high intensity workout, I’m a fan of the ‘7 Minute Workout‘. I use this if I’m on holiday or don’t have time for the gym, you’ll be surprised how quickly you can exercise if you use your time effectively!
It will take time but you will find a way to enjoy it and it will give you a huge sense of power and control when you start to feel stronger and fitter.
The last item in my list of 5: booze. Alcohol is a huge part of our society and something which I find has a huge impact on my PCOS as it can mess with all the hard work I put into the above choices. Making the ‘best’ choices with alcohol is the best place to start, moving to alcohols which aren’t loaded with sugar and calories including spirits, soda water and dry wines (and champagne of course). However, just changing your alcohol intake isn’t going to be as beneficial as reducing it. I’m not saying that you need to stop drinking altogether, because you need your changes to become a lifestyle otherwise you simply won’t last, however changing your attitude to drinking and drinking less, maybe when it’s a special occasion, can have a huge positive impact on not only your weight and therefore your PCOS symptoms but also your mind. Alcohol is a depressant and now matter how great a week you can have, and how well you eat and how much exercise you do, this can all disappear after a few too many drinks on a Friday night. I try my best, and I obviously don’t always achieve it, to enjoy alcohol when it’s really worth it to me. Changing my alcohol consumption to drinks with low sugar content and lowering the amount I drink is really vital in my battle with PCOS.
Thank you for reading, I really appreciate you spending the time in doing so. I’m really passionate about helping everyone, especially those diagnosed with PCOS when they’re young so please reach out if have any questions