This post is different than the topics I typically cover, however I wanted to share my experience with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) because after being diagnosed I found hearing and reading the experiences of other women with PCOS to be invaluable. I learned so much and was able to not only manage my symptoms but also conceive a child which we’re so excited to welcome this August.
Before we get into it though, there needs to be an important disclaimer that I am not an expert, doctor, or healthcare professional. All I’m sharing is my personal experience but everyone’s body and health is different and it’s of course important to do your own research and talk to your healthcare provider about any lifestyle/diet changes, symptoms, treatments, etc.
Before Being Diagnosed
I was actually diagnosed with PCOS quite late compared to other people – about a year and a half ago when I was 29. Being diagnosed with PCOS was actually a relief to some extent; whenever I was not on birth control I had an extremely irregular period, although doctors just told me it’s normal and nothing to be concerned about.
When I was a teenager, my first doctor prescribed me the pill to make my cycle regular. Later when I transitioned off hormonal birth control to get a copper IUD my highly irregular period came back. My doctor again said it was nothing to worry about although none of my doctors ever looked into it or did any testing.
While the IUD did make my periods less irregular it still wasn’t a normal 28-day cycle but I’d been told multiple times by different doctors that it wasn’t a concern so I assumed that was just the way my body and cycle was.
Years later it was time to remove my IUD; I didn’t have a great experience with it since it made my cramps a lot worse but I also wasn’t keen on going back to hormonal birth control. I had been reading a lot about FAM (Fertility Awareness Method) and BBT (Basel body temperature) charting and since my husband and I were also discussing starting a family in the next few years it seemed like something worth trying.
Tracking your BBT is something I would highly recommend. Even though it’s not very effective as birth control if you have PCOS or an irregular cycle, I found it helpful to have that data for my diagnosis, symptom managing, and trying to conceive.
My PCOS Diagnosis
After I started BBT charting I realised exactly how extremely irregular my periods were (often 2 – 3 months apart). Also during that time we were talking more about our future family plans and so I started doing research into irregular periods, infertility, and conception. I had heard of PCOS before but all I knew was that it involved ovary cysts and knew nothing of other symptoms. My research on irregular periods pretty quickly led me to information about PCOS and the more I read about it and the symptoms it seemed to fit with many things I’d been experiencing.
I made an appointment with my Gynaecologist and when I explained to her I wanted to be tested for PCOS her immediate response was, “you don’t have PCOS” – no tests, just by looking at me she made that call.
After being told my whole life my irregular cycle was no concern I wanted some kind of explanation – I asked her why I have such highly irregular periods and being able to show her my BBT charts was helpful because she actually acknowledged they were very irregular and told me most people call a few days off irregular, not months. However even then she said that since I didn’t have other symptoms like excess weight or acne (and I’ll talk later about why I didn’t appear to have those symptoms) I didn’t have PCOS. I pushed her to see if we could just do the ultrasound anyways to make sure and she thankfully agreed.
Then I was up on the ultrasound table on her office, she beings to look around, and immediately says,
“OH, your ovaries are covered in cysts!” 🤦♀️
(although it’s also important to note that you can still have PCOS without visible cysts)
So I was diagnosed with PCOS. She recommended going on the birth control pill again, which I wasn’t too keen about, and/or possibly Metformin, which I wanted to learn more about. I felt both relieved to finally have some explanation but also concerned and wanting to learn more about what dealing with PCOS might involve both for me and our family.
The first thing I did out of the doctor’s office was search “treating PCOS”. I read about the drug options but also started finding women talking about how they naturally managed their symptoms through diet and exercise. This was more up my alley and something I wanted to at least try before taking the hormones or medication for it.
One thing I learned was the relationship insulin has with PCOS and how cutting out refined sugars, white flour, and high-glycemic foods can help alleviate symptoms. I decided to jump right in and test this out – I went on a sugar-free/low GI diet for a few months. I figured even if it didn’t help my PCOS it still was a healthy thing to try.
At first it was definitely challenging to make diet adjustments and changes but I got my period the following month, the month after, and the month after that – which was unheard of for me! My BBT charts also showed quite regular cycles and I was blown away by how quickly this change took effect.
I still try to avoid sugar where possible and eat low GI, although I’m not as super-strict about it and will occasionally have treats. However I’ve had a regular cycle since I started cutting out sugar until I got pregnant and I really believe being careful with sugar was the best change I could have made for my PCOS.
Something great that also happened is after time I no longer even crave sugar. Most desserts (like these cupcakes) I know will now taste way too sweet and actually are unappealing. It’s amazing how your taste can adjust and now my ideal treat is something only very lightly sweetened or not sweet at all.
I also now have a new doctor (since we moved) and when she asked if I was taking anything or doing anything to manage my PCOS symptoms, I mentioned avoiding sugar and she confirmed that it was one of the best things you can do for PCOS and also to prevent diabetes since PCOS can increase your risk.
In addition to avoiding sugar, a lot of resources I read also recommended eating lots of whole fruits and vegetables and reducing dairy, red meat, and some other animal products.
I’ve been vegetarian since I was about 18 and over the last decade have also been eating more and more plant-based. My main reason for doing this is for a more sustainable and ethical diet, but I also noticed skin and health benefits by eating this way. I don’t know for sure, but I think this is why some of the other common PCOS symptoms like acne and weight gain didn’t show up as obviously on me, since I was already eating a pretty healthy and PCOS-friendly diet (minus paying attention to sugars).
A lot of PCOS diets also recommend prioritising anti-inflammatory foods, which again involves eating lots of whole fruits and veggies, and also making sure to get healthy fats and oils, like nuts and omega 3s. It also involves avoiding inflammatory foods like sugar, refined carbohydrates, fried foods, and lots of processed foods.
Another change I made was to make sure I had healthy snacks on hand if I got hungry, as I learned it’s important to eat regular meals so your blood sugar levels aren’t fluctuating too much.
Exercise is of course beneficial for everyone, but regular exercise along with a healthy diet seem to be the way many people successfully manage their PCOS symptoms. I used to be the kind of person who would work out when I felt like it, but reading how beneficial regular exercise was for PCOS made me commit to a more consistent exercise schedule and go for walks whenever possible.
The exercises I enjoy that work best for me are a mix of cardio on the elliptical or bike, swimming, yoga, some body-weight exercises, and walking.
If you’ve followed my channel or blog you know that I’ve gone through a beauty detox and try to only use products with natural, safe, and healthy ingredients. Many beauty, cleaning, food, household products, and even clothing can unfortunately contain endocrine disruptors like Phthalates, BPA, PFCs, and more. Since PCOS is hormone related, it makes sense to avoid hormone-disrupting chemicals.
I think because I’ve been consciously avoiding these chemicals over the last 5 years it’s also helped my PCOS. I can’t be sure it’s related but I know avoiding these chemicals at least is healthier and won’t make it worse.
I’m currently pregnant, which before I started managing my PCOS symptoms I wasn’t sure was even a path for me. My main focus now is on a healthy pregnancy – regularly exercising and continuing to eat healthy and avoiding sugar (especially sincePCOS can also increase your risk of developing gestational diabetes).
I know my PCOS will never go away, but these changes have made me (and indirectly my husband since we workout and cook/eat together) healthier overall. I’m happy I’ve been able to avoid taking hormones or medication for it, plus making these diet and exercise changes has allowed us to start a family 💕. These changes are things I’m definitely going to prioritise and maintain for the rest of my life.
Again I want to emphasise that this is just my experience, I’m not a doctor, and it’s always important to consult your healthcare provider. I do hope though that if you are researching or struggling with PCOS you find this post helpful in some way. These are some resources you can also check out:
- PCOS Diva has an excellent free guide, PCOS 101 guide that I found helpful.
- Root + Revel has some good PCOS diet tips.
- On YouTube FemmeHead has some helpful videos on FAM and BBT charting.
- Reddit can be a great place to hear other people’s experiences, find support, and share resources. There’s a specific PCOS subreddit.
- I also found Pinterest helpful for finding PCOS friendly meal and recipe ideas, especially if you also have other dietary restrictions.
If you have any other good PCOS resources please share them in the comments too! Unfortunately I can’t find all the blogs and websites again that I read during my research.