by Kate Kordsmeier of Root + Revel
I remember it like it was yesterday — I was 16 years old and my mother was taking me to the gynecologist because of my heavy, irregular periods and face full of hormonal acne.
After she examined me and asked a few questions, I was given a prescription for birth control pills without a second thought. Meanwhile, I gave no thought to the synthetic hormones I began ingesting on a daily basis. My periods regulated; my acne improved; and I was thrilled.
Fast forward 11 years, and I decided it was time to get off the pill. I was having some digestion issues, and I felt like stopping all medication was the only way I could really see what was going on with my body.
Two months later, my period still hadn’t come; I’d gained 12 pounds for no reason; my cheeks and chin were covered with dozens of pimples; I had horrible cramps; and I was tired, exhausted, anxious and just a mess.
Once again, I made an appointment with my gynecologist, telling her about everything that had happened since I stopped taking hormonal birth control and asking her what she thought might be causing all these issues. I also reminded her that my mother had PCOS and asked if she thought I might have it, too.
“Nahh, you’re just getting older,” the doctor told 27-year-old me. “As we age, we have to eat less and exercise more. Just go back on the Pill until you’re ready to have kids.”
I knew that a pill that synthetically altered my hormones wasn’t the answer and was, instead, just a Band-aid that would mask my symptoms and potentially make everything irreparably worse. What if I went back on the pill and then wanted to have kids and my period never returned?
It was then and there that I realized that if I wanted to feel better, I would have to take my health into my own hands. I had to be my own advocate, do my own research, and find doctors who would listen and work with me to find the root cause — and not just slap a prescription slip in my hand.
After extensive research, I found a holistic MD who helped me understand the root cause of my issues and put me on the road toward healing. I was given a comprehensive hormone panel, and the doctor talked with me for over an hour about my symptoms, lifestyle, family history and diet. Ultimately, I was diagnosed with PCOS, which stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.
Turns out, PCOS is one of the most common hormonal endocrine disorders in women. Symptoms may include irregular periods, acne, PMS, weight gain (particularly around the midsection), hair loss AND hair growth in strange places (like your chin, upper lip, or sideburns), string of pearl type cysts on your ovaries, extreme PMS symptoms and cramping, insulin resistance and/or type 2 diabetes, headaches, sleep apnea and, often times, infertility.
It’s important to note that PCOS manifests itself differently in every woman. Some don’t have actual cysts (like me), while others do. And some women with PCOS never experience any symptoms, while others feel like they have them all.
In the end, it’s important to look at your situation as unique and work with a thoughtful doctor who can properly diagnose you and help you reverse your PCOS without relying on harmful and controversial medications, like birth control pills, Metformin, Clomid and/or Spironolactone.
Truthfully, I was skeptical at first. After all, Western medicine is all most of us know, and there are certainly times when it’s necessary and life-changing. But I am living proof that PCOS is 100 percent reversible — and you can do it completely naturally, no meds required!
It’s been nearly four years since I was first diagnosed with PCOS, and another two years since I became virtually symptom-free, with regular cycles and balanced hormonal blood work.
How I Reversed My PCOS In 6 Steps
So how did I do it? And how can you, too, reverse your PCOS? Here’s what I’d recommend, based on my personal experience:
1. Get your hormones tested
Having a complete hormone panel run by your doctor is crucial to understanding what type of PCOS you have and what hormones need balancing. Some women have excess androgens (male hormones), which can cause acne, weight gain around the midsection, facial hair growth and missed periods, while other women may be estrogen dominant (meaning their estrogen levels are too high and progesterone too low), resulting in long menstrual cycles, heavy cramping, intense PMS symptoms and infertility.
Be sure that your doctor runs a complete panel that included estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, AMHA, DHEA and perhaps even your thyroid and insulin, as women with PCOS often have hypothyroidism and insulin resistance, as well. (And while you wait to see your doctor, you can also take this free quiz to find out if you have PCOS.)
2. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet
The impact that our diet has on our hormones is pretty amazing. To optimize mine, I followed an anti-inflammatory diet that drastically reduced my intake of gluten, dairy, inflammatory oils, sugar and processed food.
Instead, I filled my plate with plenty of organic, fiber-rich fruits; vegetables and whole grains; healthy fats and lean protein. I also incorporated lots of hormone-healing foods like spearmint tea, cinnamon, apple cider vinegar, bone broth, nourishing teas, collagen and adaptogenic mushrooms.
3. Take hormone-balancing supplements
Today, my supplement routine is much simpler, but when I was in the early stages of healing, it was very important that I nourished my body with a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. I was skeptical that supplements would really work, but I can say that, without a doubt, supplements were the key to a lot of my healing, as there are many nutrients that our bodies simply can’t get enough of from food alone — no matter how healthy you eat (hello, Vitamin D!).
To be honest, there’s a level of trial and error that’s involved in finding the supplement routine that works best for you, but vitex, DIM, evening primrose oil, inositol, magnesium and maca are just some of the hormone-balancing supplements that I relied on to reverse my PCOS.
4. Exercise smart
Did you know that over-exercising (e.g., exercising for more than 60 minutes per session, or running) can burn out your adrenals? And that elevated levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) can cause your other hormones to become out of whack?
That’s why I made the switch from long, intense workout sessions several times a week, to exercising for less time (15–30 minutes) every single day. I also stopped running and started taking long, leisurely walks and going to restorative yoga classes. Some other ways to nourish your adrenals: self-care techniques like meditation, Epsom salt bath soaks, massage and reading (particularly in the sun for 15 minutes a day to boost vitamin D levels). It’s also helpful to consume less caffeine and alcohol.
5. Toss toxic products that disrupt hormones
In the same way that what we put in our body is important, so too is what we put on our bodies. And unfortunately, most store-bought products contain a cocktail of harmful chemicals that are proven to cause cancer, asthma and allergies, neurotoxicity and hormonal imbalances (including infertility). Eliminating these products was particularly important for my PCOS, as many of these toxins mimic estrogen in the body, further exacerbating estrogen dominance and hormonal imbalances.
So toss toxic store-bought skincare, makeup, personal hygiene and cleaning products and replace them with safe, natural alternatives. I also started making a lot of my own skincare and cleaning products, which is super easy, affordable and the best way to ensure your products won’t wreak havoc on your hormones.
6. Balance blood sugar
Insulin resistance is another issue many women with PCOS struggle with. Essentially, when your blood sugar (fasting glucose and insulin) levels are too high, you’re at very high risk for developing type 2 diabetes. To combat this, I cut out refined carbs and sugar and focused on healthy fats, fiber and protein.
I also ate at regular intervals (especially first thing in the morning) to bring my fasting insulin levels down. This strategy along worked SO quickly to balance my blood sugar that I could hardly believe it.
So there you have it. Six ways to reverse PCOS naturally. Note: My personal recommendations don’t substitute the advice of a qualified medical professional, so I highly suggest you find a holistic doctor you trust who can address your unique concerns and walk you through the process of healing PCOS naturally.
I should also note that there is no “cure” for PCOS. I will always have it. What I can do is manage it. I can reverse the chronic conditions that accompany the hormonal disorder and essentially be in “remission” from the symptoms. But if I don’t treat my body right, PCOS can always flare up again, and this reality is something I’ll have to deal with for the rest of my life.
But I also know that whenever I have a flare-up, I can go back to these six steps and, within weeks, my hormones will be balanced and my symptoms disappear once again.
Kate Kordsmeier is a food journalist turned real fo
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