I know what you’re thinking, “Is there really a cure for PCOS?” Technically, the answer seems to be “no.” At least, not in the standard medical sense of the word. However, I found that with some herbal remedies and a different way of eating, I have been able to effectively control my PCOS. To me, that is every bit as good as a cure!
First, let me tell you a little bit about where I was with my PCOS, and about my personal journey towards a healthier way of life. Polycystic Ovary Syndrom, also known as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS, plagued my life since my late teens.
I had my first period at 11 years old, and all was fairly average until I turned 17. That was when I experienced pretty rapid weight gain. I put on a little more than the “Freshman 15.” For me, it was more like the Freshman 35, and by the time I graduated college, I was nearly 45 pounds heavier than when I graduated high school.
Although, truthfully, it wasn’t the weight that bothered me. It was the other symptoms that seemed to be happening. The first sign of problems, and the one that was the biggest nuisance in my life, were my irregular periods. When I say my periods were irregular, I’m not talking about a few days later than usual. My irregular periods occurred every few months – sometimes every month, sometimes 5 months apart. When my period did arrive, it came with flooding, large clots, cramps, headaches, breast tenderness, and nausea. My period would also last about 21 days on average.
When I talked to my first doctor about it he told me that the flooding and large clots were my body’s way of shedding the built up endometrium from months of no periods. Then he put me on birth control, and sent me on my way. It worked for a few months, but my problems suddenly resumed with a vengeance.
I was put on several more birth control pill prescriptions, none of them completely fixing the problem. In the meantime, I was also experiencing insulin resistance, acne along my neck and jawline, more weight gain, hirsutism, hair loss (from my head only, unfortunately!), skin tags all over my neck, mood swings, anxious depression, unprompted anger, and ovarian cysts.
After going through several more doctors, and a few more prescriptions, I finally found a naturopath who listened to my symptoms, did some tests, and found out that I had PCOS. In all honesty, I was thrilled that my symptoms finally had a collective name!
My naturopathic doctor then suggested that I try a low carb diet to control my PCOS, reasoning that the connection between insulin resistance and PCOS could be used to our advantage in treating the PCOS. I was skeptical, but did a bit of my own research, and decided to give it a try. I had nothing to lose.
For the first 6 weeks, I ate no more than 40 grams of carbs every day, typically sticking closer to 30 grams, and made sure to take a few teaspoons of cinnamon every day to help my body process blood sugar more effectively. I also made sure to exercise for 30 minutes every day.
At first, my periods seemed to get heavier, and I wondered whether or not the diet change was working. My naturopath assured me that this was a normal part of the healing process, and that, as I lost fat, the stores of estrogen in that fat were released back into my body. Sure enough, 8 weeks later, my period was back to normal (like it had been in my mid-teens), and my estrogen levels were testing in the normal range for the first time in over a decade!
My androgen and testosterone levels were also lower, which was a great sign since those are two of the most elevated hormones for PCOS women. I was also able to finally get off of the Metformin and birth control pills. I was thrilled, since the side effects of those medications didn’t agree with my body at all.
Perhaps more exciting than all of that, at least for vanity’s sake, was the fact that in 8 weeks I had lost 30 pounds, my skin tags were practically all gone, my hair was no longer falling out in the shower, my skin had cleared up, and my excess hair (especially the facial hair) was starting to disappear and grow in lighter.
After the initial 8 weeks, I went up to consuming between 40-70 grams of carbohydrates each day, making sure to continue taking cinnamon since it helped me with my blood sugar. Keep in mind, the number of carbs will vary with each woman, and it does take a bit of trial and error. Some women may notice symptoms of PCOS reappearing if they consume more than 30 grams, while other lucky women are able to consume 100 grams or more every day without PCOS symptoms rearing their ugly head again.
For my particular circumstance, I have found that keeping my carbs consistently within this 40-70 gram bracket has completely controlled (in my mind, cured) my PCOS for many, many months. As time has passed, I have also been able to reintroduce a few days of dessert back into my diet every month!
It may sound like a drastic dietary change, but it was easier than I expected. I did continue to eat a few low glycemic grains, I explored a whole world of new fruits and vegetables, I enjoyed organic meats and dairy (I needed to avoid the excess hormones found in some conventional meat and dairy), and I was able to experiment with new recipes. Overall, I have to admit, it was fun. Not just to try new food related things, but also to notice my body changing a little bit every day. Looking back now I would not change a thing. I am healthier now than I had been for years, and that is worth at least a few bags of potato chips!
Give it a try for yourself! After all, what have you got to lose besides your PCOS?