Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), also known as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or Stein-Leventhal Syndrome, is an insulin resistance disorder that affects hormones.
So what are some common signs and symptoms of PCOS?
• Insulin resistance
• Very irregular periods (either not menstruating or heavy, prolonged bleeding often with clots – sometimes periods are skipped for months, only to strike with a vengeance with flooding and large clots)
• Fat gain around the midsection (particularly in the lower tummy – some women call this the dreaded PCOS gut)
• An increase in body hair growth (upper lip, chin, tummy, breasts, and other areas are all common PCOS hair growth sites)
• Hair loss (on the head, unfortunately, not where we might actually want hair loss!)
• Cysts on the ovaries
• Failure to ovulate
• Intense cravings for sweets and other carbohydrates
• Mood swings
• High blood pressure
• High cholesterol
• High androgen and testosterone levels
• Skin tags (fleshy, noncancerous growths that are typically flesh toned, but can be darker colors as well)
• Acanthosis Nigricans (velvety, darkened patches of skin)
• Low libido
• Low progesterone / Estrogen dominance
• Hair loss
• Agressive, angry feelings
• Anxious depression
I had the majority of these symptoms for years. For nearly a decade I struggled with my weight, and had gained well over 35 pounds, most of it around my tummy and hips. I was dumbfounded – for all of those years, I had been dieting to help shed the extra pounds. I was eating low fat foods, exercising every day, and still I was gaining weight every month!
Finally, after giving up quite a bit of hope, I started seeking answers – I found that answer in the form of a diagnosis. I was diagnosed with PCOS and low (i.e. nonexistent) progesterone in the summer of 2009.
At first I was a bit scared and kind of intimidated. After all, I had never before had a life altering diagnosis, and I wasn’t exactly sure what to do. My doctor suggested birth control, but I was not too excited about the idea of loading up my body with more hormones. He also suggested Metformin, but I wanted to try a more natural route to healing first. I was tired, and physiologically I had been through enough. So, I spent a week researching naturopathic doctors until I found a wonderful doctor who listened to my concerns, and got me started on a whole new way of life.
I know, by now you’re saying to yourself, “Enough with the story! Just tell me how to fix this!”
Here’s what I did to get rid of all traces of PCOS and estrogen dominance within 6 months. Yes, symptoms were lessened, and my quality of life improved dramatically in just 6 weeks, but I was fully back to my old self at the 6 month mark.
My first step was to have a hormone balancing, healing tea every morning. For me, the blend that worked best was Vitex and Red Raspberry Leaf tea, with a some cinnamon and Milk Thistle thrown into the mix. This blend was based on my naturopath’s guidance, and was geared towards women with too much estrogen, and irregular heavy (menorrhagia) periods. After drinking 12 ounces every morning, I noticed improvement in about 4 weeks.
My second plan of attack was to apply bioidentical Progesta-Care progesterone cream for about 3 weeks every month. Counting day 1 as the first day of my period, I would apply 15mg of cream every night from days 7-11. Then, for days 12-26, I would apply the cream twice daily, morning and night, making certain to rotate the areas of application. By the end of the fifth month, I was able to lighten the doses, and eventually tapered them off completely. Of course, the dosage amount and daily application schedule will vary a bit with each woman.
Finally, my last step: I drastically changed the way I ate.
Because insulin resistance, and PCOS, is directly associated with the carbohydrates in a person’s diet, I followed the advice of my naturopath, and began a low carb diet. By low carb, I mean that I consumed between 30-50 grams of carbohydrates every day. Certainly not the drastically low numbers of the Atkins induction period, but still much lower than the standard American diet of 300 carbs per day.
The amazing thing was that I had expected the first few weeks to be pure torture, but they were not. Eating between 30-50 carbs every day, and exercising five days a week (for at least 30 minutes per day), was an easier lifestyle modification than I had imagined.
Within one month, I had lost nearly 17 pounds, my skin tags were disappearing, my jawline acne was gone, my dark patches of skin were lighter, the unwanted hair growth was slowing, and I was no longer pulling out handfuls of hair from my head when I showered. Even my dreaded PCOS tummy was flatter!
Just 3 months later, I had lost over 37 pounds, and felt better than I did when I was a teenager! Practically all of my health complaints were gone, and the ones that remained were so much less noticeable.
Needless to say, I was thrilled, and the results got me even more motivated to stick to my new lifestyle and way of eating. It went beyond psychological motivation, too. Since estrogen is stored in fat, every pound of fat I lost got me even closer to my goal of having less estrogen and more balanced hormones. Yes, there were a few period irregularities during the first few months of my low carb diet, but my naturopath assured me that it was normal. Just the estrogen making its way out of my body, and my body adjusting to the new hormone levels. She was right – it all worked itself out by the middle of the third month.
By the time I saw my OB/GYN six months later, my insanely heavy periods had lightened considerably, I was 53 pounds lighter, I was ovulating regularly, and all but one of my cysts had disappeared (the one that remained was down in size by nearly 90%).
Yes, it took time, and prescriptions may have been faster, but I feel that by changing my lifestyle, and taking a more natural approach, I have made my PCOS nightmare a thing of the past permanently.
I know that natural healing isn’t for everyone. If you think you have PCOS, and prefer the treatment of a standard healthcare practitioner, definitely talk to your doctor. PCOS is too nasty to live with long term, and the sooner you get it checked out, the sooner you can start living your life again, PCOS-free!
As for me – I am thrilled to be able to say that I effectively have this syndrome under control, and I look forward to enjoying a much healthier life!
1. Personal battle with PCOS.
2. Women’s Health. 2010. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Symptoms.
Accessed: August 31, 2010.
3. PCOSupport. 2010.
Accessed: August 31, 2010.