Unfortunately, PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) is one of the most common endocrine conditions for young women in the United States. While most researchers agree that the exact cause of PCOS isn’t clear, it is clear that some of the underlying factors include hormone regulation and insulin resistance. Women who develop PCOS during their reproductive years often experience a range of symptoms, which can often be attributed to something other than polycystic ovary syndrome. Some of the most common symptoms of PCOS include:
- Irregular periods
- Heavy periods
- Ovarian cysts
- Facial acne
- Thinning hair
- Weight gain
- Pelvic pain
Once PCOS has been diagnosed, it’s important for women to start taking a closer look at their lifestyle, including their diet and eating habits. While some doctors will immediately jump to medications, prescriptions, and other more invasive treatments for PCOS, the reality is that PCOS can be effectively managed and treated through therapies that are natural and, therefore, more gentle on the body. These proven natural therapies for PCOS are evidence-based and often work simultaneously on the body and mind, making them potent medicine for truly changing lives.
One of the most important aspects of dealing with PCOS isn’t just treating symptoms; it’s finding the source of the issue. For many women, diet and nutrition is an essential part of overcoming PCOS and its symptoms.
Looking at Diet for Treating PCOS Symptoms
If you’re struggling with PCOS, one of the most important things you can do right now is to closely evaluate your diet and nutrition. The more you’re able to eat foods (and stay away from ingredients that irritate PCOS), the faster you’ll start feeling better. The right diet actually nourishes your body, which means that your hormones (and your menstrual cycle) begin to return to their natural healthy state. In general, the more you avoid foods that have been highly processed and preserved, the better you’ll start feeling. Why? Because these highly processed foods increase inflammation in your body, which often also leads to a resistance to insulin.
The easiest way to start changing your diet in order to treat PCOS is to begin eating more whole foods. Whole foods are foods that are “whole”, which means nothing else (like sugars, preservatives, hormones, etc.) have been added to them. Some of the best whole foods for regulating your blood sugar include:
- Whole Grains
One of the other keys to eating your way out of PCOS is making sure that you’re balancing your carbohydrates and protein. What that means is ensuring that you’re eating enough healthy protein, which encourages your body to produce its own insulin. When food is high in carbohydrates and/or highly processed, it makes you more sensitive to insulin and, sometimes, even resistant to insulin altogether. While some women look to decrease carbohydrates to get the results they want, it’s better to think about balancing carbs with healthy proteins, including those that are plant-based, like nuts, whole grains, legumes, and other dark greens.
Because PCOS is caused by “low-level chronic inflammation”, it’s also essential to eat foods that don’t cause inflammation in your body. When you begin to decrease inflammation, you’ll not only feel a relief from PCOS symptoms, but you’ll also feel better in general — more energy, less illness, reduced pain.
Consider These Natural Supplements for PCOS
In addition to improving your daily diet, you can also consider adding a handful of natural supplements to help you treat PCOS. One of the most important supplements to consider is iron because, if you’re experiencing heavy bleeding with your menstrual cycle, you’ll want to replace the iron lost so that you don’t develop an iron deficiency or even anemia. To naturally add iron to your diet without taking a supplement, try to consume more eggs, broccoli, and spinach.
Magnesium is another supplement you can take in order to improve PCOS symptoms. You can also consume magnesium in your diet by eating more bananas, spinach, and nuts (like cashews and almonds). If you choose to take a magnesium supplement (typically 300 mg), consider taking it at nighttime (before bed) in order to get the biggest improvement with your insulin levels.
Fiber is also necessary in order for your body to return to its natural state of health, which is why upping your fiber intake, whether through supplements or natural sources, could be a good idea. Some of the most common foods rich in fiber include lentils, avocados, pears, and broccoli.
For many women, PCOS leads to infertility. Thankfully, there are two important supplements you can add that have been proven to help increase fertility while combatting PCOS. Those are vitamin D and calcium. Both of these supplements help to improve BMI, as well as any abnormalities experienced with menstrual cycles. In most studies, women used 1,000 mg of calcium and 100,000 Its of vitamin D. (Be sure to consult your own doctor or medical professional for dosage amounts before changing your daily routine.)
A lesser known but important supplement for PCOS, chromium is an essential mineral that helps your body better regulate its insulin and blood sugar levels. If you have diabetes, there’s research available that supports the idea that chromium can actually help lower blood glucose levels (comparable to the prescription pharmaceutical metformin). Of course, always consult your own health professional before adding chromium or changing any doses of other medication.
Lastly, making sure you’re getting enough omega-3s is another important aspect to naturally treating your PCOS. Among the many benefits of adding omega-3s to your diet, omega-3 supplements lower testosterone in women, allowing their menstrual cycles to return to normal.
Balance Your Hormones By Cutting Out Caffeine
Caffeine, like the kind in your daily cup(s) of coffee, alters your estrogen levels and how your hormones behave. As such, dramatically reducing your caffeine consumption, or cutting it out altogether, can have a positive effect on your PCOS and its symptoms. That of course doesn’t mean that you have to skip the warm beverage ritual altogether. If you love the taste of coffee, try a decaf cup instead. And, if you’re willing to try something new, look at other tea options, including caffeine-free herbal tea and new mushroom teas that are packed with loads of other health benefits.
Boost Your Probiotic Intake
Your gut is home to trillions of bacteria — and they’re essential for optimal health. Unfortunately, modern lifestyle is doing a number on gut health, and it’s leaving us feeling sick and unwell. For women with PCOS, improving the health of your microbiome (the environment in your gut) is important because it increases weight loss and decreases diabetes and other underlying factors. Your microbiome is also connected to your hormones, which is another reason why it’s so important to pay attention to it if you’re struggling with PCOS.
In order to improve your microbiome, you can increase your probiotic intake each day. Consider adding a probiotic supplement or simply adding foods that are naturally high in probiotics, like yogurt and other fermented foods and drinks, like kombucha or kimchi.
Ensure You’re Getting Enough Exercise
When your body is being moved regularly through healthy exercise programs and routines, you start to lose weight — and feel better. The more you exercise, the more your body starts to naturally lower insulin levels and blood sugar levels, making it an important treatment process for PCOS. Additionally, exercise makes you sleep better, which is great for overall health, including weight loss.
Exercising properly is key for women dealing with PCOS. And because it is so important, you’ll want to make sure that you choose an exercise routine that you actually enjoy so that you can stick with it. Of course, you’ll want to avoid getting in a workout rut, so make sure that you keep an open mind about moving your body. You absolutely don’t have to exercise in the same way day after day.
Do something new when you feel like it! And, above all, make sure you’re enjoying yourself.
When you look forward to exercising, you’ll do it more — and you’ll see results faster, too.