It’s 2017. I walk into my OB’s office, anxiously awaiting my results. Edie, based on your ultrasound images, physical symptoms, A1C, and testosterone levels, you have PCOS. I was stunned. PCO—what? After living most of my adult life with an irregular cycle, I finally had an explanation. During our appointment, she explain potential next steps: birth control, a drug to take for my blood sugar, and eventually, fertility medication. I walked out of the office feeling slightly relieved, but mostly, very confused and equally discouraged. Armed as an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, I knew there was another way. And thus, I began my healing journey. To this day, I’m living proof you can put your PCOS into remission—with holistic treatments. Learning how to heal PCOS naturally could change your life.
What is PCOS?
If you’re newly diagnosed—or suspect you have PCOS—you’re not alone. In fact, it’s estimated that 5 million U.S. women have PCOS. Although the specific cause is not fully understood, PCOS is multifaceted. This syndrome has various genetic, endocrine, and environmental catalysts. It’s part hormonal and part metabolic. Like other reproductive disorders, PCOS affects menstrual health, fertility, and more. Women with PCOS typically present with higher levels of male hormones, called androgens. In turn, PCOS causes a slew of unwanted conditions: irregular (or a complete absence of) periods, infertility, persistent acne, and abnormal hair growth patterns in women.
Common PCOS Symptoms
The name polycystic ovary syndrome is a bit misleading. It describes the numerous small cysts (fluid-filled sacs) that form in the ovaries, but some women don’t have cysts. These are general PCOS symptoms:
- Irregular periods or rarely having a period
- Abnormal hair growth, such as lip hair, stomach hair, neck or facial hair (conversely, some women experience male balding patterns)
- Infertility, due to anovulation
- Tendency to being overweight, particularly with weight in the abdomen
- Insulin resistance with signs of diabetes
- Blood sugar regulation issues
- High testosterone
- Via ultrasound, one or both ovaries are enlarged with many immature eggs
Luckily, you can learn how to heal PCOS naturally!
How to Test for PCOS
Unfortunately, there is no single test for PCOS. Typically, a physical exam, ultrasound, and blood tests can help diagnose PCOS. You need to meet two of these three official criteria to be diagnosed:
- Irregular, heavy, or missed periods due to missed ovulation.
- Higher levels of androgens are present in the blood (hyperandrogenism), shown by a blood test OR symptoms (excess facial or body hair growth, scalp hair loss, or acne).
- An ultrasound shows polycystic ovaries.
Different Types of PCOS
Before unveiling how to heal PCOS naturally, it’s important to understand the three types of PCOS. In mainstream medicine, each type of PCOS is typically (and unfortunately) managed with the same. But here’s the gist: each type has different symptoms. For example, not all women with PCOS are overweight, nor do they have excess hair growth. It’s possible to have a combination of these three types of PCOS, or for the root cause of your PCOS to evolve over time.
This is the most common PCOS type. It’s the type that I was diagnosed with, personally. High insulin levels interfere with ovulation, causing irregular cycles and a slew of other symptoms. Women with this kind of PCOS usually have blood sugar and insulin levels that suggest diabetes or pre-diabetes. Getting my blood sugar under control was an absolute game-changer.
This type of PCOS is most often present in women who are not overweight—nor do they present classic symptoms of PCOS. A variety of factors causes inflammation, including food intolerances, exposure to environmental toxins, and a poor diet.
Synthetic Hormone-Induced PCOS
This kind of PCOS is common for women who have been on the pill or other hormonal birth control (for a long time). This was also me. Birth control’s synthetic hormones shut down communication in the body in order to prevent pregnancy. However, it can take time to re-ignite this communication channel.
How I Treated My PCOS
Rather than pursue traditional treatments, I explored other options. I decided not to use birth control or pharmaceutical drugs. Instead, I spent time researching and sought help from a functional medicine doctor. Under her guidance and additional testing, I was also diagnosed with an under-active thyroid. I spent years over-exercising, not managing my stress, and not eating enough calories. Supporting my thyroid became essential in my healing journey.
taking a holistic approach
Under the care of my functional medicine doctor, I tried a few different things. First, I changed my diet. Mainly, I focused on balancing my blood sugar. I also incorporated more healthy fats and gut-friendly foods. When consuming gluten and dairy, I made sure to choose high-quality. These habits still ring true today. I began seed cycling and taking supplements as well. Furthermore, I opted for more gentle exercise, started routine acupuncture, and incorporated a daily mindfulness practice.
Everything—from food, supplements, and lifestyle choices—proved beneficial. It’s hard to know exactly what did the trick. But after three months, I regained my cycle. Ovulation was still hit or miss, but from 2018 to 2019, I focused on tuning in to my body’s intuitive needs, and it changed me for the better. I learned that healing from a hormone imbalance is not linear. Trial, error, and a lot of patience were my guiding lights. We still needed to use Clomid to get pregnant, but ever since I weaned my son, my PCOS has remained in remission.
Keep in mind, this is simply what worked for me! How to heal PCOS naturally looks different for every woman, as every PCOS diagnosis is unique. I work with countless women who have PCOS. More on my health coaching, here.
Thank you for supporting Wellness with Edie! This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider.