“PCOS affects over 7 million women. That’s more than the number of people diagnosed with breast cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus combined” -Dr. Louise Chang, MD
PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian syndrome) sucks. From the irregular periods and cysts on our ovaries, to the increased risk of endometrial and ovarian cancers, PCOS wreaks havoc on daily life. I got diagnosed when I was 14 years old and I thought to myself, “Finally! An answer! I know why I’m not normal.” Then turned to the GYN and asked, “So what do we do? How do we treat this?” The answer I got was pretty much the “standard” answer of “ We can manage your symptoms,” and treatment of Metformin for the insulin resistance and birth control to regulate my cycle and hormones. My mom and I were on information overload and who were we to question what my doctor told me? When we got home and digested everything we were told, I wanted more information on my diagnosis. So I took to the internet, and at the time I didn’t find much of anything on my diagnosis. Not that I was planning to, but it was just hard for me to blindly follow something that I couldn’t research for myself.
“Doctors don’t really understand PCOS. It’s up to you to educate yourself and become EMPOWERED” – Amy Medling, PCOS DIVA
PCOS is more than just a “bad period” as some people seem to think. Which, let’s face it, they can be excruciating. When you get cysts on your ovaries during your period (when you actually get a period) and you can barely stand up, let alone walk, then those cysts burst and you’ve never felt pain like that in your life. You seriously think you might be dying, but to a medical professional that doesn’t understand just what’s going on, you’re overreacting or “faking it”. I can’t tell you how many times I was told that I was faking it by my pediatrician before I was first diagnosed. We have real symptoms.
We have a build up of androgens in our bodies, which converts to testosterone. Too much testosterone can then lead to male pattern hair growth, baldness, and infertility. The unwanted hair growth with PCOS can be overwhelming. I’ve struggled with it a lot and it’s not something that is easily dealt with. I’m still trying to find ways to help deal with it. We have insulin resistance and that can lead to type 2 diabetes which is one of the leading killers among women today. The hormonal imbalances are a nightmare too! Hormonal imbalances can lead to anxiety and depression as well as infertility and a whole slew of other issues. We have a tendency to have high cholesterol and high triglycerides, which can lead to heart disease which is also one of the leading killers among women today.
50% of women with PCOS go UNDIAGNOSED!!! This is not ok! This can literally kill us. Congress just designated September as “PCOS Awareness Month” in August 2017 in hopes to raise awareness.
I did well for a while after I was diagnosed and around 2 years in to everything, my weight started going crazy. I went to my pediatrician to see what was going on ,and of course with PCOS not being regularly recognized at the time, their immediate reaction to seeing that I was on Metformin was that I was diabetic. They placed me on a low carb, no sugar diet and pulled me off the birth control. We often get stereotyped into this category that isn’t necessarily true. They say diet and exercise will help you lose weight, regulate your hormones, and your cycle. That’s all fine and dandy, but it takes twice as much exercise as the normal person and that low carb diet/ no sugar diet doesn’t really hold up well long term. So they say we are just lazy or we refuse to comply to any type of diet. My mom and dad got told on several occasions by our family pediatrician that I was lazy or they were enablers and weren’t making me comply.
“Press forward. Do not stop. Do not linger on your journey, but strive for the mark set before you.” – George Whitefield
So they decided to move me to a new doctor at the age of 16. They did the research and found a physician that specializes in internal medicine. This internist took my symptoms seriously, he did the research with me and he gave me ALTERNATIVE OPTIONS. He listened to me when I said I did NOT want a man made medicine that gave me 10 side effects for the one symptom it was treating me for. My doctor has treated me for over 10 years now and he will still randomly come to me when I’m in the office and say hey…I’ve found research on this particular topic involving PCOS…let’s discuss it.
Most recently that research led us to DNA diet testing. So I made an appointment to see him and he explained the whole process and that he actually did the test himself too. So I said what the heck…let’s do it. I took the test. Waited the two weeks for the results. My doctor finally called me 3 days earlier than he said he would and he was so excited. He told me to come in the next day so we could discuss my results. Y’all… We went over everything that came back for OVER AN HOUR! The insulin resistance that comes along with PCOS showed up in my testing as well as me testing NEGATIVE for the “fat gene”. It even told me medicines that I was allergic to and needed to list on my medical charts that I had NO IDEA about! My doctor told me that means that my PCOS is likely the cause of most of my health issues.
“If you can’t fly, then run, if you can’t walk run, then walk, if you can’t walk, then crawl, but by all means keep moving.” –Martin Luther King Jr
So we started on a journey together; my DNA diet results said that I would need a diet that was 1300-1500 calories and 40% complex carbs, 30% protein, and 30% healthy fats! Never in my history of having PCOS would I have thought that carbs would be the heaviest percentage of my dietary needs! Broken down that’s 150 carbs, 112g of protein, and 50g of healthy fats per day. Looking back, it’s probably why I didn’t do well on any diet that I’ve ever done. I would follow diets that would restrict any type of carb unless it was a non-starchy vegetable.
With my diet I also take supplements like, wild yam and spearmint. Wild Yam has naturally occurring progesterone and spearmint helps with unwanted hair growth! I take them in pill form, but you can drink 2 cups of spearmint tea per day and it will have the same effect. Essential oils are really good for managing PCOS as well. Lavender oil is great for reducing anxiety and mood swings. Geranium oil is an adrenal cortex stimulant and it will help balance out your hormones as well as detox your lymphatic system. Geranium oil is also really good at reducing water retention!! Sweet Fennel and Rose oils will help regulate your menstrual cycle and reduce hormonal fluctuations.
Last but certainly not least.. RESVERATROL girls!!!! It’ll help you lose weight and keep from gaining it back!! I take it as a supplement but I also try to always eat foods that have it naturally. Those foods include blueberries, dark chocolate, RED WINE, cranberries, peanuts, pistachios, strawberries, and lingonberries (looking at you IKEA with your lingonberry syrup). If you can incorporate these foods in moderation into your diets…you’ll be golden!!
With all this… I still live with PCOS and will always live with PCOS. I’m always looking for things to help me combat my symptoms and get me healthy inside and out! I want to chronicle my journey with you guys and I want to hear your experiences! What works for you and what doesn’t? PCOS or not…I want to know it all!!