PCOS, or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, affects around 1 in 10 of reproductive-age women. That comes out to an estimated 5 million women in the United States alone! PCOS comes with a host of uncomfortable symptoms and unfortunately is so often approached in the medical world with nothing but a prescription for birth control. This may relieve some symptoms but does not address the root cause. Taking a natural approach to PCOS to support the body back into balance is a powerful tool.
What is PCOS?
PCOS is a metabolic and hormonal condition. Common symptoms include weight gain, male pattern balding or hair loss, hair in unwanted places like the face or chest, acne, and irregular periods. Infertility is also a common piece of the puzzle for many women with PCOS, in fact it is responsible for around 70% of infertility issues in women who have difficulty ovulating. In addition, it is correlated with miscarriage and gestational diabetes.
Markers that physicians use to diagnose PCOS include polycystic ovaries on ultrasound on high androgen levels. It is important to note here that ultrasound alone is not enough to diagnose PCOS, but combined with other symptoms and biomarkers it can be a contributing piece of the puzzle.
What is the natural approach to PCOS?
I’m so glad you asked! This, as always, is my very favorite part! The beautiful thing is that there is so very much we can do to support our bodies through diet and lifestyle. If you have been following me for a while you know that helping women to take their health into their own hands is my passion. Understanding how to support your body is a huge part of that!
A few places that I start with my clients with PCOS include supporting blood sugar balance, reducing inflammation, reducing toxin exposure and supporting the body’s detoxification process, supporting the body’s stress response, and supporting gut health. Let’s dig a bit deeper into each of these.
Blood Sugar Support
Keeping your blood sugar balanced can be a challenge, but it is a big part of the natural approach to PCOS. A good foundational starting point for this is to eat three balanced meals each day. This means breakfast, lunch, and dinner spaced four-five hours apart. Each meal should include a good balance of protein, fat, and carbs from whole food sources.
The other thing to take a look at is the glycemic load of the foods you are consuming. When working to bring your body back into balance, focusing on low-glycemic fruits and vegetables and eliminating refined sugar for a time is essential.
Inflammation: A Key Piece of the Natural Approach to PCOS
Inflammation has unfortunately become quite prevalent in our modern society. The Standard American Diet (also appropriately called the SAD diet) includes a high amount of processed foods, sugar, and vegetable oils which are highly inflammatory for your body.
Working to eliminate these foods and focus on whole food sources of protein, fat, and carbs will be your best bet. When targeting inflammation, looking into your own body’s particular food sensitivities can be huge as well. Gluten, dairy, and soy are some of the common inflammatory foods. Alcohol consumption can also play a factor here.
Reducing these pro-inflammatory foods and increasing anti-inflammatory foods like those rich in Omega-3 fatty acids is a powerful tool for your toolbox. Omega-3 rich foods include fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and herring as well as walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, and hemp hearts. Challenge yourself to see if you can incorporate at least one of these into your diet each day!
Reducing Toxins and Supporting Detoxification
I have a two part article that takes a deep dive into toxin exposures. You can link to part 1 here and part 2 here. This is such a key piece for anyone struggling with hormone imbalances. There is a whole class of toxins known as endocrine disruptors because they directly affect our hormones. These toxins are found in everything from household cleaners to our skin care products.
In addition to reducing toxins, you can also support your body’s natural detoxification pathways by making sure to sweat on a regular basis, drink plenty of water, and move your body regularly.
Stress Support as Part of the Natural Approach to PCOS
When addressing any sort of hormonal imbalance, stress is a piece that is a MUST to look at. In this modern world, so many of us struggle with feelings of overwhelm, packed schedules, stress from our work, traffic, kids, relationships, and so much more. It is likely not possible in your life to walk away from all of this, but reducing stress as much as possible is huge.
In addition to reducing stress, we must also find ways for our bodies to de-stress. This can be whatever works best for you! Techniques include deep breathing, meditation, movement, journaling, spending time outdoors, quality time with loved ones, or anything else that helps you to feel more at peace. Experiment to find activities that you enjoy and look forward to. Remember, this is not intended to be work, but to de-stress your body!
Look to Your Gut
Gut health is huge in the natural approach to PCOS. In fact, gut health is huge to your health in general! There are SO many things that researchers are realizing our gut health impacts now, from hormones to mental health to our immune systems and so much more. PCOS is no exception.
Remember that inflammation we talked about before? That ties into gut health as well. If your gut is not working optimally, it can actually lead to inflammation in your body, and not just in your intestines! This inflammation can show up anywhere and everywhere. This is what is known as systemic inflammation.
The health of our microbiome affects insulin resistance, which is when the cells’ response to insulin is weakened which has major impacts on our blood sugar. Our microbiome also plays a major role in food cravings and even mental health, which are also contributing factors to PCOS.
Putting the Natural Approach to PCOS All Together
At the end of the day, you are a unique individual. The approach to your body then should be a bio-individual approach. This is what I love to focus on in my practice. Everything you have read here is a great guideline, but there simply is no one-size-fits-all solution to PCOS. This is where building a team behind you is so helpful.
I have spent (and wasted) a lot of time trying to figure out my health all on my own and I have found that finding support through the process is worth tenfold whatever investment went into it. This is why I have now dedicated myself to giving that same gift to my clients.
If you find yourself struggling with PCOS, know that you don’t have to do it alone. You also don’t have to use a band-aid solution like birth control. Together we can get to the root cause of what is going on in your body to help bring it back into balance.
Go ahead, make the investment in your health. You can learn more about working with me in my 1:1 coaching program here. Book your free discovery call today and I will see you on the other side!
Much love and happy healing, my friend!
Deswal, Ritu; Narwal, Vinay; Dang, Amita; Pundir, Chandra S. (2020). The Prevalence of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: A Brief Systematic Review. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7879843/
Szczuko, Malgorzata; Kikut, Justyna; Szczuko, Urszula; Szydlowska, Iwona; Nawrocka-Rutkowska, Jolanta; Zietek, Maciej; Verbanac, Donatella; Saso, Luciano. (2021). Nutrition Strategy and Life Style in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8308732/
Romm, Aviva, MD. (2021). Hormone Intelligence. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.
International Association for Functional Hormone Health. (2022). Module 4.2 Slides and Transcripts [PDF Documents].
Nutritional Therapy Association. (2021). Blood Sugar Regulation Student Guide [PDF Document].