From exercise to diet to herbal medicine, we bring you eight natural treatments for PCOS that are proven to usher results.
There are 5 million women in America alone who suffer from all sorts of uncomfortable PCOS symptoms, such as acne, awkward facial hair, low energy, and even breast milk production (unrelated to childbirth). PCOS (or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) is a condition that can affect any woman’s hormonal balance. This condition occurs when there exists an overproduction of testosterone, causing a fluctuation in the natural balance of female hormone levels. When it occurs, it can also give rise to other health concerns like obesity, infertility, heart disease and diabetes. It is important to diagnose the situation and try natural treatments for PCOS.
Obstetrician and Gynecologist (OB/GYN), Dr. John Thoppil, shared some useful insights on PCOS and what is its primary cause, “We don’t understand what causes PCOS but we suspect there is a genetic association with potentially multiple genes involved”.
When I was about 17 years old, while studying in Junior college, I suddenly started having severe pain during my monthly period. My menstrual cycle w as irregular, my stamina was low, and my skin worsened from acne breakouts, pigmentation, and dark spots. When my doctor diagnosed me with PCOS, I knew I had to change my routine.
Instead of opting for a more conventional approach, I decided to start with a natural approach to improve my nutrient intake, balance my weight, and follow a healthy diet. I focused on giving my body the essential nutrients that could help strengthen its natural functioning. I incorporated a few healthy habits into my lifestyle and took charge of my health.
8 Natural Treatments for PCOS
1.Vitamin B-Rich Foods
I started by following a nutrient-rich diet. PCOS elevates prolactin levels, which generally causes the production of breast milk. It’s terrifying to think about it, but there are some women who start lactating without ever having been pregnant. To avoid that, I began taking foods rich in vitamin B-6, which helps balance prolactin levels. I added foods rich in minerals like B-complex, such as leafy green vegetables and, protein-rich meat and eggs.. Vitamin B foods are also important for the production of adrenaline, which is a vital factor of estrogen production. Inositol is another B vitamin that is helpful for women with PCOS, as it promotes regular ovulation.
2. Healthy Fats Diet
A healthy diet can help you manage PCOS by balancing the hormones in the body. I modified my diet plan to a low carb diet to help improve insulin sensitivity in my body. I incorporated healthy fats like coconut oil, avocado oil, and olive oil into my diet. Healthy fats have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, which help reduce the symptoms of PCOS. These fats also work effectively in combating the symptoms of PMS because of their hormone-boosting properties. I started incorporating healthy fats to my diet, and it made all the difference.
“Insulin levels are common in this disease. Obesity further increases insulin levels. Therefore losing weight is necessary to optimize health with PCOS. A lower carb diet lowers insulin levels and can be particularly effective in weight loss for women with PCOS,” says Dr. Thoppil
3. Herbal Medicine
Another approach that helped in reducing my symptoms of PCOS was to opt for herbal remedies. Medicinal herbs not only maintain your overall good health, but also balance the hormones in the body. As discussed earlier, PCOS can cause an increase in testosterone levels, which can lead to awkward bodily hair growth and acne. Herbs like chasteberry and saw palmetto can balance/reduce the testosterone levels in the body. While saw palmetto addresses acne and hair growth, chasteberry increases the progesterone levels.
4. Apple Cider Vinegar
ACV is a tonic that is helpful in improving the body’s natural elimination process. It boosts excretion and flushes out harmful toxins from the body. It helps me maintain a healthy, alkaline pH level in my body, which, in turn, helped control the bacterial buildup and yeast production. I started drinking raw ACV diluted in water (About 2-3 Tablespoons of ACV to 8 ounces of water) every morning before drinking/eating anything else. And soon, I started to see my skin and system clear up.
5. Fiber–Rich Foods
Another way to cure PCOS symptoms is by decreasing the insulin resistance in the body. You can do this by consuming foods that are rich in fiber, as they lower insulin levels and provide insulin resistance. Doing this will help decrease testosterone levels. As I ate a selection of fiber-rich foods, like broccoli, Brussel sprouts, spinach, and oats, my ovulation became more regular. For those who have digestive and other issues consuming large amounts of fiber, you may want to consider taking a fiber supplement.
6. Avoid Processed Foods
How can you expect your body to get the required nutrients for its functioning, if you are always consuming toxic packaged foods? Most packaged foods contain high levels of sugars and little to no healthy nutrients. I cut down on refined flour, including packaged noodles and pasta, as well as processed meat. Even the snacks I had previously munched on, such as unhealthy packaged crackers, had to be replaced. It wasn’t easy, but with time, I got my body to adjust to a new, healthier way of eating.
7. Maintain A Healthy Weight
Another reason my periods started to get irregular was my sudden weight gain. PCOS often results in weight gain. Due to insulin resistance, it prevents the body from converting sugars and starch from foods to energy, instead it stores it in the body as fat. So, I knew I had to reduce my weight if I wanted to prevent the issue from getting worse. Once I cut down on processed foods and shifted to healthier options, half my problem was solved. I also incorporated some basic cardio exercises into my lifestyle to lose all that body fat. Once I reached a healthy weight, I could see my hormone levels fall to an ideal level.
As per Dr. Thoppil “Roughly 1/3 of women with PCOS are normal weight. However, PCOS can worsen with increased weight. There is no magic number. Increased weight equals increased insulin resistance. That can make gaining weight even easier. It becomes a feedback loop. Higher insulin usually means higher testosterone and the disease is worse”.
8. Exercise and PCOS
Both Cardio and strength training can help with PCOS. While Strength training builds muscle and raises the basal metabolic rate to help burn more calories. Cardio can increase heart rate that provides more energy for the body. Working out for about 150 minutes per week should be enough, that is approximately 30 minutes a day from Monday to Friday. Exercising regularly can impact PCOS by improving insulin sensitivity, the frequency of ovulation and cholesterol levels, apart from weight loss.
According to Dr. Thoppil, “Any exercise helps bring down insulin levels. However the ideal is a combination of resistance training with some cardio. Weight training improves lean muscle mass, which lowers insulin levels”.
A Balanced, PCOS-Free Body
After making all these lifestyle changes and incorporating exercise, altering my diet, and using other natural methods to balance my hormones, my PCOS was naturally treated. I was amazed to find my hormones balanced and my cycle had become more regular. Even my skin cleared up due to my diet and with exercise into my lifestyle. And now that my hormones were balanced, I had no other reason to worry about PCOS. I continued this healthy lifestyle with natural remedies, and it helped me avoid other ailments, such as Diabetes and High blood pressure.
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