A Natural Approach to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Written by contributor Stephanie Langford of Keeper of the Home

Call me naive. I didn’t know that there was something terribly wrong about going 6 months without a cycle.

I was 20 years old and in my last year of university. My health was far from superb, but I certainly didn’t think that there was anything seriously wrong with me.

A friend suggested that I just get myself checked out, and I was surprised when my doctor referred me to an OB-GYN for further testing. A few blood tests and an examination later, I had an answer for what was going on in my body.

I had PCOS, or Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome.

A Quick Look at PCOS

It is estimated that between 5-10% of all North American women may have PCOS. It is the most common hormonal disorder among women of reproductive age.

Common symptoms include:

  • Absent or highly irregular menstrual cycles
  • Weight gain, particularly around the middle
  • Annovulation (lack of ovulation, regardless of whether you are having a “cycle” or not)
  • Infertility and miscarriage
  • Acne
  • Facial hair
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Blood sugar imbalances/Insulin issues

For many women, their struggle with weight is the telltale sign, along with an irregular cycle or difficulty conceiving. For some, like myself, weight may not be an issue but the hormone tests reveal the same irregularities, and they may experience some or many of the other symptoms.

To learn more about the symptoms of PCOS, see this quiz from PCOSupport.

Photo by gnarlsmonkey

Living life with a PCOS diagnosis

The day that she gave me the news, my OB-GYN oh-so-graciously informed me that I would be on medication for the rest of my life, and would most likely be unable to have children, or at least not without fertility treatments.

And oh yes, one more thing… there is nothing you can do about it.

I’m sure she had no idea, but she had just told me exactly what I needed to hear. At the tender age of 20, with a heart full of dreams for the rest of my life, those words only spurred me on to find out exactly what I could do about it after all.

As it turns out, there is so much that can be done to help women suffering from PCOS!

Please, ladies, do not let anyone take away the hope that you have for natural lifestyle changes that can bring about much healing and restoration to a broken-down body like mine, and yes, like yours.

Treating PCOS, Au Naturel

In my experience and based on the studies that I have done, there are 3 main things that can really make a difference for those with PCOS:

1. Break the vicious cycle of SUGAR!

Sugar is an incredibly addictive substance, and this is the cycle that it perpetuates: crave sugar, eat something sugary, feel great while on a sugar high, begin to crash as blood sugar levels drop, feel like garbage, crave sugar, eat something sugary, and on and on, ad nauseum.

This is a particularly big problem for the woman with PCOS and here’s why: Hormones are intricately related to blood sugar balance and insulin levels. Insulin is a hormone and all of our hormones work together in a very delicate little dance. When one oversteps its boundaries, the others fall out of line.

Additionally, sugar contributes greatly to weight gain and obesity. Being overweight contributes to hormonal imbalance, as fat stores are directly related to levels of some hormones. Many women with PCOS find that as soon as they are able to lose a bit of weight, their cycle begins to regulate itself.

Photo by clevercupcakes

2. Eat real food.

Those who knew me back in the day would get a good chuckle out of seeing the crunchy, granola-loving, health nut that I’ve become. My four food groups used to consist of coffee, things that are white (sugar, flour, potatoes, cheese, pasta), a few non-vegetable vegetables (like iceberg lettuce, baby corn and canned tomato sauce), and chocolate. Well-rounded, no?

What I learned as I began to study the way that my body worked and what it needed is this– my body was craving nutrients that it could not get from the processed foods I was eating. I needed to ditch the industrial convenience and comfort foods, and learn to eat whole, real foods full of nutrients that would nourish my body and ensure that it had what it needed to function well.

Here’s my basic philosophy of eating: Eat only foods that were created to be food (no chemicals, dyes, preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, modified ingredients, GMO, etc.) and eat them whole, complete and as close to the way that they were created as possible.  

Also, be sure to consume a variety of good, old-fashioned fats. For me, these include extra virgin olive oil, organic coconut oil, grass-fed butter, lots of wild fish, avocados, nuts and seeds and more. Healthy fats are a crucial component to hormone balance.

3. Get your body moving.

Nothing helps to break the cycle of insulin resistance, which often leads to Type II diabetes down the road, like getting active and fit.

For many of the women that I’ve known who also have PCOS, regular exercise is a necessary ingredient for weight loss and maintenance, and to bring some regularity to their cycle.

It doesn’t have to be time-consuming or elaborate to be effective. Taking walks or jogs in the evening, doing a 20 minute exercise video a few mornings a week, or playing a game of soccer at the park with your kids. It all helps and it’s that consistent physical activity that does the most to balance things out.

:: Additionally, there are many natural treatments that can help as well, including detoxification, herbs, vitamin and mineral supplementation, homeopathics, to name a few. I have used many of these to add to what I am already doing and have often found them to be useful and effective.

It still needs to be said, though, that there is no magic pill, no one supplement or miracle food that will do the job. Living healthfully with PCOS requires a lifestyle change, but it is worth it every step of the way.

Photo by D Sharon Pruitt

The rest of my story

I began by slowly making these changes over the course of several years. It wasn’t overnight, and it wasn’t always easy, but I did begin to notice small improvements within a short period of time, and vast improvements over the course of several years.

My cycle returned to the closest semblance of regularity I have known since… well, ever. I began ovulating again. Mood swings and sugar cravings decrease, acne improved, and my blood sugar balanced out. The 20-25 extra pounds that I carried simply dropped off, never to come back.

I did get pregnant, all by myself (well, my husband might have played a role, but certainly no thanks to my OB-GYN). In fact, I went on to have 3 healthy babies, and I’m hoping for more.

Is my struggle over? No. I don’t have that perfect 28-day cycle, or that fertile myrtle quality so many other women have. When I allow stress and poor food choices to overcome the things I know I should do, I struggle from hormone fluctuations, mood shifts, tiredness, and a wonky cycle.

I may always struggle with the tendency towards out-of-whack hormones. I don’t really know.

But I do know this: Change is possible. There are simple, manageable steps that any woman can take to bring at least some level of relief and even recovery to her body.

Take heart, my friend. There is indeed something that you can do about it.

A Couple of Resources:

Naturally Knocked Up :: A blog dedicated to helping women achieve reproductive health and conceive naturally

Living with PCOS :: A series I wrote discussing health topics that pertain to PCOS on my personal blog, Keeper of the Home.

Do you have PCOS (or know someone who does)? What natural, lifestyle changes have you found to be effective?

About Stephanie

Stephanie Langford has a passion for encouraging homemakers who want to make healthy changes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke, and (her newest!) through successful meal planning. Together she runs a music school teaching piano lessons in Surrey with her handsome husband, is mama to 4 little ones, and she is the editor and author of Keeper of the Home.

Comments

  1. I also have PCOS and have found all of the above to be extremely helpful.

    I had probably 10 periods from the time I was 16 until 21, but, amazingly, no doctor ever commented or seemed concerned. One doctor just said “go on birth control” so that I would be regular. When I started going to a midwife for my yearly and OB care, they were like “uh… there’s a problem here!”. They gave me some good ideas.

    Luckily, it didn’t cause me too many other problems…. I was always pretty thin. Got pregnant very easily. I did have excess facial and body hair, though, which is the worst. Until my baby was born. THEN I started having problems.

    I gained some weight, but also got into a cycle of eating “fast” foods, too refined. My sugar craving went through the roof. I craved it like a drug. It became impossible to lose weight because I was so addicted to the sugar and refined carbs.

    What I’ve found, though, is that, like you wrote, I have to use a very healthy, whole-foods, low-glycemic diet. I have to limit refined grains like most breads and other processed cereal bars, cereal, etc. I have to really limit sugar, and use stevia whenever possible for my favorites. I also did go on metformin for 5 months, just to help get me out of the sugar cycle. Most importantly for me, though, is to get plenty of SLEEP! Being sleep-deprived raises your cortisol, which can affect blood sugar and insulin resistance.

    Now, I have JUST entered back into a healthy BMI, I’m sleeping better, I feel less moody, and my cycles are more regular than ever in my life… between 28 and 32 days! Lifestyle is powerful medicine!
    The Butterfly Nest´s latest post: All Out

    • The best medicine, most of the time! :)

      I think it’s good that you mentioned Metformin to help break the sugar cycle. I believe strongly that the lifestyle changes are the primary thing that will make a difference, but I have known a few women who seemed to really need something like Metformin to really break the cycle of insulin resistance, SO THAT they could continue to make lifestyle changes that would continue what they had started.

      So the drugs weren’t the answer at all, but they were a part of the solution in the beginning. This isn’t the way to go for everyone, and I didn’t use Metformin or any other prescription drugs personally, but I do know that for some struggling with really extreme insulin issues, it can be necessary to compromise by using medication in the beginning, then wean off of it once it has served its purpose, and focus fully on the lifestyle changes from there on out.
      Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home´s latest post: Beekeeping 101- Let’s Get it Started

  2. What a great article. When I was 23, after missing 5 cycles in a row, my OB/GYN did some tests and told me I had PCOS. He put me on glucophage(sp?) and said that I would have to be on that until the day came when I would probly have to be on insulin shots!! And if I wanted more kids, I would have to go through fertility treatments. After only a month on the meds, I couldn’t take it any more. they gave me constant diarhea, and my dr said that was a possible side effect, but look at the bright side, I was loosing wieght. I just couldn’t live like that thoughand stopped taking it. Then one day I was talking to my chiropracter of all people, who said he was sure he could help. He consulted me about my diet, teaching me how to eat and what things causes theexcess insulin that causes the pcos. He helped me better understand what was going on in my body and how to change it. My insulin levels when from a very unhealthy 97 down to 52 in 5 months and 2 months later I was pregnate! Adn have had 2 others since
    Renee´s latest post: This Moment

  3. Thanks for this post. I too suffer from PCOS. I used clomid to concieve my twins, and I’m not sure I want to go that route again. I hate that my GYN used BCP to “make me regular”, but really only masks the fact that I’m not. I’ve gone of BCP pills for good (though my acne is coming back …) . I know that exercise can do tons for me. I had my yearly blood work done after a good week of committed excerise, and my blood sugar levels were lower than they have been in years. I just need to stay committed to eating better and exercising more. My husband and I would like to have more children, but we want to do it our own this time. That should be enough motivation for me.

  4. Interesting. One of my best friends has PCOS. She has used a combination of medication and lifestyle changes and now I have a godson!
    HereWeGoAJen´s latest post: Tortoise Rider

  5. TOTALLY agree!
    I, too was diagnosed with PCOS over 4 years ago, while my husband and I were trying to conceive our first baby. I was deff. not overweight but I could of standed to loose a few pounds at the time. I began exercising regularly and eating a more balanced diet (i hate the word “diet”, but i do love the word BALANCE , MODERATION, and WHOLE FOODS when it comes to food.) My OB put me on metformin in the Fall and told me that it would take SEVERAL months for it to kick in and do it’s “job” in helping me to conceive. However, a month later, I was pregnant! I credit everything to my healthy lifestyle changes and I always share this with other women who might be struggling with the same issues. Thanks so much for posting this! GREAT article!

  6. Great Post! Thanks for speaking some truth and hope. I went to see an OB/GYN because I had a weird bleeding episode in the middle of my cycle. I knew it was not my period because I do NFP and I knew that I hadn’t ovulated. She grilled me about doing NFP (saying it’s not a valid form of birth control) and then told me I probably had PCOS (she didn’t do any tests). She told me if I wanted to fix it I’d have to go on the Pill… and then she gave me an article and sent me on my way. The article talked all about what you are saying and even said that going on the Pill can do more harm than good. Did the doctor even read the article?!!! Anyway, enough of my soapboxing… thanks for the article – I needed to some encouragment to get back on the ball of not eating so much sugar.

  7. Hey! At age 30 and after 4 years of trying to get pregnant, I was diagnosed with PCOS. Clomid didn’t work. But, diet did. I ate like a diabetic. I really controlled my insulin levels through diet for 3 months. And BOOM! Pregnant :) It worked the next time we were trying too.

    It would be great to see some posts on the other side effects of PCOS too. I’m a big fan of controlling it through diet but some side effects are not controlled at all – like hair. I’m an organic kind of gal but I’m not willing to have a beard. My fear of having one at age 90 has made me ponder laser hair removal a lot lately.

    • I had laser for the chin hairs and it worked wonderfully. The only catch is that it will not work on fair-haired women, the roots have to be dark or the laser won’t “see” them.

  8. I will be 37 next month and have suffered with PCOS since the age of 20. I started making major lifestyle changes when my husband and I adopted our beautiful son 4 years ago tomorrow. Yes, he’s turning 4 and I’m baby craving!!! We’ve gone mostly whole foods and organic. But having a hard time kicking the sugar and portion control! I’ve lost 35 lbs slowly and it keeps coming off so I know it’s working. I just need to kick the sugar because it keeps my insulin levels way up. Has anyone made the changes at my age and successfully conceived? I love that my son came to me through adoption, but I would love to experience the miracle of pregnancy and birth. Am I past the age of this being an option?

  9. I love how Heather says, “I ate like a diabetic.” That’s EXACTLY what I meant when I wrote above… I actually get diabetic cooking books! And Stephanie, you’re totally right. For me, metformin was an essential compliment to lifestyle, to break the cycle. I got into an “unnatural” cycle that I spent a year trying to get out of on my own, and just couldn’t do it. I was VERY resistant to it… I don’t even like to take Tylenol, not to mention any daily medicine. But, once I relented and went on the metformin, though, it flipped the switch. Within a month of metformin AND a serious effort to elminate processed foods, I felt much more balanced. Within 5 months I knew I was ready to go off. One month later I was pregnant! I don’t think I could have done it without it, but I also know couldn’t have done it without serious exercise (45 minutes 4-5 times a week), healthy eating, and sleep! And, I would totally suggest trying the natural way before you try any medicine, because I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who can do it on their own! Sorry to ramble on, but this is a topic near and dear to my heart… and so many women suffer from this without help! WHAT a great topic for a post!
    The Butterfly Nest´s latest post: All Out

  10. Wow, I’m wondering if I have this. I just missed my period for the first time though. My doctor is doing some tests. I thought I was pregnant and I was not. Hmm, thank you so much for this article. If I truly have it, this will be helpful. I have never heard of this before.

  11. Thank you for posting about PCOS, more women need to hear about the natural ways they can cope and I believe overcome it. As a woman with PCOS herself I am a strong advocate for a healthy and natural low carb, low sugar diet that changed my life and helped me to conceive naturally with my first Child. I am a huge fan of the South Beach Diet for those women looking for a place to start off, and I love “Naturally Nocked Up” a blog that shares insightful tips of how to get your body healthy and to stay healthy with PCOS. Finally I am strongly against using birth control or medications for the treatment of your PCOS because I feel that these synthetic methods can only prolong the disease rather then be a step to helping you be free from it. I myself was never diagnosed with PCOS until after I had been on Yasmin a birth control pill that I took the very first time in my life, only after starting the pill did I start to have irregularities in my period, that thus led to the diagnosis of PCOS, prior to the pill I had regular cycles and was pronounced healthy by all my Doctors. I myself am not a Doctor and I know many women relay on medication to help them regulate their cycle but if there is anything you can do to try to move away from them and lead a more natural holistic approach to your treatment of PCOS I promise you won’t be disappointed. It may be a hard long road, but in the end the sacrifice is worth it. Since starting my natural low carb diet, I have never felt better, and I was finally able to conceive naturally! No easy task for a woman with PCOS. Good Luck ladies, and my heart goes out to you. You can do it, you can beat PCOS, and I will wear my teal ribbon proudly for you.

  12. I was just put on Metformin two weeks ago for my PCOS. I was diagnosed probably about 5 years ago. All through my teens I never had regular periods, but I was very active in sports and everyone always wrote it off as my being active was the reason. I even remember very vividly talking with my two best friends when we were about 16. They said how lucky I was not to have to deal with monthly periods and I said yeah, but just wait until I want to have kids. Sure enough, 1o years later, I am trying and trying, but can’t even judge when exactly I should be trying because my cycles are so…nonexistent. I did clomid for my daughter and was successful after only two cycles. I never had any insulin issues until recently, as we are now trying for another. Weight has been an issue for me from about college on, but to be honest, I don’t know how much of my weight I can honestly attribute to my PCOS. I know I eat poorly and don’t exercise enough. Obviously I am not, nor will I ever be naturally on the thin side, but neither is anyone on my family. However, I am confident if I got into a healthy eating and exercise routine I could lose some weight. Then, if I was still hanging on to any extra, I could blame the PCOS. It isn’t overly difficult for me to lose weight either, once I put my mind to it.
    This is a great article. I am confident that I could improve my fertility and control my PCOS on my own if I wasn’t so lazy! However, as everyone I know seems to be pregnant, I really am baby hungry! I want to be pregnant like yesterday! Stephanie, I really commend you, and other sites like Naturally Knocked Up for opening my eyes to things my MD never told me! I am fat…like obese. Yet I have never had a doctor, including my OB and reproductive endochronologist tell me that losing weight and eating better may be the key!

  13. I’m new to reading your blog and love it!
    I too have PCOS with all the typical symptoms (obesity, sgar addiction, facial hair, cystic acne, etc.) EXCEPT that I do ovulate and can get pg fairly easily. Because my cycles were fairly regular the drs. we visited never thought I had it… until it caused me 2 early miscarriages caused by PCOS. I was put on Metformin for a few months and it made a HUGE difference for me. I started following a low-GI diet, lost aobut 15 lbs (a drop in the bucket, but progress), got pg and have stayed that way going on 9 months! (with the help of progesterone supplements the first 100 days)

    Chastetree Berry (Vitex) was very helpful as well. I use coconut sugar to sweeten a lot of things because I don’t like stevia and cut out the refined stuff. The above suggestions are soooo helpful and really do work.

    Now, once this little one is here, I just have to get off the remaining 80 lbs and get some laser hair removal ;-)

  14. Forgot to mention that as a PCOS person that is ovulatory, BC was the worst things I could have ever done to myself… waking up in the middle of the night not knowing who I was or who my husband was and having nighttime hallucinations and horrible daytime mood swings were NOT worth it. Yasmin was the worst though the rest are right behind it!

  15. Stephanie! Help. I am struggling so much with this. I am 22 and ever since stopping the pill have not been menstrating. They don’t think I have PCOS because from the way I look, I do not “fit the profile”. How did they go about diagnosing you? I have been seeing a naturopath and taking herbs and supplements but feel so discouraged. The ultrasound I got said, “possible PCOS needs to be considered” and my hormone levels appeared fine. My OB/GYN prescribed me Provera but I refuse to fill the prescription until I have tried every possible natural option. I’ve been charting and not ovulating. :-( I want to have a big family some day so this is so discouraging. .. Your story gives me help but at this point since I do not have any sort of diagnosis, am so lost and confused. It is hard when you are so young to deal with something like this when all the doctors tell you to go back on the pill or take progesterone.

    • I have the same problem each time I go to the doctor… oh, you’re thin, you don’t have PCOS. I insist that I do and have them run the bloodwork. When it comes in, they look and “Oh! You do have PCOS!”. Hmmm, that’s what I said, isn’t it? :)

      Bloodwork is the only way that those who don’t manifest the “typical” symptoms can get a diagnosis. Request it, multiple times if you have to, or even try a new doctor if you have that option. That’s the way that you will know for sure!
      Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home´s latest post: Making Mom’s Health A Priority

      • Thanks for the reply Stephanie. What did they find in your blood work? They did blood work for me but it is really hard to interpret because they have absolutely no idea where I am in my cycle. Get this, upon further analysis of my blood work with my naturopath she found that the Ob/Gyn didn’t actually test many of the key hormones necessary to diagnose PCOS! They didn’t test progesterone, testosterone, prolactin etc. I couldn’t believe it! It costs money for my ND to order blood work but I think it will be worth it. I don’t understand how doctors can be so convinced of a diagnosis because someone looks “too thin” and “doesn’t fit the profile”. Sigh. I will keep taking the herbs and supplements my ND has given me and seed cycling. Your story is really an inspiration to me, I am glad you keep updating us on your journey.

        • They should ideally be doing an entire hormone workup in the bloodwork. It should include:
          -Progesterone
          -Estrogen
          -Testosterone
          -Prolactin
          -LH
          -FSH
          -Insulin
          This alone should be enough to garner a diagnosis or give a better picture of what’s happening, but it’s best if this can be repeated multiple times (at least twice) over the course of a menstrual cycle. It’s ideal to see the levels both before ovulation (if it’s happening) as well as after.

          One thing that’s really key to getting good care from your doctor is to fight hard for it by coming equipped. Be equipped with knowledge about not only what you want from the doctor, such as bloodwork, but also with knowledge about your body. Chart your cycles (even if they’re really off– in fact, it’s even more important when they’re really off!), so that you can bring your charts in, along with any relevant notes about your mood, symptoms, etc.

          When I was really struggling to conceive our second child, I brought in 6 months worth of charted cycles to show my doctor exactly what was/wasn’t happening as far as ovulation and luteal phase (the time after ovulation). This was what really prompted him to get proactive and help me. He was actually very thankful for me to keep such good track of things and having it as a resource to help him better help me. Some doctors won’t feel this way (I’ve had many who didn’t care in the slightest) but keep going until you find someone who WILL care.
          Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home´s latest post: Homemade Belly Butter All-Natural Pampering for Pregnant Mamas

          • You have no idea how helpful this dialogue has been. Readers appreciate it so much when bloggers take the time to respond to comments. Thank you so much Stephanie.

            I have been charting and although I was able to menstrate last month, based on my chart, I did not ovulate. What can I do/take that will make me ovulate? Will all the herbs/supplements eventually help with this? I’m taking (on the advice on my ND): Vitamin B Complex, Seeds (Pumpkin, Flax, Sunflower, Sesame), Homeopathics: Pascofemin (contains Vitex) and Folliculinum, Luteininum, Ovarinum and Hypopothesinum. I know these are all for hormone balancing, will that ultimately contribute to me ovulating regularily? Were you able to achieve this with your change in diet? I think I will pick up Nourishing Traditions ASAP.

  16. I was just diagnosed with possible PCOS this week… I am 26 years old, I have 2 kids that I had no problem conceiving, and other than the fact that I am holding onto about 20 lbs that I CANNOT seem to lose, and I have acne like I did in high school, I don’t have any outward signs… And the thing that is making me doubt is, I have never missed a period unless I was pregnant, I’ve never even been late for a period and usually have very short cycles (like, 24 days)…
    I had a Mirena IUD placed last fall and kept it in for about 6 months before having it removed for a variety of reasons, it’s been out for 2 months now… While it was in I had super light periods that would last for nearly 2 weeks, and since I got it out I’ve already had 3 periods, the first one a typical “normal” one for me, the second one the same light, long kind I had while the IUD was in, and the last one was *VERY* heavy, which is actually what prompted the ultrasound that discovered the cysts on my ovaries.
    Also, I don’t have a lot of small cysts, I only have a few, and they seem to be pretty large- there are 2 on my left ovary, and one on my right ovary that is nearly the same size as the ovary itself.
    My doctor prescribed Metformin, but I haven’t filled it yet because I wanted to know my other options first… she had put me on birth control after the last crazy heavy cycle (like seriously, I was nearly anemic after only 2 days of bleeding!). I’m concerned that this isn’t really PCOS though, is there anything else they can do to confirm the diagnosis? And I saw on your Keeper of the Home blog that you recommend the Weston A Price diet, but do you have any suggestions for someone who knows they are gluten and dairy intolerant?

  17. I was diagnosed with PCOS after my first baby. I had always struggled with weight fluctuating throughout my highschool and college years. I can do absolutely nothing different and gain or lose weight. When I was pregnant I lost 20 pounds not trying at all. After they diagnosed me they basically said when pregnant all hormones are under control so my body works as it should. We had trouble getting pregnant with our second child, just as we were ready to give up we got pregnant. Again lost 20 pounds with her not trying but after she was born I gained all that back plus an additional 10 pounds. I exercised and gained weight, tried weight watchers and could never lose more than 15 pounds. Frustrating that I would plateau after only 15 pounds and not get off that ledge. They put me on metformin and I broke out in head to toe rash. They tried a time release and also having me take 1/2 in the morning and 1/2 at night. Still a rash. When they put me on a birth control pill my blood pressure skyrockets. We have been blessed with 2 more children, actually the last was born only 1 month ago. Again I lost 20 pounds during pregnancy, after she was born I lost immediately another 10 pounds. This pregnancy I was diagnosed with a very mild gestational diabetes. They aren’t sure if I was really gestational or if it was because of the PCO, but my sugars didn’t stay constant and were only off by 2 points. It was doing that after my 3rd where it actually affected me (dizziness, etc.). I really want to make my weight decrease and get to a healthy weight and stay there. I do not want to become a diabetic. I eat healthy for the most part, I chase after kids and am working on getting into a better set routine for walking daily. What vitamins have people found to be a good thing to use and is there any other medication that people have used other then metformin? My OBGYN is not really knowledgeable on the what to do about it now that I gave you the diagnosis. Or anyone know of who I should turn to? I really have noticed being more tired, sluggish, moody, stressed, etc and I don’t want that for myself or my family.
    Thanks.

  18. Thanks for this article… I like most of you also have PCOS… not overweight when diagnosed and OB put me on BC to treat it. I started having migraines with vision loss and numbness so OB took me off BC …so I started researching on my own how to treat it naturally. Thats when I started eating like a diabetic and walking routinely … it took me about a year but I my cycle regulated and I was able to get pregnant w/o fertility drugs… for the last three years I am been telling EVERYONE I know with PCOS all this. It’s great to know others have had the same experience.

  19. I really enjoyed reading this post. It was motivation for me to get serious about my low carb, low sugar diet again and lose some more weight!
    I was diagnosed with PCOS back in 2008 after getting a second opinion about why I was having trouble becoming pregnant. We had 2 children early in marriage, with no problems. After our second child was 3, we started trying for #3, but after 4 year of trying with no sucess, I visited my OB-GYN. She informed me that I was going through early menopause! I was only 28 at the time. I was skipping most of my periods in a year’s time. Maybe 2-3 a year.
    In the mean time we moved from PA to FL and my previous OB-Gyn’s diagnosis weighed on my mind. I finally decided to get a second opinion and found a place near here that deals specifically with Infertility/Endicrinology problems.
    So, my new Dr. put me on a low carb, low sugar diet first of all. After losing only 15 pounds I started getting my period normally, but we discovered I was still not ovulating! She still wants me to get to 200 lb. before she will try anything else. (I was 270 when I started visiting her!!) :( I am currently at 235 and have a goal to get to 210 by Christmas!
    I have issues with excessive hair growth and would say that is the worst part of PCOS for me! I have given in to shaving my face, because I couldn’t stand it anymore! :( I also get long hairs on my upper arms and have hair on my stomach and breasts. :P I hate it but I have a wonderful husband who loves me regardless. My biggest fear is that something will happen to me that I won’t be able to take care of myself and my hair will grow out!! We don’t have the $$ for laser removal, but I pray that would be in our future someday!!
    Being on a low carb diet definitely helped me feel better. My hubby and I also try to walk as many days in a week as we can.
    I hope to be able to travel this journey med free if possible and am taking some natural supplements to see what kind of results I can get….now if I can just stay away from that yummy sugary chocolate goodness!!

    Y’all hang in there!! :)

  20. Oh wow. One of my friends from college has this. I never knew there was a natural way to deal with it. I’m definitely going to forward this to her.

  21. Hey there,
    This was really encouraging to me. Since diagnosed, I have gained over 40 pounds from the constant switching of birth control- ten pounds each new medicine, that, because I have PCOS, I cant lose. I exercise regularly, eat mostly organic and fairly well (except for the sugar cravings, those undo me!).
    I have been trying to get pregnant.
    I’m wondering, if you have any thoughts on herbal meds for PCOS?

    • A few thoughts on herbal/natural remedies aside from lifestyle change:

      :: Vitex (also known as Chasteberry). This herb has traditionally been used for hormone balancing. It has done wonders for me! I find it most effective in tincture form (though that’s also the most expensive), but when I’ve had to just use the capsules it has still been pretty effective. It is the one thing that really seems to help the most with getting me to ovulate consistently. Note that it does take 1-3 months to start to take effect, so don’t give up if it doesn’t make a difference at first. It will.

      :: Chromium/Cinnamon. For those particularly struggling with insulin resistance, these two are so helpful. Chromium deficiency can really affect the body’s ability to balance blood sugar. Cinnamon is also particularly known for helping to keep blood sugar even and steady. It’s even recommended for diabetics. Taking both can definitely help to get the blood sugar/insulin issues under control and help to facilitate weight loss, when used in conjunction with lifestyle changes.
      Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home´s latest post: Making Mom’s Health A Priority

  22. While I wholeheartedly agree with all of Stephanie’s suggestions, I feel the article and many comments here send the message that there is something to be ashamed of in receiving medical treatment. I am the biggest skeptic of them all when it comes to doctors, but I also have been fat and thin, healthy and not, low carb and not, and nothing (not even the Metformin) has been able to control the PCOS enough to get me to ovulate and have regular cycles. I am now beginning down the road of fertility treatment (hopefully a short road) coupled with ongoing lifestyle modification in the hopes that I can conceive. Ladies, please trust your instincts and seek the assistance of a reproductive medicine professional to assist in your journey. They are well educated in both natural and chemical means to achieving pregnancy success with PCOS.

    • Thanks for the comment, Jennifer!

      I guess my angle is that I see most doctors and medical professionals telling women to choose medical treatment FIRST, before attempting lifestyle changes. That is the wrong approach, in my opinion.

      However, for someone who has tried those things and the problems persist, then I would agree that there is nothing wrong with seeking out medical treatment and we should in fact be grateful that we live in a time and place where those options are available to us.

      There is absolutely nothing shameful about pursuing medical treatments, particularly to achieve a long hoped for pregnancy! And I love to hear that you are continuing the lifestyle changes, while embracing the other options available to you. I think that’s a wise balance.

      Praying that your journey is truly a short one! :)
      Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home´s latest post: Making Mom’s Health A Priority

  23. My pcos is so out of control my dr. Wants to do an operation called ovarian wedge reccetion. He says its as close to a cure for pcos as you can get. Yet My adopted boys are one and two so I dont think we can deal with 3 days in hospital and the4-6 week recovery time. My plan is to go on sustained t3 thyroid therapy, get my weight down and then see if I still need it. I only mention surgery bc its a relatively rare procedure but worth looking into.

  24. This was a great article and one I wish I had read 4 years ago. I was diagnosed with PCOS at the age of 26. My husband and I had been married 3 yrs and on birth control and had decided it was time to get off the pill and start a family in the next year. When my period took months to start and then up to 11 weeks between each my doctor ran some tests, diagnosed PCOS, gave me a pamphlet and said come back when you are ready to take clomid and get serious about getting pregnant. I was so shocked that I was made to feel abnormal by wanting my body to regulate itself and have healthy cycles BEFORE i tried to get pregnant. My doctor wasn’t interested in trying to get my body normal b/c according to her it wouldn’t be “normal” on it’s own and once I really was ready to be pregnant we would just pop some clomids and that would probably do the trick. Over the next few months I did take a few months of hormones and one month of clomid. I confirmed my decision that clomid wasn’t the route we (my husband and I ) wanted to go and started to pursue a natural doctor and his treatments when I got pregnant. I don’t know if it was the clomid working a month or two later and I hadn’t started any of the natural treatments, but I was thrilled to be pregnant. I had a wonderful pregnancy and have a healthy 2 year old today. I thought my period issues would be solved after my first pregnancy – I was wrong! I breastfeed my daughter for a year and even 5 months after stopping had seen no sign of a period. We were wanting to start trying for a second child and my new doctor ( in a new country at that) gave me the same diagnosis and wanted me to take hormones and clomid. I took one round of hormones to start my period and then I decided something needed to change. I had always been of normal weight, maybe even considered thin, but I started eating more nutritious foods, stopped the soy products like soy milk that I had been consuming daily ( i think they can effect hormones) and started exercising at a Pilates class twice a week and walking more. The last thing I did was I drank Fertilitea and tea made of natural herbs for reconditioning your uterus, for one month. The next month I was pregnant – again after month of irregular periods and this time I really believe diet, exercise and these natural herbs played a huge part. I am now 30 weeks pregnant with our second child. I know even though I don’t battle weight issues, I do battle sugar addiction/cravings, and even though I still would love to think my body would be “normal” after baby #2 there is a good chance I will still have PCOS related issues. BUT how wonderful to know there are answers and things we can do to make a difference. Also, I am a firm believer in prayer and that God is in control of EVERYTHING.

  25. Thanks for sharing ! I came across this article in my search.. I know …

  26. Thank you so much for this article! I too was told I have PCOS from my doctor. I am 33yrs. and we are ttc our 1st. The dr. wants to put me on Clomid, but we are not comfortable with that choice. My mother did find Lydia Pinkham, a vegetable compond that is supposed to help with this issue of not ovulating. Not to sure about it though. I would like to try something natural first before jumping on Clomid. I am about 15pds overweight, and excersie 3-4 times a week. I would love for any more advice on changing my food habits. Some meals for example or recipes. Thank you so much for all this wonderful information and that I’m not the only one!

  27. A friend posted this link on a PCOS support group and it’s very interesting. I have been ttc for 5 yrs and am now drinking ONLY alkaline water to alleviate the PCOS symptoms. Hoping it will flush out the sugar in my body enough to make a difference. I don’t know how much good it will do, i’ve found so many conflicting reports online about Alkaline water (yes its good, no its not and so forth) But I am a fairly healthy 28 (gulp 29 in a week) yr old with no known reason for not getting pregnant. I exercise regularly, eat fairly well (though I’m getting better with the cutting out of ALL sugary/acidic drinks) and am a healthy weight (5’6″ and 145lbs) though I’d love to lose a few, but have really struggled, even though I am exercising and eating better…of course it’s the PCOS that’s being a major blockage to my progress.

    Here’s hoping Alkaline water and diet/exercise will defeat PCOS and GIVE ME MY BABY i’ve been trying so hard for!!!

  28. just curious if you ever had a problem with “man-hairs”, and if so, did your new diet/lifestyle help with that as well? this article was a great inspiration, and i look forward to the new choices that i will be committing myself to now!!

  29. I started drinking two glasses of Spearmint tea each day. It has helpped cut back on the amount of facial hair and my cycles have become better. Its day 15 for me and I am having opains and a positive OPK test! Usually I’m at CD 22 or more when I get o pains.

  30. Note on the cinnamon suggestion: it as to be Ceylon cinnamon (cinnamomum verum or zeylanicum). The cinnamon you normally buy in the store (known as cassia or cinnamomum aromaticum ) will not help with blood sugar.

  31. Stephanie – I don’t even remember how I came across it, but it was your section on PCOS on Keeper of the Home that changed my life. It was COMPLETELY an act of God because I had been off of BCP’s for a year, and had acne and NO period apart from ones that were induced by progesterone pills, and was desperately praying to find a way to control my PCOS WITHOUT pills.
    I started devouring everything I could read about a traditional diet and lifestyle, and I’m happy to report that since January I have had 3 periods on my own (the last one was a 38 day cycle!), and my acne is completely gone. In addition, I have cut back a ton on the amount of grains I’ve eaten as well as watching my sugar intake. I’ve been on a red rasberry leaves supplement and I’m anxious to see what that does.
    It was so awesome to read everyone else’s success stories!
    Kelli M´s latest post: Rhiannon

  32. This has been such a great resource for me. Thank you for that! My sister (38yrs) was recently remarried and has been having some tests done to see if she is healthy enough to have a baby. (She already has three kids that she had VERY young.) She has since been diagnosed with PCOS. Her doctor told her that I probably have it too & should be tested. I did stumble across some info about PCOS a couple of years ago whole searching for a solution for my excess facial hair. When I asked my OBGYN about it he disregarded me saying that it didn’t matter even if I did have it because I wasn’t planning on having anymore babies. That makes me very upset knowing what I know now. I should have been my own advocate!

    Anyway…I am 36 years old and have four perfect daughters the youngest is 4.5. I was on BCP from the age of 19 right up until I got pregnant with my last baby. It only took 6 months of trying to get pregnant with my oldest and when we would plan a pregnancy I would stop taking the pill & get pregnant right away with all the other girls. (I did have 1 miscarriage and 1 vanishing twin.) I also had severe pre eclampsia at the end of my 1st pregnancy. I have had problems with facial hair and acne since I was 15 and it has only gotten worse since I did not got back on BCP after the birth of #4 (my hubby got a vasectomy). I have always had issues with weight & am a severe sugar addict. I struggle with depression & some serious mood swings…I am so hopeful that there is something that I can do (besides taking medication) to make myself feel like a normal person again (whatever that is “normal”) I am grateful for my daughters and look forward to the future:)

    Thanks again!

  33. Hello everyone! Stephanie, thank you for the insightful blog post! I don’t know if anyone will read this, but today my life changed tremendously, and I have to tell as many people as I can. I was diagnosed with PCOS at the age of fourteen, after I began my menstrual cycle and age 12, had about five cycles, and then it stopped. STOPPED. I was diagnosed after facial hair started appearing, but before I gained a lot of weight. The solution, the doctors said, was birth control. So at 14, I began birth control. Over the years I had to switch several times due to troubling side effects, but the result of no birth control was always the same: no period and rapid weight gain. At one point, I was even on the patch, which, thank God, my mother realized before I did that it was dangerous. Late in my teen years and early twenties, I developed major depression, and also had to utilize antidepressants. The last birth control I had was Yaz, and I was on it for three years. It wasn’t until I had a family crisis and forgot to take my birth control for weeks that I realized the cause of my very frequent and debilitating migraines was Yaz. Of course, I got off of it. During those three years I was also diagnosed with borderline low thyroid. Despite medication, however, my weight either stayed the same or continued to go up. By 2009, I was fed up with medications. My depression was recurrent and came back months later with a vengeance when I stopped THAT med, so I opted to stay the course with that, but give up birth control. That was 2009. Since then, I have not had one period, and my weight skyrocketed, a very unfortunate side effect. But given the debilitating migraines, I decided to stay off, and chose to use this time to learn more about nutrition and long-term health. I have definitely made mistakes. If there is any advice I can give anyone, DO NOT depend on the media for your weight loss advice, it is an unreliable and flaky source. Last year, I purchased a home water ionizer, hoping that somehow it would help my body heal and function normally once again. In the last few months, I have delved deeply into studying nutrition, and am fully convinced of what constitutes proper nutrition. Sometimes all we can do is depend on ourselves to study and learn and weed out all the hype. I believe we all have the common sense required to do so, if we try.

    After eight months of ionized water, incorporating mostly whole and unprocessed foods into my diet, a daily regimen of extra virgin coconut oil (2-3 tbsp a day) for the past couple of weeks, and almost complete elimination of soy products and processed vegetable oils from my diet, I woke up this morning AND, AT AGE 26, I HAD MY PERIOD ON MY OWN!

    I am still completely taken aback and shocked and happy. Those of us who have PCOS know how troubling it is. Something my body has literally never been able to accomplish on its own, it did today. This changes everything. It gives me hope. And I hope it does for all of you too. I am thanking God for the PMS-induced acne on my face, and the menstrual cramps I am experiencing. To me, it is a miracle. We are healing machines if we create the right environment for our bodies to thrive in. This problem has plagued me for over a decade. Today it stopped. That is AMAZING.

    Everything is not perfect, of course! I am not perfect, and still constructing my diet and trying to stay away from the foods I love, like pizza. It’s very tough! And I hate exercise. I know I shouldn’t say that, but it’s true. Other than the pretty extensive walking I must do on my college campus, I avoid it. I need to be better at that. Encouragement, please :) But i am so thankful for what I have learned that brought me to this day. If anyone out there reads this blog and would like support or a friend in this journey, send me an email. My email is hhogland@yahoo.com.

    I highly recommend Isabel De Los Rios at http://www.thedietsolutionprogram.com (gives ton of information and guidance) and Jen Jolan at http://www.weightlossguide4women.com (she gives some interesting weight loss tips and good info about supplements). I am in no way affiliated with them, but have used their products in the past and I am very impressed by their work. We get so much shoved down our throat by the media about what’s healthy that it is hard to know what is true and what isn’t. I like these women because they get rid of the hype and get back down to basics and natural food that doesn’t have a thousand ingredients listed on the nutrition label, most of which we can’t pronounce!

    i wish you all the best, and contact me if you ever have tips or need any encouragement! :)

  34. I loved this post, especially the bits about sugar addiction and the highs and lows that come with it. Since PCOS is so closely related to diabetes–both are endocrine disorders that involve insulin resistance and high blood sugar–kicking the sugar habit is key to getting PCOS symptoms under control.
    Abbie Waters´s latest post: 5 PCOS Diet Plan Tips To Boost Your Fertility and Help You Get Pregnant

  35. i learn a lot, good job

  36. Thank you for sharing this post! it is so long and it looks like it took you forever! It definitely helped others.

  37. Thank you for sharing this post! On my 16th birthday my lovely doctor informed me that I had PCOS and that there really wasn’t much I could do about it, pills were an option but not really my style. Worst of all she shattered my idea of ever having kids naturally. So, like a stubborn teenager, I understood that I had something going on, but refused to actually acknowledge anything about it. I’m now 21 and determined to change things a bit. I’ve decided to take more steps towards a healthier lifestyle, trying to reteach myself what it means to eat well rather than quickly and cheaply. We shall see how this goes, but I hope it’s a good start.

  38. I remembered a friend who have a PCOS. Since she was diagnosed she gained over 35-45 pounds and it was kinda fluctuating. She was advised to take pills but it doesn’t work to her. Then she tried natural treatment and amazingly she’s well now. It’s so nice to read stories like her. All the best.

  39. I was diagnosed with PCOS June of 2011. I struggle with the weight and the eating. I am insulin resistant and was put on Metformin for 6 months. I hated it so much! It changed my moods severely, and caused me to be very depressed. Once I convinced my doctor that there was no change, I noticed I was feeling like myself again within a few weeks. I was wondering if maybe you could post a daily meal plan as an example of how I should eat. It would be very helpful! I’m heading into college in the fall, and am so scared of gaining even more weight! I’m very uncomfortable in my skin and I would like to know how to follow the low glycemic index diet.

  40. pls can alkalne water cure p cos

  41. Good day Stephanie i am a 23 year old lady .. and have PCOS
    i just wand to know if i use progestoroon pills will it help me with PCOS?
    Regads

  42. :) I was 16 years old when I was diagnosed with POS. My Obgyn put me on birthcontrol pills and sent me on my way… Never explaining what it was or what it causes. I am now 26, and a newlywed. I stopped my birthcontrol about 8 months ago, in hopes of getting pregnant. I havent had a period since… about 3 months ago, my new Obgyn started me on Clomid. This is my 3rd round of it and I havent had a positive ovulation test yet! I have started a new diet of no carbs and sugars.. but the weight is not coming off at all. I also ended my diet coke habit :( …. I am frustrated and discouraged. I don’t know where to turn or who to duscuss this with. My mom says give it time, and my husband just doesnt understand. I have asked my doctor to give me something to bring my period on, but he said the pill for that makes the Clomid less effective… help!!!

  43. Kasey I am going through the exact thing! I was on BC for 9 months and got off in September or 2011, and am still not pregnant. I just don’t feel like I fit most of the criteria for PCOS… I don’t have a excess hair problem and I’m not over weight, 5’8 and 137lbs… But I do have very irregular periods and little cysts all over my ovaries. I was just diagnosed today after a transvaginal ultrasound and blood work..I don’t know what to do, she(my obgyn) said if we want to take an aggressive approach on getting pregnant she wants to start me on clomid. She said its not impossible for me to conceive but it’s just way less likely, the odds aren’t in my favor :-/ so don’t know what to do right now..

  44. I really enjoyed and appreciated this article. I just got the news that I have PCOS and that the only thing that could help me get pregnant is clomid. Needless to say, that as a 22 year old I was more than disappointed and begged the dr. for an alternative but he said there is none… Fortunately I found this website and phoned my husband right away! I do not have a classic case though, was always thin, and my cycle is irregular but have really frequent spotting. Will this stuff work for me too? And has anyone tried this with clomid? Some of the posts give me encouragement that we can do it without meds…

  45. This information has been a God-send. My 17 year old daughter was just diagnosed with PCOS after having missed 6 cycles. Of course the GP recommended BCPs and I even had the prescription filled, but as someone who has been on and off hormones for most of my productive years, I did not want to start my daughter down this path. This blog has convinced me to try the lifestyle change method. It will be hard for her – I am sure she would rather just take the easy way out. She is not sexually active so at this point would have no other reason to be on BCPS but she loves her carbs!! Thanks for sharing.

  46. You may find solution to your problems in natural remedies. Advances in natural system of remedies such as Homeopathy and Ayurveda have now made it possible develop therapies which give quick relief from PCOD symptoms and prevent recurrence. You must have a look at homeopathic remedies such as OM 24, female liquesence, and herbal remedies such as M2 tone and Hyponidd that help to coax the ovaries to resume normal ovarian functions, by dissolving the cysts and helps to restore normal ovulation and menstrual cycles.

    • Hello everyone! After reading everyone responses I feel like im not alone anymore. I have had PCOS since I was 10. Horrible. I have never had regular cycles, hair growth on my stomach and back and facial hair. I had went to a dr. about 5yrs ago and they started me on metaformen I hated it I felt depressed all the time,(only took the meds for about a month). I’m 23 now and started having major problems . About 3 yrs ago I lost 35 lbs. healthiest I had been every. I am not a small person, then I weighed 180 lbs and was down to 145. I was so happy, excised every single day,,, I was a health freak! I was feeling sick one day went in and my doc said I had a UTI. I did not feel this was right and my boy friend said, “I think your pregnant” I was all there is no way the dr. said I could never have kids. Called the doc up and sure enough I was prego. So happy and scared at the same time. I get in depression thinking I was just going to be fat again and did not take care of myself when I was pregnant. (biggest mistake ever) I have a beautiful boy who is 2 now and is the best thing that has ever happen to me… But now PCOS has come to haunt me. I am in more pain than ever have not had a period in about 3 yrs. my skin around my neck is dr and under my arms the skin is dark.. After the doc explained everything to me I feel like I’m a man. I hate it.. I am going to try the natural ways people have listed about and try to get back into exercising and eating right( eating right is my main issue don’t know what to eat. any suggestions? I have a Wal-Mart in my town that’s the closest I get to fresh ) I would appreciate any feedback anyone has. Thanks. :)
      Nicole

  47. rabiyah says:

    Hi Stephanie.,, I’ve got to say, great job done !!! This article was so precise but yet so beneficial. You are doing a great job by creating awareness about this crucial matter. Keep up the good work, :).

  48. This has really being helpful. Thanks to every one

  49. pragati says:

    I m just been dignosed with pcod
    Jus scade and confused
    Can’t figure out d coz
    I’m nt overweight nor do I hv irregular cycle
    No other maching symptoms also..
    My gynac gave a teason saying harmonal imbalance ………

    Can I get an advice or something
    I’m jus scared……..

    • Hi there,
      BPA and Plastics and PCOS!
      It seems avoiding sugar is an absolute must, not just for PCOS but assisting many aspects of general health. If sugar cravings are present, avoiding them cold turkey is normally the most effective way to break the cycle – it could be tough for first 2-4 days but then the body has adjusted and by the end of 7 days, the body is completely free of its previous hypoglycemic (sugar instability) pattern. Sugars also include fruits i.e. no more than 2 pieces a day :)
      I am interested as to whether any woman has had experience with eliminating or reducing BPA (Bisphenol A – plastic breakdown by product) from their lives. Is a documentary ‘Plasticized’ which leads one to believe plastics which find their way into our foods and bodies affect the endocrine system – I infer this as being the pancreas (insulin) and especially thyroid and ovarian function. I just wonder if it is a contributing factor to PCOS and if any one has any thoughts or experiences!!

  50. Dear Stephanie:
    Thank you for this inspiring post.

    I came back from my OB-GYN today, and was also diagnosed with PCOS. She also said there’s “nothing I can do about it”. Obviously, I was discouraged, but after reading this post, I’m most definitely motivated to effectively do something about it :-).

    Thank you!!!! Will be reading your blog!!

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