It’s been a little over two months since I was diagnosed with PCOS. If you haven’t heard of it (tons of people haven’t, I was recently one of them) it stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Something that affects around 5-10% of women. That’s right, percent.

Before I dive into my journey here’s some background information on me and the symptoms that led me to a doctor

  • I was on birth control from ages 15 to 21
  • Since I went off birth control in 2015 my period has been irregular if existent at all, but I’ve been determined to stay off any type of hormonal pill
  • When it did arrive (about every 4 months) I experienced unbearable pain and discomfort
  • I developed hormonal acne around my chin and jawline as well as hirsutism (aka, I grew hair in places that were less than exciting, a symptom of high testosterone levels)
  • And grew intolerant to foods I used to consume daily

The first OBGYN I went to about this was in Vermont, where I grew up, back in 2016. I was concerned about my missing period paired with my acne, but the doctor who saw me showed no concern for my symptoms. She told me a missing period is normal for a lot of women, “if you’re getting your period a few times a year I’m happy.” And since I was, I figured… well if she’s happy then I guess I should be too. But looking back I am almost certain because I don’t suffer from some of the typical aspects of PCOS (cystic acne, weight gain, lack of ovulation, depression) I was written off without further investigation of my symptoms and what was happening with my body.

At this point I had no idea what PCOS was, let alone that I could be a contender for it. But as my period remained absent and my other symptoms persisted, I decided to revisit the subject a year later.

At the end of 2017 I went to a different OBGYN to hopefully get answers. My period was getting worse when I did get it, the bleeding and cramps were unbearable, keeping me in bed for hours on end. My low back felt almost broken and the feeling radiated throughout my pelvis and legs. I would lay in bed shaking with a heating pad unable to eat or drink anything, especially at the beginning of my cycle. What’s ironic is that in the months leading up to my appointment (yes, I had to wait months -luck be a lady!) my period had regulated a lot, but I kept my appointment anyways just to check in.

When I arrived at the OBGYN in New York City where I had moved, I was given the option to get an ultrasound taken and blood work done in case I had something called PCOS, but like the previous doctor, she didn’t seem concerned. (This was also the very first time I heard the words PCOS from a doctor and still didn’t completely know what it was). She told me I would “probably be totally fine without getting the tests done,” which really set my mind at ease. To be honest, her confidence plus my lack of knowledge made me feel inadequate, so I steered away from questions that probably would’ve helped a lot in the long run. But after some pushing from my mom I did get the blood work done, and then eventually went in for an ultrasound the following week. (Insert a blanket thank you to my mom for always knowing what’s best here.)

I remember walking in the next week feeling totally fine, not at all nervous about the appointment. The doctor came in, rubbed the cool jelly on my stomach and started sliding around.

“Hmm, yeah so you definitely have PCOS.”

Just like that. I had barely found a comfy position on the table yet.

She turned the screen around to show me these things attached to my ovaries, follicles as I now know, about 15-20 on each, that were blocking my mensuration. My mind went completely blank.

“If these follicles don’t mature and release like they’re supposed to each month they build up and can create cysts.” And that while I was ovulating regularly, the follicles weren’t shedding, thus building up more follicles, and the cycle continues.

“Kind of like they’re playing bumper cars!” Her humor at the time was lost on me.

I sat and absorbed the information as she talked on about issues with fertility and how PCOS isn’t reversible.

After a while she left, while I stayed and cried.

I felt powerless. And the most confusing part of all was that in the most recent two months I had been getting a regular period. Once a month to the day. So how could this be happening? And why were there so many contradictions?

I left and called my mom. Asking her what to do through my tears.

I ended up heading back to Vermont to see the first OBGYN, and all the test results were conclusive with the others. I have an increase of testosterone, irregular menstruation, and tons of follicles on my ovaries, which meant yes, I have PCOS. But my doctor felt strongly that there was a lot I could do to try and reverse my symptoms naturally.

So yeah, over the past few months I’ve been emotional and overwhelmed, but I’m also determined to get informed and do everything I can to get my body on track.

Now what?

These are some of the things I’ve found to be most helpful:

(keep in mind PCOS is a huge spectrum and all our bodies are different so get curious and learn as much as you can about yours!)

I can’t stress how amazing this book is and how much motivation it gave me to take control of my body. Especially the Four Day WomanCode Cleanse to reset your hormonal system and the ‘FLO’ App to track my cycles

  • Cutting down on alcohol and caffeine

There’s no right answer to this one but my motto is, everything in moderation. Know what your body needs, and in times of temptation I try and remind myself of my long-term health goals.

  • Making sure I eat every few hours so my blood sugar doesn’t drop!

My favorites snacks are almonds, cashews, GoMacro Bars, berries, green apples, peanut butter, almond butter, and raw veggies.

  • Limiting the amount of sugar I eat, and pair sugar with protein when I do have it

This is hard AF, not going to lie. But sugar spikes your insulin levels and causes the ovaries to produce testosterone.

  • Meat? No Meat?

I personally don’t eat meat but do eat fish (mostly salmon) for the omega 3 fatty acids. If you are eating meat make sure to have grad-fed products and to listen to what your body needs.

  • No processed food!

They cause nutrient deficiencies and can make it hard for the body to detox and metabolize foods.

  • Practice yoga every day (or whatever type of exercise you enjoy!)

Even if it’s just 10 minutes at home or taking short walks before or after meals it’s great to get your body moving! Decreasing BMI was the #1 thing to help my period regulate.

  • SELF. CARE.

-Try taking a bath, journaling, meditating, drinking your favorite tea, or making a great home cooked meal. Self-care is wonderful to keep stress levels at bay which is a huge factor with PCOS.

  • Acupuncture once a week or once every two weeks

Try to find a specialist for PCOS if you can, but Community Acupuncture is also great and usually more affordable!

  • Moving towards all natural and cruelty free beauty products!

Some of my favorites are Acure, Ursa Major, Marie Veronique, Thayer’s, and Toms.

  • Seed Cycling to help naturally regulate my period

For more on seed cycling click here https://theherbalacademy.com/seed-cycling-for-hormonal-balance/

 

Discovering my PCOS has changed me. I’ve taken control of the way I live and what kind of woman and person I want to be. I treat myself with care and continue to learn as much as I can about my body and hormones. This process has been draining and overwhelming at times, but at the same time so very empowering.  

Please know that if you have PCOS or think you may- you are not alone! There is a lot of information becoming available for women with PCOS to get a handle on their symptoms naturally. My journey with PCOS is far from over, but I feel very lucky to have resources like Woman Code’s Alissa Vitti, Lee from America, and Paleo for Women to help guide me, and women like me.

-Chiara Hollender

 

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