September 12, 2022 | By: Kacie Shrock, RN, BSN
If you have been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), you may be wondering what to do about it. While currently there is no cure for PCOS, many women can find ways to help them improve and control their symptoms.
While some women with PCOS do need medical treatment and medications, natural treatments and lifestyle changes do exist and may help improve symptoms from PCOS.
How Can Natural Treatments Help My PCOS Symptoms?
PCOS symptoms can vary person to person, however common symptoms may include irregular periods, excessive hair growth on the body, weight gain or trouble conceiving. Based on the root causes of PCOS, we would suggest 4 natural ways to improve PCOS symptoms:
1. Body Movement
Maintaining a healthy body mass index (BMI) is crucial to help control PCOS symptoms such as irregular cycles and weight gain. One way to help maintain a healthy BMI is through exercise. Exercise not only gets the blood moving, but it can also help regulate insulin and blood sugar levels, which in return may help regulate your cycles and ovulation, making it easier to conceive.
Not sure where to get started? You can begin with small changes and work your way up over time. For example, walking for 20 minutes about 3-4 times per week, to walking for 30 minutes every day. You also can start to add in some weight bearing exercises to keep your bones nice and strong while building muscle to increase your metabolism, such as lifting weights, yoga or pilates!
It is important to remember that all women are different and what may be a healthy weight for you, may be completely different from a healthy weight for someone else. You should discuss what a healthy BMI range is for you with your healthcare provider and work with them to set small attainable goals.
2. Diet Changes
Women with PCOS tend to have higher levels of insulin (referred to as insulin resistance). Insulin is the hormone that helps the body to regulate blood sugar levels and when imbalanced can contribute to the weight gain and hormonal changes often seen with PCOS. Eating the right foods and avoiding certain ingredients can help manage symptoms, including irregular cycles.
Balancing carbs and protein, adding more whole foods such as fruits and vegetables and aiming for an anti-inflammatory diet is a good place to start. Planning your meals to keep insulin levels from spiking often can help decrease long-term health complications such as diabetes and heart disease.
Try to stay away from processed, refined foods that are high in sugar, alcohol and processed meats to help decrease inflammation. Aim to add more berries, leafy greens, whole grains and clean protein in your daily meal plan.
3. Managing Stress
Managing stress levels can help manage cortisol levels, which can also have an affect on your overall cycle. Some studies have shown that stress can actually worsen some PCOS symptoms naturally, including weight gain. Learning how to manage stress levels can be a huge benefit to improving your PCOS symptoms. Some ideas to help you destress include yoga, meditations, and acupuncture.
Here is one example of a breathing exercise that can help with stress and anxiety.
Box Breathing in 4 easy steps:
Step 1: Breathe in counting to four slowly. Feel the air enter your lungs.
Step 2: Hold your breath for 4 seconds. Try to avoid inhaling or exhaling for 4 seconds.
Step 3: Slowly exhale through your mouth for 4 seconds.
Step 4: Repeat steps 1 to 3 until you feel re-centered.
It is also important to practice good sleep hygiene. A lack of sleep can also increase cortisol levels and add stress on the body. Aim for about 8 hours or sleep per night, if you can!
Before we jump into supplements, it is important to note that you should always talk with your provider before you start any supplements as some may interfere with any medications you may be taking or have an opposite effect on your cycle. Supplements are not well regulated and are not created equal, so it is important that you opt for those that are higher quality and third party tested.
Some supplements that have been commonly recommended for women with PCOS include
- Inositol to balance blood sugar
- Omega 3 (Fish Oil) to decrease inflammation
- Vitamin D for immune support and healthy hormonal cycling
- Probiotics to regulate the gut microbiome
PCOS and its symptoms are different for everyone. While certain lifestyle changes and natural treatments may be beneficial for some, it may not be the case for all. Always check with your healthcare provider before making any significant changes in your day to day life, especially when it comes to supplements.
Not sure where to start or have more questions about PCOS? Head over to Ask An Expert in the Premom app and one of our fertility experts will get back to you within 1 business day.
Kacie Shrock is a registered nurse who specializes in fertility and reproductive health. She has always had a passion for women's health and she supports women and couples virtually across the world while on their journey to their dream families. Schedule a consultation with Nurse Kacie right through your Premom app!