Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. What does this even mean?
A condition in which women have high levels of male hormones, increasing the risk of irregular or absent menstrual cycles, infertility, obesity, ovarian cysts, heart disease, and diabetes. PCOS is associated with insulin resistance. PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH – National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases)
PCOS is diagnosed by having 2 or 3 symptoms. The 3 symptoms are
- Absence of ovulation leading to absent or irregular periods.
- Excess body hair
- Cysts on one or both ovaries
This means you could have polycystic ovarian syndrome without having cysts on your ovaries but having irregular periods and excess body hair. PCOS is one of the most common reason many women are suffering from infertility today! Other common symptoms you may notice include:
- Weight gain
- Thinning hair/hair loss
- Sleep problems
- Pelvic pain
If you have noticed any symptoms, the best thing you can do for yourself is get checked out, have your blood drawn to check your hormone levels and find the best treatment for you as every person is different.
I am not a endocrinologists, not someone who feels is an expert in the topic nor am I a world renowned author or writer, BUT I am what I hope to be a more relatable girl that lives with PCOS every single day and a story to tell about it . Born and raised in Michigan, i have two bachelors degrees, not currently married and no children (not a shocker here). My PCOS journey takes me way back to middle school. I first got my period when i was 12 years old. I got it once more maybe 6 months later and then didn’t come back anymore. My mom made me a doctors appointment as this is not normal but my MD made me to believe it was completely fine. I was extremely active and it was not unusual for young girls my age, highly active to not see their period regularly. From there i was put on birth control. With birth control i had regular periods and everything was just fine. Once in college, i began the up and down with my weight but that is when i learned to appreciate the routine of a healthy diet and regular exercise. In 2011 i started my Instagram page which was focused solely on diet and exercise. In 2013 i decided (for whatever reason) doing a bodybuilding competition would be so much fun! I can do details of my competition prep and the competition in a later blog because that is a long story! After the competition is where the struggle began with food and exercise and finding a normal routine with it all. I put on weight that i didn’t ask for (lol) and so with that i tried every diet you can think of. Because of my restriction during competition, my brain really struggled with telling my self, “no you can’t have that”. It didn’t work for me so “dieting” just was not gonna happen. During this time i was still taking birth control and decided in 2016 that i was done taking it. I wanted to let my body be normal and let my body regulate my hormones on its own. Well boy was i wrong. In over a year i had one single period on my own. I went to my doctor where i received an ultra sound that displayed what i hoped was not gonna be the case…the ring of pearls on both ovaries. (Head to the PCOS tab to learn more).
Well there goes all of my problems right there. I was giving a few different medications from my doctor to jump start my period but it was a temporary fix. After that i started researching heavily what is the best way to fix PCOS. Certain supplements came up, i tried it, certain diets came up, tried that as well. In the end of it all, i don’t believe I’ve given anything a fair try. You have to be willing to commit to a new diet and/or supplement for at least a few months before you see result and i was giving up after just a few weeks. So i am here today, and now. Ready to give some things a try long term and to see what it takes for me to get these hormones balanced and this period of mine flowing like a woman’s should. A clear face and some weight loss would be an added bonus!
I am blown away first off that I was even able to stick to something for 2 weeks let alone 30 days! This month has not been easy by any means and I am super proud of myself.
Why: Doing a whole 30 seems crazy. And it is. Seems restrictive…and it is. Ive told myself since competing several years ago that I would not go back to anything restrictive. But this was a little bit different…hear me out. Here’s a short background….I decided to stop my birth control a few years ago and after that is when i started to notice my PCOS symptoms. After being throughly checked by my physician with lab draws and an ultrasound, it was confirmed that that was the problem. I was prescribed multiple medications and they just made me feel like crap. So I needed to take it a step further. I had started doing extensive research and saw things like keto and paleo diets helping to lessen and even resolve PCOS. I had done whole 30 a couple of times in the past and loved the results and how I felt but this time, round 3, my life depended on it. Whole 30 is extremely similar to paleo except its more strict. Now only strict for 30 days as you start to reintroduce foods after and find your food freedom after the 30 days is complete. So being strict for 30 days, I could mentally get past that. My main motivation was my health and wellness. At the age of 30, not having a regular period, having acne on my face (embarrassing), having eczema on my body, gaining weight and unable to lose weight despite how much i worked out and how much i tried to change my eating habits…..all this was nearly depressing. So knowing what i knew about whole 30 and its benefits, I had to dive in and try it again.
What whole 30 was like: Uh well. It was hard. Every day was tough. There wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t think about the desert I was missing. Or for goodness sake, the ease of eating out. Like wow you literally have to cook every day. Each day was a challenge, but that is what makes finishing that much sweeter. Again, my motivation being that I could solve my PCOS symptoms and more, I knew I just had to push through and there was no way around it. And Also, I had started building a following on my instagram which forced me to stay consistent with my meals each day. I found a way to make it fun though. On previous rounds of whole 30, I thought my meals had to be boring with just meat and veggies and a fat, but this time I got creative and made something new each week which kept the interest and fun going.
The benefits: SO MANY!!! By no means is everything just perfect with me and my body yet because in the grand scheme of things, 30 days isn’t really that long when we talk about the issues that I do have. The acne on my face has cleared up! The eczema on my skin is almost gone! I have FINALLY lost weight! Losing weight with PCOS seems nearly impossible until you actually figure out what you are supposed to do. I can sleep longer than four hours at a time! And I work night shift and so this is usually a huge problem! My season allergies have been extremely minimal. Practically absent. And they are usually TERRIBLE!!!! I wake up for 5am workouts! Uh what. Yea. I have done a 5am work out quite a few times in this past month. Im crazy I know. Lastly, I saved a ton of money NOT eating out! I didnt even realize but I have significantly more money with just grocery shopping and eating what I made from home. Its quite amazing actually.
The downfalls: Because its not all good and I definitely like to keep it real! You have to meal prep every day. Although I enjoy cooking and making new recipes, seriously cooking every day can be a drag especially when your tired, in between shifts, or just busy. Its hard! You have cravings and you fight the cravings every single day and nothing really helps except just getting over it. The first week I got sugar withdrawal headaches but that soon resolved. I felt nauseous toward the end and I concluded that I believe it was my hormones trying to regulate themselves just like when you become pregnant and you have a fluctuation of hormones in your body and in turn causes morning sickness, it was the same feeling. So much that I even took a pregnancy test knowing I wasn’t pregnant. Hahaaa but it was bad!
Ultimately, I am super excited with my progress. It makes me want to continue this lifestyle. Life after whole 30 encourages a reintroduction of all food groups and finding food freedom. I do not plan to do a reintroduction as i know how most foods make me feel, but I will be on the quest for food freedom because I know it will be much more possible to stick to this lifestyle if I am kind with myself and allow myself some choices in moderation.
Here is a photo of my progress
I FEEL SO GREAT!
Seriously, physically and mentally i am feeling stronger and better each day. So i did a plan of care about a month ago and there i stated that i was giving myself 3 months to have a normal menstrual period, clearer skin, and weight loss. I am happy to say in 1 month i have noticed improvements in all 3 areas….yes after not having a period since July 2017 i finally started my period!!! My skin although still a work in progress is so much better. As far as my weight goes, i lost my scale due to an upstairs bathroom flood into my apartment so I’m not sure number wise if I’ve lost weight but my clothes fit differently!
So yay i finally got my period! Funny story, i went to vitamin shop to restock my maca powder and the lady working there asks me “have you seen results yet?” Meaning have i gotten a period yet lol. I laughed and said not yet but i am hopeful and then boom. It’s here just 2 days later! I think my supplements combined with my improved diet, sleep, and stress control all had a factor in this. I hope to continue this progress with my hormonal balance!
My skin is visibly clearer. I was getting breakouts with huge areas of acne. It’s not 100% but it’s so much better than what it was! A great part of it i believe is the collagen peptides i have started using but again, the improved lifestyle with every area is what i think they key is. It can’t just be, i take collagen peptides but don’t fix anything else that could contribute to poor skin like a horrible diet and not enough water. It all works together.
The weight loss speaks for itself. Again. I have no clue how much i have lost but if i can visibly see in my clothes AND my very critical mother (who’s Mom isn’t lol) even says i am as well then that is all the confirmation that i need! So although before intentionally making an effort to balance my hormones, i was working out, i still needed to show improvement. Of course without the consistency in my workouts and my diet, i wasn’t going to see any change. And the diet specifically being paleo based or like i like to call it, paleo-ish. I told myself i wouldn’t limit myself on food. If i wanted it then i would have it and not feel guilty about it. But at the same time, that didn’t mean i was going to go ham on pizza every night because that is what i wanted to do. No. I made the focus my health instead of the focus being how i looked and that was a major game changer for me!
If i can have a take away for how my last month has been and why it’s been so good it would be shift your focus! Make your focus about your health and not what you wish to see and everything else will start to fall into place! This is what i plan to continue to do for myself
Figuring out what supplements to take can be a daunting task. Like are they even necessary? Do they even work? Well supplements are just that, they supplement an already existing healthy lifestyle. So I have carefully researched what I feel will benefit me best. I knew the areas I needed improving in, despite my every day healthy diet filled with lean protein, fruits and veggies. I looked for supplements that would help my skin, every day energy, hormonal balance, gut health, immunity and brain function.
Collagen peptides are super beneficial for me. With my PCOS and my hormones being completely out of wack, it has caused some major unwanted acne on my skin. This collagen is made to boost the health of the skin while also providing benefits for hair, nails, bones and joints. It has 18g of protein per serving so for me, I have found it unnecessary to add whey protein anymore. Besides, I have been wanting to be done with whey protein anyway because whey is a dairy product and dairy does not do very well with my gut and skin. This specific product is flavorless so it can truly be added to anything. I have enjoyed it in my morning coffee and my morning smoothies.
Fish Oil: Omega 3 and Omega 6 is so vital for our bodies. These essential fatty acids help improve our brain function as well as our cardiovascular health. Fish provides the best source of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids but because I know I do not eat fish every day, I have added this as a daily supplement.
Calcium, Magnesium, and Zinc: Extremely important for muscle and nerve function and the zinc adds the property of metabolic and hormonal function. Which of course as we all know, I absolutely need!
Probiotic: This helps me to maintain a healthy gut. I have written about this before and I cannot preach enough how important it is for our daily health to have a healthy and happy gut. In addition to the daily probiotic pill, I tend to drink kombucha and that has natural probiotics and are so beneficial for our bodies!
Vitamin B Complex: I live a busy life, working a full time job and quickly start to feel run down when I am working back to back 12 hour shifts. So I have added this B complex vitamin in order to help with every day energy.
Maca Root Powder: Maca has been super super important for my hormonal health. I have used this in the past and got my period back so I have made sure to add it in for this round with working on balancing my hormones.
I have been known to start taking supplements and then just falling all the way off. Its too much to open every single bottle every single morning and sift out the correct dose (1st world probs) so I have come up with a solution! I know this probably makes me very high on the geriatric side but they are on to something with these pill organizers here. I picked out a purple one to jazz it up for my personal taste. It has helped me so so much to stay on track!
Last week was a struggle. I went back to work after being off for two lovely weeks. I was extremely tired every day, I was moody every day, I was hating waking up going to work, I wasn’t interested in much interaction with anyone….it was rough.
I couldn’t necessarily pin point one specific reason why this was happening. I could think of the many small stressors I was personally dealing with but its atypical for me to be mentally affected by that. Typically, I can handle stress and not let it effect me in my day to day.
Through healing my PCOS, I have created a plan that addresses issues holistically and that most definitely includes my mental well being as well. With that said, it is important that i recognize this was a low point in this past week, but also, what did I do to over come it? There were a few things that I made sure to remain constant since I have realized, I do not have control over everything.
- Sleep. Super important for me. As most people know, my job requires me to rotate day and night every six weeks. It is very hard to get a sufficient amount of sleep when you are on a rotating schedule. This was my first week on day shift, as I had just come off of 6 weeks of working nights. So this past week I set a bed time. I said 10:30 pm I am shutting my phone off, turning out the lights, and closing my eyes. No further activity after 10:30pm. With a 5:30 am wake up time, that gave me a good 7 hours of sleep, which for me is fantastic. In order to relax and settle at night, because this tends to be my issue, I got an essential oils diffuser. Ahhh so amazing and relaxing
- Next thing was my healthy meal planning. Each night after work, before going to bed, I prepared for work for the next day with my meals. If I didn’t do it the night before, It possibly wasn’t going to happen at all and I’d end up eating something not so tasty and beneficial from the cafe. This took much motivation because after being on my feet for 13 hours, the last thing I wanted to do was stand in my kitchen and put together a meal. But it was super important that I made this a priority.
- Staying organized with my planner. My mind tends to wander on the many things that I have going on or that I am thinking about but with my planner I can just stop and realize what is most important for that moment, and sometimes it is absolutely nothing at all, but my mind tends to worry when I don’t have to.
- Lastly, I took my supplements every day. I am usually really bad with taking my supplements daily, but I have made a conscious decision to make this apart of my daily routine so I found a system that has helped me to take them every day.
I think an important take away for anyone but especially for myself is that, I won’t always feel 100% happy and energized, and I will not always have control of my surroundings, but I can have control of my self environment and so I must take advantage of that when I am most vulnerable. Controlling the amount of sleep I get, the type of food I eat, and my daily organization allowed me to keep moving forward in my healing. And more importantly over any of that, putting my health (self) first. It is okay to be selfish.
That moment when you land back in Michigan and realize you are no longer in 80 degree and sunny weather and it’s time to get ready for the work week…sigh. Ah such a sad moment! I had 9 beautiful days in sunshine and warm weather but as the good saying goes, all good things must come to an end.
Being back from vacation isn’t all bad of course. I can finally get some grocery shopping done, cook in my own kitchen, and not live out of a suitcase anymore. Top priority, grocery shopping and cooking a good healthy meal because my goodness, how much crap did I intake in 9 days. Don’t get me wrong…I have no regrets but there is nothing like the feeling you get after being able to eat your own food from your own kitchen with your own wholesome ingredients.
Today I spent a good portion of my day jumping right back into my routine and that started with grocery shopping and updating my supplement supply. Lucky for you (wink wink), I vlogged a great portion of my grocery shopping. How fun! You can check it out right here!
There are a few things that are odd, for example, I typically do not go to three stores for shopping but I was gone for 9 days and I needed to get a lot of things. Also, I totally skipped filming in Meijer because what I got in there was unimportant things like Tupperware and an essential oil diffuser (because sleep goals).
The RN in me thought it would be fun to put my goals into a nursing care plan and share it with you guys so here we go…
Assessment: 29 Year old Female, without a period for 7 months now. Unable to lose weight and constant acne break outs.
Diagnosis: Polycystic ovarian Syndrome
Date: February 15, 2018
Plan/Goals: After 3 months of consistent interventions, Felicia will be able to demonstrate success by having a normal menstrual cycle, clearer skin, and weight loss
- Will eat foods that are best for her body including mostly plants (fruits/vegetables), Lean and grass fed protein and healthy fats. Decreasing the intake of sugar and being mindful of portion control while continuing the goal of not stressing when the diet isn’t perfect. It is food.
- Will exercise with a goal of 3-4 days a week at Orange Theory Fitness and with self created circuit workouts including a great mix of cardio and weight training
- Finding the supplements that will best help with the success of accomplishing the stated goal. Supplements that support balanced hormones, healthy gut, increased immunity, improved skin, and maximum energy.
- Daily skin care: wash face twice daily and use Mia for exfoliating. (I do still need to find a hydration/moisturizer. I prefer something natural. But that is TBD.)
- Keep a journal (or blog) of progress and set backs.
- Realize she will not be perfect in this journey and know that it is okay to learn along the way
- Be sure to have outlets for life stressors (such as work)
- Do yoga at least once a week
- Embrace all feelings and know that it is perfectly normal to be happy, excited, sad, mad, etc
- Use those around you to keep your uplifted and supported
- Set daily positivity goals and give yourself positive affirmations each day
- Get sufficient amount of sleep each day… 7 hours at least. (This is a joke since i rotate day/night 12 hour shifts every 6 weeks)
Now that I’ve told you, we can keep each other accountable on this wonderful journey. I will share what is working, what isn’t working and the progress I am making.
Get ready for a dramatic scenario….
You’re so ready for a fun Saturday night. You’re playing some jams, getting dressed and….Oh man….The dress isn’t zipping. Downward spiral begins. You get sad, upset and depressed. Say you’re gonna go on a diet the following day after finding the frumpiest outfit to get you through the evening while being sure to cover every fat roll that is controlling your ever being. Next morning comes you start the diet and, shoot, it sucks and the food is tasteless. You want something good to eat. After 24 hours you’re back to eating everything in sight only to feel horrible and like a big slob again. Dang now you gotta start the diet again…..
Does this sound familiar? Yea, horrible right?
Unnecessary torture that we put ourselves through.
Diets fail because we call them diets. We see them as a short term thing instead of making it part of our lifestyle. We set unrealistic goals and throw in the towel when we can’t reach those goals. We let our mood be determined by the number on the scale. We let unrealistic instagram bodies of women be our motivation when most of them paid for their bodies. I was that person. I let what the scale said determine how i felt that day. I would wake up in the morning, weigh myself before eating or drinking, be unhappy with the number and realize oh wait i haven’t used the bathroom yet….use the bathroom and hop right back on the scale in hopes of a magical difference.
That is why i failed at diets. One because i called it a diet, two because i didn’t see it as a long term change. It was something i was doing for the moment. Lastly, I let the scale determine my progress instead of focusing on how i felt.
Try this instead;
- Make small changes at a time
- Do what feels good
- Eat like you love your body AND your soul
- Don’t be so hard on yourself…It’s just food
- Don’t strive to be perfect…we have one life to live
- Enjoy every choice you make
- Be proud of each milestone of progress that you make
Yea…this is hard for people to wrap their minds around. They look for the cookie cutter tips. So I guess you want me to tell you to eat 6 meals a day, no carbs after 6 pm, only drink water, and never drink alcohol. Well sorry friend, you won’t get that from me. I am in no way bashing those that live those lifestyles. This advice is for those that are just regular people trying to create better lives for themselves each day. This is part of the beginning of a holistic, balanced and healing life.
When we talk about eating for healing, the main thing we must begin to focus on is gut health. This form of living can be applied to anyone but i am specifically focusing on my PCOS-ers because it is SO SO important to have a healthy gut in order to have healthy and balanced hormones.
Gut health research, in relation to hormonal balance, is still on the rise. But it makes sense that let’s say you eat dairy and it causes bloating and discomfort. That in turn is causing a negative and inflammatory response in the body which in turn causes the imbalance in the body’s hormones. Gut health is one of the most overlooked elements of hormonal imbalance.
For me and my experience, gut health can be determined by feel. How do I feel when i eat certain food items? Do I feel sluggish, energized, bloated, normal, gassy, skin full of acne or eczema?…This is where the term “listen to your body” comes in. It sounds silly but it is very true! No one knows you like you. No diet can tell you how you feel. This is why I am not going to claim being on a specific named diet because I can pull foods from each food group and feel fine but there are certain foods that i just know will trigger sluggish feelings, cause me to be bloated and leave me with a face full of acne.
Heres some questions to ask yourself to determine the health of your gut:
- After you eat, are you feeling bloated, crampy and/or gassy
- Is your energy constantly low despite the amount of sleep you may get
- Do you have acne or dry skin (i.e. eczema)
Consider looking into your diet if you have answered yes to any of these questions.
There are certain foods that make these symptoms worse and it is not the same for everyone. A few common ones are (not an inclusive list)
If you are wanting to make changes but find it difficult, the most important thing to remember, if you don’t like it then don’t do it and if it doesn’t make you feel good then don’t do it! Let’s say you love ice cream but it makes you feel horrible. Instead of saying i can’t have ice cream, switch your wording to saying, ice cream does not make me feel good! Switching your mindset will make a huge difference in the end, especially for your mental health! If you want to try this but have no idea where to start, consider trying Whole 30 with (the most important part) the reintroduction phase. I do not have plans for a whole 30 soon but I have done it before which is why I am an advocate for this. The reintroduction phase allows you to slowly add food back in and you can tell if your body reacts poorly or if your body does fine, and from there you will know what food your body responds to best and which is best for you and your long term healing.
Healing with food begins with being in tuned to our bodies. After all, this is about holistic living.
Stay happy and healthy 🙂