Taking control of your polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can involve a lot of moving parts. Unfortunately, there is no one-step cure for PCOS. In fact, there’s no cure at all. Instead, living and thriving with PCOS means managing symptoms through lifestyle change.
But, what should you change? First of all, nothing without consulting your doctor first, but in this post, I’ll be going through the lifestyle changes that have given many Cysters relief from their worst symptoms. Here are 9 things you can do to take control of your PCOS:
9 Best Lifestyle Changes for PCOS
Discovering your PCOS type is the first step toward managing your disorder. There are actually 4 different types of PCOS. Each one affects Cysters a little differently, but once you find out the type, you know exactly the issues that need love and care. Here are the types:
When you have chronic inflammation your immune system goes into overdrive, attacking proteins in the body from the food you eat. This triggers your ovaries to create more testosterone. Symptoms for this one include issues losing weight, feelings of fatigue, bloating, cystic acne, rashes, and joint pain.
Insulin Resistant PCOS
Insulin resistance is when your body doesn’t properly process glucose. Instead of the glucose getting transferred into energy, it’s absorbed by the body. This results in weight gain, hunger after eating, anxiety, and cystic acne.
80% of PCOS women struggle with insulin resistance, so you’re not alone here. It can really take a toll on your life, from mood to weight. In The Cysterhood, you can watch a Masterclass I’ve done on PCOS Weight Loss where I break down all the details of insulin resistance (as well as the other PCOS types) so that you understand what’s going on with your body and what you can do.
Adrenal Fatigue PCOS
Stress isn’t good for the body, but it’s especially bad for Cysters. When your cortisol (stress hormones) are out of wack and way overproducing, your body’s adrenal system simply can’t keep up. This leaves people with this type of PCOS feeling really fatigued.
Another hormonal imbalance that some women with PCOS experience is a deficiency in the thyroid hormone. This hormone is essential for metabolism! So, Cysters with this type of PCOS experience weight gain, fatigue, digestive issues, hair loss, excess hair growth, and inconsistent menstrual cycles.
To figure out what kind of PCOS you have, you’ll have to get lab tests done and discuss them with your doctor. It’s a small investment in exchange for vital information that can help get your health back on track. Once you know your PCOS type, you can make specific lifestyle changes to deal with the hormonal or inflammatory issues your body is experiencing.
I won’t say no alcohol ever, because it can be balanced into a healthy lifestyle. However, alcohol should not be a part of your regular routine. Alcohol impacts our liver, which is already struggling if we have insulin resistance or hormonal imbalance. Our liver processes our hormones, so the more we weaken it with alcohol, the worse it is for PCOS.
Drinking can increase menstrual irregularity, the risk of depression, the risk of liver disease, and the risk of weight gain. Additionally, alcohol can increase blood sugar levels and inflammation. So, if you decide to drink alcohol on a regular basis, you can probably expect some side effects that aren’t so pleasant. However, a glass of wine every once in a while won’t ruin your PCOS healing journey, live your life!
Inflammation is likely the reason for many of your chronic PCOS symptoms. Digestive issues, headaches, joint pain, weight gain, fatigue, and food sensitivities all arise when our immune system attacks proteins in our body it can’t recognize. It’s worth going gluten and dairy free to see if these foods are causing an inflammatory response in your body. Try it for 30 days and see how you feel. It could be life changing!
Gliadin, glutenin, whey, and casein (AKA gluten and dairy) are some of the proteins that cause inflammation. Thats why a great way to alleviate symptoms for many Cysters is to cut dairy and gluten from your diet.
But, you can get started with The Cysterhood App, which includes tons of recipes to help you get started. And, don’t worry, these tasty meals will not make you feel like you’ve compromised good food. They’re easy and delicious!
Remember when we were talking about adrenal fatigue? Women with certain types of PCOS have high levels of cortisol (stress hormones) in their body. Stress stimulates their nervous system and their adrenal system responds. Eventually, the body can’t keep up with the demand, and this causes fatigue.
When you drink caffeine, it stimulates your nervous system to wake your body up. Your body then produces cortisol. With a normal body, this isn’t a big deal in moderation. However, many women with PCOS already have an overstimulated adrenal system, so caffeine only exacerbates the problem.
That’s right. That means caffeine could make you MORE fatigued. Now, this isn’t the case for all Cysters, but if you deal with a lot of stress, have sleeping issues, and are struggling with chronic fatigue, I recommend limiting your caffeine intake.
One of the most frustrating symptoms of PCOS is weight gain and trouble losing weight. These symptoms go deeper than appearance, though. The excess weight can come from insulin resistance and the subsequent high blood sugar levels. Over time, high insulin levels can lead to diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
So, what can you do about this? How can a Cyster increase her insulin sensitivity? By discovering your carb tolerance! This can be a bit of a process, so I teach you how in The Cysterhood App!
I never recommend people go crazy with their low carb goals. Having a diet that’s too restrictive can stress you out, causing adrenal fatigue that leads to more weight gain. Additionally, not eating enough calories in a day could worsen fatigue, headaches, and other symptoms.
So, as a rule, eat low carbs, but allow yourself a little freedom here and there. This will provide the most likely scenario where you can lose weight and alleviate symptoms. Plus, you can reduce your risk for diabetes and heart disease.
For more on how to set yourself up for success with your new diet and how to change your mindset towards healthy eating, check out this post!
There is more to eating a healthy diet than just going low carb. Foods hold so many benefits that can help Cysters with their symptom management—you just have to choose the ones that are supporting your PCOS! Not only can these intentional foods help you with weight loss, but a PCOS friendly diet can give you relief from a lot of the ill effects of polycystic ovarian syndrome.
For foods that’ll help you fight your PCOS, check out this list. It lists ten great foods for tackling your PCOS and explains exactly what they do and why they work. For more of these foods, make sure to browse our blog! I’ve got lots more diet content there!
Exercising is one of the BEST lifestyle changes you can make with PCOS. You already know physical activity can help with weight gain, fatigue, and glucose metabolism. However, did you know that exercise can also aid in better sleep, reduce stress levels, help regularize periods, improve your fertility, reduce acne, and minimize unwanted hair loss/growth?
Yep, all that from some good, PCOS friendly, workouts. However, women with PCOS are often pressured into doing intense workouts that weaken our adrenals. That spin class or kickboxing class might not be the best workout for you if you’re feeling fatigued, anxious and not losing weight. Instead, opt for slow-weighted workouts, which you can follow here. These keep your stress levels stable while giving you a great workout.
Take vitamins and supplements.
Because women with PCOS struggle with inflammation, it’s difficult to absorb all our vitamins and supplements through diet alone.
Try giving your body a boost by taking supplements that cover the core essentials and fill in nutrient gaps that PCOS women often struggle with. Once your body has the metabolic machinery, weight loss becomes more attainable.
To take care of your PCOS, you need to take care of yourself. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, spending time in nature, and practicing mindfulness.
PCOS can be stressful and we don’t always have control over the stressful things in our environment. However, by practicing mindfulness, you can stay more positive and grounded. Meditation is a key practice to keeping stress hormones low. Stay in the present. And, pay attention to what’s happening inside and out. I hope you’ll find peace here!
A healthy lifestyle can help you take control of your PCOS!
PCOS isn’t something you should just “deal with.” Consider these 9 lifestyle changes to remedy your PCOS and start seeking some relief from your most exhausting symptoms.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all 9, start with one, Cyster! Don’t feel like you need to go all in just yet. Start with changing your eating habits and exercising a bit. While you’re doing that, listen to our PCOS podcast A Cyster and Her Mister to learn more about this disorder and how you can find hope. I’m here with you!