In this post I will share how I manage PCOS naturally through diet and lifestyle changes as well as walk you through my PCOS story and how I got to where I am today.
My PCOS story
It all started around grade 6 when I got my period for the first time and started experiencing really bad acne on my face and on my back. I went to my doctor and like many other young girls experiencing acne, I was prescribed birth-control pills even though I did not need them yet for other purposes.
I also experienced really heavy periods and really bad cramps that would put me in bed for the entire first day of my period. I always remember taking the day off of school each time it came around, which was still somehow exciting even though I spent the day dying in bed or on the couch watching TV… 😂
It wasn’t right away but I eventually discovered that birth-control pills were really hard on my mental health and increased my levels of depression and severe anxiety. This is one of their most common side effects.
I got advice from a number of different doctors and later was put on tetracycline (which is an oral antibiotic) for an entire year. At the time it didn’t seem like much of a problem, but looking back I remember I had a terrible rash as well as yeast overgrowth/candida symptoms for the entire time I was on them. This included reoccurring yeast infections, itchy skin, rashes and intolerance to sugar.
After this, I started getting lots of other reoccurring infections such as UTIs, vaginosis, and strep throat which then required numerous more rounds of antibiotics. At this point I also started noticing a lot more gut issues such as bloating, gas and constipation.
At one point I also tried Accutane, and I only made it about two or three days in and could not handle the side effects. My lips were so dry it hurt. It also scared me looking at the list of side effects on the drug pamphlet.
I saw multiple dermatologists who also prescribed topical antibiotic creams for my acne.
I have to be honest that most of these approaches to treating my acne did work quite well, however in the end they did not address the root cause of the problem and each time I stopped the treatment, the acne would come rushing back. I was starting to feel hopeless and for a while just gave up on trying to improve it.
At this point I had no idea that my diet of Pepsi, chips and various other high carb and highly processed foods could be contributing to my acne. Say what?!
Flash forward to when I was 19 and I went to college, I started growing dark hair between my belly button and hips (what’s known as a treasure trail) so I went back to the doctor and was eventually diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
They again prescribed me birth-control pills and because at the time I was quite desperate, I went ahead with it. I took Diane 35 and after just a few weeks to a month, I started experiencing really severe mental health problems including OCD style anxiety, insomnia and depression. I already had these issues previously, but taking this birth control pill made it 10 times worse. I was so nonfunctional that I actually remember that I quit my job at the time because I was not sleeping and was not well mentally and physically.
This time I really knew there was a connection for me between taking birth control pills and declining mental health. I got off the birth-control pills and decided to try a drug called Spironolactone which was used often in the treatment of PCOS.
Spironolactone is used clinically to lower blood pressure as it is a diuretic, but one of the side effects is that it lowers androgens (male hormones that can lead to hair growth, hair loss, acne etc.) Again, this treatment was definitely effective and got rid of my acne as well as slowed down the hair growth. But it wasn’t actually treating the root cause and later on when I was in my mid-20s I went off it again after living in a house with mould and having a lot of serious health problems at the time.
The paleo diet for managing PCOS naturally
I had a deep desire to manage PCOS naturally. This was when I really got interested in natural health and treating it through food and supplementation. I dove into multiple books on how to manage PCOS naturally and what the best diet was for it.
I ended up landing on the paleo diet. I had also recently developed many food intolerances and allergies after living in a house with mould and at the time it seemed like the paleo diet was one of the best approaches for everything I was experiencing.
Turns out, doing the paleo diet was very effective for me to manage PCOS naturally.
PCOS is very much a metabolic disorder, and I also found out that I was prediabetic so all the pieces were starting to fit together. After cutting out all the high carbohydrate foods and balancing my blood sugar, my hormones also started to balance. Things improved quite a bit but I was still getting more acne than I wanted and I knew there was probably more I could do.
The paleo diet also cuts out soy, which I believe was also a big factor in balancing my hormones. A hormone test showed that I had high estrogen/estrogen dominance and because soy is a phytoestrogen, it can mimic estrogen in the body and can disrupt our natural hormone balance.
Even after being on paleo, I was still doing occasional dairy, and because I wasn’t doing much of it I didn’t think it would have a huge impact on my hormones, but when I finally cut out dairy completely about three years ago, within three months my cystic acne COMPLETELY cleared up.
So essentially what the paleo diet did for me was balance my blood sugar and hormones, and cut out foods that I was intolerant to (dairy, gluten and soy).
After cutting out dairy I also noticed that I was having way less hair growth and that I could go twice as long between waxes and was not as hairy as I used to be.
I was also previously starting to experience hair loss and I had a pretty bad case of seborrheic dermatitis, but after cutting out dairy this also cleared up significantly and I’m happy to say that most of the hair I lost has grown back and my hair and scalp are feeling quite healthy now.
My periods have also become a lot more regular and I don’t get really terrible cramps anymore.
It also helped me to lose weight and maintain my weight over the long term. BONUS!
I do find though that if I start to eat too many carbohydrates again, or if I cheat when I’m on vacation and eat dairy, my acne and PCOS symptoms will start coming back again.
I wish that I could go back in time and avoid some of those treatments that ultimately led to more health issues down the road, but I guess in a way it was a blessing in disguise because it led me down the path of natural health and holistic nutrition and learning how to manage PCOS naturally.
How I can help you manage PCOS naturally
I know that diet changes can feel overwhelming at first, but changing my diet has helped me to manage PCOS naturally and in the process has also helped a lot of other health problems along the way.
It’s also shown me that I now have the experience and knowledge to help other women with PCOS heal and improve their symptoms like I have.
This motivated me so much that I went back to school and got a diploma in holistic nutrition and health coaching, and am now a registered health and nutrition counselor.
It is never too late to change your lifestyle, and to experience the amazing healing benefits of food. I got you! 🙌
Tara Klippert is a Registered Health and Nutrition Counselor and holds a diploma in Holistic Nutrition and Health Coaching. Tara helps people clear up cystic acne, balance hormones and blood sugar + improve anxiety and gut health NATURALLY with food.