Here are my favorite natural resources for recovery from PCOS, including books, supplements, and tips for diet, exercise, and stress management.
My Experience Managing PCOS
As I mentioned in the past, I’ve been really wary of going back to using the standard approach of using oral contraceptives to regulate my cycle. I used them for over 15 years during my 20s and 30s, and I still have no idea to what extent the pill affected my gut health and the years I suffered with chronic migraines and crippling anxiety.
I’m turning 40(!) later this week, and I finally got to the point where I was sick and tired of not knowing why my body wasn’t functioning properly. I can’t tell you how hopeless I have felt at certain points of my journey. Even though I’m not trying to conceive, there is something deeply upsetting about dealing with fertility/hormonal issues.
I actually went back on the pill for the first five-ish months of this year, because I had developed hypothalamic amennorrea after my thyroid cancer surgery. I had a horrible experience taking this medication again, though, including a recurrence of migraines and a bunch of other intolerable symptoms. As a result, I decided to devote myself wholeheartedly to figuring out a holistic way of dealing with PCOS.
As you know, I’ve since changed my diet drastically and my somewhat regular resulting cycle is giving me a signal that I must be doing something right. So, for now, here are my list of resources for recovery from PCOS. This likely won’t be a topic I’ll write too much about in the future, but I most certainly will keep following my current approach and will let you know if I come across anything new (please note that I am not a licensed health professional, so consult your physician before making any changes):
1. Read PCOS books and follow the advice carefully.
Check out the WomanCode book, it taught me more about my cycle than I ever knew. Also, it outlines a diet appropriate for PCOS sufferers that can be made vegan-friendly. I don’t necessarily follow the diet advice, but I do think there is a LOT of great information in this book (there is also an online program you can join that sounds pretty cool).
Other PCOS and women’s hormone health books I highly recommend include:
- Period Repair Manual: Natural Treatment for Better Hormones and Better Periods (2nd edition) by Lara Briden, N.D.
- Beyond the Pill: A 30-Day Program to Balance Your Hormones, Reclaim Your Body, and Reverse the Dangerous Side Effects of the Birth Control Pill by Jolene Brighten, N.D.
- 8 Steps to Reverse Your PCOS: A Proven Program to Reset Your Hormones, Repair Your Metabolism, and Restore Your Fertility by Fiona McCulloch, N.D.
- Healing PCOS: A 21-Day Plan for Reclaiming Your Health and Life with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome by Amy Medling
2. Find online resources and support.
The PCOS Diva website, lots of great info on food and supplements here, plus interviews with doctors who specialize in PCOS. This website also has a program you can join, but I found what I needed just by reading the free content.
3. Find scientifically-backed resources.
The PCOS Natural Solutions newsletter has great information on supplements and natural ways to address female hormone imbalance.
4. Supplement appropriately.
5. Exercise moderately, but keep cortisol low.
I never realized how important it is to find the balance between too little and too much activity. I aim to be active about an hour a day, plus about 15 minutes of time for gentle stretching. Most of my “cardio” activity consists of walking or dancing so I feel like I’m staying in shape, but working out doesn’t stress me out. 🙂
6. Find a diet approach that helps keep blood sugar stabilized.
Following a paleo-type approach adapted to my needs with regular meals including lean protein and “gentle” carbs, plus healthy fats, has made all the difference for me. I highly recommend the book, Your Personal Paleo Code by Chris Kresser. I’m also a fan of the Paleo for Women website.
Read a lot more about the best PCOS diet here.
7. Manage stress to feel safe.
Like moderating exercise, it’s important from an evolutionary perspective for us to feel safe in order for our cycles to be normal, otherwise our brains will subconsciously think that it’s not a good time to reproduce, even if we’re not deliberately trying to get pregnant.
8. Do what you love.
I know myself well enough now that I will never be happy as a career-woman outside the home and that my true happiness comes from being outside, spending time with friends, writing, being creative, cooking, managing my home, reading, and connecting with like-minded people. So, I’ve structured my life around doing what I love as often as possible. Being content is good for hormone balance.
9. Ask for help.
Whether it’s finding a qualified health professional or simply getting a hug from a friend, you aren’t alone and there are resources to help, but it’s your job to ask for that help. I ended up finding a great dietitian to help me navigate my new dietary plan, and her input has helped tremendously. When it comes to PCOS or any hormonal disorder, it seems that there isn’t one answer that applies to all women, so I think it’s that much more important to get individualized help.
10. Use medication wisely.
Even though I decided not to use prescription medication to manage my current symptoms of PCOS, it’s certainly an option depending on your goals (especially when it comes to maintaining a pregnancy). I am thrilled to say that diet and lifestyle changes at least got me further on the path toward healing, and I honestly thought that I was the most hopeless case there was. Still, you’ve got to figure out what works best for you and your lifestyle. Also, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to stay hopeful during any kind of health challenge. While none of us are immune to feeling sorry for ourselves every now and then, we’ve got to pick ourselves up and move forward, even if it’s not the life we anticipated or were promised.
My best advice gathered from my nearly four decades on the planet and my fair share of obstacles is to take it one moment or one day at a time, all the while appreciating whatever goodness/love/beauty is available to us. So many of you have supported me throughout the years and encouraged me to “carry on,” and that I shall, with enthusiasm and continued hope for whatever awaits.
Other Resources for PCOS Recovery:
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