LIFE UPDATE: I HAVE PCOS
Whether you follow me here because you know me personally or you just enjoy my recipes and love for pursuing a healthier lifestyle, I wanted to let you in on a part of my very personal life. I was recently diagnosed with PCOS. Some of you may be wondering what that is, some may be very familiar with this acronym. For those who are not, PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. It is a hormonal disorder that affects about 1 in 10 women. Although the name would lead you to believe you have cysts on you ovaries, a very common symptom, it is not always the case. Some of the additional signs of PCOS are infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods, excess androgen, enlarged ovaries with follicles that surround the eggs, weight gain, dark hair growth on your face, breakouts, and insulin resistance (just to name a few). What does all this mean you ma be wondering? Let me back it up a little bit and catch you up to the last 14 months of hormone imbalance.
As some of you may know I have been struggling with hormone imbalance since going off birth control over a year ago. I pride myself in striving to live a healthy well rounded lifestyle, so I figured this was something I could research and fix on my own. I began to read, a lot and everything said give it time, it can take up to a year for your body to regulate after being on synthetic hormones like birth control. I grew impatient after a few months and I tried cycle syncing with seeds (it helped but ultimately was not enough for me). Then I started to take various adaptogens like maca which actually made my symptoms worse because maca boosts your testosterone and if you have PCOS you already have higher levels of testosterone, although I did not know I had it at the time. I still wasn’t too terribly concerned since I had been on the pill for 6 years, I thought it would take time for my body to adjust back to the normal. Basically if you google how to regulate hormones naturally, I tried it and nothing really worked.
After a few months of trying to do my own thing with little to no success, I decided to start to ask for help. This was SO hard for me, I felt defeated like I was not smart enough to heal my own body. I struggled to justify going in to see someone but finally decided it was okay if it was someone on one condition, they needed to heal me naturally. I went to a Naturopath in Idaho, well at least I thought she was, apparently Idaho doesn’t recognize ND and there is no such thing as a naturopath nurse so that was a strange one… Anyway, she gave me some supplements to try and help regulate my cycle, they actually did help a little at first (my very late period arrived) but then when the next month came and my period did not I started to feel a little discouraged again. I began going to the chiropractor as I heard that has helped some women. Again it was able to help a little and my again late period came, but this time it wouldn’t stop. My typical mensuration was 3-4 days and I had been continual bleeding for almost a month. I started to get worried and made an appointment with an actual ND (naturopath doctor) In Spokane. I had a conversation with my OBGYN where he said I should just go back on birth control to regulate my cycle, which was the last thing I wanted to do, pump my body full of synthetic hormones. My ND started to run tests, my thyroid was fine, I was anemic, I have 0 blood type (this was news to me) we were not exactly sure what was wring but she was confident we could get this figured out. She placed me on some tinctures which again helped a little but after only 5 days of no bleeding (still spotting) my period came back, for another month. We decided to take my treatment a step further and go on natural progesterone just to shut it down for a month and then try and sync it. Except each time she increased my dosage my period would not end. I was now three months into a (pretty much) continuous period. At this point I began doing my own researching because what we were doing was clearly not working. My ND just wanted to increase my progesterone to force it to stop but it just didn’t feel like the right long term answer as to what was going on. I decided to give it a try though while I attempted to figure out what needed to be done.
I began to wonder if I was pursuing the right path. I had been praying that I would be lead in a clear direction, I felt lost and hopeless. Then I felt strongly to be open to the MD route, I didn’t feel like I had to do what they said but just be open to it. I was so hesitant at first to reach back out to my OB. I felt like a failure and my ego really took a hit. What kind of holistic health personal went to the MD route for answers? Well I guess me. I called my OBGYN, this was my second time talking to him since the never ending period but this time I requested to be tested for PCOS.
I had researched for hours and the symptoms of PCOS were too familiar for comfort. I had looked into it months before but back then I was missing some of the common symptoms that I was now experiencing. My Dr. agreed to the testing and I went in for blood work, my ND increased my dosage and finally at 600mg a day my period stopped. I want to mention this is pretty high dose for someone my age and I was beginning to feel pretty crappy, exhausted all the time, bloated, depressed, and emotional. I knew I could not keep up with this for a long period of time.
It took a few conversations with my MD Dr. after he received the results of my blood test (talk about information overload) before I had my answer. I have PCOS. I wasn’t terribly surprised, I didn’t cry in fact I cried more just feeling anxious to hear what was wrong with me the days before my diagnosis. I felt relief. If he had said everything looks fine, just give it more time I would have been more upset/ concerned because everything was clearly not fine. I felt like my body was revolting against me and there was nothing I could do to help it. I finally had an answer something to go off of, so now what?
My insulins levels are high, especially considering my current diet and lifestyle. This is causing me to gain weight and most likely preventing me from ovulating thus resulting in a very irregular cycle and causing a whole slew of other problems. Once I found out I had PCOS I was deep into research, what was the right next step for me? I had already read Women Code (if you have PCOS and haven’t read this book go buy it now It is very informative) I knew it was possible to eliminate the symptoms through a strict diet and some lifestyle changes. Again I started to feel this pressure, don’t do anything the MD says, heal your body naturally and again I found myself releasing that and being open to the solutions they had to offer. It can be very challenging to mix the ND and MD world but that is exactly what I am going to be attempting to do.
My current plan is go on an anti-inflammatory diet (this is something I will definitely be posting about in the future), adjust my workouts to be less high intensity and more walking and yoga, and I am going to go on Metformin to help with my insulin levels. I am not telling you this to get judgment on my decisions, I have thought about it and researched this a lot. With my diet and lifestyle change I wont have to stay on Metformin long but If I don’t go on it could take a year + to get my insulin levels where they need to be and to get a regular cycle back. There is no guarantee that this will work but I feel like it is the next right step for me. My goal with all of this is to be open with you guys, 1 in 10 women have this so odds are some of you reading this do, whether you know or not. I want to be an encouragement and a source of information but I am not a Dr. So after reading this if you think you may have PCOS contact your OBGYN and get tested so you can begin to heal your body, whichever way you fee is best. Thanks for love and support!