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PCOS: It’s a condition that affects up to 20% of women, tends to begin around early adolescence, and yet, many don’t find out about it until they try to conceive a baby. While many women treat polycystic ovarian syndrome successfully with medication and hormone therapy, this is simply not possible or preferable for a lot of sufferers. If you’ve newly received a diagnosis or suspect that you have PCOS, you may be wondering about PCOS symptoms and treatment, and what you can do. Read on!

What is PCOS? 

Polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, is a condition characterised by cysts on the ovaries and hyperandrogenism (or high levels of androgens – the male sex hormones). The causes of PCOS are still unknown and it’s unclear why some women will develop the condition while others, even in the same family, will not. Hyperandrogenism can wreak havoc on the body, whilst the cysts present on the ovaries can cause infertility as well as significant and ongoing pain. 

Traditionally, PCOS has been treated with birth control pills or other hormone treatments, as well as pain medications and other medications designed to reduce androgen levels, for example. And while these treatments can help many of the women who suffer with PCOS, they are not an ideal or even suitable solution for many. 

What are PCOS symptoms? 

PCOS is a hormonal condition that can cause a huge range of symptoms, and each woman with PCOS will experience the symptoms differently. The most common symptoms PCOS causes include: 

  • Insulin resistance (a precursor for diabetes) 
  • Weight gain and trouble losing weight 
  • Painful and/or heavy periods 
  • Trouble conceiving 
  • Excess hair on the body 
  • Thinning hair on the head 
  • Bloating in the abdominal region 

The trouble with PCOS symptoms is that, as many young women begin taking birth control pills during adolescence, the symptoms such as heavy periods and pain can be masked. This means that most women tend not to realise they have the condition until they stop taking birth control or try to conceive naturally. In this case, the painful symptoms and heavy periods can return and are very difficult to manage. Unfortunately, however, many doctors put this down to naturally heavy periods and overlook the possibility of PCOS as the cause. Ultimately, diagnosing PCOS means an ultrasound to detect the characteristic ovarian cysts. 

Natural PCOS treatments and what YOU can do  

If you are living with PCOS or suspect that you might have PCOS, there are some quite simple lifestyle changes that you can make, which may make a huge difference to your life. For many women, for example, hormonal birth control causes unwanted side effects and is not a viable option. And then there are the symptoms that hormones don’t address, such as high instances of depression in women with PCOS, the weight gain associated with the condition, and more. The things you can do to treat symptoms of PCOS include: 

Nutrition and diet changes 

One of the hallmarks of PCOS is weight gain, as the condition can cause insulin resistance and make it not only easy to put on weight, but very hard to lose it. In fact, many women with PCOS are at their wits end around weight gain, no matter how hard they exercise or what they eat. Fortunately, there are some simple and effective changes that you can make to tailor your diet to being PCOS-friendly. This includes avoiding foods high in carbohydrates and taking on a more protein- and fat-heavy diet. A nutritional psychologist is a great practitioner to have in your team to help you manage PCOS and the weight gain associated, as they can not only help you to understand which foods might be exacerbating your symptoms, but also help you to overhaul the way you think about food. Treating PCOS naturally using diet and nutrition is not about deprivation; it is about being strategic in your approach to food to leave you feeling satisfied, without the awful symptoms you’re used to experiencing. Read more about natural remedies for PCOS, including helpful supplements and probiotics here

Counselling and psychology support

Women with PCOS are far more likely to experience depression and anxiety. And it is no wonder, given the baffling symptoms that are often misdiagnosed by doctors, as well as the very few options given for treatment. Taking care of your body and overcoming the symptoms of PCOS means taking care of your mind and – most importantly of all – realising that it is not your fault. Many women living with PCOS suffer for years with depression and/or anxiety, weight gain, ongoing pain, bloating, and other symptoms, without ever realising why, or that there is help available. Your counsellor or psychologist can help you understand your depression or anxiety, uncover the roots of it, and help you to develop strategies that will make a huge impact on your mental health and overall wellbeing. Don’t underestimate the difference that counselling can make to your life if you suffer with PCOS. 

Focus on health and fitness 

Getting enough exercise is particularly important for people living with PCOS, as not only can they have trouble managing their weight, but things like depression, anxiety, and sleeplessness can be more common. By focusing on your health and fitness, you can not only improve the symptoms of PCOS such as weight gain, but improve your sleep, and improve your mental health by taking back control of your overall health. It can be difficult to get into a regular fitness routine that works well for someone with PCOS. That’s why a personal trainer is a great idea. Even better, a personal trainer from Integrated Health Specialists, who can work with your psychologist to understand what you’re going through, and tailor your fitness routine to support you through your symptoms. 

Whether you have been recently diagnosed or you suspect you might have PCOS due to experiencing a number of the symptoms associated with the condition, these lifestyle changes can be incredibly beneficial and have you feeling more like yourself again in no time. Not only can they help to manage the symptoms of PCOS, but they can also have an incredible effect on your overall health – both mentally and physically. For more information on how Integrated Health Specialists can help you on your PCOS journey today, get in touch

Michelle van Namen
Author: Michelle van Namen