What to do if you’re diagnosed with PCOS
Empower your PCOS journey with diet, lifestyle adjustments, and balanced blood sugar for hormone balance and symptom management.
What is PCOS?
If you’re newly diagnosed—or suspect you have PCOS—you’re not alone. In fact, it’s estimated that 5 million U.S. women have this condition. Oftentimes a blanket diagnosis, PCOS is multifaceted. This condition has various genetic, endocrine, and environmental catalysts. Like other reproductive disorders, PCOS affects menstrual health, fertility, and more.
Women with PCOS typically present with higher levels of male hormones, called androgens. In turn, PCOS causes a slew of unwanted conditions: irregular (or a complete absence of) periods, infertility, persistent acne, and abnormal hair growth patterns in women. In some cases, PCOS features also include insulin resistance and visceral obesity. However, every woman’s diagnosis is different—in part, this is why there’s no one-size-fits all healing protocol.
Although PCOS can’t be cured, symptoms can be managed. Before we dive into natural ways to heal, let’s get one thing clear: while PCOS is typically categorized as a hormonal condition, it’s also metabolic. Meaning, PCOS and blood sugar regulation are intertwined. Therefore, minimizing PCOS symptoms often requires a two-pronged approach: diet and lifestyle play a role.
Can you test for PCOS? Unfortunately, there is no single test for PCOS, and it’s difficult to diagnose. Typically, a physical exam, ultrasound, and blood tests can help diagnose PCOS. You need to meet two of these three official criteria to be diagnosed:
- Irregular, heavy, or missed periods due to missed ovulation.
- Higher levels of androgens are present in the blood (hyperandrogenism), shown by a blood test OR symptoms (excess facial or body hair growth, scalp hair loss, or acne).
- An ultrasound shows polycystic ovaries.
Is there only one type of PCOS? Nope!
- INSULIN-RESISTANT PCOS: This is the most common PCOS type. High insulin levels interfere with ovulation, causing irregular cycles and a slew of other symptoms. Women with this kind of PCOS usually have blood sugar and insulin levels that suggest diabetes or pre-diabetes.
- INFLAMMATION-BASED PCOS: This type of PCOS is most often present in women who are not overweight—nor do they present classic symptoms of PCOS. A variety of factors causes inflammation, including food intolerances, exposure to environmental toxins, and a poor diet.
- SYNTHETIC HORMONE-INDUCED PCOS: This kind of PCOS is common for women who have been on the pill or other hormonal birth control (for a long time). Birth control’s synthetic hormones shut down communication in the body in order to prevent pregnancy.
What’s the best diet for PCOS?
Rather than approach food from a diet mentality, consider healing your PCOS with a focus on balanced blood sugar. Ultimately, the right nutrition can be tremendously beneficial for balancing hormones. Eating nourishing foods—and the right balance of these foods—can ensure happy hormones. Consuming too many inflammatory oils, processed foods, and sugar can cause imbalances.
TOP TIPS FOR HEALING PCOS:
As mentioned, there’s no cure for PCOS, but you can significantly decrease its unwanted side effects through diet and lifestyle changes. Below are our go-to tips for balancing hormones with PCOS.
1. Don’t cut carbs.
Carbs get a bad rap, but they are necessary for energy, fertility, and more! Instead, keep your plate balanced. Generally speaking, every meal should include a source of high-quality protein (plant or animal-based), non-starchy vegetables, 1-2 sources of healthy fats, and a serving of complex carbs. For example, if you make a bowl of pasta, try to choose 100% whole grain pasta, or an alternative, like a chickpea or lentil-based pasta. Additionally, add fiber, protein, and healthy fats. This could look like tossing in a large handful of spinach, having grilled chicken on the side, and topping the noodles with a pesto-based sauce.
2. Incorporate seed cycling.
No surprise here. Seed cycling is a natural yet powerful way to support hormone balance. Research shows that a fiber-rich diet helps women with PCOS manage their body composition, as well as improve glucose metabolism. Foods high in fiber include seeds, beans, legumes, green vegetables, and low-glycemic fruit (berries).
3. Manage your stress.
Chronic stress causes everything from cortisol (our stress hormone) to blood sugar to increase. Practice daily stress management such as journaling, breath work, meditation, yoga, and spending time with loved ones.
4. Get quality sleep.
Clock your zZz’s. Getting quality sleep (7-9 hours) is essential. Like stress, lack of sleep (or consistent sleep) causes cortisol and blood sugar to rise. Along with doing a nighttime meditation, you may also benefit from stopping scrolling and screen time before bed.
5. Move your body.
Last but not least, move your body. This doesn’t mean you need to begin a daily HIIT routine. In fact, that may cause more harm than good. Instead, opt for 15-30 minutes of strength training, go for a brisk walk, unroll your yoga mat, or dance in your kitchen. Anything you can do to get your blood circulating and your muscle fibers firing will support hormone balance.
Apple cider vinegar
When it comes to minimizing PCOS symptoms, nutrition is key. One of the simplest hacks? A dash of apple cider vinegar. Because knowledge is power, we love this podcast episode with Jessie Inchauspé—aka the Glucose Goddess. She breaks down simple ways to balance blood sugar and why blood sugar balance is so important. Learn how to optimize your blood sugar (thus supporting hormone balance) via the power of apple cider vinegar, here.
Walk it out
One of our favorite ways to help stabilize blood sugar after eating? A post-meal walk! Not only does a leisure walk aid in digestion, but it’s an excuse to get fresh air. Best of all, it allows your muscles to soak up—and use—the glucose (sugar) from the food you just ate. Win, win, win.
Scientists are still studying how exercise impacts blood sugar, but one thing is certain: when we’re active, our muscles process glucose like workhorses. In fact, exercise can boost glucose uptake by up to 50 times (compared to when we are sedentary). Said differently—when you exercise, muscles become more efficient at absorbing glucose.
If you don’t have 20-30 minutes to go for a walk, don’t fret. Good news: shorter bouts of low-intensity movement are also effective at taming glucose surges. Walk up and down your stairs for a few minutes, do a short series of squats, dance in your living room, etc. Anything to get your blood flowing!