Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wellness Wednesdays: A Handbook for those with PCOS

I wanted to put together something for those women out there that have recently been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).  I know that that when you first learn that you have it it can be very overwhelming trying to find accurate data, knowing what to do to treat it, and what worked for others.  Here's a good starting point for you to learn about all the different facets of treating it naturally and getting your body balanced naturally.

For support, education, and to talk to others with PCOS, check out or my facebook page at

Definition of PCOS

Taken from WebMD:
“Polycystic ovary syndrome (say "pah-lee-SIS-tik OH-vuh-ree SIN-drohm") is a problem in which a woman’s hormones are out of balance. It can cause problems with your periods and make it difficult to get pregnant. PCOS may also cause unwanted changes in the way you look. If it is not treated, over time it can lead to serious health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (or PCOS) is common, affecting as many as 1 out of 15 women. Often the symptoms begin in the teen years. Treatment can help control the symptoms and prevent long-term problems.”

***A note for you- it is actually now known that PCOS affects anywhere from 1 out of 5 to 10 women.


The cause of PCOS is not known, but is suspected to be passed down genetically from either the mother OR father.  It is also thought that environmental factors may play a role in PCOS as well.  Much more testing and studies need to be done to pinpoint the cause(s) of PCOS.

Common Symptoms

It is important to note that each woman with PCOS does not have ALL of these symptoms, usually a few of them together.  I have also witnessed some symptoms can come and go depending on your diet and exercise routine.  These are the most commonly known symptoms:
  • Insulin-resistance
  • Weight gain, difficulty losing weight
  • Male-pattern hair growth on the face and body.
  • Thinning hair on the scalp
  • Acne
  • Irregular periods (including complete absence of periods or continuous bleeding)
  • Infertility
  • Cysts on the ovaries (viewable through ultrasound)
  • Above normal Testosterone Hormone levels (blood test)
  • Vitamin D deficiency (blood test)
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Vitamins & Supplements

Before starting any supplement regiment, be sure to speak with your doctor about what you plan on taking.  Also, what I have learned from experience, be sure you are also taking a quality multi-vitamin as these have a majority of what your body needs to work better and most likely includes many of the recommended dosages of the supplements listed below.

Fish Oil

Taking a quality, organic fish oil is perhaps one of the first and most important changes you could do to combat many common symptoms of PCOS.  Since PCOS is inflammatory in nature, the Omega 3’s in fish oil act as a natural anti-inflammatory.  A good one to try is Carlson Fish Oil found at many health supplement stores.


  •         Anti-Inflammatory [1]
  •         Assists in regulating hormones [1] and monthly cycle [2]
  •         Reduces risk of coronary heart disease [2]
  •         May help relieve hypertension/high blood pressure [2]
  •         Lowers triglycerides that commonly indicates insulin problems [2]
  •         May aid in reducing depression [2]

Vitamin D

Many women with PCOS suffer from Vitamin D deficiency.  We normally receive Vitamin D from the sun, hence it’s nickname of the “Sunshine Vitamin”.  Optimal Vitamin D levels are important for improved fertility, weight control, liver health, reducing insulin resistance and avoiding pancreas exhaustion. It also helps to prevent bone loss and osteoporosis and improves breast health. [3] Vitamin D, in conjunction with Calcium supplements has been known to help women with PCOS. [4]  If you have PCOS, be sure to get your Vitamin D levels checked!


  • Regulation of menstrual cycle
  • Reversal of insulin resistance
  • Reduced chance of osteoporosis/bone loss


Magnesium is another nutrient that is known to be in low levels in those with PCOS. Magnesium should be taken in conjunction with Calcium.  The recommended daily allowance for magnesium established by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences is 310mg per day for women ages 19 to 31 and 320mg for women over age 31. [5]


  • Helps balance blood sugar levels

Apple Cider Vinegar (raw, fermented)

Apple Cider Vinegar helps in so many parts of your body including skin, digestion, insulin resistance, and more.  It has always been a part of old-world remedies for many ailments and does help those with PCOS maintain their insulin levels.  I take 1 Tablespoon in about 8 ounces of water each morning with my breakfast. 

Benefits: [6]

  • Promotes weight loss
  • Reduces sugar cravings
  • Aids in digestion — ACV helps stimulate your stomach acid which aids in the digestion of protein and fats. Healthy digestion is important for overall health and weight control.
  • Weight control — Apple cider vinegar speeds up metabolism especially when taken regularly before meals and if used with a sensible diet and exercise program. ACV has also been proven to help burn fat!
  • Helps prevent dandruff, itching scalp, baldness (common with PCOS!!)
  • Helps maintain healthy skin
  • Restores your body’s pH balance — Your blood is supposed to be slightly alkaline, but poor diet and lifestyle choices harm that pH balance. As your blood becomes acidic, the stage is set for illness. Acidity has also been shown to affect fertility. Women who have hostile cervical mucus have also been shown to have a higher acidity in their body. This is essential for those of you trying to conceive as ACV helps restore your body’s pH.

Chromium Picolinate (Chelated)

Chromium is a well-known supplement to aid in balancing insulin levels for those with PCOS and Diabetes.  A deficiency in this mineral can directly lead to insulin-resistance. [7] If you are taking insulin or an insulin sensitizer such as metformin, chromium supplementation could reduce your blood sugar below the desired level.


  • Controls cravings, reduces hunger [7]
  • Balances insulin levels
  • May reduce triglycerides and total cholesterol while improving HDL "good" cholesterol [2]


Yep, that’s right, I’m saying that plain ole cinnamon really can help control your sugar cravings and assist with balancing glucose!  Mix it into your coffee grounds, oatmeal, and other snacks throughout the day.  I usually have at least ½ tsp each day.

Things to Avoid

Eating a clean diet is essential in maintaining a healthy lifestyle with PCOS.  Next time you wonder whether or not your snack or meal is suitable, ask yourself if your great grandmother would have recognized the food.  A good example – Cheetos or Doritos (is neon orange powdered cheese really natural?)

Processed Foods

Processed foods are basically anything that is pre-packaged and ready to eat.  Think Hamburger Helper, frozen dinners, pop tarts, and anything else that has been processed at a factory and preserved so that it will last on a shelf for months or even years.  Our bodies react better to a more natural diet void from preservatives, pesticides and man-made ingredients. 


Women with PCOS already have a hormone imbalance and pesticides directly interfere with the re-balancing of our hormones.  Why do pesticides interfere with our hormone balance?  They contain what is called Xenoestrogens, which are chemical-based.  These look and act like our body’s natural hormones and will bind to our hormones causing extras to be hanging out in our body since they have no where else to go and keeping them from doing their job.

You may be thinking that just because you don’t live on a farm that you are safe from pesticides, but the fact is that most of the produce that you buy in the store is riddled with it.  I encourage you to start switching to organic produce whenever possible.  Here’s a list of the “Dirty Dozen”- the top 12 pesticide contaminated foods that you should always buy organic: [9]

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Sweet Bell Pepper
  4. Peaches
  5. Strawberries
  6. Nectarines – imported
  7. Grapes
  8. Spinach
  9. Lettuce
  10. Cucumbers
  11. Blueberries – domestic
  12. Potatoes

CLEAN 15: (these are lowest in pesticide levels)

  1. Onions
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Avocado
  5. Cabbage
  6. Sweet Peas
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangoes
  9. Eggplant
  10. Kiwi
  11. Cantaloupe – domestic
  12. Sweet Potatoes
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Watermelon
  15. Mushrooms

High Fructose Corn Syrup

HFCS is corn syrup that has gone through a chemical process to convert glucose to fructose.  It is used in many foods a sweetener.  Fructose goes directly to the liver, which then turns it into fat.  Since women with PCOS tend to have higher obesity rates and a harder time keeping weight off, it’s a good idea to stay away from anything that can counter your efforts.

Agave Nectar

This is touted as being all natural, being that it does come from a plant.  Unfortunately, it is very highly processed like high fructose corn syrup is.  It is also not made from the sap of the agave plant as you would think. It is actually taken from the bulb, which is primarily a starch (like rice and corn).  To get this starchy extract into what we see on the store shelves, it is put through a chemical process that changes the starch into a high-fructose syrup. Once it undergoes this process, it ends up containing a higher fructose content than the high fructose corn syrup.

Simple Carbohydrates

This includes baked goods (cookies, cakes, muffins, etc), white flours, white breads, white rice.  Since PCOS is directly linked to insulin resistance, these simple carbohydrates turn to sugar very quickly and cause the ups and downs of your moods and cravings. 

Artificial Flavors & Colors

Anything that lists artificial colors or flavors added, or has dyes listed in the ingredients list.  These are man-made and can interfere with your body’s natural balance. 

Artificial Sweeteners

There are many artificial sweeteners out on the market today that are NOT naturally made.  That’s right, sweeteners like Splenda, aspartame or sucralose are actually man-made and can wreak havoc on your body by causing you to crave MORE sweets and carby foods, put you in a brain-fog, cause gas and bloating, joint pain.  I know from first-hand experience from using Splenda that it can cause brain-fog and fatigue.  Once I switched to sugar and primarily Stevia (this is from a plant, not a lab!) my mind was clear again and the fatigue lessened.

If you aren’t convinced yet Aspartame, once it’s digested into the body, turns into Methanol (poisonous!), which then the body turns into Formaldehyde.  This excess of formaldehyde can irreversibly bind to our DNA.

Written by: Crystal Warren, Representative for Power Up for PCOS which provides support to women with PCOS through educational Power Up Groups, building connections with other PCOS women, calendar of upcoming PCOS events, professional referrals and reviews, PCOS store, and other specialized events to raise money for PCOS research.  To find our more, visit, email or by calling 810-545-PCOS (7267)

Power Up for PCOS - emPowering Women to Manage PCOS

*Please note that I am not a medical professional. I am not qualified to give out any medical advice. I am a woman with PCOS who is sharing my personal experiences in this blog and I advise you to consult a professional.*

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