Do you have PCOS? PCOS is 100% reversible through natural means (no medication required!) and you can live a symptom-free life!
UPDATE: This post was originally published in January 2018 and has been updated with timely information + fresh content.
I remember it like it was yesterday–my period still hadn't come (I'd gotten off The Pill two months prior), I'd gained 12 pounds for no reason, my face was completely broken out with dozens of pimples all over my cheeks and chin (something that had never happened before), I was so very tired and exhausted, anxious and just a mess.
I made an appointment with my gynecologist, telling her about everything that had happened since I stopped taking hormonal birth control, asking her what she thought might be causing all these issues, reminding her my mother has PCOS and wondering if she thought I might, too.
“Nahh, you're just getting older. As we age, we just have to eat less and exercise more,” she told me.
“But I'm only 27 years old. I work out almost every day and I eat pretty healthy. This doesn't seem right,” I pleaded.
“Well, are you ready to have kids?”
“Then just go back on the Pill until you are.”
What exactly would that do, I wondered. I was getting flustered and begged her to just do a quick blood test to see if it would show anything.
“Fine,” she acquiesced. [some time passed] “Nope, everything looks good.”
She handed me a copy of my blood work and sent me on my way. I felt so defeated. I knew this couldn't be right. Something was wrong in my body.
So I came home and started Googling. I started with TSH, thyroid stimulating hormone. Mine was 3.57. What this meant, I had no idea. But after some cursory research, it became clear.
Ok, hmmm, I was getting somewhere. So I looked at my AMH (Anti-Müllerian hormone) level: 13.89. Optimal range: between 2-6, roughly. And what do you know, high AMH levels are another indicator of PCOS (Women with PCOS often have many small follicles (cysts) and therefore test high in AMH). (source)
How could I, a complete layman who has no medical education, figure this out in a couple Google searches, and my trained doctor couldn't? How could she tell me that with my symptoms, my lab results, my family history, that the only solution was just to go back on the Pill?
I was furious.
It was then and there that I realized that if I want to feel better, I have to take my health into my own hands. I have to be my own advocate, do my own research, find doctors who will listen to me and work with me to find the root cause, not just slap a prescription slip in my hand as a bandaid.
And so, I found a holistic MD (read more on her here!), who ran a much more comprehensive hormone panel, talked with me for over an hour about my symptoms, lifestyle, family history and diet, and ultimately diagnosed me with PCOS (and hypothyroidism and leaky gut, but that's for another story).
In addition to tweaking my diet for PCOS and how I relate to food, she recommended a few natural supplements I could take to balance my hormone levels and, for lack of a better term, ‘cure' my PCOS.
True, PCOS is technically not “curable”, but you can reverse the symptoms and essentially be in remission from the syndrome. And that's what I was going to do.
I'll be honest, it took some time. There was a lot of trial and error, a lot of testing and figuring out what was working for me and what wasn't, and just when I'd make some progress, my period would show up late or I'd break out again or my anxiety would flare-up.
But that's life–I learned to celebrate progress, not perfection. I learned to accept that my body is MY body, it's unique and special and just because it doesn't operate/look like the “standard”, doesn't mean I'm not healthy.
I now live a near symptom-free life, with regular periods every 31-32 days, clear skin, a calmer mind, a healthy weight, balanced blood sugar, healthy energy and vitality and I feel great.
So how did I do it? What were the natural PCOS treatments that worked for me?
What is PCOS?
Ok, quick side note, before we get into the supplements. Some of you may be wondering: what the heck is PCOS?
So for the uninitiated, here's a quick rundown:
PCOS, which stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, is one of the most common hormonal endocrine disorders in women. Symptoms may include irregular periods, acne, PMS, weight gain (particularly around the midsection), hair loss AND hair growth in strange places (like your chin, upper lip, or sideburns), string of pearl type cysts on your ovaries, extremes PMS symptoms and cramping, insulin resistance and/or Type 2 diabetes, headaches, sleep apnea and, oftentimes, infertility.
PCOS manifests itself differently in every single woman–it's truly not a one-size-fits-all diagnosis–for example, I personally had no cysts but horrible acne. Meanwhile, one of my best friends also had PCOS but had flawless skin and lots of cysts that caused fertility issues.
This is part of why I believe PCOS to be so misdiagnosed–if you're interested in learning more about PCOS, I highly recommend the book 8 Steps to Reverse Your PCOS: A Proven Program to Reset Your Hormones, Repair Your Metabolism, and Restore Your Fertility.
Do You Have PCOS?
One way to test for PCOS is to get your blood work done. Dr. Gottfried has an amazing hormone lab resource for optimal reference ranges.
Another way to know if you have PCOS is by analyzing your symptoms. Take our FREE quiz below to see if you might have PCOS.
Once you've been diagnosed, you'll likely want to know how to treat PCOS. Herewith, the complete guide to supplements for PCOS:
8 PCOS Supplements
Also known as Chasteberry, this Mediterranean shrub's fruits have been used for thousands of years as a natural treatment for female fertility and hormonal health. It's particularly powerful for women with PCOS who have low progesterone levels, as Vitex raises LH (luteinizing hormone) levels, which increases progesterone levels and suppresses prolactin levels, resulting in increased ovulatory cycles. Choose a reputable brand–I recommend EU Natural and give it at least 3 months to start positively impacting your cycles. *Note: if you already have high LH levels, you may want to avoid Vitex. (source)
2) Evening Primrose Oil
Likewise, if you have low progesterone, another supplement that can help is Evening Primrose Oil, which is an essential fatty acid also known as gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) that supports overall hormonal function and minimizes PMS symptoms, like breast tenderness, bloating, water retention, acne, depression, irritability, foggy thinking, cramps and headaches. I recommend Sports Research Cold Pressed Evening Primrose Oil.
Another great PCOS supplement for women who struggle with estrogen dominance (high levels of estradiol, estrone and estriol) is EstroDim, which is compounded cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli and Brussels sprouts) that helps your liver detoxify excess estrogen. I recommend Smoky Mountain Naturals DIM.
Many women with PCOS also suffer from Insulin resistance, which is when your blood sugar (fasting glucose and insulin) levels are too high, putting you at a very high risk for developing Type 2 diabetes and causing irregular cycles and infertility. While many doctors will prescribe Metformin to treat this kind of PCOS, there are all kinds of scary and dangerous side effects that come with the prescription medication, so I prefer to go the natural route first. That's why I recommend Inositol, a vitamin-like substance found in fruits, beans, grains and nuts that helps detoxify your liver. I personally tried a few different brands but ended up having the most success with Ovasitol, a medical-grade supplement that combines myo-inositol and D-chiro-inositol in the body’s natural ratio of 40 to 1, improving insulin sensitivity, ovulation, and egg quality and restoring hormone balance, namely by decreasing male hormones in the bloodstream. It's super helpful for promoting ovulation, so if you're trying to get pregnant, talk to your doctor about adding inositol to your supplement regime.
5) Vitamin B and D
The body is an interconnected machine, and when one area suffers, it affects another. In the case of PCOS, many women are deficient in Vitamin B (which can cause fatigue and constipation, and reduced progesterone levels) and Vitamin D (which can affect mood, bone density and your immune system). Instead of taking multiple supplements, I recommend finding a multivitamin with high levels of these nutrients. I love The Myers Way Multivitamin, which also contains lots of thyroid-nourishing nutrients (super important as many women with PCOS also have hypothyroidism).
Did you know that most women are deficient in magnesium, which is vital for hormonal balance? Plus, magnesium improves insulin resistance, it’s anti-inflammatory, and it balances adrenal hormones, like cortisol (the stress hormone) and thyroid, all of which are key for managing PCOS symptoms and treating the root cause. What's more? Taking magnesium at night will help you relax your muscles and sleep better, it also improves constipation. I recommend Metagenics Mag Glycinate.
Maca root is an adaptogen and a member of the cruciferous family, like broccoli and cabbage, that’s considered a superfood due to its positive effect on hormone balance, energy levels, and health. In fact, Maca Root benefits include increased fertility in both men and women, hormone balance, boosted immune system, increased energy and stamina, and improved sexual function, memory, and focus (source). I recommend Navita Organics Maca Powder which is Certified Organic, fairly traded, GMO-free, fresh and potent, and raw. Studies show red maca to be the best maca for female fertility, libido and hormone balance, natural energy boosting, bone health and male prostate. Likewise, raw maca powder is better than gelatinized (meaning pre-cooked) because the enzymes and nutrients remain at their peak levels in the raw state. (source) I put maca in my butter coffee every morning.
Not sure how your gut/microbiome affects your hormones? Get this: not only is your gut a key part of the elimination system that ushers hormones out of the body, especially excess estrogen, but your microbiome is also integral in regulating your hormones and optimizing our blood sugar levels. So I recommend taking a super high-quality probiotic every day (my favorite is Seed’s Daily Synbiotic–go here to use the code ROOTANDREVEL to get 15% off your first month!), which can metabolize and recycle hormones in our body, reduce levels of cortisol in the body, keep excess estrogen out of circulation, promote optimal insulin levels, increase tryptophan (which helps with sleep), oxytocin (the “cuddle” hormone) and even vitamin D.
And there you have it!
Please know that you should work with a qualified medical professional to determine a supplement regime that's right for you. Not every supplement will work for everybody and even though supplements are natural, doesn't mean they come without side effects. Talk to your doctor!
Want other PCOS resources? Read our other PCOS posts:
- PCOS-Friendly Diet and Meal Plan
- PCOS Lifestyle Tips
- How I Got Pregnant on My First Try with PCOS
- How to Manage PCOS Once You're in Remission
PCOS + Fertility Support
When I first got diagnosed with PCOS, I was left feeling shattered after being told that getting pregnant would be very difficult for me. I knew without doubt that I wanted a family. (Update June 2020: Fortunately, once I healed my hormones naturally, I got pregnant on my first try and now have two beautiful babies!)
This topic is near and dear to my heart, as so many women struggle with getting pregnant. If that is you: I see you. I hear you. You are not alone.
Fortunately, there ARE things we can do to increase our fertility, and you don't have to figure it out alone!
Did you know there is actually a science to getting pregnant quickly and easily, staying pregnant, and finally getting to have the baby you’ve been dreaming of?
It turns out that we have some pretty harmful beliefs about fertility in our society.
The mission of the Fertility & Pregnancy Institute is to see what others can’t by using the best of love, science, and commitment to help ensure that your fertility keeps up with your high-achieving life so that you get to have as many superbabies as your heart desires.
Dr. Cleopatra Abdou Kamperveen teaches women about the primemester—the magical and powerful window of opportunity before pregnancy—when we literally have the power to change the quality and expression of the genes that we pass down to our babies and grandbabies.
Using the data-driven, big-hearted Primemester™ Protocol developed and refined by Dr. Cleopatra Abdou Kamperveen over the past 24 years, The Fertility & Pregnancy Institute helps women all over the world: reverse reproductive aging; prepare epigenetically and otherwise for healthy pregnancy; get pregnant quickly and easily; reduce miscarriage risk; and finally have the superbaby™ they have been dreaming of for as long as they can remember.
If you're looking for personal support, go here to schedule a fertility consultation with the Fertility & Pregnancy Institute!
Dr. Cleopatra Abdou Kamperveen is a personal friend of mine who is one of the kindest, most loving people I know. I am confident that you couldn’t be in more trusted, competent, or loving hands. See how the Fertility & Pregnancy Institute can help you today!