Learn how to cure PCOS permanently and how to heal Leaky Gut + Insulin Resistance. You can do it naturally with food, safe supplements and simple lifestyle changes. No prescriptions required! We also have a helpful PCOS Symptoms Quiz!
**This post first appeared August 2016. It was updated in June 2022 and again in January 2023. These changes reflect new information, more detailed information on leaky gut, insulin resistance and PCOS. We also updated supplement recommendations and included a helpful checklist of natural treatments for PCOS and Leaky Gut.
It's been exactly two years since I was first diagnosed with PCOS, Leaky Gut + Insulin Resistance. And one year since I was pronounced “cured” by my doctor!
Do you have PCOS? If you're unsure take our PCOS Symptoms Quiz below. It can give you a quick snapshot! Find out if additional hormone testing would be helpful to get you on your way to your healthiest self! If hormone testing is something you're interested in, check out this helpful post on home testing. You can check your hormones from the comfort of your own home!
I'll warn ya this is a bit of a doozy! There is a ton of info to cover, so settle in, pour yourself a cup of butter coffee and stay awhile. I promise the pay-off of sticking with me through to the end will be worth it (there's a special FREEBIE highlighted in this post and some deals too!).
- How to Reverse PCOS, Leaky Gut and Insulin Resistance Naturally
- What Exactly is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
- What is PCOS?
- How are PCOS and Leaky Gut Related?
- Natural Treatment for PCOS + Leaky Gut
- PCOS Supplements + Lifestyle Changes
- How to Heal Leaky Gut
- How to Cure PCOS Naturally
- My Plan for Staying Healthy
- PCOS + Fertility Support
- Medication Update
How to Reverse PCOS, Leaky Gut and Insulin Resistance Naturally
For several years before my diagnosis, I struggled with chronic constipation, unexplained nausea, fatigue, irregular periods, acne, PMS, weight gain and irregular blood sugar. And yet, despite going to many, many doctors and specialists, nobody knew what was wrong with me.
In fact, most doctors just chalked my concerns up to “aging” or “being a woman”. Keep in mind, I was in my mid-twenties!). They either dismissed me entirely or just threw expensive prescription medication at my symptoms. Instead of working to heal the root cause they prescribed medication. These meds had really extreme and scary side effects, and that ultimately DID NOT work.
Today, I am here to tell you that just one year after my diagnosis, one year after I found a doctor who really listened to me! They discovered the root cause of my symptoms and put me on a path to healing. I have reversed my PCOS, Leaky Gut and Insulin Resistance. And I've done it all NATURALLY!
That means NO prescription medication.
I know, I was skeptical at first, too. After all, Western medicine is all most of us know living in the U.S., and it's done amazing things for many people.
But when I harnessed the power of nutrition, I learned that FOOD IS MEDICINE.
Food can heal. And, coupled with some safe, natural supplements and simple lifestyle changes, healing is possible. I'm living proof!
At my doctor's appointment last week, I was pronounced “cured”. My blood work looked great, my symptoms have nearly all disappeared and I feel better than I've ever felt in my life!
So I wanted to write a post today to share my healing journey with y'all. I hope that maybe there's somebody else out there struggling with similar issues who can learn something from my story and begin their own healing.
If you have any digestive disorders or hormonal imbalances, this one's for you!
What Exactly is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Leaky gut syndrome is a condition in which the intestinal lining becomes weakened. This allows food particles and toxins to pass through into the bloodstream. “Stress” disorders that also include things like endurance exercise, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, pregnancy, and surfactants (such as bile acids and dietary factors such as emulsifiers) all increase permeability of the lining of the gut (source). This can lead to a wide range of health problems, including digestive symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, IBS, constipation, or bloating. It can also lead to skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema or rosacea; and autoimmune diseases like celiac disease. Leaky gut is common in both adults and children. It can also occur as a side effect of certain medications, such as Warfarin (Coumadin) and some birth control pills. In some cases, Leaky gut is caused by an underlying condition. But, it can also be triggered by stress, poor diet, antibiotic use, and damage from the environment or pathogens (also known as viruses, bacteria and parasites!). When Leaky gut is left untreated, it can cause long-term damage to the body’s immune system and immune cells. This can lead to a wide range of health problems!!
Diet plays a huge role in the health of the gut. A healthy gut is critical to maintaining a healthy immune system and digestive function. As mentioned before, when the gut becomes damaged, it allows for the entry of harmful pathogens into the body. This leads to inflammation, food sensitivities, leaky gut syndrome and many other conditions. There are many dietary factors that can contribute to a leaky gut. These include eating processed foods, consuming too much alcohol or caffeine, taking antibiotics, being exposed to toxins such as pesticides and herbicides, stress, and even antibiotics.
As dire as that all sounds, the good thing is that the gut is relatively speedy in healing itself up! The lining of the gut regenerates itself every 3-4 days! (source) Which means that you can start healing in less than a week. Good news right?!
What is PCOS?
So what is PCOS? PCOS, which stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, is one of the most common hormonal endocrine disorders in women. Symptoms include irregular periods, acne, PMS, weight gain, hair loss, and, often times, infertility.
When I was first diagnosed with PCOS, I suffered more from excess androgens. This caused me to break out, gain weight around my midsection and skip periods. My initial blood work showed AMHA levels of 13.89, which is one of the indicators that you have PCOS.
Unfortunately, then I became estrogen dominant (meaning my estrogen levels were too high and progesterone too low). The peak of my estrogen dominance was when my estrone levels were above 200 and my estradiol levels hovered over 150.
This imbalance caused me to have symptoms like acne, long menstrual cycles, and heavy cramping during my period. Today, my estrogen and estradiol levels are now down to 68 and 123, respectively. This is a very healthy range, and my progesterone levels are up to 17.
And my periods come every 29-32 days. Compared to 45-60 days with regular ovulation (yes, even though I'm not trying to get pregnant, I track my cycles religiously!). My acne has nearly gone away, I don't get bad cramps with my periods, I've lost weight, and my energy is way up!
But here’s the thing… the truth is, there's no “cure” for PCOS. I will always have it. What I can do is manage it. I can reverse the chronic conditions that accompany the hormonal disorder and essentially be in “remission” from the symptoms. I can feel “cured”, but if I don't treat my body right, PCOS can always flare up again. So it's something I'll have to deal with for the rest of my life.
Types of PCOS
I should also note that there are many different kinds of PCOS, and it manifests itself differently in every woman. For example, I don't have any cysts on my ovaries, nor have I ever been really overweight. But my hormone labs, symptoms and periods all indicate that I have PCOS. Other women might have cysts, but no other symptoms. So it's important to look at your situation as unique and work with a thoughtful doctor who can help you cure/reverse/treat your PCOS. You don't have to rely on harmful and controversial bandaids, like birth control pills, Metformin, Clomid, and/or spironolactone.
Other women might have cysts, but no other symptoms. So it's important to look at your situation as unique and work with a thoughtful doctor who can help you cure/reverse/treat your PCOS without relying on harmful and controversial band-aids, like birth control pills, Metformin, Clomid, and/or spironolactone.
How are PCOS and Leaky Gut Related?
So how are PCOS and leaky gut related? This one is super interesting! When lipopolysaccharides produced by gram negative bacteria (which is a normal thing that these little bugs do) cross the intestinal lining (due to a leaky gut) it leads to a chronic state of low grade inflammation. This low grade inflammation activates the immune system and interferes with insulin receptor on our cells. (source)
What are insulin receptors? Well, you can think of the receptors as the lock and the insulin hormone as the key. Insulin needs to bind with the receptor to open the ‘door' to let blood glucose (blood sugar) into our cells. If this lock and key mechanism doesn't work, you end up with Insulin Resistance. This then leads to high blood sugar and high insulin levels!
High blood sugar levels that circulate for long periods of time can cause damage to our vascular system (vascular system = all the veins, arteries and capillaries that move our blood around!)
In terms of PCOS, the interference with the insulin receptors also leads to higher levels of circulating insulin in the blood (you have just a bunch of ‘insulin keys' circulating around with no lock to fit into!). Higher levels of circulating insulin ends up boosting testosterone production in the ovaries which then leads to PCOS and it's related symptoms. Phewf! I know that was a lot of info!
Ok, I know that was a lot of detailed information so now let's look at what to do about it….
Natural Treatment for PCOS + Leaky Gut
After my initial diagnosis, my doctor (check out Dr. Taz from our ‘In Her Shoes' series) put me on an anti-inflammatory diet. Unsure of what this meant, I researched the diet online and read the life-changing book, Clean Cuisine (buy your copy here!).
Following this diet was the single greatest thing I did for my health. In short, I drastically reduced my intake of certain things. I reduced gluten, dairy, inflammatory oils and sugar, and started filling my plate with fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and lean protein. Learn more about what an anti-inflammatory diet is, and how you can implement it, here.
Likewise, I also cut out all processed food and centered my diet around real, whole foods that would nourish my body to its fullest.
But I didn't stop there. I read dozens of books (my favorites are listed here!) after Clean Cuisine in an attempt to understand what was really going on in my body and how I could potentially reverse my diagnosis and get rid of my symptoms.
Though I learned that food is the first, and most important, step to natural healing, there are other techniques that can boost your healing power. Like healthy detoxes and cleanses, such as Whole 30 (here are the Top 15 Things I learned from Whole30 when I did it earlier this year).
I also learned about the power of safe and natural supplements.
PCOS Supplements + Lifestyle Changes
Today, my supplement routine is much simpler (keep reading to find out what supplements I take now). It was so important when I was in the early stages of healing that I nourished my body with a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.
And to be honest, there's a level of trial and error that's involved in finding the supplement routine that works best for you.
I was skeptical that supplements would really work, but I can say that without a doubt, supplements were the key to a lot of my healing. There are many nutrients that our bodies simply can't get enough of from food alone, no matter how healthy you eat (hello, Vitamin D!).
I also made some holistic lifestyle changes. Some of these were simple, like exercising regularly (don't miss my favorite FREE online workouts here). Though I made the switch from burning out my adrenals by over-exercising (more than 60 minutes per session, or running) several times a week. I started exercising for less time (15-30 minutes) every single day, or taking long, leisurely walks and going to restorative yoga classes.
I love using my Fitbit as extra support to balance my hormones. It's designed to help you become more active, eat a more well-rounded diet, sleep better and turn you into a healthier human being one step at a time–all of which are incredibly influential factors on our hormones.
Others took a bit more discipline, like meditating and tossing toxic store-bought skincare. I've since swapped my makeup, personal hygiene and cleaning products for safe, natural alternatives. Don't miss my favorite affordable natural beauty brands here, my current green beauty routine, and our Savvy Swaps series, where we make the switch from toxic to safe products monthly!).
I also started making a lot of my own skincare and cleaning products. Most store-bought products contain a cocktail of harmful chemicals that are proven to cause cancer, hormonal imbalances (including infertility), asthma and allergies, neurotoxicity and other ills. This was particularly important for my PCOS. Why? Because many of these toxins mimic estrogen in the body, further exacerbating estrogen dominance and hormonal imbalances.
So that's the big picture. I healed my body naturally: an anti-inflammatory diet, safe supplements, restorative exercise, getting rid of toxic chemicals and practicing self-care.
Now, if any of you out there also have PCOS, Leaky Gut and/or insulin resistance, keep reading to learn more about exactly what I did to reverse those specific disorders.
How to Heal Leaky Gut
Some healing takes a really long time (see below for my PCOS story). But within one week of treating my digestive disorders naturally, I noticed a nearly 100% improvement. Remember about how we mentioned the gut lining starts to heal and regenerate every 3-4 days! After one month, I felt like my digestion was totally back on track and doing what it was supposed to do. I couldn't believe how fast food worked, especially considering how many years I suffered!
So what's my secret? It's simple: the following five steps on how to heal leaky gut.
5 Step Plan
- Reduce Inflammation
- Drink Green Smoothies
- Incorporate Gut-Healing Foods
- Take a Safe Probiotic
- Take Important Supplements
- I reduced inflammation by majorly upping your intake of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and fiber. I also decreased my intake of inflammatory foods like gluten, dairy, junky oils (click here for a guide to healthy cooking oils), refined carbs and sugar.
Drink a Green Smoothie a Day.
This daily habit really helped me accomplish all of these goals, particularly when I added a fiber boost like flax seeds, chia seeds or hemp hearts.
Incorporate Gut-Healing Foods
like bone broth. You can make your own with this recipe or save time by stocking up on Kettle & Fire's organic bone broth collagen, and fermented foods, like kombucha, sauerkraut, kefir, and miso. Here is one of the DEALS we mentioned…SAVE 15% on Kettle & Fire's Bone Broth with our exclusive code: BONE15
Take a Safe Probiotic.
There's a variety of choices out there, and it's all about finding which ones work best for you. But make sure it's high-quality. My favorite is Seed’s Daily Synbiotic. It's soil based and helps our gut get back to a more natural flora state! And here is another DEAL–Save 15% off SEED daily synbiotic when you use the code: ROOTANDREVEL
Additional Important Supplements:
Fish Oil, Magnesium, Digestive Enzymes, and/or HCL with Pepsin are also really helpful for anyone struggling with digestion issues, including indigestion (heartburn, acid reflux, GERD, gas, or bloating).
Nourish your Thyroid.
I started taking a natural compounded T3/T4 thyroid replacement hormone to treat my hypothyroidism (which causes sluggish bowels) and a thyroid-specific multi-vitamin (it's rich in Selenium, Zinc, and Iodine, plus methylated B vitamins, D3, methyl-folate, and Vitamin A), and I've been amazed at how much it's helped improve my digestion. It's amazing how connected the body is–when one system is out of whack, it affects another and can become a vicious cycle. Optimizing my thyroid has been incredibly helpful not only for digestion, but for hormonal balance, anxiety, energy and metabolism, as well.
Though there aren't as many blood levels to check for digestive disorders, there are a few numbers you can monitor. One is food allergies or sensitivities.
Food Sensitivities + Intolerances
Unless you have a severe food allergy, sensitivities and intolerances can often just be a sign that your gut is inflamed. And, did you know that you can reverse these sensitivities? Check it out…below are the results of my food allergies starting in August 2015 through today.
peanut, went from .17 –> .04 –> .02 –> .03
cashew, went from .15 –> .09 –> .05 –> .03
almond, went from .05 –> .05 –> .05 –> 0.0
cow's milk, went from .18 –> .11 –> .09 –> .07
casein, went from .14 –> .08 –> .06 –> .07
soybean, went from .09 –> .03 –> .01 –> 0.0
gluten, went from .29 –> .19 –> .11 –> <0.1
egg white, went from .25 –> .19 –> .12 –> .09
egg yolk, went from .29 –> .19 –> .14 –> .11
How to Cure PCOS Naturally
Here's what I did to balance my hormones:
Reduce inflammation by eating an anti-inflammatory diet (yes, this again! healing takes time, remember!)
Nurture your adrenals
Nurture your adrenals with yoga, meditation, and self-care, as cortisol (the stress hormone) affects every single one of your hormones. Some of my favorite self-care techniques include meditation, yoga, epsom salt bath soaks, massage, and reading (particularly in the sun for 15 minutes a day to boost Vitamin D levels). It's also helpful to consume less caffeine and alcohol. I have since switched to decaf coffee (with the occasional green tea or matcha latte), and I try to limit alcohol to 1-2 drinks per day, often skipping drinking altogether.
Manage estrogen levels
Manage estrogen levels with supplements like Vitex, DIM, Turmeric and Ayurvedic Herbs, which helps to cleanse your liver, metabolize hormones and detox your body. It also helps to reduce your toxic burden by switching to natural skincare, makeup, and household products, as many conventional products contain fake estrogens that cause imbalances.
Balance blood sugar
Balance blood sugar: Insulin resistance was another issue I struggled with as a woman with PCOS–many women who have PCOS also have insulin resistance and hypothyroidism, as well. Essentially, my blood sugar (fasting glucose and insulin) levels were way too high, putting me at a very high risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. This really scared me, perhaps most of all. Cutting out refined carbs and sugar, focusing on healthy fats, fiber and protein, eating at regular intervals (especially first thing in the morning), and a couple of supplements (namely Inositol) helped me bring my fasting insulin levels down from 6.3 to a healthy 2.9. And my fasting glucose is now an ideal 88.
Nourish your thyroid
Nourish your thyroid. Yep, this one again too. Isn't is crazy how linked our symptoms can be? The same way my hypothyroidism was slowing down my digestion, it was also worsening my hormonal imbalances. By focusing on thyroid-healthy techniques, and taking the supplements mentioned above, I've nearly cleared up my acne, normalized my periods, and drastically reduced my anxiety (with the help of self-care, namely yoga, and therapy).
My Plan for Staying Healthy
Ok, this blog post is certainly going to win an award for the longest post ever. Sheesh, if you've made it this far, I commend you! And I hope you've gotten TONS of helpful tips along the way.
A year ago, I couldn't have imagined that I would be writing this post, telling the story of how all of those debilitating symptoms that plagued me for years have disappeared. But thanks to food and natural living, here I am, doing exactly that.
This is a really proud moment for me and one that I hope inspires you to find healing naturally. I highly recommend seeking out a holistic MD near you to help you on your journey. Obviously, I am not a doctor and my story is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. I'm simply sharing what has worked for me.
Moving forward, to maintain my newfound level of health, I plan to continue eating an anti-inflammatory diet focused on real, whole foods. Gluten, dairy, junky oils and sugar will never have a regular place on my plate again, though I am a firm believer in moderation and think it's crucial to your health and happiness that you allow yourself to let go and enjoy delicious food every now and then. So, expect more of my signature 80-20 rule!
I'm currently working with my naturopathic doctor to simplify my supplement regimen, but for now I am taking a Multi-Vitamin, Probiotic, Thyrocsin to provide co-factors to support thyroid hormone production and a Compounded T4/T3 medication through my doctor. It took me a few years to simplify my routine to this point, but it was worth all of the energy I put in to now feel my best ever with minimal effort.
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!
Fertility Support Services
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? Check out Dr. Cleopatra's clinic for more information!
We wish you all the best in your healing journey and reach out anytime to email@example.com!
Alysha, & The Root + Revel Team
P.S. This post has been updated to be completely forthcoming with you all. After struggling with debilitating anxiety and panic attacks, I added Zoloft to my medicine cabinet this year. While I struggle with the desire to treat everything naturally and avoid prescription medication when possible, I've found that sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do, and there's no need to suffer needlessly.
Root & Revel is all about balance, and we as a collective strongly believe there is a time and a place for Western medicine. I personally try to always seek the natural, holistic approach first, and then supplement with safe prescriptions, with minimal side effects, when necessary. I also work with a holistic psychiatrist to manage my medication in tandem with cognitive behavioral therapy and yoga. I'm grateful there are so many options to help with a well-rounded approach to my health!
P.P.S. Now in case you missed the DEALS in the post, don't worry, we got you covered!
- SAVE 15% on Kettle & Fire's Bone Broth with our exclusive code: BONE15
- Save 15% on SEED daily synbiotic when you use the code: ROOTANDREVEL
- Download our Handy Cheat Sheet for Natural Healing!
This cheat sheet is part of Root & Revel Collective's FREE Library of Resources that we offer exclusively to our subscribers!