Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects 1 in 10 women of reproductive age. This means PCOS is a daily reality of millions and millions of women throughout the world and I’m one of them.
PCOS is considered a hormonal disorder that impacts women’s metabolic, endocrine and reproductive systems. Needless to say, it can also affect women’s mental health and emotional wellbeing a great deal.
In this post, I want to bring awareness to some of the primary signs and symptoms of PCOS but also share strategies and tips to support women who are already dealing with this disorder or may suspect having it.
Primary Signs and Symptoms
Women with PCOS find themselves dealing with irregular periods or changes in their menstrual experience, ovarian cysts and/or a high amount of androgens (hormones responsible for male characteristics). On top of these main signs of PCOS, women of reproductive age may also experience:
- acne, oily skin and dandruff
- hair growth on the face, chest, back or buttocks
- thinning air or air loss
- fatigue and decreased energy
- mood swings, anxiety and depression
- disrupted sleep
- abdominal discomfort
Common Challenges Among Women with PCOS
Women living with PCOS face particular challenges caused by the condition. These challenges can add discomfort and decrease their overall wellbeing. I have a set of daily struggles I know to be particular about my condition. I have difficulty with weight management and I have a harder time with food addiction thanks to massive cravings associated with hormonal changes.
Other challenges brought by PCOS include:
- weight gain
- increased risk of developing diabetes type II
- fertility problems
- mood swings
- anxiety and depression
- excess hair growth in the face and other visible areas
How to Cope with PCOS
Lifestyle management is key when it comes to dealing with and coping with PCOS. Looking after your overall wellbeing and making sure you adopt the most adequate nutritional, physical, and psychological strategies has a huge impact on your daily experience.
The food you eat has a great impact on your PCOS symptoms. You want to make sure both your blood sugar and insulin levels are balanced. This alone will help you regulate problems with your period, dermatological issues (e.g. acne) and hair growth.
Below you will find a list of foods to avoid and foods that are helpful. The foods that aggravate the condition tend to do so because they cause blood sugar spikes which in turn mess up your insulin levels. They also tend to cause hormonal imbalances.
Foods that aggravate:
- processed, sugary foods (e.g. white bread, sweets and sodas)
- dairy (e.g. milk, yoghurt, cheese)
Foods that help:
- dark leafy greens (e.g. kale, spinach)
- berries (e.g. blueberries, strawberries)
- lean protein (e.g. chicken, fish)
- whole grains (e.g. brown rice, quinoa)
- healthy fats (e.g. avocado, nuts)
Exercise is another great ally when it comes to managing and dealing with PCOS. There is a caveat when it comes to exercise with PCOS though. Some types of workouts can trigger and worsen the condition. Going ballistic on your exercise routine might be counterproductive.
Invest in low-impact exercise routines and limit them to thirty minutes at a time. Walking, cycling, swimming and weight lifting are great options.
Since PCOS can trigger mood swings and other negative psychological states, it is very important to be proactive when it comes to your mental and emotional health. This means taking responsibility for filling your cup and making sure it stays that way as much as possible.
Some good practices include mindfulness, meditation, and expressive writing. You may also want to see and work with a wellbeing professional, who can assess your needs, design a good plan for you and support you throughout your journey toward greater wellbeing.
PCOS can go unnoticed and unmanaged for several years because there is little awareness of the condition. Moreover, hormonal disorders can be easily confused with other conditions or even dismissed.
Having PCOS can take a huge toll on your overall wellbeing. I personally struggle with weight management, hair growing on unexpected areas and irregular energy levels. Hormonal disruptions are usually also responsible for my nightmarish migraines.
Lifestyle management is literally my holy grail thanks to this condition. It motivates me to learn as much as I can about different aspects of wellbeing. The impact food has on our body systems, how sleep and exercise affect hormones and how psychological self-care play a role in management and depression management.
I believe women with PCOS may sometimes feel alone in their struggles. Few are comfortable talking about uncontrollable food cravings, facial hair and the pain of feeling totally out of control when it comes to feeling healthy in your body. If you are part of the statistics PCOS, I’m right there with you. Feel free to DM me on social media or contact me.
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5 thoughts on “How to Deal With PCOS: Symptoms, Challenges and Tips”
Thank you so much for sharing awareness about this, Vanessa. I do deal with PCOS and honestly, sometimes it’s meh, and other times I feel like my whole life is affected by it, especially my skin (acne and facial/body hair). Even though it’s not uncommon I still feel like I’m alone in this and I’m so happy to hear that someone in my circle can understand my experience.
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Oh, hugs! Yes, I feel exactly the same way most times. I don’t know anyone who has it around me or at least who speaks about it and the way it affects our routine, health and wellbeing. I will try to bring more strategies to deal with some specific issues like body hair in the future. I’m personally still trying to figure out best ways to cope with it ✌️
I don’t have the condition myself but I know a few people who do have it to varying degrees and it can definitely be a bit debilitating on your physical and mental health. This is a great informative post, especially for those who have perhaps only just been diagnosed.
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Thank you for sharing these tips.
My cousin has PCOS and even my clinic nurse does and I didn’t realise that certain food categories can aggravate it. Such an interesting read x
Lucy | http://www.lucymary.co.uk