When I was first diagnosed with PCOS, I had no idea what PCOS was or what was happening in my body. I immediately got my hands on some books and started reading up on my condition and all that it meant for me (the internet didn’t have nearly as much info on PCOS as it does now).
Since being diagnosed 6 years ago, I have spent countless hours researching and talking to experts and piecing together a PCOS management that works. I’ve already shared some of my experiences and knowledge on PCOS Diet Support. Now, I want to share more of the things that I have learned with you so that you don’t have to spend all of your time researching and can spend more time doing things to better your PCOS symptoms.
So, here is my list of the 10 things that you can do to improve your PCOS symptoms (there will always be more to add to the list but this is a good starting point).
1. Understand what is happening in your body
PCOS can leave us feeling confused and unsure of what is actually happening with our own bodies. There is also so much conflicting information out there on food, supplements, exercises and medications that we can use to get our PCOS under control. But, what should we start with and how do we know that something is actually right for us?
Well, the first step is to understand how PCOS affects you. Once you know what is happening in your body, you can work out what you need to do about it. Without that understanding as your foundation, you’ll always be at the mercy of the next fad diet or miracle cure, without the certainty of knowing what your body actually needs.
2. Get your Insulin levels under control
We know that PCOS causes us to have some irregularities in our insulin processing. It’s a bit of a double whammy because our bodies tend to over respond to carbs by releasing too much insulin and our ovaries respond to the insulin by releasing too much testosterone. So, if you can get some control of your insulin levels, you’ll have greater control of your overall PCOS symptoms.
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3. Get moving
We know that we need to exercise to for our health and general well being but we also need to exercise to keep our PCOS in check. Even if you aren’t seeing any movement on the scale, your metabolic markers and hormones are still benefitting from your efforts and will help your symptoms.
4. Change the way you eat
In the UK, we have the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (or NICE) and they publish guidelines for the management of many medical conditions. The NICE Guidelines for PCOS suggest that dietary and lifestyle changes should be the first line of treatment for all women with PCOS (1).
5. Take supplements
There are so many supplements that are available, many of which help with different aspects of PCOS. Also, women with PCOS tend to be deficient in a number of vitamins and nutrients that we just won’t be able to get enough of in our regular diets. So, supplements are important in addressing some of the underlying deficiencies and issues in PCOS and are an important piece of your PCOS management plan.
6. Know your why
Making any kind of change to the way you eat or to your lifestyle can be challenging. If we don’t know why we need to make the changes, it’s much harder to do it. Your why is your reason for wanting to be healthier and in control of your body.
When I was first diagnosed, my why was wanting to have children. Now that I have two beautiful children, my why has changed. I want to have the energy to run and play with them and I want to be healthy till I’m very, very old so that I can watch them grow up and have children of their own. I also want to feel good about myself and enjoy all that life has to offer, unhindered by my PCOS.
It’s this that keeps me motivated and helps me to fight my cravings or reminds me to take my supplements every morning.
7. Have a plan
Having a plan is important, whether it be a meal plan, craving plan, snack plan or eating out plan. It’s when we’re not prepared that we’re more likely to go for convenience and ditch our exercise routine or make unhealthy food choices.
8. Get your team on board
You know the saying. “No man is an island”? Well, no woman with PCOS can or should do it on her own. We all need support, whether it be from our partners, family, friends, the medical community or the wider PCOS community. You need to build your team of supporters so that they can give you the encouragement, advice, love and sometimes tough love when you need it.
9. Just keep swimming
Dori from Finding Nemo said it so well when she said, “Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.” There are going to be bad days and days when we mess up but it’s so important that we just keep swimming, swimming, swimming in the direction that we ultimately want to go in. Remember your why? That’s the reason that you get up and try again every time you fall off the bandwagon.
10. Celebrate the wins
With PCOS, our wins may seem small to others but they are huge for us. Having a period? EPIC! Losing 1lb? Brilliant! Getting out of bed and going about our day despite our mood swings or depression? A job well done.
We need to be real about our struggles and acknowledge when we’ve done well. We need to be kind to ourselves and show ourselves some love and celebrate the steps forward in the right direction, no matter how big or small they may be.
So, there are 10 ways that you can improve your PCOS symptoms. Some of them are very practical whilst others are a bit more on the emotional side.
I’d love to hear from you! Do you have any other ways you can improve your symptoms that I haven’t mentioned. Leave me a comment and let me know!
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I have been following your posts nd emails for almost a year now.it has been so reassuring to know I am not alone. I have been trying to get pregnant for 6yrs now.i don’t know what to eat nowadays everything has gluten nd dairy. I have cut out Diary but can’t cut out gluten. Need your advice.
Being recently diagnosed with PCOS, I find this website very helpful and comforting. When I first began having issues related to PCOS, I was devastated and confused. I am thrilled that there are so many sources to help me better understand exactly what my body is going through. Thank you for everything that you do!
hi all. i am 17 years and diagnosed with pcos. have difficulty in losing weight.it seems like my skin has stop rejuvenating.advice me please,am confused….
What do you mean your skin had stopped rejuvenating? And I have the same problem, I don’t lose weight very easily. What I have found that helps is a very good protein and meal replacement shake that helps balance my cravings and blood sugar spikes
I am the parent of a 17 year old with the same problem. What kind of protein meal replacement are you talking about?
I was diagnosed with PCOS by my dermatologist when I was 16. I started taking birth control and spiranolactone. It made such a huge difference in my skin and helped with extra facial hair. Luckily it was mostly blonde and didn’t show as much. It was still a huge confidence issue for me especially being a junior in high school. I started to gain more confidence after my skin cleared and focused on eating healthy and working out a few times a week. I followed the old weight watchers plan and did p90x videos and managed to lose almost 30 lbs. I’m 24 now and still taking spiranolactone and birth control. I’ve struggled with maintaining my weight and constantly going up and down. I’m trying a new approach and removing gluten and dairy from my diet.
I was just diagnosed with this I am 22 and have had troubles losing weight and gained more weight and it has been a struggle… along with that my body does not react well to any birth control with estrogen added to it so my doctor has put me on a progesterone medication that I take for 10 days every three month… I’m unsure on what exactly I need to do I’m very confused and looking to this site for help understanding what is going on in my body!
Great post. I would add meditation to de-stress. It helped me so much, as well as gluten free and sugar free diet. Thank you for your work, Tarryn. Great website.
I was diagnosed with PCOS in April and put on birth control and metformin (1,000mg daily). BUT all my labs, ultrasound, and other exams were normal. Nothing was out of wack except I could go a few months without a period, my mood swings are crazy, and I can’t lose weight. I’m 35, single, no kids. I understand why I need the birth control (sort of) because now I at least get a period monthly, but I don’t see why the metformin. I’m not diabetic, and my insulin levels are normal. Could this be a misdiagnosis?
Ahhh that metformin can be harmful to your kidneys I hope you are able to figure out why they would like you on it!
Metformin is a drug used for diabetics, however it also works to lower the testosterone levels in females. Therefore helps a regular cycle. It also helps with weight loss. I currently take a blood pressure medication even though i dont have high pressure, as it also helps with hair loss in pcos patients. And a friend takes a erectile dysfunction medicine as it also helps to clear up her acne. Many meds have many different uses 🙂
Hello ladies !! Pléase help me here with some advice I did an ultrasound yesterday the doctor found that I have 20 mini cyst on my right ova and 22 in my left am very stressources am in my late 20 s am crurent ly taking bc and metformin at the same time plus give me some advice will thèse cyst ever go away I wanna plan to have a family very soon .
Hi, I’m very glad that I found your blog.
I’would like to ask, how about yours hirsutism during myo-inositol and diet. It’s look better, stops or hairs still growing? 😉 thaks for any comments and sorry for english;)
Hi who who could recommend foods to be avoided? and what are the best vitamins?
Hello, Im 29 and was diagnosed with PCOS in my early 20s. I was in denial for a long time but then I met my love and got married. That is when I realized I had to take care of myself, for myself, my husband and future family we hope to have one day…I have found my why…It has been a long road but I take it a day at a time. There are bad days and good days. But like you mentioned Tarryn, choose one to implement and work on it before moving on to the next step. I have given up dairy products, which has been easier than expected. I love almond milk and my skin is great. no breakouts for months! I am encouraged by my goal everyday, and thanks to the support of my husband and sisters I continue this journey excited to see more progress.
Hi, I’m in my younger teens and was diagnosed with pcos about a year ago. I am bettering the parts of my diet that I can control. I don’t drink anything but water, and am cutting down on my carb intake. My mom and I are both Very overweight. I need advice on how to get her to buy healthier foods instead of fast food, because I really want to lose weight, but she’s not as motivated as I am.
Its so tough isn’t it when people around you are not on the same page..hang in there! Have you tried maybe cooking with your mom once a week (or more)..even with just the simple recipes. Once she realizes how easy, favorable, and healthy it can be she will become supportive. When you cook healthier things at home you’ll have a ton of energy, you’ll be bursting with life.
Hope this helps 🙂
Hi..I am 22 years old and Just 2 weeks before, I discovered that I have PCOS..I am totally confused n pissed off..My doc said tat i hav to do exercises like skipping and drink more water..i am following what she said..but i have not got my periods for the last 3 months..can anybody help me with the diets and exercises i should follow…i think i am too young to have this disease..am losing my hope…
Hi! I’m also 22 and have PCOS. This might sound crazy and like a lot to do but ever since I’ve done it I’ve felt so much better and my periods have been regular!!! I stopped eating gluten AND dairy. I don’t drink anything other then water. I don’t eat anything containing a lot of sugar. By doing this I have lost 10 pounds so far in a pretty short amount of time. I haven’t started an exercise plan yet but it is next on my list!! When I found out I had this and researched it I was so upset thinking it would be impossible to lose weight and that my whole life would be so bad. But so far I feel tons better. Hope this helps you!!
Well done, Alexandra! Sounds like you’re doing really well!
What vitamin do you recommend to take?
Wan Lin, I recommend Vitamin D, Omega 3, Inositol and folic acid to start with
Ditto, I’d like to see what the NICE guidelines are as well and it’s blocked if you don’t like in the UK
Michaela, if you use Google Chrome you can add the app Hola (just google search it). Once download, and it takes seconds, it can change the country you are viewing from and you are able to see the list. Many people use it for Netflix so you can access the American site.
Is there any way that you could make the list posted by NICE available to those of us outside the UK? I’m very interested in it and it’s blocked for outside IP addresses.