Welcome to The PCOS Resource Guide!
I’m Melissa Danielle, Integrative Nutrition & Women’s Health Coach and Full-Spectrum Doula for women over 35. I created this guide after self-diagnosing my PCOS (with insulin resistance and inflammation) and getting it confirmed via bloodwork.. I have been living with PCOS symptoms for over 20 years, but because I wasn't trying to conceive during that time, there was never a cause for concern about my fertility. Throughout my healing journey, I now understand that periods are not just for pregnancy and that fertility is one of several vital signs of overall health. In fact, fertility is considered to be the fifth vital sign (in addition to body temperature, pulse rate, respiration rate, and blood pressure). Your period, or lack thereof, may be an indication of hormonal imbalance, nutrient deficiency, or something else. After my diagnosis, I began researching and training to learn what I could do to reduce and even reverse my symptoms without prescription medication or invasive procedures.
Too many women are suffering with period problems, including PCOS, and it doesn't have to be this way! I hope that the resources I share below will offer the same or better relief for you as they have for me.
Because my recommendations are largely holistic and food-based, I highly recommend you work with a naturopath and/or a functional medicine practitioner, in addition to an acupuncturist, if you’re able to.
While I’m not against medicine, I am focusing on the body’s own ability to correct imbalances and heal itself without medical intervention, not something our current medical model is designed to support.
Allowing the body to do what it knows how to do will take time -- at least six months -- before you may see consistent results.
I invite you to be gentle with yourself, to see having PCOS as an invitation to reconnect with your body’s wisdom by tapping into the full expression of your feminine energy. PCOS shows up as hormonal imbalances and a metabolic disorder. It indicates that there may be nutrient deficiencies and issues within our gut biome. The experience is asking that we take an holistic approach to our healing, which includes adequate rest, nourishment, and radical self-care.
What do you keep choosing instead of what you really want?
In the support groups I’m a part of, I see so many women suffering with heavy, painful periods, bleeding but not ovulating, neither bleeding nor ovulating and desperately trying to conceive, living with hirsutism, alopecia, unwanted weight gain, anxiety, trouble sleeping, and a host of other symptoms that are diminishing their quality of life. At the same time, so many of these women are choosing quick fixes with short term results, only to find themselves back where they started. And countless others are doing absolutely nothing.
Science says PCOS is
incurable, but that’s primarily because researchers have yet to come to an agreement about what causes it, and even whether to continue calling it PCOS, because the name is confusing and only explains one symptom that some women with the diagnosis don't have. This feels hopeless for millions of women who are suffering, but it doesn’t have to be.
PCOS isn’t happening to you.
Instead, it’s an opportunity for you to show up for yourself fully and unapologetically.
Are you ready to commit to feeling good in your body through your choices and habits? If so, keep reading.
How to Use This Guide
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to any kind of healing. What has worked for me may not work for you. That said, the following are resources that have been recommended by several naturopaths, nutritionists, and clinical studies. They have reduced or reversed symptoms to varying degrees.
The other resources I share are tools I use in my own life to cultivate my core desired feelings and feel good in my body regardless of what is happening.
Choose one to three things in each category that resonates with you. If you find yourself feeling resistant to something, it may actually be the very thing you need.
Disclaimer: The information presented below is for information and education purposes, and is not intended to replace the advice of a licensed healthcare practitioner. Please exercise personal discretion and wisdom before making changes to your diet or lifestyle.
Disclosure: I may receive a commission on any sale made through a link on this page.
Be Committed to Your Health and Healing
One of the biggest and most depressing things I've observed in many of the PCOS support groups are the feelings of hopelessness and defeatist mindsets of many of the women. Yes, the symptoms suck. Yes, it is frustrating to go so many years being misdiagnosed, misunderstood, and even dismissed. Yes, it is absolutely heartbreaking to want a child of your own and feel like it's never going to happen for you. Everything you are feeling is valid. But instead of letting life happen to you, you can take control of your life by educating yourself about PCOS and becoming the healthiest version of yourself.
Getting clear on how you want to feel in your body and in your life is one of the most powerful things you can do for yourself. How do you want to feel in your body and in your life as you take the steps to reverse your symptoms, repair your period, increase your fertility, vitality, and health?
Assemble Your Wellness Team
You already know this but it's worth repeating so that you'll understand why the following recommendations are necessary: PCOS takes a toll on your mental, physical, and emotional well-being. PCOS may feel like an "invisible" illness, because you may look fine on the outside, even as it's wreaking havoc on your hormones. If you're overweight, the most unhelpful and unsolicited advice is always to lose weight, as though it were just that simple (because, hormones!) and be the end of all your symptoms (no guarantees). The medications you're prescribed may have mixed results and daunting side effects. Your relationships and performance at work may suffer. You may not have the energy to participate in the activities you used to be excited about and looked forward to. Some days, you may feel like you're going crazy. Few people have even heard of PCOS, so they don't understand it, and end up saying or doing things that make you feel worse, even when they're just trying to be helpful.
So it's important that you start off by building a team of professional medical, emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual support. Depending on your symptoms, your health insurance coverage, your finances, and what's available to you based on where you live, you may want to make appointments with one or more of the following practitioners:
- Gynecologist plus at least one these: reproductive endocrinologist, functional medicine practitioner, naturopath -- these are the practitioners that will order the relevant blood tests and make recommendations for next steps.
- Acupuncturist -- they can address imbalances Western medical practitioners aren't trained to notice or identify.
- Massage therapist -- for general stress relief and abdominal/fertility massage (Look for someone who has studied Mayan abdominal massage).
- Pelvic health physical therapist -- they can look at the positioning of your uterus, bladder, and pelvis. This is especially helpful if you are experiencing pain in this area.
- Health Coach and/or Nutritionist -- to help you identify the food and lifestyle choices that will get you closer to your goals without dieting and deprivation.
- Mental health professional -- they can provide you with the tools to help cope with setbacks, as well as underlying issues affecting your mindset and relationships.
- Spiritual advisor, pastor, energy healer, or whomever your moral/ethical/creative guide is -- to help you with additional mindfulness and coping skills.
- Yoga instructor, personal trainer, or other movement specialist -- to help you establish a consistent way of moving your body that feels good to you
Make Peace With Your Period
When we're being honest, we don't have anything nice to say about menstrual cycles. They're messy, inconvenient, and uncomfortable. Whomever coined the term, with great power comes great responsibility, had no idea they were talking about women and their periods. In our male-dominated capitalist culture, few women are afforded the opportunity to slow down and retreat during their periods. Because of this, we've come to see our periods as burdens and hindrances, keeping us from living full and engaged lives. I invite you to rewrite the story of your period, to see it as a time of renewal, an invitation to slow down, rest, and reconnect with yourself, to release what no longer serves you and make space for what you really want.
When it comes to your period, PCOS interferes with ovulation and shedding. You may ovulate some months and not others. You may shed (bleed) every month and not ovulate at all. Your periods may be light or heavy, last for 3 days or longer. You may feel like a completely different person during PMS. Your periods may be painful. You may not get a period at all.
I believe the first step to getting a regular, ovulatory cycle is to actually understand how it works. From there, you can troubleshoot your issues and take steps to bringing on a regular cycle (every 21-35 days from the start of your last period). My top go-tos for this is Period Repair Manual, WomanCode, and Code Red.
Drinking a blend of red raspberry leaf, red clover, and nettle leaf with cinnamon daily has been known to reduce PMS symptoms and ease heavy flows and clotting. You can purchase a blend from Fertile Womb Lifestyle or make your own.
If you're experiencing pelvic pain that gets worse during your period, you may want to consult with a pelvic health physical therapist. You can also click here to learn how to heal chronic pelvic pain.
Reversing PCOS Symptoms
Periods are not just for pregnancy and fertility is more than just about making babies. PCOS is a poorly understood and ill-named endocrine and metabolic disorder that disrupts everything in our bodies and our lives. Reversing our symptoms, getting our periods back, and improving our chances at conception is going to take more than feeling sorry for ourselves, taking prescription med after prescription med, baby dusting and baby dancing. PCOS invites us to take a complete look at our lives and how we've been showing up for ourselves. It's an opportunity to release old ways of thinking and feeling about periods and our bodies so that we can take responsibility for our health and well-being.
PCOS is more than about having polycystic ovaries.
It's not enough to get an ultrasound to check for cysts, because you may not even have polycystic ovaries or even enough cysts to count as being polycystic. It is important to have your doctor order a full blood work panel that includes ALL of the reproductive hormones, and also your thyroid, cortisol, adrenal, and insulin levels, as well as your magnesium, zinc, iodine, ferritin, B vitamins, Vitamin D, and cholesterol. This is because PCOS represents an imbalance that isn't isolated to anovulation and subfertility.
PCOS Diva's Healing PCOS offers an holistic approach to resolving the symptoms of PCOS using mindset, nourishing approaches to food, movement, and lifestyle, and special guidance on specific foods and supplements that help reduce and even reverse PCOS Symptoms.
These are the supplements and herbal remedies I use to manage my PCOS:
FH Pro -- this one supplement contains the vitamins. minerals and building blocks essential to reproductive health, including zinc, iodine, and myo-inositol with d-chiro inositol, key nutrients that are critical to ovarian health and egg quality.
FH Pro Omega-3 -- omega fatty acids help to reduce oxidative stress, improves cognitive function, mood, and overall well- being.
IsoFresh Probiotic -- a healthy gut/balanced microbiome is key to overall health and well-being. The vaginal canal has its own microbiome that maintains the health of the uterus and supports our fertility. The ability to absorb nutrients well and minimize inflammation begins in the gut. While we should try and improve our gut and vaginal flora through eating prebiotic (fiber) and probiotic (cultured and fermented) foods, we may also benefit from additional probiotic support through supplementation.
Femininitea Spearmint BB Tea -- if you are androgen excess and/or experience hirsutism (excess hair growth in unwanted places such as on chin, neck, chest, navel area, thighs) or alopecia or male pattern baldness, the ingredients in this tea may help you. Spearmint, peony, and licorice support healthy testosterone levels in women.
Dark Chocolate -- yes, chocolate! Besides chocolate being chocolate, it is a major source of magnesium, another essential mineral that supports reproductive health and mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. I try to buy fair or direct trade as often as I can.
Omnibiotics Liver Reboot -- The liver is responsible for over 200 functions, including regulating metabolism, digesting fats, and managing the steriod hormones (such as testosterone, estrogen, cortisol). I took this daily with the FH Pro and dropped my cholesterol from 204 to 198 in one month. You'll want to exercise caution when using herbal supplements for the liver. Please talk to your healthcare professional, especially if you are taking prescription medications.
If you're interested in a guided wellness program specifically for PCOS, Insulite Health offers an online program for PCOS that includes supplements, meal plans, support group, and more.
What to Eat When You Have PCOS
One of the biggest challenges of living with PCOS is figuring out what to eat to reverse symptoms. The best foods to eat are whole foods, minimally processed, that are rich vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, and don't spike blood sugar. But what does that mean?!
While there are a couple of diets that women living with PCOS swear by that helped them lower their blood sugar levels and lose weight, any diet that restricts calories or entire food groups is not sustainable over the long term. Highly restrictive diets, such as very low carb diets, can an exacerbate existing conditions you may not be aware or make your symptoms worse. They can even push you into a cycle of disordered eating and/or increase your cortisol level, which can also cause inflammation.
This is why I recommend meal planning vs dieting, because meal planning focuses on eating regular meals throughout the day and not on what you can't or shouldn't eat. I like PlateJoy's meal planning app, because I don't have to think about what to eat. I simply plug in my preferences and they generate a weekly menu. If I don't like a recipe, I swap it out for something else. And just because I have the app doesn't mean I have to make every recipe -- because it's not a diet. This means that I can choose to eat a certain way at specific meal times throughout the week, and other times, I make something from my own recipe collection or enjoy a meal out.
Visit PlateJoy's website to learn more, and get $10 off your plan with code MELISSA10. If you have or are at risk of diabetes type 2, you may be able to get PlateJoy's service for free.
Take Your Pleasure Seriously
A lot of women spend so much time feeling bad about their bodies and their symptoms that they forget that they have a life waiting for them. Don't be like those women. You'll have good days and bad days, but if you keep focusing on what you don't have and what you don't want, you'll miss out on all the pleasures that are available to you.
What makes you come alive in your body? What interests, activities, and hobbies excite you? What makes you feel juicy and turned on? Go do those things, and invite your friends along with you.
Here are some books to get you started:
Choose Pleasurable Movement
Movement is essential to balancing hormones, especially insulin. As little as 30 minutes a day of physical activity will elevate your heart rate (including sex!) and you will begin to see your symptoms recede, in addition to improvimg mental, physical, and cardiovascular health. You'll want to choose movement that you enjoy, because when you enjoy it, you'll be more likely to engage in it. Walking, cycling, running, dancing, Yoga, and HIIT (high intensity interval training) are just some of the ways you can move your body to to feel good.
I've been having a lot of fun with HoopYogini, a movement practice that combines mindfulness with Hula hooping. I especially love it because of the attention to the womb/pelvis/hip area.
Prepare Your Body for Pregnancy
If you've been trying to conceive for more than six months, chances are you will need additional support, which may or may not include medical intervention. A standard medical intervention for women with PCOS is to be prescribed Metformin, a diabetes medication and told to lose weight. This is because many women with PCOS have insulin resistance and if they are overweight, can improve their insulin sensitivity through weight loss. Insulin resistance can affect ovulation. The next step, if they are seeing a fertility specialist, is being prescribed Clomid or Femara (letrozole) to stimulate ovulation. Invasive procedures such as hysterolsapingogram (HSG), in vitro fertilization (IVF), and intrauterine insemination (IUI).
These prescriptions and procedures can be expensive, have unexpected and terrible side effects, dieting may not bring about the desired results, and none of these methods actually treat the underlying causes of PCOS and/or your ability to conceive. Taking Charge of Your Fertility is considerably cheaper than fertility treatments, so I invite you to read this before you make an appointment.
Making Babies: A proven 3-Month Program for Maximum Fertility was written by an acupuncturist and a reproductive endocrinologist and is another book I recommend for improving fertility and chances of conception.
If you'd like to work 1on1 with someone who was told they'd never conceive, and is now the proud mom of a beautiful child, visit Fertile Womb Lifestyle, where fellow Integrative Nutrition Health Coach Cathyann Ellison shares her journey to wellness and conception with women who want an empowered pregnancy.
You may also be interested in Fairhaven Health's Get Us Pregnant Now Bundle for Men & Women, which contains several supplements and fertility aids.
Create a Woman's Circle
Many women with PCOS find it incredibly challenging to be around other women, especially women who don't understand PCOS, are pregnant, or have children. But women thrive in community with other women, so creating spaces where women can come together to connect, share, and heal is a priceless gift you can give to yourself.
But instead of getting together to commiserate, choose this time be of service to one another, to uplift and give to others that which you want to receive.
A woman's circle can look however you'd like. You can get together weekly or monthly for a spiritual practice, a yoga or dance class, read books, see performances, take a class, host potlucks or go out to eat, watch each other's kids, have housecleaning and decluttering parties, the options are endless! While this may not address your PCOS symptoms, it will nourish you in so many ways.
Here are some tools to get you started:
Join me on Facebook, where you can share your concerns and get support with other driven, proactive women who are taking action and reversing their symptoms.