Why is PCOS misunderstood?

My name’s Bethan, I’m 36, I live near Nottingham and work in retail design. I love a cocktail, and good food, reading, film and rabbits. I have red hair and a feisty temperament to match! I am so lucky to be called mum by my gorgeous, very independent four-year-old girl and partner to an amazing man and… I have PCOS.

PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, a hormonal and metabolic disorder causing several debilitating symptoms that women experience in varying degrees, depending on the type of PCOS they have and how severe their condition is. Symptoms such as: irregular or absent periods, ovarian cysts, insulin resistance, obesity, chronic low-level inflammation, hormone imbalance, fertility issues, thyroid dysfunction, sexual dysfunction, blood sugar issues, male pattern hair growth and loss, sleep apnea, pelvic pain and more. Left unchecked, PCOS can cause several serious conditions such as: type 2 diabetes, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, cardiovascular disease, infertility, and endometrial cancer.

Despite this, and the fact that it can affect around 15-20% of women, PCOS isn’t prioritised by the medical community, and with little research funding, women are often left feeling dismissed and unsupported because they don’t fit a formula, or like their issues are in their heads, or that their efforts to heal themselves aren’t good enough. There’s a lot of judgement and shame around it too – those with lean PCOS aren’t taken seriously because they don’t seemingly have a weight issue, those with weight problems (like myself) are simply told that the symptoms will lessen with weight loss – without addressing the fact that it’s almost impossible to lose weight with PCOS if you don’t support the underlying hormonal imbalance. And for lean women who don’t need to lose weight, their symptoms are completely disregarded. All this only contributes to the problem and can then cause further anxiety, stress, depression and eating disorders.

When diagnosed, many women are simply told that they may find it hard to conceive, without any additional information given to support the condition, this was also my experience. If you’re trying to conceive and have difficulty, fertility treatment will be offered, but if you’re not trying to conceive, there’s limited medical support. With this response, the other unbearable symptoms that women with PCOS experience are dismissed, and without identifying and supporting the hormonal imbalance at the heart of the disorder, no amount of effort on the individual’s part will make any difference. Again, this was my experience.

After a long history of worsening symptoms, (exacerbated by pregnancy) and from reaching breaking point with my weight-gain, frustrated that no amount or type of exercise I tried, or fewer calories I ate, made any difference – I decided to sack off the doctors and take control of my health myself.

Researching PCOS

So, after a LOT of research, this year I adopted a holistic and largely naturopathic approach to healing. I made significant changes to my diet and lifestyle, focussed on reducing inflammation and stress in my body and took supplements to support my symptoms. I joined a 90-day, online fitness plan with a coach who tailored my exercise regime and meal-plan to my goals and needs. He listened to all my research and adapted my plan each time we learnt something new. We ended up reducing my carbs and increasing my healthy fats and made my workouts less intense, so they didn’t cause a stress response. At the end of the 90-days I had lost 12 lbs, which was huge to me because whatever I’d tried in the past would plateau at 5 lbs and then I’d lose no more, get frustrated, give up and pile it back on again and more.

Through my continued research, I found some specialist doctors who had PCOS themselves and by taking a holistic and naturopathic approach had managed to completely reverse their PCOS diagnosis. By following their lead, I have been able to lose almost 2 stone in weight, reduce many of my PCOS symptoms, including lower androgens, fewer migraines, less stress and anxiety, better overall mood, less inflammation, aches and pains and regulated my periods into a 30-day cycle for the first time in my life! I can’t tell you how happy I am!

Due to the added complication of insulin resistance with my type of PCOS, I discovered that a low carb / high fat diet might be beneficial, so I’ve recently given vegan keto a try and am so far enjoying the progress in terms of weight-loss, although it isn’t something I plan to do long-term.

To help regulate my blood sugar I’m also intermittent fasting each day on a 16:8 pattern, so, not eating after 8pm until 12 noon the next day. I find this works well for me and I’m not hungry in the fasting periods.

At the time of writing, I’m really pleased with my success to date and have decided to share my story and track my ongoing journey to healing on my Instagram blog @healing_pcos_mama. I still have a way to go and hope to continue reducing my symptoms and eventually to reverse my diagnosis. I want to be a positive voice and example on the subject of PCOS as there are so few positive stories out there. I hope that my experience provides inspiration to other women suffering with PCOS and helps them to feel empowered to educate themselves to heal from their own PCOS symptoms.

It’s hard but it’s not impossible and if I can do it, anyone can xx

Follow me on Instagram @healing_pcos_mama


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