Honestly, I have hundreds (maybe a slight exaggeration) of half-finished blog posts on PCOS and hormonal balance. I never actually get round to posting any of them, as they all feel too jumbled, preachy and contain far too much information for anyone to process in one sitting. This is what happens when you A - love to talk, and B - are just SO passionate about educating others on a topic close to your heart. So, I’ve decided to simplify things slightly with the ten things that I try to do every day to naturally manage and heal my PCOS.
I was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) a good few years back, and it has dictated my life ever since. Looking back, I’m pretty pissed that when I was diagnosed I was given NO information on how to treat it naturally, just handed pills to mask the symptoms. Obviously, this is never the right way to handle anything, those underlying problems will always be there, lurking underneath the surface. Luckily, today there is information constantly emerging on hormonal imbalances and disorders such as PCOS, and it’s great.
My health depends on eating with a purpose of NOURISHMENT, managing stress and nurturing my ADRENALS as well as supporting my LIVER. When I say I avoid sugar, alcohol and refined carbohydrates like the plague, I’m not being overdramatic, it’s very much the difference between living my best life vs having god awful acne, hair rapidly falling out and ovulation problems. In my opinion, your diet is absolutely everything and its so, so important that you take your health into your own hands and heal yourself. So what does that look like in real life?
1. I start the day with a hormone balancing smoothie
I talk a lot about my hormone balancing smoothie on social media, and I’m sure I have a recipe on the blog somewhere. Breakfast is very much the main reason for me getting up so early each day. I throw in frozen cauliflower and spinach, almond milk, almond butter, flaxseed, cacao powder, a scoop of the Super Elixir chocolate protein, ashwagandha and maca powder.
Why are these ingredients so effective at balancing hormones? Almond butter sufficiently balances blood sugar and fills me up right until lunch due to the healthy fats, whilst effectively that also nourishing cells. Health fats are vital for balanced hormones. Flaxseed is a great source of fibre which also helps to keep me full and promotes healthy digestion. Maca and Ashwagandha are notorious for being hormone balancers and the raw cacao is a fabulous source of anti-oxidants, guarantee to help you glow throughout the day. Low - no fruit smoothies are amazing as you won’t get that initial blood sugar spike before the day has even begun, keeping blood sugar levels lovely and stabilised - with is ESSENTIAL for PCOS.
2. I opt for healthy fat sources in every single meal and snack
Fat fills you up, nourishes cells, balances blood sugar and creates happy healthy hormones. Healthy fat sources such as coconut yoghurt, avocados, seeds, nuts and nut butters are essential parts of my everyday. My go-to afternoon snack is a bowl of creamy COYO with a dollop of almond butter, blood sugar balancing cinnamon and some low sugar berries. It’s the perfect snack to keep me going until dinner without spiking blood sugar levels the way an overly processed snack would.
3. I avoid sugar and processed/ refined carbohydrates
I honestly noticed the biggest difference in my skin once I made a conscious effort to omit refined sugar whilst significantly lowering unrefined sources to a minimum each day. This also includes processed grains and fast metabolising carbohydrates, so yes - bread and pasta are not major players in my everyday. Plus, PCOS is linked to insulin resistance, so eating a diet of whole, real and unprocessed foods is optimal for blood sugar balance.
Giving up sugar, or at least significantly cutting down is actually easier than you might think. It’s all about training your taste buds. Stop cramming in ridiculous amounts of fruit into your smoothie. It’s unnecessary and creates a blood sugar spike first thing, which very much sets the tone for the rest of your day. Reduce the maple syrup on your porridge until even a teaspoon becomes too sweet and add cinnamon and nut butter instead. Of course, I’ll grab a delicious raw vegan dessert every now and then, but I know the effects that too many will have on my body, and no one has time for that.
4. I support my liver
I often describe the liver as the underdog when it comes to hormones and we sometimes forget that it’s actually a vital part of the balancing act. Long story short, your liver is the OG detox tea, working to eliminate used oestrogen from the body. When we overload the body with stress in the form of processed junk, sugar, caffeine and alcohol, the liver has to work extra hard to get rid all of the crap instead of focusing on the effectively balancing your hormones. As a result, the used oestrogen takes a back seat and re-circulates back into the body.
Every day I take up the role of the supportive best friend for my liver, making sure she has everything she needs to thrive, and helping to ward off any negativity. I add dark leafy greens to EVERY single meal, make sure I’m drinking a significant amount of WATER throughout the day (plus warm lemon water upon rising) – filtered is always preferred and best of all, I avoid those nasty liver loaders mentioned above.
5. I eat a completely plant-based diet
We all know how to eat healthily, I’m not telling you anything new. However, I cannot stress just how important it is to opt for WHOLE, REAL foods over processed junk. Eat foods from the ground, and if you do eat meat or fish – please for the love of god make sure it’s organic, local, wild-caught, hormone free, humanely raised and all that jazz. According to Jorge Chavarro, one of the authors of “The Fertility Diet”, sufficient levels of plant-based protein sources have actually been linked to higher chances of ovulation in women, so make sure that plants make up the majority of your diet if you suffer from hormonal imbalances.
Whether you want a baby or not right now, you should always be thinking about setting up an environment for healthy ovulation. A lot of women struggle to get their period back post birth control, so putting ovulation high on your list of priorities is very important. If this sounds like you, I recommend sipping on raspberry leaf tea as well as routinely taking essential supplements (mentioned below).
6. I omit soy and gluten, mostly
Everybody is different. Some thrive on high fruit, raw vegan diets whilst others love paleo. I truly believe that you need to take time to experiment with what works and what doesn’t work for your body. It’s taken me a hell of a long time to figure this out for myself, but I now sit so comfortably knowing exactly what works for me. I avoid gluten as much as I can, mostly as it’s in a lot of those highly processed carbohydrates anyway, but also because I have seen a link between gluten and acne within myself.
I’ve also recently cut down on the number of soy products I consume, and in all honesty, feel amazing because of this. It might not be the right thing for everyone, but as someone with a major hormonal imbalance, it’s right now me right now.
7. I avoid toxic beauty products and cleaning products
Our skin is highly transdermal, so it’s important to always be aware of the toxins that you put on your skin in the form of beauty products or cleaning solutions, can affect your hormone health too. These synthetic chemicals and toxins can play a huge role in disrupting your endocrine system and all its wonderful natural processes. So be mindful and start building a green makeup bag. My favourite brands are Neal’s Yard (their avocado and vitamin E moisturiser is life changing), Jason and Native deodorants - to name a few!
8. I take healing supplements into account
I am a huge advocate for your diet being number one, and if you’re not eating a well balanced, whole, healthy diet – then forget this next part. On the other hand, we’re not all superwomen, and sometimes it’s okay to get a little support. My go-to supplements for hormonal balance include – vitamin B12, folic acid and iron for supporting healthy ovulation.
Magnesium is hugely important for happy healthy hormones and during my healing process, I took saw palmetto for hair thinning. Evening primrose oil is the ultimate hormonal acne healer and I’ll take vitamin D as, well, I live in cold, rainy London where sunshine is sparse.
Adaptogens have also been hugely helpful for my hormone imbalances due to the fact they help the body adapt to stressful situations effectively and balance cortisol levels. Ashwagandha is a staple in my pantry and I add it to my morning smoothie each day. Maca is another star ingredient and medicinal mushrooms such as chaga and reishi come with tonnes of other health benefits such as promoting a healthy immune system and being rich in antioxidants.
PLEASE - talk to your doctor, nutritional therapist or naturopath about supplementation. I am just telling you what has worked for me, so if you're unsure, do your research and consult a professional.
9. I move, mindfully
Cortisol levels are also raised when we exercise, and this can certainly be a confusing conversation for fellow PCOS warriors. You’ll often be told that the best way to keep your symptoms at bay is to maintain a healthy weight or to even lose weight. If you’re anything like me, you’ll instantly hit the gym as much as humanly possible, yet this can actually be highly detrimental to the balance, as your adrenals are at risk of going into complete overdrive with the stressful effect that intense exercise can have. Find what works for you, but don’t overdo it when you’re in the process of healing.
Now, I opt for a few spin classes a week, but ultimately prioritise yoga, walking and occasional weight lifting sessions.
10. I relax, a lot.
At the time of my PCOS diagnosis, I was completely clueless about the role that stress and the nervous system plays in achieving optimal hormonal harmony, hint – it’s a big one! Your nervous system is made up of your parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system. The latter is your state of emergency, and if you sit in that zone for too long, the rest of your body will feel it and your adrenals are at risk of going into overdrive. When cortisol levels are too high, the rest of our beautiful hormones start to freak out.
The simplest way to get into the lovely, calming sympathetic state were your hormones can behave in the way they should, instead of constantly trying to save your life? Just breathe. I promise meditation and notice a HUGE difference in myself when I do. I'll opt for down dog over hours spent in the gym and baths are my best friend when this get a little hectic. Sleep is extremely important to me and I never compromise on this.
For resources and extra info - head to my Happy Hormones page where you'll find a lovely little list of my favourite articles and books.