My PCOS Story
In 2011 I went to the dermatologist for the 5th time because the topical prescriptions and antibiotics they had put me on for my acne, once again didn’t work. At this time, my acne wasn’t even that bad, but I was annoyed by it none the less. He told me that my only other options were either to go on a drug that was intended for people with high blood pressure but it had the side effect of clearing up acne OR accutane. Neither of these options sounded appealing to me. I knew hardly anything about integrative medicine at this point but something in my gut told me this wasn’t right, there had to be a better, more natural way. It was a good thing I wasn’t looking for something fast or easy because the journey has been anything but that.
Later that year I moved to Austin, Texas for a little over a year and during that year I became really interested in nutrition. I began to learn the connection between diet and health. During this time, I tried multiple diets and cleanses (one’s that I would NEVER recommend now, but hey, I was learning and experimenting). I moved home in 2012 and for the next two years tried my best to dial in my diet and make it as clean as possible to overcome my acne naturally. I was able to keep in in check until 2014. I was coming off of my last season playing soccer at college and I had just had surgery on my knee. Maybe It was the stress of this injury or the chronic stress I had been under playing soccer, going to school and working, but after that surgery things got a lot worse. The acne on my face worsened, I started getting yeast infections every month, I developed really bad cystic acne on my back, mild acne on my chest, I was having intense sugar cravings that were never satisfied and made me feel completely out of control, I was having blood sugar crashes that left me feeling light headed and calling out of work. I tried Monistat for my yeast infections which was actually the worst decision ever (for me). I still thought my diet was pretty good- clean and balanced. I was juicing a lot, eating a lot of fruits and veggies, the only carbs I ate were rice or brown rice pasta, legumes and potatoes. I tried multiple other natural remedies for yeast infections, I tried giving up sugar and dairy, nothing worked. I finally went to a nurse practitioner and was given diflucan (an antifungal RX) and it worked, however it came back the next month just like it had been. After having yeast infections cyclically for a few months I finally decided to invest in seeing a naturopathic doctor in the spring of 2014. Some other symptoms I was having were extremely blood sugar crashes/ extreme fatigue and headaches.
I remember thinking, “ Ok, I’m finally going to figure this out, I’m excited! All my acne will probably be GONE by summer time!”……… That is not even close to what happened.
Over the next 3 months I worked with my naturopath to discover many pieces of my health puzzle. Hormonally, we uncovered some imbalances. I had elevated testosterone, low progesterone and estradiol. My periods at this point were pretty irregular, but on average, 40-45 days in length. I had insulin resistance which was likely causing my blood sugar regulation issues. I had some chronic inflammation and dysbiosis (microbial imbalance). Because of all the previously mentioned discoveries, I was diagnosed with lean PCOS. Through further testing we found that I was intolerant to all fruit except melons. This was devastating to me because fruit was my favorite food group and probably 70% of my diet. I was intolerant to the combination of potatoes and grains (I could eat them separately but not within 4 hours of each other). I was also experiencing a lot of anxiety and disordered eating tendencies that I wasn’t really aware of before.
With the elimination of fruit, my yeast infections completely resolved. That was the easiest fix that I experienced in natural medicine. We used supplements, homeopathy and diet strategies to treat the hormone imbalances, insulin resistance, irregular cycles, dysbiosis and to support my skin. We tweaked my treatment plan almost every month for the next 2 years, trying to figure out what worked.
My doctor made it really clear from the beginning that a key part of my healing was going to be slowing down, prioritizing sleep and decreasing stress, but I didn’t listen for a long time. Before I started seeing him, and through the first year and a half of my treatment, I was extremely stressed out. I couldn’t say “no” to anyone and called myself the queen of over commitment. I was only sleeping 6 hours a night and at one time I had 4 jobs while in school full time. When I finally realized that healing wasn’t going to be as easy as taking a few supplements and cutting fruit from my diet, I started putting more emphasis on my stress levels and sleep. I realized my body couldn’t heal without these things in check. For the first time in my life, I started prioritizing sleep and prioritizing myself over pleasing everyone else because I realized it was imperative to my healing. I started saying “no”, I started making boundaries with work, relationships, even school. I started going to bed early and I was really seriously about my bed time (ask any of my friends 😉 ).
With this piece of the puzzle finally in check, things began to change. My cycle began to normalize. To this day it is still long but now my average cycle is 32 days not 45 and it’s more regular. My insulin resistance resolved, my blood sugar regulation completely normalized and felt more balanced than ever, my chest acne cleared up and my hormones normalized for the most part, I calmned my inflammation down, my back acne finally cleared up and I realized it was directly related to my grains/potatoes intolerance, and my chest acne cleared up.
My facial acne persisted and it actually got much worse before it got better. It went through many different phases, it changed a lot over time and even looked to be clearing up multiple times but it would always reoccur. To this day, it’s the main thing I still struggle with related to my PCOS. My skin seems to be my bodies weak point, the one symptom that is manifested at the slightest imbalance. I know that stress, anxiety and sleep still have a lot to do with it and I know that my hormones are not perfect and that affects it as well. Having PCOS I’m especially susceptible to hormone imbalances, chronic inflammation and insulin resistance, which all contribute to my acne. I’m currently dealing with low progesterone again and trying to combat that with the help of my ND. Hopefully we won’t need to use bioidentical progesterone but I will keep you all updated via my Instagram ( @shetalksdetox)!
It’s been over 4 years since my first visit with my doctor and overall, I’m extremely thankful for what naturopathic medicine has done for me. I feel like a completely different person, more balanced and knowledgeable than I ever would have been without it. I feel confident that I did the right thing for my body, by getting to the root of the problem and addressing those things naturally. The body has amazing ability to heal itself if we give it what it needs. It was a VERY different journey than I expected and I know that there will continue to be twists and turns along the way. Health is truly a lifelong journey and it takes so much work and intention. This story is exactly why I decided to become a health coach. I wanted to help people take control of their health, overcome their struggles and adopt a healthy lifestyle that allows them to thrive!
Thank you for reading my story. If you have any questions, feel free to email or message me on Instagram!