Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My Diagnosis of PCOS

Looking back, it's amazing and a bit ridiculous that I wasn't diagnosed with PCOS when I was 18. When I went to my gynecologist my first year of college, I told her how I didn't have regular periods. That they had been somewhat reguar the first few years I'd had it, but the past few I never could plan for it. Sometimes it came, sometimes it didn't and it was never predictable. I didn't really have any other textbook symptoms, but the gynecologist put me on birth control without ever mentioning any reasoning behind my elusive cycle.

Fast forward a bunch of years. When I moved to Raleigh, I decided to go off the pill. I sort of felt like there wasn't a reason for it, and why keep putting synthetic hormones in my body? So I went off and that's when it all started. I was a textbook case but didn't know it. I had some of the facial hair (luckily it wasn't noticeable to anyone else, though it was painfully obvious to me), acne on my chin- the painful, cystic type, and some on my upper back. I just sort of figured the acne was from going off birth control and didn't think much more of it. I went off of the pill in April probably, and was due for my next yearly appointment in January. By the time that appointment rolled around, I think I had had 2 periods (and one was from going off the pill, so only one true one). I told the doctor that, and she immediately connected my other symptoms. She sent me for bloodwork, which in fact showed that I have more testosterone and estrogen than is normal. (Sidenote: When I told Steven I had more testosterone than the average woman he said "that explains some things"... I still harbor resentment from that comment lol!... he was right, I just didn't think he should say it!) She had me come back in after the blood test for an internal ultrasound which showed what is called "the strand of pearls" in the medical field. You can see your ovaries on the ultrasound, which are larger than normal typically with PCOS (mine were) and they have these little white balls in a circle all the way around them... hence the diagnoses- polycystic ovarian syndrome. With PCOS, the follicles don't, or rarely, mature and are released as an egg, starting ovulation and a period. Instead, they stay immature and so they aren't released... this happens for a while and you have the "strand of pearls".

I liked that gynecologist VERY much. She was kind, comforting, and gave me a lot of information. She stayed with me until my last question was answered. What I will never forgive her, and the medical field in general, for though, is telling me that birth control was the answer. She put me back on it, saying that's the treatment for PCOS.

About a year later, around the time we got engaged, I decided to do my own research into PCOS. I had been told by my gynecologist that getting pregnant probably wouldn't be a big deal- she'd just put me on Clomid and that usually works. But I knew that a) I really don't want multiples for financial reasons and b) there had to be SOME other way than being on the pill my entire life with rounds of Clomid when I want to conceive. I was right. After months and MONTHS of researching, and even being able to review a information packed, not yet published book about PCOS, I have learned just how important lifestyle is in PCOS. I couldn't even list everything here, but some of the most important things I found were:

I need to stay away from meat and dairy as much as possible. I eat cheese in limited quantities because I love it, and we try to have meat either only as a side dish (so it's a much smaller portion), or as the main dish only once or twice a week. The meat we do eat is hormone free. This is because animals and given growth hormones to become big fast. Besides it being cruel to the animal who can't even stand up because of it's size, the added hormones wreak havoc on my already unbalanced hormones. Dairy has tons of hormones because something like 90% of the cows are pregnant or just had a calf. Same issue as the meat as far as it's effect on my body.

I need to eat a whole foods lifestyle. This applies to everyone, but definitely affects me. Processed, packaged foods react in my body even worse than most. Most people burn 3 out of every 4 carbs and store the extra 1. My body stores 3 out of 4, only burning 1. Processed, packaged foods are known for starchy, empty carbs and also for chemicals and preservatives which further confuse my body. Our bodies recognize the foods our ancestors ate.... fruits, veggies, whole grains, etc. So this is how I've begun eating probably 90% of the time. (10% is for when we go out to eat at a place that doesn't offer this type of food, when we go to someone's house, etc.)

I need to be on a supplement regimen. Yes, there are medications that will help my insulin level and my hormone level. But they all come at a cost, with side effects that often mean you have to be on yet another medication. Why do that when nature provides herbs for us that do the same thing? I won't take any of these without seeing a naturopath, because you can kill yourself on supplements if you mix the wrong thing or too much of a bunch of things, but research has proven that things like licorice and saw palmetto lower testosterone. There is a huge list of supplements for people with PCOS and their functions- ones that help with insulin sensitivity (the main issue of PCOS where all the problems stem from) so it's a matter of figuring out which ones are best for your body and in which combination. I'm currently on a few supplements that don't have danger, and will see a naturopath after we get married to add the others.

So as you can see, PCOS has changed my entire way of life. As much as it would be SO nice to not have PCOS, to not have to worry about my fertility, I can't deny what a blessing it has been in my life. I don't know that I ever would have looked toward a natural lifestyle... I would probably have never done the research on just how much products like cleaners, processed foods, etc. were affecting my body (PCOS or not, they do damage- just additional damage since I have it). I wouldn't have ever made the farmer's market my weekly produce shop, and would have continued supporting farmers from states far away and even other countries. Now I support farmers from at most a county or two away. I never would have examined my food to see what my body needs that it's not getting. There are so many positive changes I've made in my life because of having PCOS so, as annoying as it is to have this condition, I'm not sure if I would change it.



    They talked about PCOS on the Dr's today and I thought I would share (Since I think that they do an AWESOME job at explaining things...correctly at that..and always give alternatives to medications) I especially like the emphasis on exercise in this clip!!!

  2. I just found your blog today, and was reading through some old posts. I'm glad I found you, and I wanted to say good luck on your upcoming wedding/marriage!

    You may have mentioned this in another post, but have you read the book "Fertility, Cycles, and Nutrition" by Marylin Shannon? (I'm going to guess "yes", since you're Catholic and on top of the fertility/nutrion connection, but just in case it slipped by you, I want to make sure you're aware of it!) When I started charting for NFP before getting married, I realized I had a luteal phase defect. I was only having 5-8 days of the luteal phase instead of the needed 12 or so. I made some lifestyle/nutrion changes, and began taking a supplement recommended in the book. Long story short: I got pregnant six months into our marriage and I'm due in about a month!

    I know the terror that can rip through a woman's heart when she realizes she might have trouble conceiving a child. I think you're making great choices, and I will say a prayer for you tonight!


    1. I have quite a few PCOS books, but I've never heard of that one. I will definitely be checking it out and appreciate the recommendation! SO glad to hear your positive story!!!