In my previous post, I talked about my struggle with hormonal imbalance (PCOS) before my pregnancy. In this post, I'm going to get into the details of what worked for me. Please keep in mind that this isn't a one-size-fits-all prescription. I put this plan together after a lot of research and close attention to my body and symptoms. My advice to you is to take some of my ideas, do your own research, and begin introducing these things into your daily routine. See what works and what doesn't. Journal and keep track of your symptoms. Get to know your body!
Note: A lot of the focus here was on healing the gut. This is absolutely crucial if you want to get your hormones back in sync. You have to work holistically and the gut is usually the best starting point.
Herbs & Supplements
- Vitex also known as Chaste tree berry (I started with a tincture from a local herb shop and then moved on to capsules)
- Supports the body in sustaining and increasing progesterone levels. Many women with PCOS have low levels of progesterone due to unopposed estrogen. Vitex helps the body to balance estrogen and progesterone for a healthy, regular menstrual cycle.
- Maca Root (capsule or powder form)
- Supports healthy progesterone levels in the body. Maca is an adaptogen. It helps to balance hormones, but does not contain any hormones itself. It is able to do this by nourishing and balancing the endocrine system. And it'll give you an energy boost!
- Supports gut maintenance. Plays a critical role in digestive and brain function.
- Ceylon Cinnamon (organic; in my morning smoothie)
- Increases the hormone progesterone and decreases testosterone in women, which helps balance hormones. It also stabilizes blood sugar and aids in the treatment of insulin resistance.
- Coconut Oil (organic, raw, unrefined; 1 T in my morning smoothie)
- The caprylic and lauric acid in coconut oil play a key role in protecting the digestive tract, helping with inflammation and the gut.
- Vitamin C (prefer the powder because you get a higher dose without swallowing a handful of capsules)
- Mood and immune booster. Beneficial for those with low progesterone. I could go on and on about C, really. It was a no-brainer to add it to my regimen.
- Turmeric (capsules and powdered spice when cooking; you can also buy raw turmeric root and add slices to your smoothie)
- Amazing, amazing, amazing. Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immune-boosting, and a major digestive aid.
- Probiotic (I used Garden of Life Women's formula)
- (Duh!) Anyone trying to treat PCOS and build/maintain a strong, healthy gut needs to include a high quality probiotic and fermented foods in their diet.
Morning Green Smoothie
This was the most important part of my routine because it gave me a healthy start each and every day. I used berries as my fruit of choice, because they are low-glycemic and lower in sugar than tropical fruits like mangos and pineapples. This was an important shift for me and I still choose berries to this day.
- 1/2 cup organic blueberries
- huge handful organic greens (spinach, baby kale, etc)
- 1/2 cup hemp or almond milk
- 1 T organic, unrefined coconut oil
- 1 scoop Vega Protein Powder
- 1 dose of my L-glutamine powder
- organic cinnamon powder
- water + ice to desired consistency
I stuck to my vegan diet, of course, with a bigger focus on organic whole foods. The main components were beans, whole grains, vegetables and seeds. Low sugar is a must for getting rid of candida and other issues surrounding leaky gut. Low to no gluten was important for me, as I noticed that it aggravated my body. This was clearly evident on my skin--and still is. I get little flesh-colored bumps on my cheeks and arms. No caffeine. It is highly acidic, elevates cortisol levels and isn't at all nourishing to the body. No alcohol. I don't even need to explain this one. For me, drinking alcohol is anything but practicing self-love.
If you haven't already been eating a whole foods, vegetarian diet, this might seem too "strict" for you. In that case, I would recommend that you simply focus on increasing your intake of whole, plant foods in the beginning. Veggies, veggies, veggies! Some meal ideas include the following...
- Vegetables sautéed in coconut, avocado or olive oil. On a bed of brown rice, with your favorite spices. I love adding coconut aminos to the pan while cooking--yum!
- Brown rice or quinoa pasta with your favorite sauce. Maybe marinara or avocado basil pesto.
- Roasted vegetables. Add to a salad, wrap, rice, or just eat them up.
- Veggie burgers with avocado and sauerkraut + a side of roasted or sautéed vegetables. I love oven baked fries!
- Salads. (Skip the ranch dressing and cheese, though.)
A note about hemp seeds: Hemp seeds contain a type of omega-6 fat called GLA (gamma-linoleic acid). Studies show supplementing with GLA can support healthy progesterone levels. They're also a great source of plant-based protein. I like to sprinkle them on pretty much anything-- salads, soups, baked goods, oatmeal, rice and beans.
I have never liked intense exercise, running or gyms. In fact, I honestly don't think the human body is built for long-term, strenuous exercise and there is a definite connection between overexercising and infertility.
"Intense exercise lowers progesterone and throws off your hormone levels," says Sami David, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist in New York City. "Endorphins can suppress your FSH and LH, the hormones in your pituitary gland responsible for producing eggs, and the ovarian hormones estradiol and progesterone, making it harder for you to get pregnant or more likely to miscarry without knowing it."
It's important to get moving every day, but not to over-stress your body. In my case, I opted for yoga and walking around my neighborhood.
- Yoga: There is no doubt that yoga can do amazing things for your health--body and mind. Because I felt so weak and unbalanced at the beginning of this, I opted for slow yoga. No crazy poses or heated rooms. Just deep, focused breathing and light movement.
- Walking: My walking was more like an extension of my yoga practice. I took walks around the neighborhood and focused on my breath. Fresh air and sunlight are major components of true health, and they're often overlooked these days.
Environmental Toxins: Home & Body Care
I stayed away from conventional body care products and consulted EWG’s “Skin Deep Cosmetic Database” before purchasing anything. It might seem crazy, but this does matter. No more BPA or nonstick pans for me. Instead, I opted for a glass or stainless steel water bottle and cast iron or stainless steel cookware. Now, I try to keep plastic in my home to a minimum.
So that's it. After following this plan for only four months, I had my first normal cycle in November of 2014. A month later, during my second normal cycle, I got pregnant.
My pregnancy was such a joy! Absolutely no morning sickness. In fact, with the exception of mild fatigue and moodiness in the first trimester, I felt vibrant and healthy throughout. Elan was born naturally and I healed beautifully.
I realize that we all have different bodies, situations and histories. All I can say is that I noticed an enormous shift in my life when I chose to treat my body with the utmost love and respect. For me, that meant no drugs or "quick fixes". It meant getting to the root of my imbalance and having the strength to make the necessary changes to my lifestyle. I hope you'll give it a try. :)