At the start of the summer holidays I blogged about how I wasn’t going to let PCOS stand in my way of what I want anymore. Then I went quiet! Silent, almost.
The silence wasn’t me going back on my determined pledge. It was reflection. I have spent the holidays doing research. Reading, learning and enquiring. I took this research to my GP and talked it through with her. I was pleased to know that I was on the right track. Yippee!
Before I get carried away, I’m going to explain what PCOS is. Those of you that are reading this blog as a fellow sufferer, may need to skip over this part. However, many of my friends and family don’t fully understand what the syndrome consists of and I’m often asked “What is PC-whatsit-McCallit”? Although it’s been 12 years since I was diagnosed, it’s only recently that I’ve talked openly about it, as when I was younger I felt shame in the condition. Having polycystic ovarian syndrome isn’t as straight forward as having a handful or symptoms that are in correlation with one another. The main features of PCOS, according to the wonderful NHS website are:
- Irregular periods
- Excess androgen (a high level of male hormones or an imbalance of estrogen and progesterone)
- Cysts on the ovaries (polycystic oravries)
If you have 2/3 of the above symptoms, you’re likely to be diagnosed with PCOS. Unfortunately, there are many other symptoms which have a detrimental impact on a woman. Currently- and only recently- my ovaries are clear of cysts, but I do tick the boxes for irregular periods and hormone imbalances (being told at 19 that I had too much testosterone was mortifying- I wanted to be girly and feminine, not a man! It’s only age and understanding that has made me realise that I am not any less of a woman, but it’s taken a lot of time and counselling to deal with this). With both of these symptoms come difficulties getting pregnant, failure to ovulate (I’ve not ovulated in a year, although I have had periods), excessive hair growth, weight gain and acne. I also suffer terribly from anxiety, mood swings and, on occasion, periods of depression. I totally understand that my PCOS isn’t life threatening. But it’s something I deal with every day. It’s part of who I am. It’s why some days I might seem weird or unsociable, or why I am fat, or why I’ve got acne in my 30s. But it’s taught me not to judge people on first impressions, and to have compassion and humanity when people just seem damn-right rude or awkward. You don’t know what people are going through, and PCOS doesn’t have any major visible signs, but believe me, some days the pain and discomfort (my PMS lasts about 3 weeks before I have a period- my poor husband has to put up with some shit, believe me) or the low moods and self-esteem make getting out of bed a terrifying prospect.
Now that I’ve filled you in, I’ll explain what I have learned this summer, and what seems to be working for me. It’s taken a lot of reading and late night forum scanning and chatting to get this info. Women have only just started being open about PCOS. I suspect, like me, a lot of women didn’t want tot talk about it as they felt some shame or felt less feminine. Many times I’ve felt useless, especially before having Noah. My body doesn’t do the basics that it should do. Surely, therefore, my existence was scientifically futile! Dramatic? Yes! But it’s how I felt, and how I feel now on bad days, and it’s crippling at times. There’s a lot of pressure to reproduce, to be thin, to be pretty, to be girly and to be sexy so it’s hard when you don’t measure up. I’m more comfortable with who I am now (thanks to turning 30 last year) so the superficial aspects of PCOS Don’t bother me as much. I just want to feel better, medically speaking.
The first thing that I will acknowledge is that my diet (and I don’t mean in the weight loss sense, although I know I need to shift the fat) and health need sorting. It’s a frustrating cycle to be stuck in. When I’m carrying extra weight, I feel horrendous, and compensate with chocolate and alcohol. Then I put more weight on, and continue to feel terribly about myself. Since the start of 2016, I have eaten reasonably well. I’ve counted calories, I’ve binged a hell of a lot less, I’ve eaten my 5 a day. I’m even pretty active and do like to at least of to stay fit. I lost a couple of stone, but it’s not enough for what I need. Something in my diet wasn’t right. A lot of research was leading to gluten and/dairy- there’s a good article here. I spoke to my doctor at my last check up and she agreed with me that gluten, for many, can be the stuff of the devil. She advised me to maybe just lower my dairy intake, and suggested not to cut out too much at once. So I did just that and cut out gluten. I’ve been “gluten free” for about six weeks now, and I feel a lot better for it. Can I just add that I am not intolerant or allergic or a coeliac? But gluten is just not my friend. When I eat it now, I suffer the consequences the day after. Sometimes it’s worth it, but most of the time it’s not. I’m very new to this, and still learning what I should and shouldn’t eat or drink. One blog that I find useful is Gluten Free Girl, particularly this post for newbies like me! In terms of weight loss, I’ve not lost anything, but I’ve not put anything on during the school holidays (last year I put on almost 14lb). That’s an achievement in itself. But believe me, I feel less bloated, more energised and generally a lot better.
The second thing that I researched was vitamins and supplements. I’ve tried inositol alongside prescribed metformin, but in all honesty, this didn’t seem to do anything for me! What did work was aloe gel! I read a lot about the positive effects on well-being, but many “cysters” have lots to say about how good it makes them feel in terms of alleviating symptoms of PCOS. Life Martini rates some natural remedies, and a more scientific explanation can be found here. Personally, I found that after a few weeks of using Forever Living’s aloe gel, I felt great, and was erm… a lot more regular! I’ll be honest, it tastes rotten! Believe me though, the positives outweigh the taste! I’ve ran out of my gel and feel sluggish again, despite the gluten free living. I can’t wait to get back onto the gel on Monday when I start my C9 cleanse (more on that another day). I’m an advocate of this product now thanks to Laura at More to Life by Laura and I’m even contemplating joining the Forever Living team.
The final thing that I’ve discovered helps to reduce my symptoms is fun and happiness! Simple, but often hard to reach when you’re marred by negativity. I’ve had one of the best summers of my life with my family and friends. I feel relaxed and rejuvenated, and ready to put my PCOS behind me. Stay tuned for what I have lined up to do this.