It’s been exactly two years since I was first diagnosed with PCOS, Leaky Gut + Insulin Resistance. And one year since I was pronounced “cured” by my doctor!
I’m warning you now. This one’s a doozy! It may be the longest post I’ve ever written, so settle in. Pour yourself a cup of butter coffee and stay a while. I promise the pay-off of sticking with me through to the end will be worth it.
How to Heal PCOS + Leaky Gut Naturally
Some of you may be familiar with my story, and how that diagnosis was just one phase in my health journey.
For several years before my diagnosis, I struggled with chronic constipation, unexplained nausea, fatigue, irregular periods, acne, PMS, weight gain and irregular blood sugar. And yet, despite going to many, many doctors and specialists, nobody knew what was wrong with me.
In fact, most doctors just chalked my concerns up to “aging” or “being a woman” (keep in mind, I was in my mid-twenties!) and either dismissed me entirely or just threw expensive prescription medication at my symptoms, rather than working to heal the root cause; medication that had really extreme and scary side effects, and that ultimately did NOT work.
But that’s not what this post is about (you can read more about my diagnosis here). No, today, I am here with good news!
Today, I am here to tell you that just one year after my diagnosis, one year after I found a doctor who really listened to me, discovered the root cause of my symptoms and put me on a path to healing, I have reversed my PCOS, Leaky Gut and Insulin Resistance. And I’ve done it all NATURALLY!
That means no prescription medication. I know, I was skeptical at first, too. After all, Western medicine is all most of us know living in the U.S., and it’s done amazing things for many people.
But when I harnessed the power of nutrition, I learned that FOOD IS MEDICINE. Food heals. And coupled with some safe, natural supplements and simple lifestyle changes, healing is possible. I am living proof!
At my doctor’s appointment last week, I was pronounced “cured”. My blood work looked great, my symptoms have nearly all disappeared and I feel better than I’ve ever felt in my life!
So I wanted to write a post today to share my healing journey with y’all, in the hopes that maybe there’s somebody else out there struggling with similar issues who can learn something from my story and begin their own healing.
If you have any digestive disorders or hormonal imbalances, this one’s for you!
Natural Treatment for PCOS + Leaky Gut
After my initial diagnosis, my doctor (you might remember Dr. Taz from our In Her Shoes series) put me on an anti-inflammatory diet. Unsure of what this meant, I researched the diet online and read the life-changing book, Clean Cuisine (buy your copy here!).
Following this diet was the single greatest thing I did for my health. In short, I drastically reduced my intake of gluten, dairy, inflammatory oils and sugar, instead filling my plate with fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and lean protein. Learn more about what an anti-inflammatory diet is, and how you can implement it, here.
Likewise, I also cut out all processed food and centered my diet around real, whole foods that would nourish my body to its fullest.
But I didn’t stop there-I read dozens of books after Clean Cuisine in an attempt to understand what was really going on in my body and how I could potentially reverse my diagnosis and get rid of my symptoms.
Though I learned that food is the first, and most important, step to natural healing, there are other techniques that can boost your healing power. Like healthy detoxes and cleanses, such as Whole 30 (here are the Top 15 Things I learned from Whole30 when I did it earlier this year).
I also learned about the power of safe and natural supplements.
Today, my supplement routine is much simpler (keep reading to find out what supplements I take now), but it was so important when I was in the early stages of healing that I nourished my body with a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.
And to be honest, there’s a level of trial and error that’s involved in finding the supplement routine that works best for you.
I was skeptical that supplements would really work, but I can say that without a doubt, supplements were the key to a lot of my healing, as there are many nutrients that our bodies simply can’t get enough of from food alone, no matter how healthy you eat (hello, Vitamin D!).
I also made some holistic lifestyle changes. Some of these were simple, like exercising regularly. Though I made the switch from burning out my adrenals by over-exercising (more than 60 minutes per session, or running) several times a week, to exercising for less time (15-30 minutes) every single day, or taking long, leisurely walks and going to restorative yoga classes.
Others took a bit more discipline, like meditating and tossing toxic store-bought skincare, makeup, personal hygiene and cleaning products for safe, natural alternatives.
I also started making a lot of my own skincare and cleaning products, because most store-bought products contain a cocktail of harmful chemicals that are proven to cause cancer, hormonal imbalances (including infertility), asthma and allergies, neurotoxicity and other ills. This was particularly important for my PCOS, as many of these toxins mimic estrogen in the body, further exacerbating estrogen dominance and hormonal imbalances.
You can find my favorite DIY recipes here, and we just launched our first eBook on DIY Natural Cleaning, which you can download for FREE here.
So that’s the big picture of how I healed my body naturally: an anti-inflammatory diet, safe supplements, restorative exercise, getting rid of toxic chemicals and practicing self-care.
But if any of you out there also have PCOS, Leaky Gut and/or insulin resistance, you can keep reading to learn more about exactly what I did to reverse those specific disorders.
How To Heal Leaky Gut Syndrome Fast
Some healing takes a really long time (see below for my PCOS story). But within one week of treating my digestive disorders naturally, I noticed a nearly 100% improvement. After one month, I felt like my digestion was totally back on track and doing what it was supposed to do. I couldn’t believe how fast food worked, especially considering how many years I suffered!
Let’s start with the basics. What is Leaky Gut? Leaky gut is essentially when your intestinal lining is damaged and/or inflamed and foreign particles can actually leak out of your gut.
This, as you might have guessed, causes digestive distress, from constipation and nausea (which is what I had for years!) to diarrhea, IBS, autoimmune disorders and inflammatory skin conditions, like acne, psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea.
So what’s my secret? It’s simple: the following five steps healed my leaky gut:
- Reduce inflammation by majorly upping your intake of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and fiber and decreasing your intake of inflammatory foods like gluten, dairy, junky oils, refined carbs and sugar.
- Drink a green smoothie a day. This daily habit really helped me accomplish all of these goals, particularly when I added a fiber boost like flax seeds, chia seeds or hemp hearts.
- Incorporate gut-healing foods like bone broth, collagen, and fermented foods, like kombucha, sauerkraut, kefir, and miso.
- Take safe supplements. There’s a variety of choices out there, and it’s all about finding which ones work best for you. But a good place to start is with a high-quality Probiotic. Fish Oil, Magnesium, IBS Formula, Digestive Enzymes, and/or HCL with Pepsin are also really helpful for anyone struggling with digestion issues, including indigestion (heartburn, acid reflux, GERD, gas, or bloating).
- Nourish your thyroid. I started taking a natural compounded T3/T4 thyroid replacement hormone to treat my hypothyroidism (which causes sluggish bowels) and a thyroid-specific multi-vitamin (it’s rich in Selenium, Zinc, and Iodine, plus methylated B vitamins, D3, methyl-folate, and Vitamin A), and I’ve been amazed at how much it’s helped improve my digestion. It’s amazing how connected the body is-when one system is out of whack, it affects another and can become a vicious cycle. Optimizing my thyroid has been incredibly helpful not only for digestion, but for hormonal balance, anxiety, energy and metabolism, as well.
Though there aren’t as many blood levels to check for digestive disorders, there are a few numbers you can monitor. One is food allergies or sensitivities.
Unless you have a severe food allergy, sensitivities and intolerances can often just be a sign that your gut is inflamed. And, did you know that you can reverse these sensitivities? Check it out…below are the results of my food allergies starting in August 2015 through today.
peanut, went from .17 -> .04 -> .02 -> .03
cashew, went from .15 -> .09 -> .05 -> .03
almond, went from .05 -> .05 -> .05 -> 0.0
cow’s milk, went from .18 -> .11 -> .09 -> .07
casein, went from .14 -> .08 -> .06 -> .07
soybean, went from .09 -> .03 -> .01 -> 0.0
gluten, went from .29 -> .19 -> .11 -> <0.1
egg white, went from .25 -> .19 -> .12 -> .09
egg yolk, went from .29 -> .19 -> .14 -> .11
As you can see, every single one of these food allergies is down, not only from where I originally started, but to a point where I don’t have a single allergy. A sure sign that my gut is healing.
You can also have your C-reactive protein levels checked, which indicate inflammation. Ideally, this level will be less than 1.0, though you’re not at high risk of inflammatory disease until it’s over 3.0.
How to Heal PCOS Naturally
So what is PCOS? PCOS, which stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, is one of the most common hormonal endocrine disorders in women. Symptoms include irregular periods, acne, PMS, weight gain, hair loss, and, often times, infertility.
When I was first diagnosed with PCOS, I suffered more from excess androgens, which caused me to break out, gain weight around my midsection and skip periods. My initial blood work showed AMHA levels of 13.89, which is one of the indicators that you have PCOS.
But after drinking spearmint tea, taking an apple cider vinegar shot in the morning, and following my anti-inflammatory diet, I reduced that level back into a healthy range between 4 and 7.
Unfortunately, then I became estrogen dominant (meaning my estrogen levels were too high and progesterone too low). The peak of my estrogen dominance was when my estrone levels were above 200 and my estradiol levels hovered over 150.
This imbalance caused me to have symptoms like acne, long menstrual cycles, and heavy cramping during my period. Today, my estrone and estradiol levels are now down to 68 and 123, respectively, which is a very healthy range, and my progesterone levels are up to 17.
And my periods come every 29-32 days, compared to 45-60 days, with regular ovulation (yes, even though I’m not trying to get pregnant, I track my cycles religiously!). My acne has nearly gone away, I don’t get bad cramps with my periods, I’ve lost weight, and my energy is way up!
But here’s the thing… there is no “cure” for PCOS. I will always have it. What I can do is manage it. I can reverse the chronic conditions that accompany the hormonal disorder and essentially be in “remission” from the symptoms. I can feel “cured”, but if I don’t treat my body right, PCOS can always flare up again. So it’s something I’ll have to deal with for the rest of my life.
I should also note that there are many different kinds of PCOS, and it manifests itself differently in every woman. For example, I don’t have any cysts on my ovaries, nor have I ever been really overweight. But my hormone labs, symptoms and periods all indicate that I have PCOS. Other women might have cysts, but no other symptoms. So it’s important to look at your situation as unique and work with a thoughtful doctor who can help you cure/reverse/treat your PCOS without relying on harmful and controversial bandaids, like birth control pills, Metformin, Clomid, and/or spironolactone.
Other women might have cysts, but no other symptoms. So it’s important to look at your situation as unique and work with a thoughtful doctor who can help you cure/reverse/treat your PCOS without relying on harmful and controversial band-aids, like birth control pills, Metformin, Clomid, and/or spironolactone.
Here’s what I did to balance my hormones:
- Reduce Inflammation by eating an anti-inflammatory diet (yes, this again! healing takes time, remember!)
- Nurture your adrenals with yoga, meditation, and self-care, as cortisol (the stress hormone) affects every single one of your hormones. Some of my favorite self-care techniques include meditation, yoga, epsom salt bath soaks, massage, and reading (particularly in the sun for 15 minutes a day to boost Vitamin D levels). It’s also helpful to consume less caffeine and alcohol. I have since switched to decaf coffee (with the occasional green tea or matcha latte), and I try to limit alcohol to 1-2 drinks per day, often skipping drinking altogether.
- Manage estrogen levels with supplements like Vitex, DIM, Turmeric and Ayurvedic Herbs, which helps to cleanse your liver, metabolize hormones and detox your body. It also helps to reduce your toxic burden by switching to natural skincare, makeup, and household products, as many conventional products contain fake estrogens that cause imbalances.
- Balance blood sugar: Insulin resistance was another issue I struggled with as a woman with PCOS-many women who have PCOS also have insulin resistance and hypothyroidism, as well. Essentially, my blood sugar (fasting glucose and insulin) levels were way too high, putting me at a very high risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. This really scared me, perhaps most of all. Cutting out refined carbs and sugar, focusing on healthy fats, fiber and protein, eating at regular intervals (especially first thing in the morning), and a couple of supplements (namely Inositol) helped me bring my fasting insulin levels down from 6.3 to a healthy 2.9. And my fasting glucose is now an ideal 88.
- Nourish your thyroid. Yep, this one again too. Isn’t is crazy how linked our symptoms can be? The same way my hypothyroidism was slowing down my digestion, it was also worsening my hormonal imbalances. By focusing on thyroid-healthy techniques, and taking the supplements mentioned above, I’ve nearly cleared up my acne, normalized my periods, and drastically reduced my anxiety (with the help of self-care, namely yoga, and therapy).
My Plan for Staying Healthy
Ok, this blog post is certainly going to win an award for longest post ever. Sheesh, if you’ve made it this far, I commend you! And I hope you’ve gotten TONS of helpful tips along the way.
A year ago, I couldn’t have imagined that I would be writing this post, telling the story of how all of those debilitating symptoms that plagued me for years have disappeared. But thanks to food and natural living, here I am, doing exactly that.
This is a really proud moment for me and one that I hope inspires you to find healing naturally. I highly recommend seeking out a holistic MD near you to help you on your journey. Obviously, I am not a doctor and my story is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. I’m simply sharing what has worked for me.
Moving forward, to maintain my newfound level of health, I plan to continue eating an anti-inflammatory diet focused on real, whole foods. Gluten, dairy, junky oils and sugar will never have a regular place on my plate again, though I am a firm believer in moderation and think it’s crucial to your health and happiness that you allow yourself to let go and enjoy delicious food every now and then. So, expect more of my signature 80-20 rule!
I’m currently working with my naturopathic doctor to simplify my supplement regimen, but for now I am taking a Multi-Vitamin, Probiotic and Compounded T4/T3. It took me a few years to simplify my routine to this point, but it was worth all of the energy I put in to now feel my best ever with minimal effort.
Thanks for reading! ??
Yours in health,
This post originally appeared on RootandRevel.com.