It's understandable that as you get older, your body is going to endure changes. But at the age of 22, I was increasingly suffering from unexplained weight gain, acne, depression, anxiety, and loss of my menstrual cycle—and I suspected this was unusual. I started experiencing low self-esteem as a result and was no longer as social as I once had been. I wanted to take these symptoms head-on, so I decided to drag myself to the doctor.
At my OB-GYN's office, after I explained what I had been dealing with, they drew my blood and performed an ultrasound. Then, my doctor discovered close to a dozen cysts on my ovaries. I was quickly diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). He explained that PCOS occurs when a woman's hormones are out of balance, which can lead to problems with fertility and menstrual cycles as well as weight gain and cysts on the ovaries.
I began asking questions: How did this happen? Was it something I did? And finally, what can I do? I was told there was little I could do and that this would stay with me for life. My doctor recommended I go on birth control and begin hormone therapy. I was told that if I wanted children one day I would most likely have to have IVF treatments and that, even then, my chances were slim to none.
With this disheartening news, I made the decision to take my health into my own hands. I never went on birth control. Instead, I walked home that day and started crafting a clean-eating meal plan and incorporating exercise (that I actually enjoyed) into my routine and natural beauty products into my lifestyle.
Over the four months, I focused on getting key nutrients into my body to help produce more blood and improving my circulation by incorporating low-intensity exercises like yoga. I decided to work with my body instead of controlling it. I started listening to my body and altered my diet, eating foods rich in iron and magnesium. Above all, I wanted to treat myself naturally through diet, Ayurvedic methods like eating warming foods, adaptogen herbs, and an overall healthy routine to follow throughout this process.
Increasingly, my depression lifted, my skin cleared, my menstrual cycle became regular, and my energy increased.
After four months, I went back to my doctor and was officially undiagnosed with PCOS. I had no cysts on my ovaries, my hormones were balanced, and my periods were regular! What did he say? “Some people just get lucky.” Well, that's not how I saw it.
I am now 24 years old and have stuck to this new lifestyle. This means clean eating, exercising (yoga, walking my two dogs, and Pilates), using natural beauty products, and paying attention to my body.
As a certified health and wellness coach, I'm passionate about helping other people increase their quality of life too. So I'm sharing a few of the changes that I found very helpful on my journey to health:
1. I drank an apple cider vinegar tonic every morning.
My tonic recipe: 1 to 2 tablespoons of ACV diluted in a glass of water (never drink it straight) first thing in the morning.
2. I adopted a whole foods diet.
Whole foods are foods sourced straight from the earth that have not been altered or compromised in any way. That does not necessarily mean that your diet needs to be fully plant-based or vegan.
Overall, I stick to a diet of 95 percent whole foods, enjoying lots of vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and leafy greens. I found I really loved how I felt eating this way.
3. I eliminated processed foods.
Our bodies thrive on foods rich in nutrients, especially when managing disorders like PCOS. That means avoiding processed foods like white flour, corn syrup, processed meats, pasta, and other foods that may contain medium to high levels of sugar.
At first, this change was hard when I realized some of my go-to crackers and snacks were highly processed. It took some time, but once my body adjusted to this new way of eating, I no longer craved the same foods.
4. I ate raw cacao.
Ever notice that you get chocolate cravings around the time of your period? Iron and magnesium are essential for building healthy blood, which we need in order to menstruate regularly. And cacao is a good source of iron and magnesium, two minerals women can be deficient in.
I found that a tablespoon a day of this superfood did wonders for my hormones as well as my skin and energy levels.
5. I focused on iron-rich food.
We tend to associate iron with red meat, but there are also high levels of iron in many vegetables and plant-based foods, including spinach, kale, goji berries, lentils, chickpeas, and more. I recommend eating at least one vegetable a day that contains high levels of iron.
6. I added in supplements.
Ensuring your body has the proper vitamins is vital to healing. Supplements can help your body build its immune system, restore energy levels, balance hormones, and promote healthy blood flow. In particular, I found zinc, evening primrose oil, ashwagandha and a multivitamin to be helpful in my health journey. Talk to your health care practitioner about what supplements you should consider.
7. I changed my exercise routine.
I'm a big believer in staying active by doing activities or workouts that you actually enjoy. What's the point of going to the gym if you hate every minute of it? When I was diagnosed with PCOS, I stopped doing the high-intensity, stress-inducing workouts I was used to and chose more low-impact classes instead. These days, I love barre class, Pilates, yoga, walking, paddle boarding, and bike riding.