Todays podcast is super special because I am going to talk about PCOS, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. I’m going to make myself vulnerable and share with you my personal healing story. I feel so proud of sharing my PCOS reversal story and how I did with all of you, because if I can do it then everybody else can too.
This blog post summarizes just a few of the golden nuggets from our insightful conversation, for the full details listen to the entire episode here or on your favourite podcast platform by searching for the Self-Care Goddess podcast.
My PCOS Story
When I started menstruating at the age of 15, my periods were irregular, I would menstruate every 90-days and I also carried a little bit of extra belly fat – my brother-in-law used to call it my fanny pouch (jerk-lol). I approached my conventional doctor she recommended I go on the birth control pill to regulate my period, and something innately told me to politely refuse that option. Because I played at lot of sports I decided that a 90-day cycle was going to suit me just fine, so it never really bothered me too much. Until I stopped playing sports and was getting worried about my fertility in my mid-30s. But there were other symptoms, like excessive bloating, irregular bowel movements, brain fog, my skin was dry and very often I was puffy under the eyes, especially when I ate dairy and red wine. So I decided to visit a Functional Medicine (FM) doctor and she ran various tests, which confirmed that I had a mild case of PCOS, and I was also border line pre-diabetic. Working alongside my amazing FM doctor, I started to do further research and decided that I would do anything in my control to reverse my condition. I was convinced that if I eliminated the interference my body’s innate intelligence would be able to self-heal.
Do you know what “The Vipassana Meditation Experience” is? I invite you to read my interesting blog here.
So, What the Heck is PCOS?
PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, and it’s a hormonal disorder among women of reproductive age. More specifically, there is an excess build-up of a group of hormones called androgens, but studies show that insulin resistance and abnormal gonadotropin dynamics also play a role. The hormonal imbalance can cause many fluid-filled cysts to form on the ovaries, which can cause a whole gamut of symptoms. PCOS is one of the most common conditions to affect the menstrual cycle and reproductive health, yet it’s also frequently misunderstood and misdiagnosed. First let me clear up some common misconceptions about this condition:
Myth 1️⃣: Everyone with PCOS has ovarian cysts.
Nope. It’s possible to have PCOS with no ovarian cysts, and it’s possible to have ovarian cysts without PCOS. To be diagnosed with PCOS, a person only needs to meet 2 out of 3 conditions: ovarian cysts, irregular periods, or testosterone excess.
Myth 2️⃣: Everyone with PCOS should take the birth control pill.
Nope. The pill is commonly prescribed to women with PCOS, but it is far from the only option and does not address the whole picture. Whole-body strategies that rely on nutrition, lifestyle, and stress management can also be powerful ways to manage PCOS.
Myth 3️⃣: Everyone with PCOS is overweight.
Nope. While it’s true that PCOS causes many women to gain weight, this is not an absolute. Also, weight loss becomes easier when we address the deeper metabolic patterns of PCOS, like changes in cortisol and insulin resistance.
Myth 4️⃣: You can’t get pregnant with PCOS.
Wrong. Even though PCOS is a common cause of infertility, it does not mean that pregnancy is impossible—particularly if you work to support your hormones and reproductive health through diet, lifestyle, and functional medicine.
Myth 5️⃣: PCOS will go away at menopause.
Nope. PCOS disrupts far more than the menstrual cycle. Its effects on insulin resistance, cortisol, inflammation, and weight gain continue (and may even worsen) after menopause.
Even though PCOS is a complex condition disrupting numerous hormones and metabolic pathways, it does not mean you need to feel bad for the rest of your life. We have an extensive set of tools in holistic wellness to support hormonal and metabolic health in PCOS.
Get the step-by-step guide to starting your day right and learn how to drop stubborn weight from the trouble areas that are resistant to diet and exercise! Download your FREE copy of the Savoia Self-Care morning routine here.
How PCOS Disrupts Your Metabolism?
Most people think of PCOS as a hormonal condition, but it actually affects both the hormones and the metabolism. Hormonal patterns typically seen in PCOS include elevated testosterone (causing hair to grow in all the wrong places or acne beyond teenage years) and estrogen dominance (high estrogen and low progesterone). But here are some ways PCOS interacts with metabolism:
1️⃣ Insulin Resistance: Insulin Resistance is strongly associated with PCOS. This leads to elevated blood sugar, high cholesterol, and trouble losing weight.
2️⃣ Chronic Inflammation: PCOS is often accompanied by increased levels of inflammation throughout the body. This can make it harder to maintain blood sugar balance and a healthy weight.
3️⃣ Thyroid Function: Women with PCOS are more likely than the general population to also be diagnosed with low thyroid function. That translates to a slower metabolism, fatigue, and weight gain.
Why does this matter?
Because if all we do is look at testosterone and estrogen in PCOS, we are missing a huge opportunity. We need to treat PCOS as the whole-body condition that it actually is. We need to support insulin function and thyroid function while, at the same time, working to quell inflammation. Which is what I do from a hoslitic wellness perspective.
Stress can also get into the PCOS mix—messing with both hormones and metabolism.
How Stress Affects PCOS?
Sometimes people with PCOS continue to struggle with symptoms even when they’re following a healthy diet, exercising, and taking supplements. Why? Because of stress. On a biochemical level, the culprit is cortisol—the hormone we pump out in response to stress. Cortisol is useful in the short term (to give us energy to respond to stress) but damaging if produced too much for too long.
In PCOS, cortisol can:
❌ Worsen insulin resistance
❌ Increase testosterone even more
❌ Interfere with thyroid function
❌ Decrease progesterone even more
This last point is key. Did you know that cortisol is made in part from progesterone? That means that stress actually steals progesterone to make cortisol. Since progesterone is already low in PCOS, this can make things worse.
It may seem like a small and insignificant thing, but managing stress is an extremely important part of feeling good and thriving despite a diagnosis of PCOS. Small habits every day add up to make a big difference. Things like:
✅ Getting enough sleep
✅ Moving your body
✅ Drinking plenty of water
✅ Taking time to relax
Managing stress played a crucial role for me as well. Through my research I discovered that adrenal dysfunction, its relation to cortisol and insulin play an important role in PCOS. The amount of STRESS I was under and my inability to manage it, was directly related to the severity of my PCOS symptoms. So not only did I start exercising more regularly, I also decided to take up Yoga more seriously. Once I was on the yoga mat it was so easy to stay present, focused on my breathing and postures, and leave my worries outside the studio. Some days were better than others, but I felt great after each class, which inspired me to keep going.
The natural progression from the 3-5mins meditation in shavasna (corpse pose) at the end of my yoga class, led me to further embrace meditation. So I started every morning with a 5mins guided meditation to set the tone for the day. The meditations opened up yet another channel of stress mastery, which was conscious breath work. Until this day I’m passionate about including Yoga, Meditation and Breathwork as part of my morning wellness routine. We all know our bodies need to move, but making it happen every day can be tough. Here are some things I do to stay motivated to move my body and stay active every day. Maybe one of these will work for you!
💞 Remember My Why: This is so key. I won’t do something unless I actually have a meaningful reason to do it. I have a list of reasons I want to stay healthy and active, which keeps me excited and on track.
📈 Track My Progress: Everyone does this differently. You can count your steps and activity on a wearable device or just check off days you exercise on a paper calendar. Seeing that progress is a great motivation.
🏆 Reward Myself: Sometimes it can be as simple as knowing that I get to have a relaxing shower after working out. This is a great way to stay positive while exercising. We all go through slumps, but the benefits of staying active are so worth it—from better sleep to a calmer mood to more focus.
Lifestyle Habits To Help Reverse PCOS
Another important lifestyle intervention was optimizing my sleep. I’m a night owl and always have been, but I noticed that if I went to bed before midnight I would wake up feeling better. So I decided to change my evening routine, and ensure that I put on my blue light blocking glasses after sunset. I avoided and still do electronics 1hour before sleep, avoid eating late night snacks, kept the room at a cold temperature, slept naked, and aimed for at least 8hours of sleep each night. This evening routine is something that I still do today and when I don’t follow it, I do end up paying the consequence the next day feeling grumpy and not rested.
Another lifestyle hack is embracing being more mindful, I invite you to pause and consider these 3 moments in your day to be mindful:
🥣 Mindful Eating: Turn off distractions so you can focus only on eating—the taste, texture, and experience of it all.
🚶 Mindful Walking: Focus your senses on your body and everything around you—from the pavement beneath your feet to the breeze on your skin.
🧘♀️ Mindful Body Scan: Pause at your desk in the office or take a moment to rest on the couch, close your eyes, and scan your body from your toes to the top of your head.
None of these things need to take any time out of your day, and the rewards are worth it:
✔️ Less Stress
✔️ Calmer Mood
✔️ More Focus
✔️ Better Energy
Foods To AVOID & Foods That Help Reverse PCOS
As a nutritionist, I now will now talk about food. PCOS is often accompanied by insulin resistance and weight gain. Nutrition can be a powerful tool to support hormone health and metabolism in PCOS, and it doesn’t always have to be complicated. I work with my clients to find nutritious foods that are easy to make and that they enjoy, so that healthy eating can become a way of life. Did you know that consuming certain foods can worsen PCOS?
Here are 5 foods to avoid:
We’re not just talking about soda here. Sweetened tea, fancy coffee drinks, and juices will all cause the blood sugar to spike and worsen the metabolic issues of PCOS.
Snacks like crackers, cookies, and chips are typically high in carbohydrates and unhealthy fats, both of which worsen insulin resistance in PCOS.
Boxed cereals and granola can be a hidden source of sugar that is a stress to the body and blood sugar.
Fried foods are typically high in trans fats, which interfere with the action of insulin and worsen inflammation—problems already present in PCOS.
Alcoholic drinks not only disrupt blood sugar but also place a strain on the liver, which plays a key role in hormone metabolism.
While I was living in Dubai at the time of my PCOS, the eating out culture of processed foods, unhealthy fats and an excess of everything including alcohol and late nights was impacting my health in a terrible way. So I decided to do more cooking and eat at home, removed refined sugars, gluten, dairy, and bad fats from my diet. I also drastically limited my consumption of high glycemic and starchy carbohydrates.
Basically, I went back to my roots, and adopted a Mediterranean diet. Ensured I was eating enough fiber through copious amounts of mostly non-starchy vegetables, and eventually stopped eating meat. For the most part I was eating organic and non-GMO foods. I supplemented my healthy diet with vitamins and minerals, my ex used to freak out how much I used to spend on supplements every month. I also switched to drinking better quality water.
A few years later, I decided to give intermitted fasting a try, and that produced amazing results, worthy of a separate post, so stay tuned. I’m convinced that fasting helped me balance my hormones, which in turn along with my clean diet and lifestyle habits below, helped lessen my PCOS symptoms and eventually was a contributor to reversing my condition. Cooling foods work because they promote hydration and provide electrolytes. So rather than grab that bag of chips or salty snack, stay cool with these refreshing summer snacks:
🥥 Coconut Water
Coconut water is rich in minerals, including potassium and magnesium. Similar to sports drinks, it can replenish fluids and electrolytes.
Watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew are delicious summer fruits that provide antioxidants and hydration. Did you know cucumbers are also melons?
🧉 Peppermint Iced Tea
Peppermint can ease digestion and freshen breath, but it is also cooling. Try it iced when the heat picks up!
Cilantro is packed with micronutrients, having a gentle detoxifying effect. Sprinkle it over a melon salad or into your water or spritzer.
Do you have a favorite cooling snack? Let me know in the comments!
Want to learn “How to Master Your Mindset & Create Your Dream Life Today?” Listen to the Self-Care Goddess Podcast episode #5, on the Self-Care Goddess Podcast.
Toxic Load & The Importance of Supplementation
My labs tests also showed high levels of mercury in my system, probably from eating copious amounts of tuna in a can. But I also noticed that I was super sensitive to chemicals like perfumes, cleaning products, and air fresheners. So I decided to live a more toxic free lifestyle. I lowered my toxic load but giving up tuna, switching to chemical-free personal care and home products. Stopped wearing perfume – yup – only essential oil blends for me now. I also switched my coffee to organic, and ensured I avoided foods with toxic pesticides. Basically, I reduced my exposure to xenoestrogens, which are chemicals that mimic estrogen and act as hormone disruptors. I finally had a flat belly!
Supplemetation is KEY
Taking a multivitamin can fill in the gaps of your diet and make sure you don’t miss out on important vitamins and minerals over time. Even people who have healthy eating habits can optimize their nutrient intake with a multivitamin. But the question is:
How do you choose the best one?
When I’m evaluating the quality of a vitamin, I ask these 3 questions:
1️⃣ Is it age-appropriate?
Children need lower amounts of most vitamins and minerals than adults, teenage boys need more zinc to support hormones, menstruating people need more iron to replace lost blood, and older adults have a higher need for vitamins like B12. That’s why it’s helpful to choose a multivitamin formulated for the right age and stage.
2️⃣Are the nutrients bioavailable?
By “bioavailable,” I mean the nutrients are both easily absorbed and readily utilized by the body. For example, methylcobalamin is preferable to cyanocobalamin (these are both forms of vitamin B12) and magnesium glycinate is preferable to magnesium oxide.
3️⃣What are the “other” ingredients?
Some vitamins are loaded with artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, and binders. Jump to the “other ingredients” to make sure the product is actually going to help rather than harm your health.
What is the Breathwork philosophy in Tantra? Read my blog post “Philosophy Of Our BREATH”.
Take Home Message
“Health is not valued until sickness comes.” Thomas Fuller
Ouch. This one is a painful truth. After incorporating these lifestyle changes based on the Savoia Self-Care holistic wellness pillars I was able to transform my health. My periods started to become more regular, I had less bloating, no brain fog, more energy and afternoon dips, regular bowel movements, my skin was more supple and the eye puffiness subsided. I also decided to get off the Metformin medicine and take a natural plant form called Berberine, which has similar effects. Recently, I had a pelvic and transvaginal ultrasound to check on my PCOS, and I was stunned when my doctor looked at me strange and said “You don’t have PCOS”. I looked at the report and requested a copy, because I was not expecting a total reversal. I was ecstatic and had tears of joy rolling down my cheek, and thought to myself if I can do it, anyone can do it. Basically, through my diet, supplements, and lifestyle interventions I helped my body improve insulin activity, improve blood glucose control, manage stress, and ultimately balance my hormone levels. If you’re suffering from a hormonal imbalance and would like some help check out my Escape Hormonal Hell Rescue Guide.
I’m also here for you if you need further assistance. I’m on a mission to raise awareness about valuable self-care habits that promote life-long health and wellbeing. What do you think? Are you ready to prioritize your health today?
For free guided meditation videos and Breathwork demonstrations subscribe to my YouTube channel.
Listen to the full podcast episode #86 on the Self-Care Goddess Podcast.
I look forward to connecting with you and learning more about your story and your health and wellness goals. Schedule a FREE introduction call here.