Treatment of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: How Real Women Deal with PCOS Symptoms

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Treatment of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: How Real Women Deal with PCOS Symptoms
Treatment of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: How Real Women Deal with PCOS Symptoms-2

When it comes to your health, sometimes you have to start solving problems on your own, especially when dealing with conditions that tend to go undiagnosed or when treatment options are unclear. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is just one of those conditions, and it turns out it's much more common than you think: Experts say it affects 5 to 10 percent of women, many of whom go for years without knowing why they have acne, or excessive hair growth, or just can't get rid of extra weight. Beyond the symptoms you can see, PCOS can also mess with your menstrual cycle and your ability to have children; it can also increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, endometrial cancer and diabetes.

While there are some medications, including birth control pills, that can help with symptoms (see more PCOS basics here), many women still have to deal with the effects of PCOS on their own. And since there aren't often clinical studies of the effectiveness of DIY approaches to symptoms, women with PCOS may not know that there are at-home strategies that can help lessen fatigue, weight gain, and other PCOS problems. We asked four women who said goodbye to their symptoms to share their secrets. Here's what worked for them—read their stories and see what strategies might work for you:

PCOS Solution: "I became a vegetarian!"
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—Lauren Norris, 28, graphic designer, Pittsburgh
 How I Used to Feel: "When I was 17 I only got three periods in one year, so my gynecologist sent me to an endocrinologist for more testing. The skin on the back of my neck had thickened and darkened, which is a typical PCOS symptom; I was overweight; always felt hungry; and I was always sluggish—characteristics that, with my blood work numbers, confirmed PCOS."
How I Manage PCOS Symptoms:
"Between diet and exercise, I've been able to control my PCOS. I've kept off the 25 pounds that I lost two years ago and have started losing weight again. How have I made it work? I became a vegetarian and I try to cut out white breads/starches and replace them with fruits and vegetables. Eating whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and meatless protein has been a huge part of helping me lose weight and keep it off, along with clearing up my acne (a side effect of PCOS) and lowering my cholesterol (it dropped 20 points in three months). I focus on doing my best to stay on track and eat the right things. Plus, I notice that my energy level stays consistent all day with this kind of diet. I'm awake, alert and focused versus the multiple crashes I used to have during any given day. I also sleep much better than before."

[header = PCOS Solution: "I started teaching fitness classes!"]
PCOS Solution: "I started teaching fitness classes!" 
Treatment of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: How Real Women Deal with PCOS Symptoms-5

—Jennifer Wasilisin, 28, ad agency account supervisor, Philadelphia
How I Used to Feel: "I didn't get my period for five months after I stopped taking birth control pills, so my doctor did some blood work. I couldn't believe I had PCOS—I consider myself fairly healthy."
How I Manage PCOS Symptoms: 
"I've always worked out, but now that I've been diagnosed with PCOS, I know just how important exercise is for controlling the side effects of the syndrome. I work out six days a week and teach spinning and Body Pump five times a week. Teaching classes and working out makes me feel so much better about myself and my body, especially since polycystic ovarian syndrome can have so many negative effects—it can lead to diabetes and heart disease. I know that by working out I can help control some of the PCOS symptoms. I've maintained a healthy weight and I feel great!"
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