Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS, affects 1 in 10 women of reproductive age. It is a very common, and treatable, cause of infertility. Other distressing symptoms include weight gain, irregular periods, acne, unwanted hair growth, and scalp hair loss. Because it is a syndrome, no two women will have exactly the same symptoms. And because it is a disorder that’s rooted in metabolic dysfunction and often insulin resistance (it’s not just about the ovaries!) there are other health risks later on in life that come along with it, including a higher risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. PCOS can be extremely frustrating to deal with, but know that there is hope. Here’s what you can do right now to take back your power and kick start the healing process:

  1. Break up with sugar. The more you eat sugar (and refined carbohydrates), the more the cycle of metabolic dysfunction continues. Ditch sugar sweetened beverages such as pop, juice, and coffee drinks for good, decrease your consumption of breads, pastas, and pastries, and make dessert solely an occasional thing.
  2. Be mindful of portion sizes at meals — half of your plate should be non-starchy vegetables, one quarter should be carbohydrates (preferably from whole grains), and the other quarter should be made up of high quality protein, such as chicken or fish.
  3. Manage your stress. Stress worsens many of the symptoms of PCOS. There are many different effective stress management techniques — the most effective one is the one that you practice regularly! Some suggestions are yoga, meditation, journalling, or walking.
  4. Move your body — meaning, get some activity in daily, if possible. When it comes to formal exercise, weight training is an excellent way to improve your insulin sensitivity. Cardiovascular exercise is important as well, in moderation. High intensity interval training need not be done more than twice a week.
  5. Ask your healthcare provider to assess your thyroid — women with PCOS are three times more likely to have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, a type of hypothyroidism. In addition, make sure to get your vitamin D levels checked as women with PCOS are prone to vitamin D deficiency.

Originally published at medium.com