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Hi, I’m Alyssa! AKA, The PCOS Nutritionist Alyssa!

I’m a Registered Dietitian dedicated to helping you eliminate your PCOS symptoms with sustainable and realistic nutrition changes.

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PCOS Self-Care: 10 Natural Ways To Manage Your Health

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder that affects up to 20% of women of reproductive age worldwide. It’s linked to some pretty lousy symptoms such as weight gain, acne, irregular periods, hair loss, fertility issues, and hirsutism (aka excessive hair growth like facial and body hair). 

As a PCOS dietitian, I want to share some PCOS self-care practices that can make a positive impact on your symptoms and quality of life. 

This blog post will discuss why self-care is important, and certain diet and lifestyle modifications you can do at home to improve your PCOS symptoms. 

self care notebook open with a candle burning and a cup of tea.

Why Is PCOS Self-Care Important?

While the exact cause of PCOS remains unknown, it’s known to be linked with insulin resistance, chronic inflammation, and high androgen levels (aka male hormones like high testosterone levels). Without proper management, PCOS puts you at a higher risk of developing other chronic conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and metabolic syndrome.

In westernized medicine, healthcare professionals often prescribe medications, such as Metformin and birth control pills, as the medical treatment plan for PCOS. Self care practices aren’t talked about as much even though they can play an important role in decreasing your symptoms and your risk of developing serious health conditions.

Because let’s be real…nobody really likes their PCOS symptoms…or wants to go through life planning to develop other medical conditions. So now that you know why self-care is important, let’s discuss what that actually looks like!

What Are PCOS Self-Care Practices?

Self-care practices can be a variety of different habits or actions that you take on a routine basis to improve your physical and mental health. Which self-care practices you choose to adopt, or have the mental capacity to adopt, may be different from someone else…and that’s OK! We all need to establish our own version of what health looks like for ourselves.

Let’s dive into some healthy diet changes that can improve your overall well being and PCOS symptoms. 

PCOS Dietary Changes

As a dietitian, I love starting off with PCOS diet changes because they can have such an impact on how you feel on a daily basis. 

Eat Enough Food

Weight gain is a common symptom of PCOS, and weight loss or weight management is a frequent discussion that healthcare professionals often bring up. Inadvertently, I often see people significantly under-eating since they’ve been told to lose weight for years or sometimes for their entire lives.

Not eating enough can stress your body out. It can also cause your body to put “extras” on the backburner, such as hair growth or reproduction, in favor of vital functions like breathing. Although it’s a common PCOS symptom, irregular menstrual cycles can sometimes be the result of not eating enough too. 

Eating enough usually means that you’re eating at least 3 meals per day. Some people will also benefit from having 1 or 2 snacks daily. 

Increase Your Fiber Intake

You may have heard that carbohydrates aren’t great for PCOS because they increase your blood sugar levels. While it’s true that carbs do increase blood sugar levels, it’s only part of the story. 

There are several different types of carbs and they have different effects on your blood sugar levels. Fiber is a type of carb that gets slowly digested and causes your blood sugar to rise much more slowly. 

Some good sources of fiber include:

Including foods that have fiber at all meals will help to keep you feeling full for longer periods of time to help keep cravings at bay. Over time, a higher fiber diet can improve insulin sensitivity (1). 

healthy meal with grains and veggies with a fork next to the plate.

Get Protein At All Meals

Protein is an important macronutrient for several reasons. It plays a big role in blood sugar balance and can keep you feeling full because it can decrease your hunger hormone, ghrelin (2).

Many people tend to skimp on protein at their breakfast and lunch meals, while consuming large amounts of protein at dinnertime. Protein is an important nutrient to include at all meals, including breakfast and lunch. 

Some good sources of protein include:

  • Lean meat (poultry, lean red meat)
  • Seafood (fish, shellfish, etc)
  • Dairy (Greek yogurt, cottage cheese)
  • Eggs
  • Soy (tofu, tempeh, edamame)
  • Beans, chickpeas, lentils
  • Nuts, seeds (including nut butters & seed butters)

While I always recommend using whole foods to meet your protein needs, sometimes protein supplements may be helpful. Read more about the best protein powders for PCOS here. 

Choose Healthy Fats

Fat is a vital component of a balanced diet. There are several types of fat found in food, however, you should try to choose healthy fats more frequently. 

Some good sources of healthy fats include:

These types of fats will help to lower inflammation and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Add Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Since chronic inflammation is a key part of PCOS development, following an anti-inflammatory diet is one step you can take to fight inflammation (3). 

Anti-inflammatory foods contain antioxidants that neutralize free radicals and lower oxidative stress. Certain nutrients and compounds in foods have antioxidant properties that can lower inflammation. Some examples of these are vitamin C, vitamin E, omega 3 fatty acids, and zinc.

Some anti-inflammatory foods include: 

  • Berries
  • Oranges
  • Kiwis
  • Cherries
  • Bananas
  • Cauliflower
  • Avocado
  • Dark leafy greens 
  • Chia seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Hemp hearts
  • Flaxseeds
  • Walnuts
  • Cashews
  • Salmon
  • Herring
  • Black beans
  • Olive oil
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Turmeric

Click here for a full list and downloadable PDF of anti-inflammatory foods for PCOS.

Include Gut-Healthy Foods

Women with PCOS tend to have less diverse gut microbiomes, which puts them at risk for gut issues like bloating and IBS. It also increases the risk of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 

Including probiotic-rich foods, such as Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, kombucha and kimchi, can improve gut health.

Check out these two smoothie recipes for a tasty way to incorporate some probiotics into your diet:

Pink strawberry cottage cheese smoothie in a tall glass with strawberries decoratively around the glass base.

Drink PCOS Friendly Tea

Certain herbal teas have so many known health benefits that can absolutely be helpful for managing your PCOS symptoms. You can enjoy these teas either hot or cold, whichever you prefer!

  • Spearmint tea: known for its anti-androgen properties and ability to reduce hirsutism (aka unwanted and excess hair growth)
  • Green tea: has anti-inflammatory properties and may lower glucose and insulin levels
  • Matcha: has anti-inflammatory properties and may lower insulin, testosterone, stress, and anxiety levels
  • Cinnamon tea: may improve insulin sensitivity and promote more regular menstrual cycles

For a one week meal plan, check out: A Dietitian’s 7 Day PCOS Diet Plan (PDF Included).

Ok, now that we’ve talked about some diet changes that can help you care for your body, let’s dive into some lifestyle changes that may help also. 

infographic on the steps to take for pcos self-care.

Physical Activity

While exercise is often viewed as a means to lose weight, regular exercise or movement is actually key for improving your overall health long-term regardless of any weight changes.

  • Cardio or high intensity exercise: improves cardiovascular health and endurance, lowers glucose and insulin levels, burns calories and can lower body weight
  • Strength training: lowers glucose and insulin levels, lowers testosterone levels, increases metabolic rate, can lower body weight, and strengthens muscles, bones and joints
  • Low intensity exercise such as yoga and walking: lowers insulin and glucose levels, lowers testosterone levels, more regular menstruation, decreases symptoms of anxiety and stress 

There are benefits to all forms of activity and there’s not a particular type of movement that everyone needs to follow with PCOS. 

Good Sleep Hygiene 

Getting enough sleep and getting good quality sleep are instrumental in managing hormone levels. Aim to get at least 7 hours each night of uninterrupted sleep as part of your PCOS self-care regimen (4). Getting enough sleep is linked to better cognition, less fatigue, lower stress levels, and your ability to maintain a healthy weight. 

In today’s society, it can be easy to overlook sleep since it seems like there aren’t enough hours in the day. But, I assure you that getting good sleep will only benefit you in the long run. Implement a bedtime routine to help you wind down each evening. This could include drinking a cup of tea, reading a book, stretching, or a skincare routine.  

Stress Management

This is another big one when it comes to PCOS self-care. Chronic stress can wreak havoc on our bodies. For starters, it can increase cortisol levels (aka our stress hormone), which can increase insulin levels and insulin resistance…which is only going to exacerbate your symptoms of PCOS. 

How we deal with stress is very individualized but I’d encourage you to adopt some self-care practices to lower your stress levels. Walking, yoga, meditation, setting boundaries, deep breathing, or listening to music may be part of your stress management toolbox. 

Take Your Medications and Supplements

While I’m all for a holistic approach, I 100% believe there’s a big space for Western medicine and traditional medications. There’s also supplements such as inositol, berberine, NAC, vitamin D, magnesium or zinc that may help your symptoms. 

Medications and supplements can be incredibly helpful but you need to take them regularly. If you’re someone who routinely forgets to take your medications, get a pill box to help you remember. Then put that pill box in a conspicuous place that will remind you to take them everyday, such as near your toothbrush or next to your coffee maker. 

For more information on popular supplements for PCOS, check out The PCOS Supplement Guide.  

The Bottom Line

PCOS self-care is a big piece of the puzzle when it comes to managing your symptoms of PCOS. Self-care may look different to people depending on their lifestyle.

Eating a nutritious diet, getting regular exercise and adequate sleep, managing your stress levels, and taking your prescribed medications regularly are all forms of PCOS self-care that can improve your health.  

Disclaimer: this is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for or replace professional medical advice. It is not intended to treat or cure any medical conditions, including polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Always talk to your healthcare provider for individualized recommendations regarding your health. 

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