In light of PCOS Awareness Month, we chatted with expert advocate Kym Campbell about PCOS management. Campbell is the creator of the 30 Day PCOS Diet Challenge and The Beat PCOS 10 Week Program where she seeks to help women overcome their PCOS diagnosis by applying evidence based approaches to food, exercise, and emotional wellness practices. After having struggled with health issues since her early teens, it wasn’t until she was facing infertility in her 30’s that Kym was diagnosed with PCOS. After a long journey of completely transforming her health through diet and lifestyle changes, Kym fell pregnant naturally after years of failed IVF treatments.
Premama: How and when were you diagnosed with PCOS?
KC: I had spent my entire adult life until that point unsuccessfully battling with all the typical symptoms of this disorder from irregular periods, acne, and stomach fat, to digestive and mental health issues. It wasn’t until I started seeing a fertility specialist in my early thirties that I received my PCOS diagnosis.
Premama: Did PCOS affect your ability to conceive?
KC: It did for the first four and half years of trying. Even two rounds of IVF with high-probability, genetically healthy embryos wasn’t enough to get me over the line. It was only when I went all-in on a PCOS diet that I was finally able to fall pregnant naturally and go on to have a healthy, happy pregnancy.
Premama: Knowing diet and lifestyle changes are the most effective treatments for PCOS, what is the best place to start? Please share your tips!
KC: When we talk about diet and lifestyle interventions, we’re covering a broad category of things we can do ourselves to help our situation. While it’s great that we have so many options, it can also be really overwhelming which is why it’s so important to start with the most effective things first.
From my perspective, dietary changes are by far the most important intervention in almost all cases I see as a health coach. Put simply, the foods you eat can make or break the expression of your PCOS symptoms and I think there’s limited value in trying any other treatment, natural or otherwise, unless you’re also on a trajectory toward a PCOS friendly diet.
To break this down even further, the single most effective step anyone can take for PCOS management is to reduce their consumption of sugar. There are many other positive things you can do too of course, but cutting back total sugar consumption to just 1 -2 servings of fruit per day will make more of a difference to your health than multiple other interventions combined.
Premama: What did you find most challenging about changing your lifestyle and diet to support PCOS? How did you adjust in a positive way?
KC: Ironically, quitting sugar was probably the one step I found the most difficult… I was a sugar addict all my life and even after I learned how unhelpful it was for my PCOS, I still couldn’t get my head around how I would ever live without sugar. At the time, I remembered thinking I’d never be happy again!
As it turns out, this is both a highly common experience, but also completely wrong. Our relationship to sugar is very similar to drug addiction, and the ubiquity with which it permeates our food culture makes it especially difficult for those of us wanting to beat our PCOS.
Fortunately, there’s light at the end of the tunnel for anyone that’s truly committed to having a sugar free lifestyle. Just like detoxing from any harmful substance, the “pain” of quitting sugar is a short-term phenomenon that diminishes over time once we break free from the strangle-hold.
During this process, I found it important to be exceptionally well nourished by a good PCOS diet (this eases the cravings) and to stay closely connected to reasons I was making this decision. When I was intentional about what I was doing, my desire to have a child always far out-weighed the dysfunctional relationship I’d had with sweet foods. Taking positive steps both nutritionally and psychologically is something I now try and share with the women I coach. It worked wonders for me and it’s now an amazing gift to be able to pass this know-how on to other women facing similar challenges.
Did you know...?
- 1 in 10 women are affected with PCOS.
- 70% of women with PCOS are undiagnosed.
- Symptoms range in severity, some women are even asymptomatic.
- Common symptoms of PCOS include: Excessive hair growth (hirsutism), weight fluctuations, weight gain, acne, thinning hair, irregular or missed periods, frequent menstruation & infertility to name a few.
- The exact cause of PCOS is unknown, experts think high levels of androgens and/or insulin can play a role.
The good news...
PCOS is a highly treatable condition. As mentioned in the interview above, a healthy diet and exercise routine will help manage symptoms. We created our Stage 1 Birth Control Cleanse & Stage 2 Fertility Support for Her drink mixes to help women balance their hormone levels, achieve cycle regularity and enhance overall egg quality. The driving ingredient in Fertility Support for Her, Myo-Inositol, is clinically proven to support women with PCOS in regulating their cycle to manage symptoms and achieve pregnancy. For women looking to cut back on their caffeine consumption to help alleviate symptoms, our Energy Boost Drink Mix is another effective solution, helping to provide a caffeine-free alternative for women in need of a daily pick-me-up!*
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*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.