Understanding PCOS: Part 4 – Lifestyle

Understanding polycystic ovarian syndrome isn’t just about understanding the symptoms and medication options. It’s also about understanding how this condition can affect your day to day life, and the things you can do to help alleviate symptoms on your own. 

While there is no one size fits all approach, lifestyle changes, such as skin care options and nutrition recommendations, can help you manage the symptoms of your PCOS. Check out some of my favorite lifestyle recommendations below.

Still not familiar with PCOS? Be sure to check out the first three installments in my Understanding PCOS series first, starting with Part 1 here!

PCOS and Skin Care:

The majority of the women I treat with PCOS experience acne as a symptom of their condition. What contributes to acne anyway? Well, it’s never just one thing. ⁣⁣Often high androgens like testosterone and DHT are the culprit for PCOS, but they aren’t the only issue.

You also have to remember what leads to those high androgens and that is high levels of insulin. ⁣⁣

This is why it’s important to look at that first. ⁣⁣

Here’s how I typically see it work – high insulin levels due to insulin resistance and/or high glycemic foods that raise blood sugar⁣⁣ which raises androgen levels. This increases oil production in the skin, leaving you more susceptible to clogged pores and acne. High androgens can also lead to lower levels of diversity in gut bacteria⁣⁣, which can lead to inflammation and dysfunction in the gut, further exacerbating acne.

If you’ve taken the pill (most women with PCOS are prescribed this), this can lead to nutrient deficiencies that also negatively impact the skin. ⁣⁣

The good news is that there are skin care options that can be a great choice for women with PCOS. While these tips are great for anyone struggling with their skin, they’re excellent options for women struggling with polycystic ovarian syndrome and are some of my favorite to recommend to clients. 

  1. Get into a routine! A complete skincare routine involves cleansing, toning (to rebalance pH), and a moisturizer. 
  2. Try the double cleansing method. This is when you oil cleanse first (very deep clean and great for oily/acne prone skin since like dissolves like and can actually reduce oil production), then you use a cleanser to complete the process. You only do this once a day (preferably at night). I swear by this method myself. Oil cleansing changed my life when I was dealing with acne post birth control pill. ⁣
  3. Be consistent (and patient). It takes 4-6 weeks to see changes in your skin due to cell turnover rate. I gave oil cleansing 3 months and it ended up being one of the few things that helped my skin and still does to this day.
  4. You can use all of the fancy skincare products you want, but if you’re eating foods that your skin doesn’t like or that are causing more insulin resistance, know that this can exacerbate acne. ⁣You can also try eliminating dairy, but I recommend focusing balancing your meals with protein and getting enough healthy fats. ⁣
  5. Face masks are more of a bonus item, but I have found them to be really helpful for my skin. Manuka honey is my go to since it is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and good for all skin types, but especially acne. Use 1-2 masks a week and grab extra for spot treatment. Activated charcoal masks are also especially helpful for oily/acne prone skin since they help clean out the pores and absorb excess oil. Be sure to use 1-2 times a week for only 10 minutes. ⁣

PCOS and Supplements

One of the biggest struggles I see women with PCOS deal with is high androgens and the laundry list of symptoms they lead to (acne, hair growth, hair loss, irregular cycles, infertility, etc.). ⁣⁣I get a lot of questions on what supplements are best for reducing androgens, but the first line of defense when it comes to androgens should be your nutrition. ⁣⁣

You always want to think about what is driving the increase in androgens and for those with PCOS, it’s insulin resistance. ⁣⁣You can also have elevated androgens after coming off the pill, to which this can also apply. ⁣⁣

There are some supplements I especially like for high androgens. Remember to always talk with your doctor before taking a new supplement, especially if you are on medication. You want to make sure there aren’t any contraindications for you, as everyone is different. ⁣⁣

Top Supplements To Reduce Androgens:⁣⁣

NAC: NAC is an antioxidant and amino acid that is shown to reduce androgens in PCOS. Research shows 1.6-3g/day has been beneficial. ⁣⁣

Inositol: The most studied supplement for PCOS, inositol improves insulin resistance and also lowers androgens. It can also improve the function of the ovaries. 1.2-4g/day is shown to be effective. Start small with this one and work with a practitioner. ⁣⁣

Saw Palmetto: The berries of the saw palmetto palm contain plant sterols, fatty acids, and anti-inflammatory compounds that inhibit the conversion of androgens. 160-320mg/day has been shown to be effective. ⁣⁣

Spearmint: There needs to be more research on this one, but research has shown that there is potential to inhibit testosterone and restore follicular development in those with PCOS. The study used 150-300mg spearmint oil. ⁣⁣

PCOS and Insulin Management

Managing your insulin is important when you’re diagnosed with PCOS. Like we’ve discussed before, insulin resistance is a major factor in PCOS, and can lead to increased androgens and additional symptoms. 

Managing your insulin can be, though, can be done in part through your lifestyle choices. Things like incorporating weight lifting to your daily exercise routine, balancing your meals with protein, starch, fiber, and fats, and getting 8 hours of sleep can be truly beneficial to managing your insulin resistance. Reducing stress, increasing your overall fiber intake, and reducing your sugar intake can also help to manage your insulin resistance.

Polycystic ovarian syndrome is not a one-size fits all disease. It is an often changing condition, and finding what works for you when it comes to nutrition, lifestyle, and supplementation is a truly important part of managing your disease. 

The first step in figuring out how to control your symptoms is understanding the root cause of your condition, and functional lab tests can help you do just that. My Functional Lab Testing packages do just that! This comprehensive dried urine at home hormone test measures all sex hormones, stress hormones and cortisol pattern, B vitamins, and more. Order yours on my website at https://www.hormonehealingrd.com/functional-lab-testing and get not only your test but also a video results review from me!

Amanda Montalvo

Amanda Montalvo is a women's health dietitian who helps women find the root cause of hormone imbalances and regain healthy menstrual cycles.

Master Your Minerals

Created by
Hormone Healing RD

what are you waiting for?

Your Health.