Guest post by Melissa Christie
I believe healthy habits are born from self-care. After being diagnosed with PCOS and seeing practitioners from a range of modalities, I have found that there are many self-care practices that not only feel good but can actually help to heal PCOS if practiced regularly.
Here’s the thing though. In my experience, not all self-care practices are going to stick. And that’s ok!
It’s most important to find practices that you love, and turn those into healthy habits.
Self-care really became a part of my life after I miscarried our first baby while traveling through India. I had been using Traditional Chinese Medicine to regulate my cycle and treat my PCOS, and I had been fortunate enough to conceive right away.
Losing a baby is a situation where you feel a tremendous lack of control. Because the one thing you want to change is unchangeable. You cannot have your baby back. There is absolutely nothing you can do.
So, implementing all these acts of self-care became a way for me to have a sense of control over my situation and my future.
I researched heavily and I began many new self-care practices and lifestyle changes to improve my PCOS, bring my period back and remove the retained tissue from my pregnancy.
It took time, but all of these goals were achieved and self-care was a major part of it.
Five months later we conceived again, in our first month of trying, and I am now the lucky mum of a stubborn and wonderful three-year-old boy.
And self-care has continued to be a big part of my PCOS journey.
10 PCOS Self-Care Habits To Try:
#1 Morning elixir
A healing beverage first thing in the morning is a powerful habit to get into, and you can really make this your own!
Here are some ideas for morning elixirs that can benefit your health and improve your PCOS:
- Warm lemon water – can help prepare your GI tract for digestion, reduce bloating, allow for better absorption of nutrients, boosts collagen production, reduce inflammation, and cleanses the liver.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – Warm water with apple cider vinegar can also improve gut health and has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity.
- Healing PCOS tea – some of my favourite PCOS healing teas include Cysterhood Tea, spearmint, liquorice root, and raspberry leaf.
#2 Track your cycle
As a woman with PCOS, it is important to understand your cycle in order to understand your PCOS and what treatment you may need. And if you are trying to conceive, it will allow you to understand when you are more likely to conceive. On top of this, it can help you to connect with and appreciate your incredible body. Use a cycle tracking app or a cycle tracking journal like The PCOS Journal.
#3 Go to bed by 10 pm (11 pm latest)
Sleep is one of the most powerful elements of human life, and yet many of us fail to prioritize it. Inadequate sleep can result in increased cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone, which when released too frequently, can cause some BIG problems. It can raise our blood glucose levels, increase testosterone and insulin, make it difficult for our bodies to respond to important hormones like progesterone, and can cause a massive list of symptoms like acne, hirsutism, irregular cycles, abdominal weight, low libido, fatigue, anxiety, and depression.
Inadequate sleep can also lead to and exacerbate insulin resistance, raise levels of testosterone and cause you to crave sugary foods. Another important factor to note is that the liver does a lot of detoxing work from about 10 pm. So being asleep during this time is important to allow your body to direct the necessary energy to the liver.
Some ways to improve your sleep include removing artificial light and noise from your bedroom, avoiding using your phone before going to sleep, and practicing meditation, mindfulness, or relaxation at bedtime.
#4 Add healthy fats to every meal
Healthy fats quite literally are one of the most important nutritional factors to consider for PCOS. Healthy fats are biologically ESSENTIAL and every part of your body requires them to function properly, all the way down to the cellular level. Without healthy fats, your body literally can’t make the proper amount of hormones that your body needs. So even if you’re doing everything else to balance your hormones, the absence of fat will prevent you from seeing results.
Healthy fats are needed to absorb the essential vitamins A, D, E, and K and help to maintain healthy serotonin levels, which can help to reduce anxiety and depression. Healthy fats actually even help improve your metabolism and lose weight, they help to balance hormones and can reduce cravings.
Healthy fats you can add to your diet include hemp seeds, hemp seed oil, avocado, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and nuts.
#5 Practice daily gratitude
It has been found that about 34% of women with PCOS have depression, compared to 7% of women in the general population. And around 45% of us have anxiety, compared to 18% in the general population.
Practicing gratitude has been shown to surge our levels of feel-good hormones like dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. Studies have shown that people who practice gratitude are less likely to have depression. Also, gratitude has been shown to regulate the sympathetic nervous system that activates our anxiety response. Studies also show that people who practice gratitude are able to focus more on their positive thoughts and can more easily dismiss their negative thoughts.
Some days I think about what I’m grateful for or say it out loud. But most days, I write down what I’m grateful for in my PCOS Journal. Writing things commits them to your memory better so I find that it sinks in a little more.
#6 Get a belly rub (aka fertility massage)
Despite its name, fertility massage is also suitable and beneficial for women who aren’t trying to conceive. Women with PCOS have an imbalance of hormones and often have stagnation in the pelvic area. By improving the circulation of blood around the body and stimulating the endocrine (hormonal) system, massage can improve the proper functioning of your body’s organs, balance hormones, improve immunity, decrease inflammation, and lower feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression.
Fertility massage is a powerful but gentle form of massage that can balance hormones, increase blood circulation in the pelvic area, remove stagnated blood from the reproductive organs, break down fibroids, cysts, and uterine scar tissue, stimulate ovulation, ease menstrual pain and improve egg health.
You can pay to get a fertility massage and I completely recommend it. But you can also perform fertility massage at home. It can be as simple as a belly rub that focuses on your lower abdomen and includes some nice clock-wise circular motions. You want to massage your belly enough that it starts to feel warm; this indicates that blood has circulated to the area.
#7 Get some midday sun
We get almost all our vitamin D from the sun; very little can come from our food. And it is ESSENTIAL for health and in particular, fertility. All living things require Vitamin D to function optimally and yet it has been found that up to 85% of women with PCOS have a vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to insulin resistance, difficulty ovulating, hirsutism (unwanted facial and body hair), high androgens, weight gain, and depression.
Try and get about 15 minutes of midday sun (anywhere from about 10am to 2pm) each and every day. Even up to 25 minutes if your skin can handle it. I know this isn’t possible for everyone. Some of us live in areas of the world that don’t see much sunlight year-round and some of us can’t get out of the office in the middle of the day.
If this is you, you can supplement with a good quality Vitamin D supplement. I like to use liquid Vitamin D3 as it is more easily absorbed by the body. Talk to your health care practitioner about a dose that works for you.
#8 Practice yoga
Yoga’s effect on PCOS has been studied and, when practiced regularly, it has shown an incredible ability to improve symptoms of PCOS. Specifically, results have shown it to reduce anxiety and improve menstrual frequency, testosterone levels, the LH: FSH ratio, metabolism, hirsutism, cholesterol levels, and insulin resistance.
One of the great things about yoga is that there are yoga poses that are believed to SPECIFICALLY help women with PCOS – to balance hormones, stimulate ovarian function, increase blood flow to reproductive organs, regulate your cycle, promote weight loss, reduce stress, and relieve menstrual pain.
Yoga can be very casual. You don’t need gear or a dedicated 30 minutes. You can even do it while watching TV. Just pick 2 or 3 poses (or more if you prefer) and see how they feel.
#9 Don’t eat after dinner
I used to be a habitual post-dinner snacker. I would eat chips and dark chocolate every single night. And it would be a constant battle of me telling myself to only eat 2 squares of chocolate and then finding myself half a block in.
Eating after 8pm has been found to increase insulin and blood sugar levels. And, food eaten after 8 pm is more likely to be stored as fat than to be burnt as energy. It also makes your body expend more energy digesting food whilst you sleep, rather than using that energy to repair and rejuvenate your body.
Earthing, also known as grounding, is the practice of walking on the earth’s surface without wearing shoes. This is something humans have done throughout all of history until very recently in the 20th century. Based on the studies that have been done, the benefits of earthing may be many. But for women with PCOS, the most relevant benefit is its apparent ability to reduce inflammation.
If you try to form any of these healthy self-care habits, I would love to hear about it. You can connect with me on Instagram and Facebook @pcospathways and you can get The PCOS Journal, which is full of even more ideas for healthy habits.
And remember, you’re not going to love every single healthy habit idea that comes your way. And that is ok. Find the ones you love and run with them.
Melissa Christie is an Australian mum with PCOS, a PCOS advocate, public speaker, and the founder of PCOS Pathways – an online resource dedicated to sharing knowledge with women about their PCOS treatment options.
Melissa is also the creator of The PCOS Journal – a comprehensive health diary designed to help women with PCOS manage their journey and get informed, so they are better equipped to find the right treatment for THEIR bodies.