I’ve felt really inspired by reading Rae’s series on her experience with endometriosis. She writes with a lot of honesty and bravery about something that is so painful (literally!). I was especially inspired by the lessons she learned and the things that helped her cope. So I’m going to do a second installation on my journey with PCOS.
What’s Helped Me
Over the years of dealing with PCOS, some things have been more helpful than others. Here are some of those things:
1. Metphormin ER (Extended Release). Though Metphormin has been on the market for many years, to treat both diabetes (type II) and PCOS, the extended release version of it has been a lifesaver for me. I took Metphormin two other times, for about a year starting in 1999, and then for another year around 2003. Both times I had to stop taking it because of extreme digestive side effects, which made my life very difficult. Also, since I was taking HBC (hormonal birth control) as a band-said to the problem during both of those times, I was falsely lulled into thinking I didn’t need medication. After all, I was getting my fake period every month.
Then along came Metphormin ER, which I stated taking in fall of 2008. It is a dose which is…released over time when taken during the day. Not only does it make it more effective, it also makes the digestive side effects null. At least for me. This is wonderful! Metphormin is my friend.
2. Exercising. Let me preface. I hate exercising. I have never played sports; I was the kid who sat and read during recess. Yeah, I had a lot of friends in elementary school.
BUT, that said, exercise is a PCOS girls best friend. There have been times in the last few years (before Metphormin ER, but after going off HBC) that just exercising a few times a week would induce a period when I hadn’t had one for a few months.
Not to mention that exercise is good for your heart, boosts your mood, and keeps your libido going. Of course I know all these things, but I still hem, haw, and drag my feet when it comes to exercising regularly. Especially in the winter. The best I can seem to do in the winter is 2-3 times per week. In the summer, I am usually active every day.
I have tried a lot of different kinds of exercise, but I think that walking and yoga have been the most beneficial for me. I don’t run. I have tried several times to get into running, and I just don’t think I can do it. I’m never going to be one of these bunnies out running for 45 minutes at a time (no offense to any bunnies reading this, I’m mostly intimidated by your greatness), and I’d rather walk briskly for an hour than huff and puff and get stitches from running for 10. That’s just me.
Now Atticus, he unwinds with a nice 5 mile jog. Huh? I unwind with chocolate and a nap.
But walking, walking is for everyone. If you have legs, you can walk. I love to take a walk basically any time of year except winter.
Yoga is nice to do at home for stretching and flexibility. Of course I don’t go in for any of the meditation aspects of it, but I do enjoy the deep breathing at the beginning and end. I have also noticed that weeks when I do yoga 1-2 times, I feel less stressed. I know some Christians have issues with yoga, but I am not one of them.3. The New Glucose Revolution Guide to Living Well With PCOS by Dr. Jennie Brand-Miller and Dr. Nadir Farid. This book is a really great resource for women living with PCOS. It is written by two doctors who have worked with PCOS and Glycemic Index, respectively. The book explains what PCOS is, how it works (or doesn’t!), and it also explains what the glycemic index is, how it works for PCOS, and how to implement it. I am really enjoying this approach to eating.
4. Nutrition, Fertility, and Cycles by Marilynn Shannon. This is another great book. It’s widely touted among NFPer’s because it gives a wealth of resources for natural therapies for a wide range of fertility/reproductive problems. I first read this when learning the sympto-thermal method of NFP. I have referred back to it many times, and have discovered some great supplements via this book.
Speaking of which…
5. Fertility Blend Supplements. These are supplements that claim to help promote hormone balance and promote normal cycle function. I’d believe it. They contain vitamins e, b6, b12, folic acid, iron, magnesium, zinc, selenium and a blend of green tea, vitex (chasteberry), and l-arginine. Green tea is of course high in antioxidants, which are great. Vitex is a Chinese herb that is known to promote hormone balance and regular cycles. L-arginine is an amino acid which helps with healthy uterine lining. I have been really happy with these supplements, which I’ve been taking for about two months.
6. Chromium. Chromium increases insulin sensitivity. In the three months or so that I have been taking it daily, I have noticed that my blood sugars are lower, and I am needed to take less supplemental insulin overall. I’m very happy with it.
I have to mention here that it’s pretty funny that I learned about both fertility blend and chromium not from a doctor of any kind, but from Marilynn Shannon’s book that came in my NFP class. *shakes head*
7. Being in a healthy, loving relationship. Of course this is 7th on the list, but is of very high importance. Especially for women with PCOS. If a woman has all (or even several) of the more physically impairing symptoms of PCOS, it can be very hard to feel beautiful or womanly. Despite not having any of those symptoms in any kind of severe way, I know how it feels to wonder if I am “really a woman” because of this disease. There have been times in the last ten years when I have felt really low about myself because of PCOS. But being in a relationship with someone who loves me for who I am not what I look like (though he would say he loves how I look, of course!) has given me a lot of confidence in overcoming many of the hangups about my body that I’ve suffered with for a long time as a result of having this disease.
For those women who are reading this that have PCOS, I hope these have been helpful and may give you some new leads to go on. For those of you without PCOS, consider yourself edjumacated in case you ever need to help out a friend with PCOS who needs some new ideas.