Guest blog by Kate Kordsmeier, founder of Root + Revel, a wellness site dedicated to helping people live naturally without sacrifice.
After years of suffering from hormonal imbalances, digestion issues, and eventually being diagnosed with PCOS, Leaky Gut, Insulin Resistance and Hypothyroidism, it’s sometimes hard to believe that I found healing. Just one year after my diagnosis, I had reversed all my chronic health conditions (without taking a single prescription!), was symptom-free, and feeling the best I had in years!
You see, for years, I struggled with chronic constipation, debilitating nausea, fatigue, irregular periods, acne, PMS, unexplained weight gain and anxiety. I saw (and was dismissed by) many conventional doctors. None of them knew what was wrong with me, yet still they prescribed expensive medications with a roll call of less than desirable side effects. But ultimately, none of it worked.
What did work?
If you had asked me a few years ago what caused my healing, I would have answered, “100% by changing my diet and eating real, anti-inflammatory foods.” But now that I’ve had my digestion, hormones, and thyroid balanced and optimized for 5+ years, I realize that food is just ONE piece of the puzzle. What you eat can certainly help you feel better; there’s no arguing that.
But so can how much gentle movement you incorporate into your lifestyle, how you practice self-care, what kinds of medications and supplements you take, where your stress levels are, what kind of spirituality you may or may not have, what kinds of products you use on your skin, in your home, and what is happening in your environment. Not to mention genes. Hello!
So today, I want to share with you the things that are less talked about but that are equally (if not more) important when it comes to healing chronic health conditions, specifically PCOS. There are already a ton of recommendations out there regarding the best foods and supplements for PCOS, as well as how to detox your home and beauty products to help with PCOS symptoms.
I’ve personally found that the key to my healing was truly a mind-body-soul approach. I now believe that full healing can never happen without prioritizing stress management, self-care, and nourishing our bodies–and it’s these holistic living tips that I’m sharing with you today!
First, a quick disclaimer: While all my symptoms have been cleared for years now, here’s the thing… there is no “cure” for PCOS. I will always have it. What I can do is manage it. I can reverse the chronic conditions that accompany the hormonal disorder and essentially be in “remission” from the symptoms. I can feel “cured”, but if I don’t treat my body right, PCOS can always flare up again. So it’s something I’ll have to deal with for the rest of my life.
A Mind-Body-Soul Approach to Reversing & Healing PCOS Naturally
Heal Your Relationship with Food and Food Rules
More important than the actual food we eat is how we think and feel about food.
I know that might sound a little cuckoo at first. You’re probably wondering, “So you’re telling me that what I eat doesn’t matter? That can’t be true!” And that’s not exactly what I’m saying.
What I AM saying is that if the rules you have about food are rigid and unsustainable, this is likely causing you undue stress–which is more detrimental to your health than any food you could possibly eat. If the way you are eating is negatively affecting the other important areas of your life, such as your mental state or social interactions, then it’s most likely doing more harm than good.
I know many of us gain weight with PCOS and become desperate for anything that can help us lose those pounds. But the truth is, there is TONS of evidence that dieting just simply DOES.NOT.WORK. Period. It fails for at least 95% of people over the long-term, and the effect of yo-yo dieting and weight stigma (both internalized and externalized by others and by our culture) are actually independently shown to cause more health problems than our weight itself.
And when I talk about dieting, I’m not just talking about programs like Weight Watchers or NutriSystem. I’m also talking about “lifestyle changes”–yes, even Wellness Diets like Anti-Inflammatory, Mediterranean, Paleo, Whole30, Keto–you name it. No matter how “unrestrictive” you think it might be if you are basing your food choices around anything other than what YOUR body is telling you, it’s ultimately just a diet by another name.
When I was first diagnosed with PCOS, I had so many food rules I had been living and dying by. But the truth is, these rules were causing me so much internal stress, fear, shame and guilt about every bite I took and whether it was “real” enough or “clean” enough or “healthy” enough… eventually the stress was too much and I knew these rules weren’t working for me.
If you want to experience less stress, more stable health and true food and body freedom, then you must ditch food rules and food deprivation.
Listen to Your Body + Eat Intuitively
YOU are the expert of your own body, nobody else, no matter how many degrees or certifications they might have.
I now believe that we should first listen to what our bodies are saying, what are they asking for, what do they need, what makes us feel good, and decide what we eat based on that, rather than arbitrary rules someone else put in place.
Our bodies truly do have their own wisdom, and it’s our job to slow down and get into a receptive mode so we can hear what they have to say.
NOT what the latest fad diet is preaching, NOT what your friend swore made her lose 10 pounds, NOT even what some blogger (cough cough, that was me) promised reversed her PCOS or cured her digestion woes.
Today, I do my best daily to eat intuitively and have tossed all my food “rules” (buh bye diet culture and The Wellness Diet!). And guess what? I STILL live a symptom-free life and have been pronounced “cured” by my doctor for FIVE years now!
And when I do have flare-ups… it’s not because I ate gluten or had a real milk latte. It’s because I’m stressed.
Learning intuitive eating and working with a coach has saved me. If you’re unfamiliar, intuitive eating is an evidence-based model and self-care eating framework integrating instinct, emotion, and rational thought that ultimately teaches you how to be the expert of your body, rather than leaning on outside rules to make your eating decisions. Intuitive eating does not mean ignoring health; rather, it’s recognizing that nutrition and health are NOT a one-size-fits-all approach. You can learn more about intuitive eating here.
Prioritize Self Care
Self-care is any activity that we intentionally do to take care of our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health. Although simple in theory, most of us overlook self-care, telling ourselves that we’re way too busy and secretly resentful of the people who seem to take great care of themselves.
But the thing is, self-care is SO important to stress management, reduced anxiety and depression, improved mood, a healthier relationship with our self and with others, and even improves many physical markers like blood pressure, heart health, immunity, and more.
Here are some self care ideas to get your wheels turning: meditation, unplugging from technology, connecting with nature, spending time with a friend, going to therapy, practicing gratitude, laughing, and connecting to a spiritual practice are just a few ideas. For more, see our 50 Ways to Practice Self Care here!
In the simplest of terms, mindfulness means focusing your attention on the present moment. That’s it!
The truth is, most of us are so busy that–while we’re more connected to the world around us than ever before–we’re not present or grounded in our own being or body. We’re usually in our heads, worrying about the future, or reliving the past, or reacting to and judging what’s happening in the present.
This causes a ton of stress, anxiety, depression, and disconnection with ourselves and our loved ones.
That’s where mindfulness comes in! Mindfulness connects us back to the goodness of the present moment. It allows us to drop into our bodies by noticing our emotions and physical sensations. The more we can observe the present moment–with acceptance–the more benefits you’ll feel.
It takes practice, but soon you’ll notice that practicing mindfulness leaves you feeling more connected to life by helping you feel more settled, centered and relaxed in your body, while also being more attuned to your intuition and inner knowing. All of these factors can help heal our bodies and chronic health conditions.
If you’re struggling to heal PCOS or any chronic health condition and feeling overwhelmed trying to keep up with all the things you’re ‘supposed to’ be doing, I hope this post helps bring you peace. Know that it’s not just about the food, but that it takes a truly holistic approach to achieve true wellbeing.
Kate Kordsmeier is the founder of Root + Revel, a wellness site dedicated to helping people live naturally without sacrifice. Kate’s work has been featured in top publications including USA Today, Today.com, The Food Network, EatingWell, Clean Eating and Real Simple. Kate is also the creator of the Six-Figure Blog Academy. You can learn more about Kate and her natural healing journey here.