PCOS story

I Have an Autoimmune & PCOS—Here's How I'm Balancing My Hormones

Photo Credit: https://www.pansy.co/

My PCOS journey has been long and tumultuous, likened only to that of the most intense roller coaster you would have gone on as a child. Reflecting on my life in hindsight, I see that my health challenges were indeed prevalent from a young age, but it wasn’t until my early 20s that I realized the day-to-day function of my body really wasn’t "normal" and I was not healthy.

I’d always had a protruding stomach. My breasts developed in the fourth grade. And I had undiagnosed food allergies that left me with skin rashes and eczema that the doctors couldn’t explain.

The day-to-day function of my body really wasn’t "normal" and I was not healthy.

I got my first period a few months after I turned 11-years-old, and my mom had done a pretty good job of preparing me for what to expect all around—including the pain. Right from the start, I would take four Advils every eight hours and two Tylenols every few hours in between to keep me from being bedridden with unfathomable cramping pain. Beyond that, I had all the hallmark symptoms: breast tenderness, mood swings, headaches, cravings, you get the idea. All of this for several days each month was a normal way of living for me.

Many years and cycles later, I found myself in an abusive relationship, which wreaked havoc on my mind, soul, and my body. The stress of that relationship was the straw that broke the camel’s back after more than a decade of brewing hormonal imbalances. During those two years, I had irregular periods, gained a lot of weight, was losing clumps of hair, had persistent insomnia, depression, anxiety, and a slew of gut issues.

When that relationship ended, I realized how unhealthy I was and started working with a naturopath who has been alongside me on my journey ever since.

Our early work together yielded primarily clarity on my gut health, which we were able to resolve and I started to get a sense of myself back. Shortly thereafter, I discovered the book WomanCode by Alissa Vitti, which has become a second Bible. Vitti healed her own PCOS naturally through food and lifestyle habits, and her book is ultimate guide for moving through a PCOS diagnosis. At this point, I had not been formally diagnosed with PCOS, but her experience still resonated with me as I identified with nearly all of her symptoms. I knew I needed to try her protocol.

The experience was life changing. Within three weeks, I had completely deflated, was sleeping again, had glowing skin, had newfound energy to exercise and pursue joys in life, and felt completely and energetically clear.

I travel a lot for work, and during that time I was able to maintain the Alissa Vitti lifestyle fairly well, despite the inconsistencies in my schedule and changing time zones. I wasn’t 100 percent better, but I felt like myself day-to-day, and that is what mattered the most.

Then, the pandemic hit. And my body imploded once again from stress, but this time it was 1,000 times worse. I gained all the weight back, couldn’t get out of bed, had constant migraines, terrible brain fog and fatigue—the list goes on and on.

With no formal diagnosis, I felt completely lost and confused. But I knew I had to get to the root cause. After about five months of tests and doctors appointments, I finally received a diagnosis: Chronic Lyme Disease, which caused Hashimoto’s flare-ups with my thyroid, and a cascade of hormone imbalances, resulting in PCOS.

"With no formal diagnosis, I felt completely lost and confused."

Finding balance with these health challenges has been, well, a challenge in and of itself. But ultimately, it's seeking balance that has kept me sane. It’s taken a lot of trial and error, many tears of frustration and a lot of patience, but here are some of the things I do currently that work for me:

  • I have a pretty rigorous supplement routine. I prioritize D3/K2, an omega, a good detox support, curcumin, DIM, and Perelel’s PCOS Support, which also has DIM in it.
  • I do take one pharmaceutical medication, a low dose of Naltrexone, currently to manage the inflammation and Lyme symptoms.
  • For my mental health, I find that playing the piano, taking walks on the beach, eating a satisfying meal, and doing things I love with my time keeps me in check.
  • Praying, journaling, hot yoga, weight training, and breathing have made a really significant impact in how I feel and move through the world
  • I lean on habits like dry brushing, red raspberry leaf or detox tea, drinking lots of water, prioritizing my sleep, and having healthy fats in my diet.
  • I am such a grandma—my evening wind down routine begins around 7 PM. But having that time to myself grounds me and sets me up for a successful day to follow.
  • Food is medicine, and many have come before both you and I who have healed their bodies through food and lifestyle practices.

Still, the biggest part of finding balance for me has been listening very closely to my body. I have to check-in moment to moment because my needs can shift that quickly. Developing that intuition, being patient with it, and creating the time and space necessary to heal the way I need to heal has changed my life.

"The biggest part of finding balance for me has been listening very closely to my body."

To anyone struggling with undiagnosed or persistent PCOS symptoms, I see you and you are not alone. I know how painful this journey is. In hindsight, my biggest pitfall was how impatient I was for answers and how I let that impatience put continued stress on my body. If I could go back in time and give advice to myself, or to you now, I would say that despite the years it may take to get an accurate diagnosis, or the years for a successful treatment plan, with a little trust, faith and work you can still be your own health advocate. If you have the mental space, take the time to research your symptoms, present them clearly to a health practitioner and tell that practitioner exactly what you want to be tested for. It can be empowering to understand as much as you can, gain insights on how your body functions, and be part of the conversation of your own healing. It’s all too common to be told that you are "crazy," "wrong," or "totally normal," even when you know none of that is true. Your body knows exactly what is wrong and exactly what you need. Listen. You are your own best advocate.

And finally, prioritize you. You can’t give to anyone else if you are unwell. So say "no" when you want to. Say "yes" to what brings you joy. And make the space in your life to actually heal your body. Only you know what that means for you, but take the time to discover what it is. Remember, the best is now and to come.

Do you have PCOS? Shop vitamins for PCOS for an actionable way to take care of your hormonal health + learn more about PCOS from an OB/GYN now.

Written by Marika Adamopoulos, a photographer, videographer and Creative Director living in Southern California. 

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Perelel.