What Experts Want You to Know About Your Hormones (and Ovarian Cysts)

Photo: Getty Images/Jessie Casson

What do you do when your doctor says you’ve got seven incurable cysts on your ovaries and there's only a three percent chance that you'll be able to have children naturally?

If you’re Nicole Granato, who was a 21-year-old holistic nutrition student when she found out she had polycystic ovary syndrome (commonly known as PCOS,) you fight back—hard. And then you build a brand around helping other women do the same.

It's estimated that as many as one in ten of us have PCOS, which is caused by a hormonal imbalance. But for women, like Granato, who don't necessarily want to use with hormone therapy to treat their symptoms (like weight gain, acne, depression, and missed periods, among others), there's an alternative.

She overhauled her diet and exercise routine, and experimented with supplements and self-care (more on that in a sec) in place of meds. Four months later, Granato’s symptoms disappeared; a second ultrasound revealed that all seven cysts had also vanished.

”Going through this made me realize there are so many women with this disorder who are young—like, 16—and they’re getting put on all of these drugs that make them feel worse and being told there’s nothing they can do,” she says. “That wasn’t okay with me.”

Three years after her initial prognosis, and Granato's now a certified health and wellness coach who works with women of all ages dealing with a range of problems, including infertility issues. She says her practice gets a 95 percent PCOS reversal rate, mostly within two months of starting her protocol.

So what to do if you’re among the five million women in the US with PCOS (or have undiagnosed symptoms of a hormone imbalance)? Here, Granato—shares five things she makes sure all of her clients know about getting hormones in check, no pill popping required.

1. PCOS looks different for everyone.
According to Granato, there’s no simple way to pinpoint whether a woman has PCOS—some have painful periods and weight gain, while others may be slim, yet suffer from super-oily skin and excess hair growth. Yet doctors often diagnose the disorder based on broad symptoms of hormonal imbalance alone (sometimes inaccurately). “I always tell people to get an ultrasound [to confirm you actually have ovarian cysts],” she advises. “That way, as you’re moving forward and trying to heal, you know what you’re working with.”

2. Food changes everything...
What we eat has a huge impact on our hormone levels. Granato creates detailed nutrition plans for her clients filled with healthy fats, veggies, and plant-based proteins. White flour, dairy, and refined sugar are all off-limits. But don’t worry, cheat days are allowed. “I’m not about going on restrictive diets,” she emphasizes. “This is a full lifestyle adjustment that’s balanced and gives you the leniency go out and have fun. But you have a routine, and that’s so important when dealing with this disorder.”

3. And supplements are key.
Granato also recommends several supplements for clients based on their specific health issues (think primrose oil or spirulina), and has worked with an herbalist to create a detox powder and superfood multivitamin that support reproductive health and address common mineral deficiencies (iron and magnesium are the big ones for women, she says).

4. Your uterus needs exercise, too.
When she was first diagnosed with PCOS, Granato was boxing and running to lose weight. But she didn’t start seeing real results until she shifted to gentler, "non-inflammatory exercises," like long walks, and movements that stimulate the uterus, such as yoga and Pilates. “Research says a lot of what happens in our reproductive systems [with PCOS] is a stagnation of the blood in those areas,” she says. “I really made sure that I was moving and nourishing and lubricating everything.” Boat pose, anyone?

5. Don’t stress—no really, we mean it.
Stress often goes hand-in-hand with PCOS, so Granato always gets her clients on some kind of chill-out routine, whether it’s meditation or Kundalini yoga breathwork. “Anxiety and fear will take you steps back,” she says (blame those nasty stress hormones). Even just making moves to balance your hormones can cause a decrease in angst. Which, PCOS diagnosis or not, we could all use in our lives.

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(Photo: Sebastian Artz)

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