PCOS Self-Care: 6 Proven Steps to Fix Your Worst Symptoms 

Learn the most effective PCOS self-care strategies for better health and well-being.

Taking care of yourself when you have PCOS can be overwhelming.

Polycystic ovary syndrome causes multiple complications. Think weight gain, sleep problems, mental health struggles, and more. And it’s this complexity that makes it tough for us to manage our PCOS. 

The good news: there are a number of proven self-care strategies available to you. We’re talking about expert-approved suggestions to help you manage your symptoms and boost your overall well-being. These include lifestyle changes such as eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly, as well as supplements and other natural remedies.

I’ve tried these steps, and I can tell they work.  Below, I’ll get into the exact self-care actions I took when I started to prioritise PCOS self-care.

 How do I take care of myself with PCOS?


Because PCOS is such a complex condition, you may need to focus on a couple of different areas to improve your symptoms. 


Thanks to years of research, we know there are a few fundamentals. These are things you can do to make a quick, massive impact on how you’re feeling.


Diet has been shown to be particularly important, especially cutting out processed and sugary foods. Along with what you eat, regular exercise is crucial to manage weight, improve insulin sensitivity, and reduce symptoms. Managing stress through relaxation techniques and finding support from others with PCOS can also be beneficial. 


Finally, stay consistent with tests, especially for your insulin and blood sugar levels. Picking up potential problems early can lower your risk of developing a serious illness. 


Ultimately, self-care with PCOS involves listening to your body, making healthy choices, and seeking professional help when you need it. 

6 PCOS self-care scientifically proven steps


I was diagnosed with PCOS at age 24, but it took me more than a decade to fully understand my PCOS and manage it effectively. 


Ahead, I walk through exactly what I did on my journey.


1. Educate yourself about PCOS


Educating yourself about PCOS means understanding the disease in general, and your type of PCOS in particular. Honestly, I think this is one of the best self-care steps you’ll ever take.

Remember if you feel like you don't know enough about PCOS, you’re not alone. According to research:


“Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a chronic disease with a wide range of complications. Due to the complexity of this syndrome, patients often suffer from limited knowledge.” 


Once you begin to firm up your knowledge of PCOS, you'll be able to make more informed choices about your health. Let’s say you do a deep dive on the link between diet and PCOS. You might come away with a new commitment to cutting out fast food or sugary drinks. 


Building your own understanding matters because the reality is not all health professionals understand PCOS. According to the BMC Health 2022 journal, gaps in knowledge may contribute to delayed diagnosis and flawed treatment plans.  It’s why so many of us struggle to get the right care. Upgrading your knowledge of PCOS makes you less reliant on outdated or irrelevant information.


To educate yourself on PCOS, understand all the symptoms of PCOS. Don’t expect this to happen overnight - up to this day, I’m still connecting my own symptoms to PCOS. For example, I had no idea that my acne was a direct result of my untreated PCOS. There’s a ton of information for free online. It’s worth investing in books, too. I found the PCOS Plan and 8 Steps to Reverse Your PCOS especially helpful.


Try to dedicate a slot to regular PCOS education. Perhaps that looks like 10 minutes of reading each day or watching a YouTube video every other day. These increments add up quickly. Soon you’ll be discussing your symptoms with confidence during consultations.  


2. Make consistent improvements to your diet


What you eat can make a significant difference in the severity of your PCOS.


I wish I’d known this years ago. My PCOS was at its worst when my diet was high in sugary drinks and processed foods. Eating this way drives up insulin resistance, the underlying cause of tons of PCOS symptoms, including weight gain and irregular periods. In other words, the wrong foods throw your hormones out of balance. What’s more, some diets worsen inflammation. That’s a big problem for those of us living with PCOS. Research shows PCOS is associated with chronic low-grade inflammation.


Conversely, a PCOS-friendly diet regulates hormone levels, controls insulin resistance, and relieves inflammation. For instance, a review of the literature published in 2023 Current Nutrition Reports shows the Mediterranean diet is linked with lowering inflammation. 

In the PCOS Diet for the Newly Diagnosed, nutritionist and personal trainer Tara Spencer shares the following recommendations for a PCOS diet:


  • Avoid processed and refined carbs. This includes potatoes and rice. These foods will release more insulin.
  • Eat more low-glycemic carbohydrates. Low GI foods won’t spike your blood sugar very much. Foods to enjoy include low-starchy vegetables, quinoa, and legumes.
  • Eliminate added sugars. Added sugars can worsen insulin resistance.
  • Choose organic sources of protein. These are more likely to be free of hormones and antibiotics, which can interfere with hormonal balance.


A good rule of thumb is to go for whole foods without any preservatives. This type of eating pattern may be very different from how you’re eating now. And in that case, it’s OK to make smaller changes.


Developing better eating habits takes time. I know. I’ve made a massive overhaul to my diet in the past but these drastic changes never last. Not for me, anyway, and I’m far from alone. In a survey of 493 women with PCOS, most made dietary changes to better their health but few managed to achieve their personal health goals.

What worked for me was to slowly add more fruits and vegetables to my diet. Another change was to replace processed foods with natural ones. Of course, this was a challenge at first, but I got the hang of it…eventually.


Here’s a couple of key changes I made to my eating habits:


  • Got rid of sugary drinks: I ditched my beloved Coke and stocked my fridge with water.
  • Stopped eating bread: Honestly, this seemed impossible but I got used to it. During my pregnancy I missed bread, so I had some wholegrain bread.
  • Made salad my side of choice: Instead of french fries, I choose salad as a side when eating out.
  • Detoxed my sweet cupboard: Getting rid of sweets and chocolates meant I was less likely to overload on sugar. Fruit or a smoothie helped indulge a sweet craving. In sum, remove temptation.

Making better food choices and taking care of my body has made a huge difference in my life and I'm so glad I took the time to do it.


3. Create an exercise slot


When it comes to PCOS self-care, regular exercise helps with weight loss, stress reduction, and mental health.

Research backs this up. A systematic review published in the 2020 Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology suggests that exercise may lower androgen levels and improve insulin resistance. Additional research shared in the 2020 Physical Exercise for Human Health adds that exercise increases fertility and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition, exercise has been shown to improve mental health among PCOS patients. Authors recommend 150 minutes of exercise per week.

Consider the following exercise recommendations:


  • Start small: If you're new to exercise. start with small steps and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts. When I got started with building an exercise habit, I committed to short 10-minute sessions. Over time I was regularly doing 45-minute classes online.
  • Find activities you enjoy: Choose exercises that you genuinely enjoy to make it easier to stick with a regular routine. For example, I found listening to a podcast or audiobook while I walked was something I actually looked forward to.
  • Stay consistent: Make exercise a priority by scheduling it into your daily or weekly routine. Again, consistency is easier when you start small. For example, doing five squats is far less daunting than an elaborate hour-long workout.

Now I know recommendations exist for how much exercise you need to do. But I haven’t always found these realistic. I’ve had more success sticking with any type of exercise when it’s manageable. Case in point: I have no resistance to doing a 5-minute yoga class and that adds up over time. In sum, do what you’re comfortable with and can maintain in the long-term. 

4. Go for regular therapy sessions


Consulting with a mental health professional may help you deal with life’s stressors and other emotional issues. 

The problem is PCOS and mental health disorders are deeply linked.

A meta-analysis and systematic review showed women with PCOS are more likely to experience depression and anxiety than those without. And stress can worsen PCOS symptoms and lower quality of life, per the Journal of Gynecology Obstetrics and Human Reproduction.

That’s all to say, it’s a vicious cycle. 

Working with a therapist can help you overcome mental health challenges. I started seeing a psychologist during the pandemic and it was life-changing. Beyond finding tools to deal with day-to-day stress, I began to identify the root of some of my more destructive behaviours.


Therapy sessions can involve various techniques, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness-based therapies, or support groups. You might need to try a few approaches until you find one that works for you. 

Importantly,  find a therapist you trust and feel comfortable with. You’ll know you’ve found the right person when you’re able to fully open up about what’s bothering you.

Be patient with yourself. You won't feel better overnight, but with the right help and support you’ll develop healthier patterns of thinking and behavior. 

5. Gradually swop out prescription medicine for natural alternatives


Research is clear on this one: lifestyle changes should be the first line of PCOS treatment. Plus, natural remedies for hormonal imbalance have been around for ages.


Too often, health professionals jump to prescription medicine to fix PCOS symptoms. The problem is these medications fail to address the root cause of the problem. Not only that, but they come with tons of side effects.

Usually, as soon as you stop the treatment, the issues recur. I spent years on birth control to treat my hormonal acne and irregular periods. The result? I was always anxious and moody. Even worse, my bad skin and irregular menstrual cycle came back as soon as I stopped the pills. 


But once I changed my diet and started taking PCOS supplements, my skin cleared up almost overnight. My periods were regular for the first time in my life.

Here are some natural alternatives for PCOS:


  1. Hormone balance supplements: Magnesium, ashwagandha, saw palmetto, cinnamon, and spearmint tea, have been shown to balance hormones.
  2. PCOS teas: Several teas have been studied for their beneficial effects on PCOS symptoms. Green tea and spearmint tea are particularly effective at bringing your hormones into balance.
  3. Lifestyle changes: Adopting a balanced diet, engaging in regular exercise, and managing stress levels, all go a long way to reducing PCOS symptoms.

While natural remedies and lifestyle change are widely researched, speak through your options with a healthcare professional. 

6. Schedule regular medical checkups


Evidence suggests a link between PCOS and serious diseases like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, reports the 2021 Diabetes journal.


This is why regular medical checkups are vital for monitoring PCOS.


During these checkups, your healthcare provider can perform screenings to monitor your overall health. These may include tests to assess hormone levels, cholesterol levels, glucose tolerance, and other markers of PCOS-related health risks.

Give these PCOS self-care strategies to reverse your symptoms 


Finding the perfect PCOS self-care routine for you might take some experimentation.

For me, making incremental changes to my diet was a sustainable way to relieve my worst symptoms. I also made sure to get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and drink plenty of water. All of these things helped me to stay healthy and to feel better overall. 

Reach out to your healthcare provider to find the best treatment plan for you. Remember: good professionals will base their recommendations on blood tests.

Don't forget to be kind to yourself. Change is tough, but with dedication and commitment, you’ll make progress. 

Image credit: Photo by Ron Lach