At the age of 11, I was put on the contraceptive pill because of acne. I hadn’t even started my menstrual cycle, but apparently I was producing too much testosterone, which justified giving a child the pill.
When you’re that young, you don’t really question things – especially not doctors. You just want to be acne free. But the acne never went away; instead weight gain and life-disrupting mood swings also became part of my daily life.
Throughout my teens, doctors passed me from pill to pill and I ended up suffering deep depression from the frustration of not being understood and of not knowing what was happening to my body. The medical professionals I saw seemed only interested in treating my symptoms instead of the cause. Some event went so far as to tell me it was all in my head. This, of course, just led to deeper feelings of helplessness.
Throughout my teens, doctors passed me from pill to pill and I ended up suffering deep depression from the frustration of not being understood and of not knowing what was happening to my body.
Desperate to find a way to manage my weight, I tried different diets and exercise plans, some of which did help with my symptoms, but that was usually very short lived. I was now 21 years old, finishing my degree in fashion design, and still suffering fluctuating weight, acne, and depression. At that point, I’d had enough; I decided to quit the pill and let my body do its own thing.
Naturally, after so long on the pill, my periods were irregular, and the acne and the mood swings were improved but not resolved. I would notice small changes when I avoided dairy and sugar, but as soon as I touched these foods again, I would relapse. Even when I did manage to avoid the foods that aggravated me, out of nowhere I would seem to gain weight again or have a bad breakout. I was in a downward spiral of feeling like I had no control over my body.
I knew I would never be happy until I got to the bottom of this, so I left the world of fashion and entered that of sports and nutrition. I also started to spend on private healthcare, but it wasn’t until two years later that I finally got diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) by a Harley Street professor. He showed me a scan of my ovaries, covered in cysts, and then confirmed his diagnosis with blood tests a few days later. I actually felt relieved; I finally knew what was wrong with my body and why I had suffered for so long. It wasn’t all in my head as doctors tried to have me believe. Sitting there in the doctor’s room, I actually cried out of relief and happiness that maybe now my life could start.
Unfortunately, although he was able to diagnose me, the professor was very old-fashioned in his treatment methods and prescribed me testosterone tablets and estrogen cream. I was so eager to fix this once and for all that, although I didn’t feel right taking these hormones, I reluctantly decided to give his method a go.
After just one month, I had gained three kilos of weight, especially in my thighs, my acne was still bad, and my moods were even worse. I was so angry and frustrated. That’s when I decided to take matters into my own hands; I was going to fix this myself. Doctors had literally delayed my happiness for so long. I no longer believed PCOS wasn’t curable and that you could only treat its symptoms. If cancer could be cured, then so could anything else. I wasn’t born with it, and therefore I believed I could get rid of it. I just needed to work out how I had developed it.
I no longer believed PCOS wasn’t curable and that you could only treat its symptoms.
After much research, I began to understand the link between PCOS and insulin resistance. Although I knew a lot about a healthy diet, struggling with my weight for so long had forced me into a cycle of under-eating and yo-yo dieting. There were even days when I would survive on just coffee and a few biscuits to try to keep my weight down. Armed with my diagnosis, my research, and whatever knowledge I had acquired through studying sports and nutrition, I decided to change my diet completely.
I found that one of the causes of insulin resistance, other than a diet high in sugar, is chronic inflammation in the body as a result of food intolerances. When your body cannot break down a certain food substance, for whatever reason, it will have an immune response to it, as if a foreign body had entered the blood stream. Think of a bee sting and the swelling that occurs around the spot where you’ve been stung, then imagine day after day a similar reaction inside the body on a much lower scale. You start to suffer from chronic low-grade inflammation, which eventually wreaks havoc om your body’s normal functions and, over time, insulin resistance can become an issue.
A food-intolerance test confirmed that I was reacting to eggs, cashew, yeast, and dairy. I eliminated these foods strictly but did not starve myself from calories. I also went on a low-carb diet. Insulin resistance, in basic terms, means that your cells become unresponsive to storing glucose from carbohydrates as energy and, as a result, blood sugar builds up more easily in your blood, turning into fat. I was hoping that a reduction in carbs would prove to be the solution.
I also included a high dose of fish oil in my diet to help my body fight inflammation. If you’re reading this and thinking of trying a similar protocol to get cure your PCOS naturally, keep in mind that the quality of the oil is extremely important to avoid rancid oils and heavy metals.
Lastly, I looked at my gut health. With so many food intolerances over the years, I was suffering from leaky gut. I knew dairy and gluten were definitely partly responsible for that, so I removed them from my diet and included certain supplements to help heal my gut integrity in the hopes that this would improve my tolerances to certain foods in the future.
I focused on all these things but still allowed myself “cheats” on the condition that they fit in with my diet “rules”. I was determined to be in control of a body that had controlled me and my happiness for too long. Within three months of adhering to this way of eating, I had lost about three kilos and my periods had become regular. My skin also calmed down and I felt great. So I carried on; I didn’t even think to go and get a test to see if I had fixed the problem. I just knew it was working and I had to stick with it.
If you take away one thing from my story today, it should be that your health is in your own hands.
Approximately one year later, I was experiencing some sharp pain in my right lower-abdominal area and was sent by a doctor for a scan. I will always remember the nurse’s confused face as she looked between the scan and her notes before saying, “It says on your notes that you have PCOS, but I can’t see any cysts on your ovaries.”
I asked her if I could take a look at the scan and, sure enough, my ovaries were cyst free. I couldn’t believe it. Although I knew that my body had changed because I felt it – I was more in control of my weight and mood, my skin was better, and my periods were regular – I never really imaged I would ever be completely cyst free. Just to be sure, I got a blood test done to confirm that my hormones were in optimal range – and they were.
If you take away one thing from my story today, it should be that your health is in your own hands. There is a world of information at our fingertips, but the downside of that is that sometimes the sheer volume can be overwhelming and hard to understand or apply. I now dedicate my life to helping my clients achieve optimal health so that they don’t need to go through 15 years of trial, error, and misery too. Being in control of your health and body is the most rewarding feeling in the world.
Disclaimer: You must not rely on the information on this website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider. If you have any specific questions about any medical matter, you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.
Jenna Lincoln is a Dubai-based nutritionist and the founder of Body Inc.