If you’ve been diagnosed with PCOS one of the best things you can do to manage your condition is to adjust your diet by following a structured PCOS diet plan.
Even though PCOS falls into the category of conditions which are incurable and have a genetic predisposition, the good news is you can influence which genes switch on and off by controlling your body’s environment.
You do this by adjusting your lifestyle and following a PCOS diet plan. Often times women with PCOS report feeling helpless about their condition because of it’s ‘incurable’ tag. Knowing that you can influence your condition and manage it yourself is empowering and shifts the tag from ‘incurable’ to ‘manageable and under control’.
In this article we’ll focus on your diet.
The two villains in the PCOS picture are excess androgens (male hormones) and abnormal insulin metabolism.
Women with PCOS can’t process sugar and refined carbohydrates as efficiently as women without PCOS. This leads to altered insulin metabolism and potentially to insulin resistance which further predisposes you to an ovulation. So the key here is to minimize your sugar intake and avoid all refined carbs. And shortly we’ll look at why this is not as straight forward as it sounds.
Androgens (male hormones – esp. testosterone and DHEA) play an important role in sabotaging ovulation. How do they do this? Ovaries produce estrogen, progesterone and some testosterone. In women with PCOS ovaries produce more testosterone than in women without PCOS. This testosterone excess causes the ovaries surface to harden making it more difficult for a follicle to burst – to ovulate. In addition testosterone can be converted into estrogen by your fat cells making you prone to gaining weight. So it’s a vicious cycle.
The key here is to minimize exposure to hormones in your PCOS diet plan. Animal products are high in saturated fat where hormones are stored. This especially applies to non organically grown food. In addition non organically grown fruit and vegetables are sprayed with pesticides and herbicides – xenoestrogens which behave like estrogen in the body.
Let take a look at how you can manage your PCOS diet plan by incorporating these two principles into your diet
Avoid refined carbohydrates (anything made with white flour, white sugar and white rice).
Avoid processed foods. Refined carbs are often hidden in products where you wouldn’t expect them, such as processed savory dishes – instant soups, sauces, and salad dressings.
Avoid high GI foods. Some fruits have a very high GI (glycemic index) and cause your blood sugar to skyrocket. For example, watermelon has a very high GI while an apple has a low GI. Favor low to middle GI foods.
Eat vegetables rich in fiber. Fiber mops up hormones from your digestive tract before they get a chance to absorb. Apples, broccoli, legumes, nuts and seeds, brussels sprouts, carrots, celery are good examples of fiber-rich foods.
Eat foods rich in calcium. Calcium plays an important role in egg maturation and ovulation–the two factors you want to address in your PCOS diet plan. However, milk and dairy are not the best sources of calcium. Sesame seeds are a great source of calcium. You can buy them as tahini paste which you can add to your smoothies or on wholemeal toast.
Eat only whole grain, complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, quinoa, wholemeal pasta, millet and legumes. They are rich in fiber and they won’t spike your blood sugar or send your insulin metabolism into chaos.
Avoid cow’s dairy. Dairy is rich in saturated fat and has an androgenic effect on your body, making you prone to acne and anovulation. You can substitute with organic goat’s milk or calcium-enriched rice milk.
Eat only organic foods. Make an effort to buy only organic fruit and vegetables and animal products. Xenoestrogens would only interfere with your condition and the exposure to them should be minimized as much as possible.
Drink at least 2L of purified water a day. Water helps us burn fat and flush out toxins from our cells. Get a good water filter or drink glass bottled mineral water.
Favor protein-rich foods such as nuts, seeds, legumes, fish and eggs. Ensure that 2/3 of your plate is covered with dark, leafy greens and other vegetables.
Start making these dietary changes as soon as possible to help your body in managing your condition effectively.
What are your thoughts? Are you following a PCOS diet plan already? What are some of the foods you would find difficult to give up?
Iva Keene is co-founder and director of Natural-Fertility-Prescription.com. She has been a qualified, accredited Naturopathic Physician for over 13 years, holds a Bachelor's degree in Health Science and a Masters degree in Reproductive Medicine. Since founding NFP in 2008, Iva's articles, videos, guides and reports have reached over 1.3 million people. Iva has dedicated her professional life to supporting couples on their path to parenthood with scientifically grounded information, protocols and coaching around preconception care, natural infertility treatments and integrative reproductive health.