PCOS, the problem with carbs

“Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common female endocrine disorders affecting approximately 5%-10% of women of reproductive age (12–45 years old) and is thought to be one of the leading causes of female infertility”. -Wikipedia

One of the problems with PCOS is that the body makes too much insulin. The many results one can see may include loss of hair, weight gain in some cases, erratic menstrual cycles, craving (and loading up on) carbohydrates and sugar, and in some cases, infertility.

Unfortunately one of the things most prevalent in those with PCOS is a poor diet, the Standard American Diet doesn’t take a stand for those suffering with something like PCOS. The daily carb load fills these women with unnecessary sugars and, when they find themselves hungry again sooner than later, what they reach for are more carbs. This vicious cycle sets them up with a sugar handling issue as the body breaks these carbs down into sugar.

pcos and carbs

Research shows that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins (grass-fed meats are naturally lean), healthy fats and minimally processed foods may result in fertility, the goal many women with PCOS are aiming for. Fruits that are going to be better for your body to handle (because they have the lowest glycemic index) are lemons, limes, berries and granny smith apples. If you like your bananas, include them once a day in a protein and greens based smoothie as they will be better buffered there than eaten alone.

For consuming vegetables, you’ll want to break them into two categories: the starches and non-starches. The starches are the potatoes, squash, carrots and beets. It’s best to only consume these once per day. The non-starches includes everything else: celery, greens, bell peppers, lettuce, green beans and most others. These you can eat as often as you’d like. In fact, I recommend that you consume twice as many vegetables as fruits to support the regulation of your blood sugar.

In the grains category, consuming whole non-glutinous grains coupled with a healthy fat or protein will support the body in digesting and processing these foods. Whole grains with a pat of pastured butter, a teaspoon of coconut oil or olive oil stirred in with fresh berries for a warm morning breakfast topped with ground nuts or with a bit of Braggs Amino’s, wilted greens and a side of pastured chicken for a nourishing dinner.

The effects of insulin resistance on our bodies also results in the need for nutraceuticals, nutritional support specific to the missing vitamins, minerals, herbs and foods necessary for optimal healing.

Exercise is also important to boosting metabolism, which will help to stabilize your insulin levels. Finding 20-30 minutes a day of mindful exercise, whether that’s a brisk walk, a yoga class or cycling, find a way to exercise that brings you peace and fills your heart. If you don’t find what fills your soul, you won’t stick to it.

pcos and carbs

I’ll leave you with one last tip towards breaking those carb cravings that also helps to boost your metabolism and gets your body burning fat instead of its own lean muscle mass: eat within 30-60 minutes upon rising in the morning.

Break that fast with a concentrated protein, giving your body a boost in energy and metabolism and curbing the vicious hunger craving that has you grabbing that white flour blueberry muffin from the break room at work. It might be just a handful of almonds or trail mix, a boiled egg or a protein smoothie. Set yourself up with success by having something prepared and set up to grab quickly in the morning within 30-60 minutes after you rise and before you start your day.

 Have you successfully dealt with your PCOS by reducing overall carbs/eliminating refined carbs?



PCOS and the Benefits of an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

When I was first diagnosed with PCOS I didn’t make the connection between my infertility and my diet. More than ten years after that first diagnosis I met a naturopath who helped me connect the dots between PCOS and my high-carb and high-sugar diet.

She put me on an anti-inflammatory diet – increasing my intake of vegetables, leafy greens, berries, gluten-free grains, plant-based and lean organic protein while removing processed food, sugar, gluten, dairy, soy, peanuts, and caffeine. Within five weeks I was pregnant for the first time.

natural help for PCOS

Inflammation can occur anywhere in the body or on the surface of the skin when we’re trying to fight off an invader or infection. Inflammation is typically a healthy response by the body to cure whatever is illing it. But, when inflammation becomes chronic, disease can occur.

PCOS is one of those inflammatory responses in the body caused by excess levels of insulin. The symptoms, such as hormone imbalances, excess weight, irregular or absent menstrual cycles, facial hair, acne, and mood swings, can be improved by reducing that inflammation via an Anti-Inflammatory diet.

One way to follow an anti-inflammatory diet is to eat more alkalizing foods and fewer acidic foods. Let’s get slightly technical for a minute and talk about the pH of food. Remember those pinkish strips of pH paper from science class that tasted bitter when we touched them to our tongues? Those strips used our saliva to measure our acid/alkaline balance. A pH of 7.0 is neutral, below 7.0 is acidic, and above 7.0 is alkaline.

To maintain a healthy body that is free of disease-causing and infertility-inducing inflammation, it’s important to eat a diet rich in alkaline foods such as vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains, almonds, walnuts, seeds, and healthy oils. I am also suggesting that you reduce or eliminate highly-acidic “foods” if you can. This category includes sugar, artificial sweeteners, coffee, soda, alcohol, fatty meats, dairy, processed food, trans fats and refined white flour. Click here for a more complete list of alkaline and acidic foods.

Please don’t let this list intimidate you. Remember, this is about balance – not complete and strict elimination of everything that you find delicious. If you begin to slowly reduce acidic foods, you may be surprised at how amazing you feel.

If you are a carnivore, it is important to choose hormone-free organic animal protein. Conventionally raised beef, for example, may contain traces of growth hormones which can affect the balance of our own hormones. Although animal protein is acidic, eating small portions (4 ounces) of animal protein 3-4 times per week is fine. I prefer low-mercury fish, such as wild caught salmon or tilapia, free-range eggs, and poultry. Be sure to get plenty of plant-based protein in your diet as well.

For the herbivores out there, you may be wondering about soy. I find the soy-for-fertility debate to be confusing. Some sources say that soy is beneficial for PCOS because the isoflavones can help balance hormones. But due to my personal experience removing soy from my diet while trying to conceive, I tend to be in the “just avoid it” camp. The phytoestrogens in soy act as endocrine disrupters in our body and may negatively impact fertility. Skip soy and seek out other plant-based protein sources, such as beans, nuts, seeds, and protein-rich grains, such as quinoa.

After years of feeling daily mood swings, ups and downs in my energy, and an underlying tendency toward complete and constant crabbiness, I was amazed at the sense of even keel calmness that I experienced after adopting an anti-inflammatory diet.

Not only did I feel better, but this shift improved my relationships and overall outlook regarding my journey. This elevation of my mood changed the way I saw infertility and I was able to look at our fertility struggles through a slightly more positive lens (Hey, look how much sex we’re having!).  The ultimate benefit — my ability to naturally conceive!

 

 

 



Charting Temperatures: Adrenal crashes and Hashimoto’s

Charting my mornings temperatures has really only had one meaning for me…. to find out when I’m ovulating and trying to conceive. For those of you who don’t chart, the reason you can pinpoint ovulation (0r see if you aren’t ovulating) is that your morning temperature will begin to rise after the egg is released. If you are successful at conceiving, then your temperatures should remain high, if not, they will drop to indicate when your cycle will start.

Charting your Temperatures: Adrenal crashes and Hashitmoto's

My journey with charting began a few years ago when we just weren’t getting pregnant. Within a month of charting I could see that my basal body temps were low. Being new to the charting world, I went out on a limb and decided to try progesterone cream. Low temps can indicate low progesterone. With adding the supplemental cream after I ovulated, my temps rose and I was able to conceive. (Oh, how I wish it would be that easy again!)

We are once again trying to conceive, but things are a bit different now as I have had two miscarriages, two successful pregnancies and a Hashimoto’s diagnosis. Deciding to record my temperatures was a way to help pinpoint what is happening with my cycle.

With in the first week of charting,  I could already see that my temperatures were a bit low. But this time I was not comfortable supplementing progesterone cream because the low temperatures could also be indicating that my thyroid was in a hypo (under-active) state. (With Hashimoto’s one can swing from hypo to hyper thyroid symptoms.)

I decided to just keep charting and see what would happen.

Something that I think is often under-emphasized is the need to be aware of your body. When it comes to healing your body through diet, supplements and herbs, it’s super important to pay attention to your body and what it is telling you.

My body didn’t feel like it was in a hypothyroid state for a few reasons, despite the low temps. (I am steadily loosing weight with a good diet and this does NOT happen when my body is hypo) I also had a few symptoms of being in a hyperthyroid state. (My anxiety has been on edge and my heart was racing at night.)

Neither one made sense because my symptoms didn’t match up. So now what’s?

My adrenals! The symptoms I was experiencing were my adrenals on the verge of “crashing”. That made total sense as I had a majorly stressful month and my sleep had been lacking and I was out of my adrenal supplements.

Based on my symptoms and what my body was telling me, I now I know where to go. There is a major difference in the supplements I use when I’m on the verge of having an adrenal crash or when my thyroid is hyper and taking the wrong ones at the wrong time may have made matters worse.

Charting Your Temperature: Adrenal Crashes and Hashitmoto's

I’ve been charting my temperatures for three months now and my temperatures are still consistently lower than I’d like, but I’m still not comfortable just using a progesterone cream until I get my labs tested to see how my hormones are doing.

I am very blessed to have a doctor that will listen to me and knows the importance of listening and paying attention to the body. As soon as I called and explained what I was thinking, he schedule a blood draw and appointment for after the tests are in. No need to waste time and come in first. He trusts that the body will show us what is going on.

I never would have dreamed when I restarted recording my temperatures that I’d be able to pinpoint what my thyroid, adrenals and hormones were doing.

It is worth every ounce of annoyance to wake up each day and record my temperature if it will help me stay on top of my Hashimoto’s. I have found that with paying attention and the right supplements, I can avoid crashes and extreme swings of my thyroid! How amazing is that?

Do you chart your temperatures each day? What have you learned about your body from doing so?



3 Foods that can Help or Harm Endometriosis

Real Food by MelissaI know when I first started on my journey with healing Endometriosis using natural methods, I found it incredibly confusing. There seemed to be a long list of foods that I was told were best to avoid and yet, somehow there didn’t seem to be many that were recommended that I should eat. I was often left standing in the middle of the supermarket, staring at the shelves, wondering what there was left to eat!

There is one major benefit I found with Endometriosis which perhaps seems ironic to some but for me, it allowed me to become a great Guinea Pig for women with Endometriosis. See, for me…. my pain is immediate! My Endometriosis would flare up fairly instantly when I ate something that didn’t agree with me. This offered me a strange advantage: I could nail down exactly what foods triggered pain and then find the opposite foods that could lower it.

So, I bring you my top 3 recommended “Go To Foods” and my top 3 “Stay Clear Foods”. There are obviously others, but to me, these ones gave me the most obvious reactions and benefits.

The most logical place to start is with the foods that create pain as we can avoid those nasty flare-up’s from the beginning.

 

The “Stay Clear Foods”

1. Gluten

Gluten is actually a protein that is found in all grains. The type of gluten we are mostly concerned with is the one found in wheat. See, it is not the same as it used to be! This gluten has been hybridized and processed in a way that is very difficult for our bodies to digest. 70% of the world’s population actually struggle to digest this new form of wheat. It instantly creates an inflammatory reaction within the body but what makes it so harmful is that it limits mineral and vitamin absorption. With women with Endometriosis it limits those same minerals and vitamins that we so desperately need including the Vitamin B’s, Iron, Selenium and Iodine.

The strain of wheat is often used in other grains such as barley, rye and spelt. It is therefore advised to avoid all gluten and not just wheat based foods.

If this is the first time you are hearing this, you are probably freaking out now. What? I can’t have any bread? I know I believed there was nothing left to eat when bread, pasta and my favorite chocolate chip cookies were no longer an option.

There are fabulous alternatives like quinoa seeds, millet and chia seeds. Truth is, when we start getting creative about what we eat, breads and pasta is just so passé. (Just love that word!)

 

2. Soy Products

Soy is probably one of those confusing foods. Many proclaim that it has incredible sources of protein and that it is a great health food. I have found that for Endometriosis women it is not a recommended food. It is very high in phytoestrogens. These are plant-based hormones and will alter our natural hormone balance. With Endometriosis, we tend to naturally have imbalances when it comes to our hormones. Women with Endometriosis are often estrogen dominant, which basically means we have too many estrogens and not enough progesterones. These hormones work like a seesaw and too much of one or the other is not a good thing.

Soy has been shown to alter the natural hormone balance in women and particularly women with Endometriosis. This means, we should avoid any foods that contain high amounts of soy and even traces of soy. That includes soy milk, soy ice-creams and soy products. We should also be careful of hidden soy ingredients, such as soy lecithin often found in chocolates, protein powders and many packaged foods. Some soy products are however beneficial for women with Endometriosis, particularly those which have been fermented such as tempeh and natto.

The way soy is produced and extracted is also questionable for our general health. Soy is often sourced from genetically modified beans and is extracted using hexane gas.

 

3. Flax seeds

I absolutely loved flax seeds when I first discovered them. They were a great source of Omega 3′s and contain high amounts of protein. Unfortunately, after a few months of eating them and religiously slurping my flax oil, my pain became quite intense. I eliminated all other possible culprits and eventually settled on triple researching flax.

What I discovered was that flax oils can frequently be rancid. This means, that instead of being beneficial to the body they actually become free radicals in the body. Free radicals create damage and will make us age faster too! Definitely don’t want that to happen.

Flax is also highly estrogenic and once again will create imbalances with our hormones.

 

* There are many foods, oils and supplements which are estrogenic in nature. Most plants are naturally estrogenic and it is impossible to avoid all of them. Soy and Flax that have very high levels of plant estrogens, which is why they have made it on my list of “Stay Clear Foods”. You can read more about plant based hormones through my website.

Okay, so we have gotten the nasty stuff out of the way! Lets focus on all the good stuff we can add back into our bodies.

 

The “Go To Foods”

1. Brazil Nuts

I have always enjoyed nuts and when I discovered the amazing healing properties and minerals found in Brazil Nuts, I was very excited. There is a mineral which is found in high volumes within Brazil Nuts called Selenium. It is a mineral which is frequently deficient in those that suffer from Endometriosis. It is so well-recognized that farmers will feed their cows selenium to prevent them from getting Endometriosis!

By eating just two Brazil Nuts a day, we will get sufficient quantities of Selenium to meet our daily needs.

2. Those Leafy Greens

They keep coming up, don’t they? Well, these guys are crucial from so many aspects. They help detoxify our bodies, they ensure our digestion has got adequate roughage and they provide us with heaps of good Vitamins and minerals. The one we are really interested in is folates. This is the natural form of Folic Acid we have been encouraged to take. Folates are found naturally in dark leafy greens and provides the building blocks for red blood cells and provide heaps of healing for Endometriosis.

You can get dark leafy greens into your body is simple ways like juicing and blending combinations together. There are also forms of dark leafy greens which provide even more benefits than the usual salads. Try Moringa leaf, Dandelion leaves and Beetroot leaves in your next salad for a wider variety of nutritional benefits.

3. Chia Seeds

This tiny little black seed provides a fabulous source of Omega 3 and healing for our bodies. This source of Omega 3 provides healing for Endometriosis as it balances out the Omega 3 to 6 ratio. Most of us have an imbalance of too much Omega 6 fats in the body. This imbalance creates an inflammatory reaction and with Endometriosis this is really noticeable!

The Chia Seed is also loaded with minerals and vitamins and includes some great anti-oxidants like Quercetin and Myricetin.

Chia Seeds also provide a great remedy for digestive troubles. Many women with Endometriosis also experience symptoms of IBS. Chia Seeds provide a mucus layer for the intestinal wall and help heal Leaky Gut Syndrome – a condition very common with women with Endometriosis.

My favorite way to eat Chia Seeds is in a pudding recipe. It tastes delicious and you can add a whole bunch of superfoods to the mix. I enjoy having Chia as a desert and even breakfast. It certainly keeps me regular and has reduced any inflammation.

 

Endometriosis has given me an amazing gift as I was able to heal my body, simply by learning to listen and recognize what triggered pain and what provided healing. Nature has provided us with so many amazing tools to heal.

These are just some of my favorites.

What foods, herbs and tools have you found that have helped your Endometriosis?



Fertility after 40 and miscarriage prevention, a podcast with Iva Keene

Recently I had a chance to interview Iva Keene from Natural Fertility Prescription and she shared a lot of her wisdom with us!

We discussed:

1. The basics of a fertility diet and simple ways to add nutrients to the way you currently eat.

2. Fertility after 40, a few of the factors that come into play

The reproductive system is not crucial to your survival, so as such, the body will not give a lot of energy and a lot of nutrients to it unless it has a lot to spare. The heart, the lungs, the brain, these are all the key organs that get the nutrients first.”

3. Tests that are important, things like -

  • heavy metals
  • hair mineral analysis

4. How to decrease the negative affects associated with artificial reproductive technologies, including the nutrients that are really important to sustaining the health of the egg and sperm.

5. We discuss a couple ways to reduce the possibility of a miscarriage as well as what you can do after a miscarriage to facilitate balanced hormones and fertility.

Iva is also doing a fertility retreat at Sanoviv Medical Institute in Baja, California from September 19-25, 2013. It’s a five star health resort that serves all organic foods and some of the latest testing, where medical doctors and naturopaths work together. As a bonus, it’s also very much a resort and offers many spa services. Couples will be able to work with Iva and the staff to be able to get to the bottom of their fertility issues.

Listen in HERE: Iva Keene, part one

Iva Keene, part two

(click on the link above to listen in or right click and save to your computer)

 

 



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