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.
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!