“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.
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.
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?
[email protected] Dutch Apple Pie
I’ve read tons of stuff about PCOS. Usually the solution is dealing with insulin resistance. I have a condition called polyfollicular ovaries (PFO). It is similar to PCOS in that the body tried to develop lots of eggs/follicles each month. But it does not stem from insulin resistance. I have no high male hormones, facial hair, cysts, etc. Do you know anything about this? Do you think dealing with the insulin resistance of PCOS stops the body from trying to mature lots of eggs each month?
Nichole Hirsch Kuechle
I don’t know the answer to that, however, dealing with insulin resistance will boost the vitality of your health in general, allowing it to better balance itself out.
[email protected] Dutch Apple Pie
Thanks for your response. I don’t have insulin resistance either. I just can’t find any info about PFO!!! I was diagnosed by my endocrinologist. But no luck on finding much info. I have heard that it’s related to how the brain responds/controls things.
Well, no matter what, a woman’s body begins to mature upwards of 20 follicles or so each month, but normally what happens is that one remains dominant and is allowed to mature completely and will be the egg to ovulate. (http://www.fertilityfriend.com/Faqs/Ovulation.html) You may be very right that the signals from the endocrine glands in the brain are not reaching the ovary and vice versa. Especially if the ovary goes on to produce multiple eggs each cycle.
I also think that the diagnosis of PCOS is very broad because it’s a syndrome, or large set of symptoms. It’s like they group together women who have similar symptoms, but not necessarily similar causes, you know? Women who go through major reproductive testing and procedures are often reclassified. And PCOS is also very broad and not all women deal with high testosterone (I don’t) or cysts (again, I don’t) and many who have “cysts” aren’t dealing with actual ovarian cysts, but just follicles that have not absolved each month because ovulation doesn’t happen. (because when a follicle becomes dominant and the egg matures and is released, the other follicles are supposed to go away. If ovulation doesn’t happen, these follicles kind of remain and look like small cysts on ultrasound.)
And in my experience, insulin resistance isn’t necessarily the cause of all cases PCOS (though it is common because of dietary issues), but most women do see a reduction of symptoms and a return of fertility when they get their blood sugar under control. I don’t actually have insulin resistance but too much sugar in my diet will cause symptoms to return. Its like my ovaries hate ice cream.
I think that dealing with the blood sugar issues helps the adrenal do their job correctly and therefore trickles down to balancing other hormones. I also think that the reduction of sugar and refined carbs/starches benefits the body as we then don’t lose important nutrients while digesting them. For me, vitamin B has been key and both sugar and refined carbs deplete the body of them. Aaaaand I really need to get my MTHFR post written!
Bekah Mik (@BekahMik)
I was diagnosed with PCOS last December but am not your typical case. I’m pretty thin (110 lbs. at 5’4″) and have mild acne but am otherwise very healthy. I have very slightly elevated androgens and some small cysts (nothing that’s ever caused pain or anything) but only about 4 periods a year. I started cutting out gluten and trying to eat healthier (cut back on sugar and processed foods which I didn’t eat much of anyway) in September 2011 and though I felt more energized and my skin cleared up a little, it didn’t help my cycles at all. I now eat a lot of organic food, but would like to do more organic meats and I always eat with my blood sugar in mind, usually pretty successfully. Alisa Vitti’s book “Woman Code” was really helpful as far as making a plan and sticking with it! My last few cycles were slowly getting closer together and the last one I ovulated on day 35 and got pregnant. Unfortunately I miscarried at ten weeks (late June) and my hcg is just now coming down to zero. I don’t think I’ve ovulated since then so I’m really curious to see what will happen with my cycles in the next few months since it was only a few cycles that seemed to be improving. I don’t know if they really were getting better or if it was just a variation of my usual pattern. I still only averaged 4 a year. I really want to address this naturally and I strongly believe in using nutrition to heal the body, and although I feel much better and am much healthier than I used to be, the one area that it hasn’t seemed to improve is my cycle, which is the one I’d like fixed the most! I wish I could find more research on factors that can contribute to PCOS or other hormone imbalance prenatally or in small children. I have a couple signs of high testosterone in the womb and my mom had severe hyperemesis gravidarum while pregnant so was on a lot of medication and I wonder if those things have affected me. I want to be as healthy as I can be with the body I have, but I don’t want to drive myself crazy trying to figure out what I’m doing wrong with nutrition and lifestyle. I love the other health changes I’ve seen in myself but it’s really discouraging expending so much energy on something when it doesn’t seem to be helping the one health issue that motivated you to be healthier in the first place :\
[email protected] Dutch Apple Pie
Thanks for all the info, Donielle! It is all so vague. I will try to make sure I’m not going overboard on sweets or anything and making sure I’m getting enough protein to balance things.
It’s good to know I’m not alone in this. After my m/c in July my body has been a bit all over the place. At first my body temps were up and down. Then I think I had a pretty good/normal cycle last month and ovulated on my own for the first time in over 10 years!! AF just ended and now things seem totally crazy again. One day temps up, the next they are super low. I don’t know if it’s just taking my body some time to figure things out or if I will be like others with PCOS/PFO and only ovulate every few months. It’s so frustrating when you are trying to do everything “right” but still can’t get things in balance.
Maybe I’ll get my hormone levels checked again soon to see where I’m at. And I’ll keep temping to have an idea of what’s going on.
I do think my adrenals are fine now. And I’m thankful that my body is actually doing something now! That is a huge step for me. I was just so excited about a regular cycle last month. And now things are crazy again. Time to watch the sweets again I guess 😛
I really think the endocrine system is one of the slowest to change! My MD reminded me of that last time I was in too. Every time I’ve had to work on balancing it again it’s taken at least 6-8 months for things to work out. Once I finally started ovulating my cycles went from 8 weeks for a couple months, then down to 6 weeks, then finally to 4 weeks, so it was definitely a gradual change and not a quick fix.