What to Eat (and What to Avoid) for PCOS
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or if you’ve been suffering with its symptoms for years, know that you are not alone. While PCOS officially affects as many as 10% of women of child-bearing age, the accurate number is likely closer to 25%, as this hormonal disorder often goes unrecognized, and undiagnosed.
What is PCOS?
PCOS is a condition in which women have an imbalance of hormones. It is diagnosed largely by the existence of a combination of telling symptoms, including:
- Elevated levels of testosterone
- Irregular and/or particularly long or painful menstrual periods
- Multiple cysts on the ovaries
- Weight gain or obesity
- Excessive hair growth on unusual parts of the body, or, on the flip side, hair loss
PCOS can also mimic menopause symptoms or cues - extremely high FSH levels, up and down estrogen and progesterone, lack of ovulation and menstruation, and more.
Doesn't sound like a whole lot of fun, right?
The good news is that while there is no medical ‘cure’ for PCOS, many women are able to find significant relief from their PCOS symptoms by giving their diet and lifestyle an extreme makeover!
Any PCOS healing plan should be aimed at doing 3 things: 1) stabilizing blood sugar; 2) supporting the organs of elimination (liver, kidneys, large intestine); and 3) reducing stress.
While the last one can be addressed by lifestyle changes, like making sure you are getting enough quality sleep, and making regular exercise a priority, the first two come down to how you are feeding your body.
I’ve said it before (and you can bet I’ll say it again)…Food is medicine! This could not be truer than when it comes to managing the symptoms of PCOS.
So, what should you eat (and what should you avoid) if you are suffering from PCOS?
In a nutshell, eating to heal PCOS means consuming foods in their most natural state. It means avoiding overly processed or refined foods in favor of clean eating to help balance your hormones and get your weight under control. It means following a low glycemic diet, with an emphasis on healthy fats, high quality proteins and complex carbohydrates.
Let’s get specific. What are the foods you should be avoiding to manage your PCOS, and what should you be eating instead? So glad you asked!
Foods to avoid when you have PCOS:
1. Gluten and refined carbohydrates.
Foods like white bread, pizza dough, pasta, and white rice cause your insulin to spike and contribute to inflammation in your body.
2. Processed foods.
Do I even need to elaborate? ;) Pastries, donuts, and packaged snacks really aren’t recommended on any healthy eating plan!
3. Saturated fats.
Excess red meat, solid fats (like butter and shortening), and fried foods should all be avoided.
Besides being a highly processed and top GMO food, soy contains “phyto” or plant estrogen which mimics estrogen in the body. Having too much of it makes the body think that you have enough estrogen, which causes it to shut down ovulation.
5. Sugary drinks and cocktails.
Sodas, energy drinks, sweet mixed cocktails all cause a rapid spike in blood sugar levels.
On the flip side, these are the foods you should incorporate into your diet to combat PCOS:
1. Complex carbohydrates.
Things like whole grains, oats, and beans contain slow-release carbs, which are high in fiber and significantly less likely to cause spikes in insulin and inflammation.
2. Foods that support organs of elimination.
Eating foods like cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy), parsley, and lemon and adding my fave supplement for liver detox - milk thistle - can truly help clear toxins from your system.
3. High-quality fats and oils.
Replace unhealthy, fatty foods with things like avocado, coconut, wild-caught fish, nuts, and seeds (flax, chia, hemp).
4. All the reds (plant-based rather than red meat!)
Basically, anything that’s rich in antioxidants and can help your body fight off inflammation—beets, berries, pomegranates, leafy greens (okay, not red, but really good for you!)
5. High-quality proteins.
Wild-caught fish, free-range and grass-fed chicken, and bonus points for plant-based proteins like lentils or chickpeas!
6. The right supplements.
Once you have worked on your gut health, there are a few really good supplements, pre- and probiotics, and herbal combinations that can help amplify and/or accelerate the results you have already achieved through a cleaner eating and lifestyle routine.
Are you ready to get started on an eating plan to get your PCOS under control? I’d love to help you! SCHEDULE a 20-minute Discovery Call with me to learn how I have helped many women find relief from their PCOS symptoms.