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The 3 Secrets Of A PCOS-Friendly Diet

Written by: Nadine Sommer, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), the most common cause of infertility in women of reproductive age1, often leaves affected women devastated when first diagnosed. This article sheds light on a new and holistic approach to managing the disease by outlining the foundations of a PCOS-friendly diet.


happy woman covering her eyes in avocado

Foraging through the digital jungle looking for answers to the ongoing question: ‘What should I eat for PCOS?’ may lead to a lot of confusion and leave you thinking that cutting out gluten and dairy, going keto, and avoiding coffee at all costs may be the way to sustainable PCOS weight loss and fertility. Today, I’ll end the confusion by addressing the dos and don’ts of a PCOS-friendly diet based on a functional nutrition approach that will allow you to reverse your symptoms naturally.

My PCOS Story

When I was diagnosed with PCOS back in 2015, the dietary advice given by my gynecologist was to cut all carbs and lose weight. If you’re a cyster like me, you know this is almost an impossible task to accomplish, especially when on top of PCOS, you also suffer from underlying insulin resistance driving the disease. So, I guess you can relate to the hopelessness I felt at the time.

As luck would have it, at the occurrence of this first doctor’s visit, I was already in the middle of my health coach training, and from my diagnosis until today, I was able to manage my PCOS using a holistic approach to healing, and coach many cysters on their journey to health, weight loss, fertility and joy. I have seen my clients lose weight, ramp up their energy levels, regulate their cycles, reduce acne, excess hair growth, and hair loss, and feel confident and happy again. So, what are the PCOS diet secrets that take you from feeling miserable with PCOS to a life full of happiness?

PCOS Diet Secret No.1 – Balance Your Blood Sugar


When I start working with a new client, we first focus on managing blood sugar levels. Blood sugar or glucose levels rise to various degrees whenever we eat carbohydrates. The higher our blood sugar levels, the more insulin our body secretes. This metabolic hormone functions like a key. It opens up the cells to receive the glucose which is being used for energy production. High levels of insulin can worsen or even cause PCOS symptoms in many ways. One way is by docking onto receptors inside the ovaries, which leads to an overproduction of testosterone.

One of the most effective ways to reduce insulin levels with diet is by controlling our carbohydrate intake. This does not mean you have to cut out carbs completely, but it means cutting down on sugar, choosing mainly carbs with a low glycemic index, swapping refined and processed foods for whole grains, and combining small amounts of carbs with protein, fats, and fiber for each meal.

Newest studies have also shown that eating less frequently is more beneficial for balanced blood sugar levels than having multiple smaller meals throughout the day. The reason is blood sugar levels return back to normal after about 2 hours, whereas insulin secretion ceases only after 5 to 6 hours. Lower levels of insulin not only increase fertility but help in weight loss as well since insulin is a fat-storage hormone. If you want to start balancing your blood sugar, I’d suggest you start with a high-protein breakfast. I like to eat scrambled eggs with some homemade low-carb bread and a handful of berries.

PCOS Diet Secret No.2 – Put Out The Fires Inside Your Body

PCOS is also known as an inflammatory disease. Inflammation is a reaction of the immune system and can cause cellular damage by increasing the number of free radicals inside the cells or interfering with hormone signaling. In the case of PCOS, one way underlying inflammation can drive the disease is by ramping up testosterone production inside the ovaries, just like insulin does. Eating for blood sugar balance is also key to keeping inflammation, known as the silent killer, in check.

Cutting down on refined sugar and carbs, avoiding inflammatory oils such as excess amounts of saturated fats and vegetable oils, such as sunflower oil or shortening, as well as toxins from smoking or alcohol can help reduce inflammation inside the body. Eating the rainbow by opting for a variety of colorful, plant-based foods that are rich in antioxidants and fight free radicals inside the cells, is a good way to counteract the silent killer and thus should be part of a PCOS-friendly diet.


Speaking of the rainbow: One of my favorite purple fruits is acai berry, which is the most antioxidant-rich food on the planet. It is available as frozen pulp or in powder form. I like to snack on sugar-free acai pulp like a popsicle. Green tea also contains anti-oxidants called bioflavonoids that help fight inflammation. Sipping on 2-3 glasses of green tea per day and ramping up your acai intake may help put out the fires inside your cells.

Next, get an oil change. Ditch the shortening and the canola oil. Eat more avocados and use olive oil in your salad dressing. Eat salmon twice a week or take an omega-3 supplement. Omega-3 essential acids are a powerful inflammation fighter. A lack of Vitamin D can also contribute to elevated levels of inflammation2. Taking a supplement with the supervision of your doctor is advisable.

Additionally, I would suggest checking with a functional medicine practitioner for possible nutrient deficiencies. A lack of essential vitamins, minerals, and trace elements can be very stressful for the body and thus lead to inflammation. It can also lie at the root of hormonal imbalance. Eating a nutrient-dense diet and supplementing if necessary is essential to managing PCOS.

PCOS Diet Secret No.3 – Level Up Your Detox And Digestive Systems

Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, already said 2500 years ago that all disease begins in the gut. Scientists these days agree with this ancient Greek physician. Besides fighting insulin resistance, which is one of the underlying roots causes driving PCOS, a healthy digestive tract aids the body in the breakdown and excretion of toxins and excess hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone.

There are a variety of substances that hurt our digestive and detoxification pathways. These include environmental toxins, such as pesticides, nicotine, medications or alcohol, excess sugar, conventionally raised meats and processed foods, as well as food sensitivities that vary from person to person. Some of the most common offenders include gluten, dairy, caffeine, corn, nuts, eggs, and soy.

The gut flora consists of many microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi. The gut lining is only one cell layer thick. The offenders mentioned above can cause inflammation inside the gut, cause the intestinal membrane to become leaky, or induce a state of gut dysbiosis, where the number of good bacteria outweighs the bad or cause fungal overgrowth, e.g., in the case of candida.

In order to maintain a healthy gut flora, keep inflammation in check, and the walls of the gut intact, it is recommended to eat a wholefoods diet rich in fiber. Probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt, fermented sauerkraut, or pickles are foods our gut loves. Certain foods like cucumber and mango serve as prebiotics for the good bacteria in our gut.

In some cases, it may be helpful to avoid gluten, since, besides being among the most common offenders, it causes your intestine to secrete a hormone called zonulin that causes leaky gut – small holes inside the intestinal membrane – leading to inflammation and correlating with auto-immune diseases such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which is very common in women with PCOS.

When it comes down to detox, it is important to avoid toxins in the first place. The liver is our main detox organ, breaking down toxins such as medications, alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine. If it is overworked from breaking down toxins or sugar, it won’t have the capacity to break down excess hormones such as testosterone and estrogen. Support your liver by eating organically and reducing your toxic load. Load up on nutrients rich in B-Vitamins, Vitamin C, and antioxidants. Organ meats, carrots, and beetroot are great foods for your liver.

PCOS Diet Secrets Recap

The three pillars of a PCOS-friendly diet include balancing blood sugar levels, keeping inflammation in check, and supporting our body’s detoxification and digestion paths. Getting adequate amounts of nutrients – reaching from protein to trace minerals – is essential.

To see lasting change, take one of these suggestions and try to implement one at a time. If you need more personal and customized support, consider working with a professional, such as a functional medicine practitioner, dietitian, or health coach. Besides these three pillars, there are many other dietary and lifestyle shifts, e.g movement or emotional well-being, that contribute to managing PCOS.

As a cyster myself and a practicing PCOS Health Coach, I know that making small dietary and lifestyle shifts can lead to sustainable weight loss and allow you to live a symptom-free life full of health, fertility, and happiness.


Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, and visit my website for more info!


 

Nadine Sommer, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Nadine Sommer, is a health coach helping women with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), manage and reverse their symptoms using a holistic approach to healing. She was diagnosed with PCOS herself, when she was in the middle of her health coach training, and made it her mission to help cysters regain their health, fertility and happiness. Nadine offers one-on-one health coaching, as well as the comprehensive, digital, 12-week "PCOS to Happiness" coaching program.

 

You may also be interested in articles from other contributors such as Yoga for Managing PCOS and5 Ways to Lower Androgen with PCOS’.

  1. Dennett CC, Simon J. The role of polycystic ovary syndrome in reproductive and metabolic health: overview and approaches for treatment. Diabetes Spectr. 2015 May;28(2):116-20. doi: 10.2337/diaspect.28.2.116. PMID: 25987810; PMCID: PMC4433074.

  2. Ang Zhou, Elina Hyppönen, Vitamin D deficiency and C-reactive protein: a bidirectional Mendelian randomization study, International Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 52, Issue 1, February 2023, Pages 260–271.

  3. Al-Harbi LN, Alshammari GM, Al-Dossari AM, Subash-Babu P, Binobead MA, Alhussain MH, AlSedairy SA, Al-Nouri DM, Shamlan G. Beta vulgaris L. (Beetroot) Methanolic Extract Prevents Hepatic Steatosis and Liver Damage in T2DM Rats by Hypoglycemic, Insulin-Sensitizing, Antioxidant Effects, and Upregulation of PPARα. Biology (Basel). 2021 Dec 9;10(12):1306. doi: 10.3390/biology10121306. PMID: 34943221; PMCID: PMC8698622.

  4. https://www.brainzmagazine.com/post/yoga-for-managing-pcos

  5. https://www.brainzmagazine.com/post/5-ways-to-lower-androgens-with-pcos


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