In Part 1 of my PCOS series, I talked about getting a correct PCOS diagnosis, PCOS testing and my functional medicine perspective for treatment. Be sure to go back and read all of that information if you need the background. In this article, I’m going to give you some actionable steps around diet and lifestyle to support PCOS.
Let’s dive in!
Food is medicine and food is incredibly foundational for hormonal balance and overall health. Every meal is an opportunity to nourish your body, provide your cells with deep nutrition, balance your hormones and care for yourself. Here are some of my top diet strategies for PCOS.
Also, you want to avoid any commercially raised meats and dairy… period. For some people these are okay but for you they are not because your hormones are hyper sensitive and not regulated. Your hormones are in a proverbial storm of chaos. Conventional animal products often contain growth hormone and antibiotics, which will work against your treatment plan.
For dairy alternatives, you can have almond milk unsweetened original, coconut mild unsweetened original, any kind of nut, oat, hemp, or other milk substitutes that are unsweetened. Also, regarding almond or coconut milk yogurt, choose the ones with the lowest carbs and please be careful to avoid those added sugars usually added to yogurt.
Include a variety of colorful veggies each day. Don’t forget about purple cabbage, red beets, yellow squash, white cauliflower, green arugula and orange carrots! This handout (Phytonutrient Spectrum Foods) from the Institute for Functional Medicine is helpful for keeping track of veggies--just remember that in your case, you will need to make choices that are low on the glycemic index and are not starchy (fruits should be berries only in limited amounts and no potatoes).
You’ll see the best results if you avoid caffeine, alcohol, gluten, and processed foods of any kind! Hate on me now, but it will make a difference and we can learn a lot about how your body is functioning at a core level.
You can do this!
I am working on recipes for the PCOS diet, so be sure to check back here as I post them. Note: please confer with myself (Chyrl) or your functional medicine doctor or provider to understand what is driving your unique case of PCOS and what dietary choices are going to best serve you. While personalizing the diet is important, here are some books I love to help get you started. While they are not all perfect for the PCOS diet, each one of them has education and information that is essential for evolving to a diet that supports your journey to health.
Yes, some of these are Keto or Primal/Paleo. I know you may have tried Keto and felt very yuck doing it, but I think the conventional animal products were contributing because of the hormones fed to them, not the paradigm of the Keto diet itself. In addition, many versions of a Keto diet fail to include enough nutrient-dense plant foods, especially vegetables as well as fermented plant foods. The premise behind this diet supports health on so many levels and you don’t have to be strict Keto… perhaps it’s more akin to Primal Plant Strong Keto-ish. Why Keto-ish? Because at the root of PCOS, there is abnormally elevated estrogen which is driven by insulin. Fortunately, the Keto diet, or variations of it, help to control insulin and therefore, stabilize your estrogen levels, bringing symptom relief I know you really, really want!
Let me know how it goes! And speaking of ways to reduce insulin and regulate hormones…
In addition to the PCOS diet, as discussed above, there are other things you can do that are a springboard for healing and shifting towards optimal health.
Many women who have PCOS are estrogen dominant and insulin resistant and probably in adrenal burnout. This is because women get androgens from the adrenal glands and this is potentially converted to estrogen, causing the facial hair and central weight gain. I am, in many cases, suspicious that in addition to all of this there can be an underlying thyroid issue. While stress management is key, and I’ll discuss that more below, intermittent fasting is another intervention to consider for PCOS.
There are intense benefits to intermittent fasting. This is not about withholding calories or a low-calorie diet. This is a very healthy nutrient dense diet with periods of fasting that allows the body to reset itself and dispose of unhealthy cells (apoptosis). The body does incredible healing during times of fasting. Namely, it resets hormones. This is researched and there are many studies supporting it.
I often suggest patients try intermittent fasting, either fast for 16 hours of every day or fast for 24 hours every other day. You don’t have to start this amount of fasting right away, instead, give your body the time to build up to this goal. Start out intermittent fasting one or two days a week and increase your fasting length over time.
During eating times eat regularly without restriction but following the dietary guidelines recommended to you by Chyrl or your functional medicine doctor or provider. You are not counting calories or fat grams or macronutrients; instead, you’re eating until you’re satisfied. This is important so that you don’t under eat and cause nutrient deficiencies that may further impact hormones.
Here are the details you’ll need:
16 hour fasting: Eat breakfast and then at noon eat lunch. Then, fast till breakfast the next day.
24 hour fasting:
Stress management means self-care. Begin to develop practices that help calm the biosystem. This is huge. This is not a joke. Begin to practice the art of extreme self-care. I recommend watching these TED talks on the importance of self-care.
Here are some strategies to begin incorporating:
It’s important to find what works for you and make it a non-negotiable part of your daily and weekly schedule.
Other treatment suggestions:
In addition to what we’ve discussed in Parts 1 and 2 of this PCOS series, here are some other interventions to consider:
The important thing to remember in all areas of chronic disease/illness is that it is never just one thing and there are no quick fixes. Do your research, advocate for yourself and find a functional medicine doctor or provider to be on your team and advocate for you as well. Through diet and lifestyle strategies we can work together to create a personalized protocol to not simply mask symptoms, but to restore the underlying imbalances that will ultimately restore your health.
I hope all of this information has been helpful. If you are feeling overwhelmed, please reach out. I can help to simplify what is discussed here and help you hone in on the pieces that will support your unique PCOS case. I will support you in any way I can!
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