How To Heal PCOS with Diet
I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) when I was 25. I remember going from doctors to doctors trying to understand what was going on with my body. I had irregular cycles, heavy and painful period, intense PMS, unusual hair growth on the chin and acne all over my face. I felt horrible and could barely look at myself in the mirror. I felt disconnected from my body and depressed. The worse part of it is that I didn’t have any clear answer as to what was happening to me and no idea that my symptoms were all connected. I saw different doctors who told me pretty much the same thing: “It’s normal. Many women your age have PMS and hormonal acne. It happens and will go away”. Not only they did not acknowledge the seriousness of my symptoms, but tried to put me on the birth control pill as a “temporary cure” until I decide to have children. I was confused, angry, lonely and even more depressed.
As the months went by, I was able to meet a women’s health doctor specializing in fertility and she’s the one who came up with the right diagnosis. After a series of tests, including a hormone test, she told me I had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. But once again, I was not offered any lasting solution except surgery (if the ovarian cysts grow bigger), hormonal medications and birth control pill. She also urged me to get pregnant as soon as possible because PCOS is the number one cause of infertility. At that moment, I realized something was missing. Pregnancy is not a cure, birth control isn’t either. I decided to take my health into my own hands and find a way to heal naturally.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is an hormonal endocrine disorder affecting 20% of women of childbearing age and the leading cause of infertility. It manifests in irregular cycles, heavy and painful periods, missing periods (amenorrhea), hormonal imbalance, PMS, acne, depression, mood disorders, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, hirsutism (excessive hair growth), ovarian cysts, fatigue, headaches, weight gain. PCOS is also associated with an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes, depression and heart disease. It is important to note that PCOS manifests differently in every woman and less than 50% of women are properly diagnosed, which means a lot of women might be having PCOS symptoms without even knowing it.
In order to heal PCOS and balance your hormones naturally, you need to look at your diet. This is the foundation of everything. Once I changed my diet, I saw a great improvement in my symptoms and was able to conceive naturally within 6 months of implementing those changes. It was a journey of trials and errors but I wish I had this information earlier, when I was lost, confused and had no idea what was going on in my body. When I thought I was dysfunctional and believed my body had failed me. What we eat can either harm us or heal us. Food has a tremendous impact on our hormones, reproductive health and ability to conceive. Diet doesn’t cure all, as there are other components to healing, but it can surely make a huge difference.
Foods to avoid when you have PCOS
Certain foods increase PCOS symptoms, so you might want to reduce or eliminate these foods from your diet in order to balance your hormones and heal naturally.
Sugar: One of the most common issues women with PCOS face is insulin resistance. Reducing sugar from your diet is a great way to balance your blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. When I say sugar, I also include artificial sweeteners, high glycemic fruits and fruit juices.
Refined carbohydrates: For the same reason mentioned above, you should reduce refined carbs from your diet. The main source of refined carbs are: White bread, white rice, white flour, white potatoes, pastries, pasta, snacks, cereals…
Dairy: Dairy creates inflammation in the body and worsen PMS, disrupt hormones and ovulation resulting in hormonal imbalance, irregular and painful period, acne and so on. Cutting dairy helped me significantly reduce PCOS symptoms such as acne and menstrual cramps.
Processed food: They often contain a lot of unhealthy additives, gluten, dairy and processed soy, which are all bad for your hormones, so it’s best to avoid them. Processed foods include all foods that are not in their original forms and that have been chemically processed and are made with refined ingredients and artificial substances.
Red meat: Eating red meat increases inflammation in the body and hormonal imbalance as it often contains synthetic growth hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides-laden crops that are used to raise animals.
Unhealthy cooking oil: Canola, sunflower oils and margarine are unhealthy sources of fats that increase bad cholesterol and inflammation due to their high amount of omega-6 fatty acids. Canola oil in particular is very toxic and bad for endocrine health (ultra-processed and made with genetically-modified plants). It’s best to completely avoid these oils and choose healthy sources of fats rich in omega 3s.
Foods to eat to reverse PCOS
Just like certain foods can disrupt your hormones and worsen PCOS symptoms, other foods are beneficial to balance your hormones naturally and significantly reduce your symptoms.
Fiber-rich foods: Adding a lot of fiber to your diet is essential to heal PCOS naturally. Fiber helps decrease inflammation, improve digestive health which is beneficial to help your body flush out toxins and excess hormones, loose weight (which is useful in many cases to reduce symptoms) and balance your hormones. Fiber-rich food include fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and grains such as: bananas, pears, oranges, apples, raspberries, strawberries, avocado, flax seeds, chia seeds, spinach, sweet potatoes, brocoli, cauliflower, green peas, oatmeal, quinoa, beans, lentils…
Healthy carbohydrates: Eating healthy carbs helps decrease sugar cravings by keeping you full. I recommend adding 1 cup of healthy carbs to your meals such as: Quinoa, brown rice, wild rice, millet, buckwheat, sweet potatoes, yams, yucca.
Healthy fats: Foods rich in Omega 3s are beneficial to reduce inflammation and balance your hormones. Our bodies do not produce omega 3s so it’s important to add healthy sources of fats to improve our overall health and reverse PCOS naturally. Health fats include avocado, coconut oil and coconut milk, almonds, flax seeds, chia seeds, salmon, mackerel, sardines.
Low glycemic fruits: In order to keep your blood sugar levels balanced, make sure to eat a majority of low glycemic fruits such as apples, berries, pears, cherries, oranges, grapefruit, apricot, prunes… Fruits are healthier compared to sugar but our bodies still process high glycemic fruits as sugar. Eating a lot of sweet fruits can raise our blood sugar levels so it is important to keep a healthy balance.
Plant-based proteins: At the exception of eggs (which I recommend eating for PCOS and fertility), reducing animal protein from your diet is beneficial for your hormones and increasing plant-based protein can improve your chances of getting pregnant naturally. There are many sources of plant-based proteins such as chickpeas, beans, pea protein, hemp protein.
Healing PCOS is possible through the healthy habits we implement every day. It is not an overnight process and can take some time, but with discipline, motivation and support you will get there. I am a living testimony that food is medicine and we can heal our bodies once we understand that nature is abundant and always rooting for us.
Do you have PCOS? Are you struggling to find the right diet for you? Ask me any questions below and I will answer them.