Foods to avoid when dealing with PCOS
A few months ago I went to a doctor who specializes in women's health. She was very informative about PCOS as well as many other concerns. She pointed out the importance of staying away from processed foods because of the added hormones that are added into them. She mentioned that she had went to a seminar at Mayo clinic in Arizona that previous month and a big topic of discussion was the rise of PCOS diagnosis and the rise in hormones added to our food. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Having PCOS means we already have an imbalance in hormones, why add more hormones from our food into the mix and expect our body to know what to do with them?
She also mentioned a few other things that we should really avoid.
I found a great article with basically the same suggestions she had for me.
1. Sugar and refined carbohydrates.
This includes sugar, biscuits, cakes, pies, white bread, rolls, white pasta, rice (brown rice is okay in small amounts), many breakfast cereals (including toasted cereal with or without dried fruit, fruit loops, coco pops), dried fruits, soft drinks, candy, ice cream; but also ‘hidden sugars’ in flavoured yoghurt, many processed foods, fruit juices, packaged soups and sauces etc.
Insulin resistance and impaired glucose tolerance are one of the main causes for PCOS; and a diet high in sugar or foods easily converted into sugar (such as refined carbohydrates) is directly linked to this. (10-14), A diet high in sugar not only affects insulin levels, but also hinders ovulation. A study in 2003 found that making diet and lifestyle changes to improve glucose metabolism improved ovulation just as effectively if not better than Metformin and/or Clomiphene (15).
2. Trans fatty acids.
A 2% increase in the daily intake of energy from trans unsaturated fats was associated with a 73% greater risk of ovulation problems in one study, while and obtaining 2% of daily energy intake from trans fats rather than from monounsaturated fats (found in nuts, seeds, fish etc) was associated with a more than doubled risk of ovulation problems. (18)
Trans fatty acids are found in vegetable oils (eg canola), cakes, biscuits, muffins, pies, crusts, margarine, shortening, cake/pancake mixes, donuts, French fries, chips, candy, frozen dinners and other processed foods. If you are looking for a snack, a small handful of unroasted, unsalted nuts and seeds is a far better idea than a biscuit, cake or any of the above mentioned foods.
Just two cups of coffee a day boosts levels of oestradiol, the type of oestrogen produced in your ovaries. Women who drink 4-5 cups of coffee a day produce 70% more oestrogen in the follicular phase (weeks after ovulation) of the menstrual cycle (20).
It has been well known for a long time that alcohol consumption increases the risk on PCOS. Some studies show that the risk on developing PCOS is 50% higher in those who consume alcohol (11). The liver is responsible for eliminating excessive levels of oestrogen from your body. Consumption of alcohol puts an excessive burden on the liver. Elimination of alcohol from the body becomes paramount and thereby hinders its capacity of eliminating the oestrogen from your body and thus contributes to an oestrogen dominant environment. Apart from that, alcohol is quickly converted into sugar in your body, contributing to impaired glucose tolerance, insulin resistance and diabetes type II. Finally, alcohol creates acidity which in its turn causes inflammation that can then feed into impaired glucose tolerance.
5. Processed foods
All processed foods come with additives, preservatives and chemical flavours which stimulate the production of prostaglandins (a type of hormone or messenger) that trigger inflammation. Inflammation is not only a result of PCOS, but also a contributing factor as it increases insulin levels. The negative health effects of additives are too many to list. If you are interested in more detailed information on how they affect female hormones, “The Chemical Maze” by Bill Statham lists them one by one. This book is also available as an app.
6. Artificial sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners have been linked with increased oestrogen levels, increased inflammation and increased testosterone levels (19). Artificial sweeteners are often found in ‘diet’ products, implying that they are healthy while the opposite is true. Natural sweeteners are a better choice if you really want to sweeten your food or drink, for instance stevia, agave syrup, yacon syrup or Xylitol.
7. Saturated fat.
There is an association between a diet high fat, particularly saturated fat, and reduced insulin sensitivity (16,17). Saturated fats are found in foods such as fat on meat, chicken with the skin left on, full fat dairy products, butter and take-away foods. Saturated fats are always listed on the nutrition panel so when choosing between foods in the supermarket, compare the nutrition information panel on the back and choose the one lowest in saturated fat. Choosing lean meat, skin-off chicken (preferably organic) and low fat diary is a better option.
Basically the best way to eat correctly with PCOS is to choose healthy, complex carbs, choose organic and unprocessed foods, avoid caffeine, if you must drink alcohol do so in moderation, and stay away from artificial sweeteners.
It is so hard to do and I struggle with it on a daily basis. My best advise is to shop smart and plan ahead!
PCOS and Dry Eyes!
It's crazy to learn new things about PCOS and realize how long you've had it without knowing. Ever since high school I have always needed contact lenses, but can't wear them because my eyes are super dry. Ten minutes after inserting the lens, they are literally stuck to my eyeball, because they are so dry. It turns out that PCOS has a lot to do with dry eye.
As you can guess our hormones are the culprit. Hormones are what is responsible for tear production and when they aren't in sync, dry eye happens. The hormonal imbalance due to PCOS is knows to cause inflammation which also inflames the tear ducts.
Some things that you can do to help dry eye is to get adequate amounts Omega-3 oil, avoid sitting in front of the computer or tv for too long, use artificial tears, and use a mild soap (like baby shampoo) to gently clean eyes.
As if being hormonal, increase hair growth in random places, and acne weren't enough to deal with; now we can add dry eye to the list! Yay us ;)
When women are young, they are taught that once a month, in addition to having a period, they will also ovulate. This general truth is usually presented as an absolute fact. Optimally, your reproductive system will ovulate each month, but there are times when it doesn’t ovulate as it should. The following information will explain to you exactly what anovulation is, what causes it, and what can be done to diagnose and treat an anovulatory cycle.
Anovulatory Cycle – What Is It and What Causes It?
Quite simply, an anovulatory cycle occurs when a woman skips ovulation. If a woman is not tracking her ovulation, she may not even know it has happened. When anovulation takes place, most women will appear to menstruate as normal, but ovulation will not occur. During the early and late years of menstruation, this is a common occurrence. In these instances, a woman’s body is changing drastically and anovulatory cycles will happen quite often. If a woman is in her prime, it is common to have the odd cycle without ovulation. The trouble occurs when anovulation is a common theme in a woman’s life.
Common, easily regulated causes for anovulatory cycles are stress, overexertion, and eating habits. When women are over or underweight, their bodies will react differently to hormonal changes as they occur. A vigorous exercise program or extremely active lifestyle can affect hormones and thus ovulation and fertility. For example, a lot of gymnasts and ballerinas will experience anovulatory cycles quite often. When women use “The Pill” or “The Shot”, they are chemically imitating anovulation. Over an extended period of time, the use of these drugs can negatively affect the function of your reproductive organs.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Anovulation.
There are women who do not menstruate (amenorrhea) or have extremely irregular periods (oligomenorrhea). In this case, anovulation is easy to spot. For the majority of women, detecting anovulatory cycles can be difficult. A doctor can test for several factors that may indicate a woman is experiencing irregular ovulation. Testing progesterone levels, the endometrial lining, and testing for the presence of specific antibodies, will help a physician to diagnose anovulation.
Treatment of anovulatory cycles will depend greatly on the findings of the administered tests. If it is decided that the causes are natural or stemming from outside influence, natural remedies will be prescribed. These include regulating eating habits and other methods that we have already discussed. If the cause of anovulation is decided to stem from internal imbalances, there is no need to worry. There are several fertility boosters that can combat a varied set of factors. These may include drugs designed to increase estrogen, ripen the follicles, or to help a woman release her egg when she is supposed to ovulate. The most drastic and last scenario a woman may encounter would be surgery. Normally this will only take place if she is found to have tumors.
If you or someone you know is experiencing regular bouts of anovulation, heed the advice above. The first thing you should do is try to make small changes to the things you can control. Eat healthier, exercise without over doing it, and try to make time for relaxation and stress relief. If these methods don’t help, you should seek the help of a professional. Your doctor can run some tests to figure out the causes of irregular ovulation and find a solution suited to your circumstances that will help you avoid an anovulatory cycle.
PCOS and Metformin
Young women with PCOS often have elevated insulin levels and are more likely to develop diabetes. Metformin is a medication often prescribed for women with PCOS to help prevent diabetes. A lifestyle that includes healthy nutrition and daily exercise is the most important part of a PCOS treatment plan.
What is insulin?Insulin is a hormone made by an organ in the body called the pancreas. The food you eat is broken down into simple sugar (glucose) during digestion. Glucose is absorbed into the blood after you eat. Insulin helps glucose enter the cells of the body to be used as energy. If there’s not enough insulin in the body, or if the body can’t use the insulin, sugar levels in the blood become higher.
What is insulin resistance?If your body is resistant to insulin, it means you need high levels of insulin to keep your blood sugar normal. Certain medical conditions such as being overweight or having PCOS can cause insulin resistance. Insulin resistance tends to run in families.
What can insulin resistance do to me? High insulin levels can cause thickening and darkening of the skin (acanthosis nigricans) on the back of the neck, axilla (under the arms), and groin area. In young women with PCOS, high insulin levels can cause the ovaries to make more androgen hormones such as testosterone. This can cause increased body hair, acne, and irregular or few periods. Having insulin resistance can increase your risk of developing diabetes.
How can I lower my insulin levels? You can help lower your insulin levels naturally by eating less starches and sugars, and more foods that are high in fiber and low refined carbohydrates (such as white flour and sugars). Low glycemic foods, on the other hand, don’t raise your blood sugar or insulin levels as much as foods that are high in sugar or refined carbohydrates. Exercising is another way to improve your PCOS. Fitting in 60 minutes of exercise each day is recommended, but any amount of exercise you do will help manage your PCOS. Exercise decreases insulin resistance.
What else will lower my insulin level? Metformin (also known as Glucophage®) helps to regulate the amount of glucose (sugar) in your blood. It makes your body more sensitive to insulin, and decreases the amount of glucose your liver releases. Young women with high insulin who take Metformin are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who don’t take a medication that lowers insulin. Research studies have shown that young women with PCOS who are overweight and who were treated with Metformin and a healthy lifestyle (healthy nutrition and exercise) were able to lose weight and lower their fasting blood sugar. Taking Metformin and maintaining a healthy weight also improves cholesterol levels. Metformin is not approved by the FDA (Federal Drug Administration) for PCOS, but it’s commonly prescribed for this condition.
How do I take Metformin? Metformin is available as a pill or liquid. It is usually taken 2–3 times a day with your meals (usually breakfast and dinner). Your health care provider will tell you to begin at a very low dose and slowly increase the amount of medicine you take over a few months—”start low, go slow.” Your health care provider may prescribe once a day long acting (XR–extended release) Metformin instead. It’s important that you take this medication exactly as prescribed by your health care provider. Do not break, chew, or crush the pills. Be sure to swallow the whole pill(s).
How do I store Metformin? Keep your Metformin tightly closed, in the same bottle it came in. Do not remove the label on the bottle. Store it at room temperature away from high temperatures and any moisture. Do not store Metformin in the bathroom. Be sure to keep your medicine away from young children.
Are there any reasons not to take Metformin? People with kidney or liver problems should not take Metformin. Your health care provider will check your blood to make sure that you do not have blood, kidney or liver problems before you start Metformin and then usually once a year after that. If you get sick and throw up or have diarrhea, call your health care provider and stop your Metformin until you feel completely well. It’s very important not to be dehydrated (not having enough fluids in your body) while taking Metformin. You should not binge drink alcohol and take Metformin. Also, if you’re going to have surgery or a medical or dental procedure where you can’t have anything to eat or drink, talk to your health care provider about stopping the Metformin for 48 hours before the procedure. If you’re scheduled for an X–ray that includes a “contrast material” (a dye that helps the radiologist see the images better), you should talk to your health care provider about stopping your Metformin for up to 48 hours before and after the test. Getting dehydrated, having kidney problems, or having a serious infection can cause the rare condition called “lactic acidosis”, so it’s important to talk to your health care provider about any of these problems.
Does Metformin have any side effects? In general, healthy young people don’t have many side effects. About a third of people who take Metformin have stomach upset such as nausea, diarrhea, gas, and loss of appetite. Some people may complain of a metallic taste. If the side effects are a problem for you, it’s important to talk with your health care provider. You may be able to lower your dose for a few days and slowly build back up to your regular dose.
What if I miss a dose of my Metformin? When you first start taking Metformin, it’s a good idea to ask your health care provider what to do if you miss a dose. Write down the answer so you will have a plan if it happens. In general, you will probably be told NOT to take the pills that you missed, especially if it’s almost time for your next dose. Never double up on pills to make up for a missed dose.
Can I get pregnant while taking Metformin? Yes. If you’re sexually active and you’re not taking oral contraceptive pills or using another method of birth control, it’s possible that you’ll have menstrual cycles and ovulate (release an egg). If your egg is fertilized (sperm from a male comes together with an egg of a female), you could become pregnant. Women with PCOS are more likely to get pregnant while taking Metformin. You should talk with your health care provider about a method of birth control that’s right for you.
Important things to remember when taking Metformin:
This article describes the natural treatments available to combat PCOS hair loss. It may be crass, or in some social circles, politically incorrect to admit it, but for many people, women included, physical appearance plays a major role in one’s personal and business success. With the societal expectations regarding the appearance of women, this issue is especially compounded when it comes to women, unfair as it may seem. PCOS hair loss can be a very embarrassing side effect of the syndrome, but it doesn’t have to be.
One thing that is not debatable is this: a dramatic sudden deterioration in one’s physical looks due to disease has severe implications for the self-esteem and self-concept of those affected. PCOS, or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, are one of these disorders, as not only does it drive hard-to-control weight gain, acne outbreaks, and cysts that inhibit infertility, but it can also drive embarrassing losses of hair, dramaticallyaffecting their perception in society1, and of themselves.
Hormonal imbalances related to PCOS can cause sufferers to lose scalp hair due to the overbearing influence of testosterone, leading to a worsening self-concept and a negative view of PCOS individuals by other people. Indeed, most women that come to the doctor complaining of excessive sudden hair loss have been found to also have PCOS 1. The mechanisms that drive other PCOS symptoms, such as obesity, also play a role in aggressive hair attrition, as we will show in the para1graphs to come.
It is vitally important that those afflicted by this disease know that there are ways to halt and reverse the damage that this genetic condition does not just to a female’s hair follicles, but to her spirit. In the following article, we will learn how PCOS hair loss works, and then how to take action against these causes, so that those affected can get back on the road to regaining their dignity.
The Evil Origins of PCOS Hair LossOne of the key manifestations of PCOS is the insulin resistance that it causes in affected women. It is this hallmark that contributes to obesity and Type II diabetes in sufferers of this hormone disorder, but the excessive androgen, testosterone, and its converted form, DHT that results from the irritation of excess insulin also drives the process behind PCOS hair loss in patients.
According to a study conducted by the University of Oulu in Finland 2, women with insulin resistance had been shown to experience alopecia (hair loss) in much the same fashion of PCOS women, drawing a solid link between this fact and the scourge of premature loss of hair follicles.
The cause and effect relationship goes deeper than that however, as attempted hair re-growth in women that have PCOS has often hit frustrating obstacles. One of the key discoveries that greatly aided the cause of helping these women regain their dignity was that DHT, a sex hormone that is produced in excess quantities in PCOS sufferers, was squarely behind the PCOS hair loss that this disorder induces.
With it present in abundance, the DHT compound circulates to your scalp and starts to latch onto hair follicles, starting the deterioration process of the hair strand and blocking the absorption of essential nutrients. Eventually, the hair strand dies and falls out, but DHT’s troublemaking doesn’t end there. It remains attached to the follicle, inhibiting or flat-out preventing the regeneration of new hair, posing a significant problem for those looking to rejuvenate the hair on their head to the way it used to be 3.
How To Stop PCOS Hair Loss And Reverse The DamageNow that we know how the factors behind PCOS hair loss work1s, we can begin to craft a plan of action to start tackling the aspects that are wreaking havoc on your beautiful, luscious locks.
The good news that there is a road map that will be laid out in the coming paragraphs that will help you overcome this obstacle to your self-esteem.
The bad news is that it is going to take a lot of work.
The inputs in your daily life that have conspired to cause PCOS to manifest in the manner that it has will need to be changed, with some changes being drastic in nature. In order to reduce the aggravating effects of insulin, androgen, testosterone, and other hormones, lifestyle changes involving the diet you eat, the drinks you consume, and the stressors you allow into your life will need to be controlled, reduced, and if possible, eliminated.
Are you up for the challenge? I know you are, so let’s get started together!
Drugs, Drugs, Drugs: Some Are Good, Some Are Bad!Those looking to treat the PCOS induced loss of their hair have several treatment options available to them, such as Finasteride, which blocks an enzyme that converts testosterone to its more active form, thus suppressing the activities of this hormone that contributes to PCOS hair loss in women.
Side effects of this drug include breast tenderness and increased libido (e.g. it puts you in the mood to get busy). While this may seem like a good thing for women suffering from a disease that stifles fertility, use of this drug while trying to conceive is discouraged, as it has been shown to stunt or deform the growth of male sex organs in a developing male fetus 4.
A supplement you may want to consider adding to your arsenal in your own personal war against PCOS should be N-acetyl Cysteine. Despite the scary-sounding, tongue-twisting name, this compound has been shown to markedly improve the insulin sensitivity in cells of those suffering from resistance to this normally accepted hormone 5, reducing its excess circulation that leads to the problems with androgen that you are familiar with by now.
One thing you will definitely want to avoid in your quest to retain and reclaim your hair from the ravages of this disease are hormonal therapies, such as estrogen and progesterone. While it has been proven that these treatments do succeed in regaining lost hair, it comes at the tremendous risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer, high blood pressure, and potentially fatal blood clots.
Eating A Low-Carb, High Protein DietEating a healthy diet is another big preventative step towards minimizing the PCOS hair loss associated with the metabolic ravages of the syndrome. The overproduction of testosterone that leads to unwanted hair loss is strongly linked with insulin resistance, as mentioned in the introduction to this article. Therefore, if one consumes a diet that is low in simple carbs and high in protein, the spikes in insulin produced by very high amounts of blood sugar will become a thing of the past, reducing the amounts of harmful inputs that drive PCOS hair loss in women 6.
When you are at the grocery store overhauling your diet, it is vital to also ensure that the meats, veggies, and fruits that you are purchasing are also free of environmental pollution, hormones, and antibiotics. The industrial nature of our modern food system has seen all of these unsavoury elements enter it, which has contributing to a creeping toxicity in people throughout the world. In women with PCOS, compounds such as BPA, various heavy metals, and pesticides often interfere with already unbalanced hormone levels, aggravating the effects of this complex disorder 7.
One must also be consistent with regards to eating times, as irregular eating habits have been shown to cause insulin spikes 8. Given insulin’s role in aggressively producing the androgen that is behind PCOS hair loss in women, keeping consistent meal times on a tight schedule (no skipping breakfast/lunch, avoiding later or earlier than usual dinners, etc) along with the advised diet mentioned just previously will go a long way to limiting this all too apparent symptom of PCOS.
In addition to eating properly according to low carb Paleo principles at predictable times, taking additional natural supplements may be advisable as well. For example, it is known that taking saw palmetto suppresses hormonal and enzyme activity that converts testosterone to DHT (its more troublesome form) for PCOS sufferers, not only leading to a reduction in PCOS hair loss, but also outbreaks of acne and unwanted hair in places where they don’t normally occur in women (goodbye ugly facial hair!) 9.
Another wrinkle that you may want to add to your daily routine may also include a refreshing cup of spearmint tea. Already a perky way to begin your day or to relax after the hectic parts of it have past, the compounds within this herbal remedy have been analysed by studies, which have revealed that they have a significant effect in reducing androgen levels in the bodies of women suffering from PCOS 10, which accordingly has the effect of tripping up the mechanism by which hair loss occurs.
Chill Out, Sista! How Sweating The Small Stuff Makes Your Hair Fall OutControlling your stress can also go a long way to reducing PCOS hair loss. When you freak out over the myriad of stressors present in today’s hectic and harried modern world, your body produces cortisol, a hormone that brings more blood sugar out of your cells and into your bloodstream 11.
This response was likely related to our hunter-gatherer past, when constant danger lurked in the shadows, causing this metabolic pathway to evolve to allow for a quick response to any threats that arised. These days, immediate threats to our lives aren’t nearly as present, but these mechanisms are much slower to change.
In PCOS patients, the effect of bringing excess glucose into your body also is a harbinger of excess insulin, which drives androgen that causes rapid hair loss in women in their prime. As such, it is vital to take care of your mental health when the demands of the world hammer away at your door, lest you let it cause your hair to fall out!
Ugh, Nothing’s Working … WHAT NOW?By following the dietary and lifestyle changes outlined above, you can enjoy much of the benefits afforded by this hazardous shortcut, while assuming none of the potential risk to your life. Better off with a little less hair and being fully alive, than gaining back a full head of hair and dying shortly after due to an illness brought on by side effects that are widely known by all in the medical community!
However, if you have done all of the above and you are still experiencing significant problems with hair loss potentially related to PCOS, you may want to book an appointment with your doctor. Ask him or her to check your thyroid gland for hypothyroidism, which can result in slow growth of hair, and hair losses throughout many areas of the body 12.
While it is not fully known whether PCOS can lead to hypothyroidism, or vice versa, women that have PCOS and who struggle with hair loss despite cleaning up their diet and lifestyle should be checked for this thyroid condition 13. Drugs like Levothroid, Levoxyl, or Synthroid will be prescribed to treat this condition, which are generic names for the compound levothyroxine. This drug effective replaces the thyroxine that your thyroid is not producing, allowing balance to be restored to your bodies’ functions.
Dealing With PCOS Hair LossLosing hair in your prime can be a traumatic experience. No matter the cause, the loss of this highly valued barometer of attractiveness can cause anyone to question their self-worth, while certain judgmental gatekeepers in society may be subconsciously influenced by issues of physical attractiveness.
While the latter case is clearly unacceptable in today’s society, the presence of this bias that has predominated in the past still lingers, and while one hopes that one day appearance won’t matter when it comes to one’s merit, maintaining appearances in the present has a much larger net benefit to one’s self-esteem.
However, risking your health to validate yourself in eyes of a few people certainly isn’t worth it either. As such, it is vital to consult a physician before undertaking any of the recommended treatments and modalities laid out in this report.
It is better to take your time, do things as directed as experts in the field, than to get impatient and get sucked in by snake oil peddlers promising a quick fix, or worse, take a dangerous drug in dosages that are outside what was indicated and end up dying of an overdose, or end up getting a chronic health condition such as heart disease or cancer.
Rome took more than one day to construct, but when it was finished, it was the pride of the civilized world. With your scalp, you may not have those smooth silky strands back tomorrow, but one year out from your post PCOS lifestyle change, you’ll look back at where you were compared to the vision of loveliness that you will be, and you will beam with the pride that comes from having earned your reward.
1. European Society of Endocrinology
2. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology
3. Medical News Today (MNT)
4. Clinical Interventions in Aging
5. Fertility and Sterility
6. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
7. Natural Health Solutions for PCOS
8. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition
9. Longevity Medical Health Center
10. Phytotherapy Research
12. Alopecia in Hypothyroidism
13. Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics
Hi my name is Whitney and I'm a mom to 2 adorable boys and the wife to a sports loving, handsome man. I'm outnumbered but wouldn't have it any other way. I'm navigating motherhood one fart joke at a time. Welcome to my crazy life!