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!
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!