One Thing All Women With PCOS Need

One Thing All Women With PCOS Need

If you’ve done any searching on my website you have probably learned a lot about your PCOS and how to try to heal its many underlying causes and symptoms.

You may have even purchased my helpful e-book, PCOS Unlocked (find it here).

But I have a fear for you, my readers, that I feel its important to point out.

You need a doctor.

Here me out, because I know that in the natural health world, it’s pretty common practice to think you’ve got all the tools at your fingertips, that food is your medicine, and you don’t need anything else.

That given time, your body will heal itself.

Maybe.

I don’t mean to be pessimistic, of course.  I DO believe that food is medicine and that there is much that can be done for PCOS with nutrition and lifestyle alone.

But that doesn’t mean that those who follow those nutritional rules to the letter will succeed in eliminating the condition.

And MOST importantly, that doesn’t mean you don’t need to be followed by a medical professional.

This has been on my mind lately with the diagnosis of endometrial cancer in a friend.

She did everything right, watched her diet, did her exercise, went off birth control pills.

But her periods didn’t normalize and she didn’t see a doctor and eventually, because she was not ovulating, the lining of her uterus became too thick, turned into complex hyperplasia with atypia and eventually developed into early stage cancer.

It’s rare, it’s absolutely uncommon in a woman her age, but according to many doctors, it’s becoming more and more common.

Endometrial cancer used to be considered a cancer of older women, something that would occur during menopause.

But more and more women with PCOS are suffering from it.

There is no ideal situation here.  It sucks any way you look at it.

Because what she should have done is gone to her doctor when she didn’t menstruate and the doctor would have prescribed a progesterone pill to induce her to menstruate.

There’s potential issues with those progesterone pills, sure, just like with anything prescribed.

But.

It would have prevented cancer.

So I’m asking you ladies, you know who you are, the ones who are sick of ill-informed doctors and being told to go on birth control.  

The ones who are tired of being judged for their weight.  

The ones who are sick of the old advice to just lose “10%”.  

The ones who are looking to natural health to fill the void of medicine.

I’m asking you to please keep them both.

Do the natural thing, absolutely.

But don’t neglect those important screenings- vaginal ultrasounds and sometimes, endometrial biopsies, that are vital to knowing the state of one’s health.

No matter what we do with our diet, some of us are just going to be facing a higher wall than others and we have to be cautious and careful in that climb.

Here’s some of the things that make that wall so high:

  • Having to eat conventional meat with antibiotics and hormones.  If you can afford to do so, we recommend meat from Butcher Box (find more info here), or any grass-fed, pastured meat because it is healthier.  At the very least, go organic if you can.
  • BPA in the environment, the water, and basically everywhere.  You can cut some of the BPA you take in by using BPA free products like these, but you can never eliminate it all.
  • Being more prone to craving sweets and sugar, even though they are much worse for your health when you have insulin issues and having hyperinsulinemia, which most women with PCOS do, in which you produce excessive insulin in relation to the food you eat.  There are several supplements that can increase insulin sensitivity like L-carnitine (find more information here), inositol (find it here), and others, but none can fully solve the underlying problem. 
  • Being overweight and inflamed or being normal weight and inflamed.  Carrying excess weight in the stomach produces inflammation, no way around it, and that inflammation harms the whole body.
  • Having poor gut health, bowel irregularities, or digestive illness.  Here’s my post about having a healthy gut.

That means trying our best, but also listening to the advice of a good doctor.  It’s a TEAM effort.

My friend found a wonderful OBGYN who is super knowledgeable and informed, but there are great reproductive endocrinologists and even primary care providers out there.

By all means, shop around!  Find a doctor that stays up to date on PCOS research, that specializes in PCOS, or at least one who recognizes the important role diet plays in insulin sensitivity.

Find a doctor you are comfortable with, who doesn’t think all supplements and nutrition advice is quack science, and who supports your goals.

But find a doctor.

And see them regularly.

And face your PCOS head on.

The last thing you want to do is bury your head in the sand by eating paleo and thinking everything will just work itself out.

That may happen, but please, don’t take the risk.

Have you learned this valuable lesson?  I’d love to hear your stories.  

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So, just as a heads up - some links above may be my affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you click on it and make a purchase. Doing so is no additional cost to you, but helps me tremendously. Your support is SO greatly appreciated, so thank you in advance if you choose to do so. Check out my entire disclosure to know exactly how things work.

The Link Between L-Carnitine and PCOS

The Link Between L-Carnitine and PCOS

If you have PCOS, you’ve probably tried a number of things to help your health, and you probably have a number of concerns.

Women with PCOS are more likely to be overweight or obese, more likely to suffer metabolic disorders and insulin-related conditions, and, alongside the extra facial hair, irregular periods, and infertility, it’s a lot to take.

I care deeply about this condition and have worked in my own way to help those who have it for many years (see my PCOS program: PCOS Unlocked)

But the more prevalent PCOS becomes, the more research is done, and new things are coming out all the time!

I’m so excited to bring you this information on L-carnitine, a very special amino acid that can help women with PCOS lose weight naturally and feel more energetic.  

L-carnitine is a nootropic amino acid found typically in meat products and milk.

Nootropics are types of supplements (like adaptogens) that work with the brain to increase it’s efficiency.  

L-carnitine helps alleviate the effects of aging and disease on mitochondria, while increasing the mitochondria’s potential to burn fat.

For most people (i.e. those without PCOS) it is not a nutrient of concern and they synthesize an ample amount internally and from lysine and methionine in foods.  However, it has been found that women with PCOS are often deficient in L-carnitine, regardless of their diets.

L-carnitine improves insulin sensitivity and helps lower blood glucose, which is valuable for women with PCOS who are usually insulin resistant.  

This ability, plus the fact that PCOS women are often deficient in L-carnitine seem to make l-carnitine effective in promoting natural weight loss.  

It is also known to increase energy, lower ammonia, enhance energy during cancer treatment, improve exercise tolerance and energy in those with conditions like angina and congestive heart failure, and enhance sperm morphology, in case you were curious!

Although studies regarding weight loss with l-carnitine in general seem to find mixed benefit, studies which look at those deficient in l-carnitine or those with insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome find it does help.

In fact, a recent study of PCOS only women found that compared to placebo, statistically significant weight loss occurred over 12 weeks with supplementation.

This is excellent news since it is no secret that PCOS women, with their hormone imbalances and insulin resistance typically struggle to maintain a healthy weight.  

Adverse effects are rare but can include gastrointestinal disturbance, body odor, and seizures.  I’ve heard from some women that it causes a “fishy” odor in the urine, which can be unpleasant.  It may possibly interact with anticoagulants and certain thyroid medications so, like with any supplement or diet, you should get the okay from your doctor.  

Typical doses in the studies that showed weight loss benefits ranged from 500-2,000 mg a day, with 2,000 mg. a day being what was used with PCOS women.

Though the evidence for this supplement in PCOS are somewhat new, there’s enough promise that I find it interesting for PCOS ladies looking for weight loss help.  
It’s not a magic pill, and a focus on healthy dietary habits is absolutely still vital for women the PCOS.

But, one of the cool things about L-carnitine is that it is best deposited into muscles in hyperinsulinemic states, or during times when insulin is high (which is almost all the time for most PCOS women).

That means those with insulin resistant conditions would see the most benefit from supplementation.

If you’re interested in trying L-carnintine, give it at least 12 weeks of supplementation.  This is one (find l-carnitine on amazon here) I particularly like because the pills are in 1000 mg amounts so you can just take 2 a day, with meals.  

Find L-carnitine on Amazon here. 

Do you take l-carnitine and has it helped you?  What supplements are part of your PCOS routine?

 

(Here’s the citation for that study, in case you want to check it out- 

Samimi, M., Jamilian, M., Afshar Ebrahimi, F., Rahimi, M., Tajbakhsh, B., & Asemi, Z. (2016). Oral carnitine supplementation reduces body weight and insulin resistance in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomized, double‐blind, placebo‐controlled trial. Clinical endocrinology.)

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So, just as a heads up - some links above may be my affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you click on it and make a purchase. Doing so is no additional cost to you, but helps me tremendously. Your support is SO greatly appreciated, so thank you in advance if you choose to do so. Check out my entire disclosure to know exactly how things work.

PCOS and Vitamin D Deficiency: Can Supplementation Help Cure You?

PCOS and Vitamin D Deficiency: Can Supplementation Help Cure You?

There is a very strong relationship between PCOS and vitamin D deficiency.

PCOS and Vitamin D: What’s the link?

Women who have PCOS are three times more likely to be severely deficient in vitamin D (less than 25 nmol/liter in the blood) than those who do not have PCOS.

A deficiency in vitamin D for women with PCOS is also associated with insulin resistance, obesity, inflammation (elevated levels of C-reactive protein in the blood), low levels of good cholesterol, and high levels of testosterone. It is, in short, associated with cysts on the ovaries, poor metabolic health, and inflammation.

PCOS and Vitamin D: What’s it do?

Vitamin D plays a role with hormones in their receptor sites. Without vitamin D, hormones cannot function the way they would normally. The receptor sites malfunction, leaving estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, luteneizing hormone, and follicle stimulating hormone in the lurch. Without healthy action at receptor sites, hormones don’t get utilized. The menstrual cycle fails as a result. PCOS results. Many other hormone problems and symptoms such as acne, facial hair, low libido, mood disturbances, irregular periods and infertility can result.

Vitamin D appears to play a real and important role in healthy hormonal and reproductive health.

PCOS and vitamin D: Does supplementing with D alleviate PCOS?

One meta review study of vitamin D in PCOS patients found that supplementing with vitamin D alone, generally speaking, does not alleviate PCOS.

Now this does not mean that the vitamin D supplementation will not helpful for some of the women.

Nor does it mean that vitamin D fails to play a causal role in PCOS. What could have happened  in this study was that – for these women, and which likely happens for many women – was that vitamin D was important for overcoming their PCOS — but because these women also had many other health issues like insulin resistance and inflammation which require more than just vitamin D to be overcome, such as a highly nutritious, anti-inflammatory diet like the paleo diet, they could not overcome their PCOS with just vitamin D.

(I have written a manual on how to do this precise thing. To overcome PCOS with dietary and lifestyle changes the way I did, check out my PDF guide on it here.)

No studies have been conducted on the use of vitamin D in the context of a healthy diet and lifestyle. I imagine, however, that it would be quite successful.

But perhaps there is another way?

Is there a smarter way of overcoming PCOS with vitamin D?

There is.

Vitamin D is crucial for helping hormones perform their designated tasks. It is necessary, for example, for estrogen to be able to stimulate the right kind of growth in reproductive follicles throughout the menstrual cycle.

But once this stimulation happens, the follicles actually need to grow.

The element that is most helpful for this growth is calcium.

In one study, 100 infertile women with PCOS (83 percent of whom were deficient in vitamin D and 35 percent were ‘severely deficient’) were randomly assigned a group. Group I was treated with metformin. Group II was treated with metformin, vitamin D, and calcium. Both for six months. In the group given vitamin D and calcium, BMI decreased, menstrual regularity increased, follicle health and maturation increased, and fertility increased.

In essence, the PCOS was significantly alleviated.

Another study measured precisely the amount of follicles developed. The number of dominant follicles (> or = 14 mm) during the 2-3 months of follow-up was higher in the calcium-vitamin D plus metformin group than in either of the other two groups (p = 0.03).

Now, both of these groups had women on metformin (read more about metformin and PCOS here). Metformin is a drug that acts to decrease blood sugar and insulin levels. This really helps women with PCOS, especially type I PCOS (you can read more about the different types of PCOS and which one you might have here). Metformin is helpful, but the real efficaciousness of vitamin D and calcium in these studies cannot be overstated: it is only in studies in which both vitamin D and calcium are utilized that follicle volume and strength increases. The hormone-stimulating effects of vitamin D and the activation-effects of calcium work together to help with PCOS.

Does this effect work without metformin?

Yes.

In this study, calcium and vitamin D supplementation  decreased inflammation and biomarkers of oxidative stress among vitamin D deficient women with PCOS.

It was a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. 104 women with PCOS who were deficient in vitamin D participated. They were randomly divided into four groups which each received different amounts of vitamin D and calcium over the course of eight weeks.

After eight weeks, those who took both calcium and vitamin D supplements had far and away the best beta-cell function (a marker of immune system health), lower levels of inflammatory markers, and significant increases in the body’s antioxidant and detox capacities (measured by antioxidant TAC and glutathione levels) of all groups. Women who took just calcium or just vitamin D fared decently, but without significant improvements. Women in the placebo groups experienced no significant change or help at all.

PCOS and vitamin D deficiency: what to do about it

First of all, if you have PCOS, it’s probably worth checking out the manual I use with my clients to overcome their PCOS. You can read all about it and see if it’s worth your thought and time at this link: http://paleoforwomen.com/pcos-unlocked-the-manual.

Second, if you have PCOS, there is a very good chance that you are deficient in vitamin D, and quite likely even categorized as “severely deficient” in vitamin D.

The best way to get vitamin D is natural absorption from the sun. Daily exposure of at least 20 minutes of noontime sun on bare, SPF-free skin is best. If you cannot do this for any reason (I certainly cannot – because I work and because it’s usually cloudy where I live), you may wish to supplement like I do.

I take 1000 IU of vitamin D daily. It’s probably best to take more. I simply take so little because my body is so sensitive. Most medical professionals recommend 1000 IUs per 25 lbs of body weight per day.

It’s best to take an emulsified form of vitamin D, which makes it more absorbable. This is the variety of vitamin D that I take. You can get it on Amazon here.

Vitamin D by itself will in all likelihood help improve many of your markers of poor metabolism and inflammation.

Adding calcium can help resolve PCOS.

An organic, or chelated, variety of calcium is probably best. This is an excellent supplement, available on Amazon here. Take the recommended dose for your body size.

You can also of course get calcium from your diet. Dark, leafy green vegetables are great sources of calcium (and may be why women who supplemented with vitamin D alone didn’t improve… if they had poor diets they may have lacked the necessary calcium). To that end, two-three servings a day for women with PCOS can go a long way. Dairy products are also high in calcium, but not as much as leafy greens. Because dairy is often a problem for women with PCOS and PCOS symptoms, leafy greens may be the best bet for meeting your calcium needs.

Yet bone broth and gelatin are the two best natural sources of calcium.

This is an excellent recipe for bone broth.

Here is a “paleo snack” version of bone broth – pre made! – from Amazon. 

And here on Amazon is my favored paleo, grass-fed gelatin. Add it to any liquid (it will be completely flavorless and unnoticeable) daily for a hefty dose of healthy amino acids and other important minerals like calcium. I do one teaspoon daily.

Finally, here are some links to learn more about PCOS:

What is PCOS?

What Causes PCOS

PCOS Treatment Options

The PCOS Diet

How to Overcome PCOS for Good

 

And that’s it! What do you think? Does this jive with your experience? How do you meet your vitamin D or calcium needs?

Got PCOS? Learn how vitamin D and calcium supplementation can help!

 

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So, just as a heads up - some links above may be my affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you click on it and make a purchase. Doing so is no additional cost to you, but helps me tremendously. Your support is SO greatly appreciated, so thank you in advance if you choose to do so. Check out my entire disclosure to know exactly how things work.

PCOS and Acne: The Paleo Way to Overcome Both at Once

PCOS and Acne: The Paleo Way to Overcome Both at Once

Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndome (PCOS) is a fertility condition that affects between 10 and 15 percent of women in the Western world.

All of these women suffer from at least some of the symptoms of PCOS: irregular menstrual cycles, weight gain, difficulty with weight loss, low libido, facial hair growth, balding, and, perhaps most popular of all, acne.

PCOS and acne are inextricably linked. Why? Because PCOS is caused by an underlying hormone imbalance. The very same underlying hormone imbalance causes acne. It is possible to have PCOS without acne, and possible to have this kind of acne without PCOS. But quite frequently they occur together.

Here in this post I explain the hormone imbalance that causes PCOS, and the ways in which it also causes acne.

Also, and importantly: after figuring out how to overcome my own PCOS and acne, I wrote a manual on overcoming PCOS. It’s PCOS Unlocked: The Manual, and you can read all about it here.

PCOS and acne: the underlying hormone imbalance

Most medical professionals understand the hormone problem that underlies PCOS to be quite simple: elevated insulin levels cause the ovaries to produce excess testosterone, which throws a wrench in the menstrual cycle and causes irregularity, cysts on the ovaries, and infertility.

This does indeed happen to be the case for many women with PCOS. Testosterone is their biggest problem. In my PCOS manual, I call this “type I PCOS”.

Yet there are other types of PCOS.

Low female sex hormone levels are another cause of PCOS.

Why? Because–even though most medical professionals don’t understand this–PCOS is not just about high testosterone, but is rather about a fundamental imbalance between testosterone and the female sex hormones.

When estrogen and progesterone levels fall, they get out of fundamental balance with testosterone, which also throws a wrench in the menstrual cycle.

Estrogen and progesterone levels fall for any number of reasons, though by far the most popular reasons have to do with stress and with starvation. 

The thing about the female body is that it is highly sensitive to any conditions that may impair it’s ability to healthfully bear children. If you imagine life millions of years ago back on the savannah, it would be quite common for natural disasters or tribal conflict to create stressful times that could hinder a healthy pregnancy. It would also be quite common to come into a period of famine, in which case pregnant women would not be able to get enough food to sustain their pregnancies.

In periods of stress and starvation, pregnant women die more easily.

In order to prevent this from happening, the female body shuts down hormone production when it detects the slightest bit of stress or starvation. Shutting down hormone production prevents the body from becoming pregnant, which would have saved an ancestral woman’s life in the long run.

Our bodies do the same thing.

If we count calories, resrict food intake, limit carbohydrates or fat too much, yo-yo diet, or excercise excessively, our sex hormone levels fall, and our estrogen and progesterone levels become too low both for a healthy menstrual cycle and for clear skin.

You can read more about the female body and psychological stress in this post: psychological stress and hypothalamaic amenorrhea, and more about the female body and starvation-type stress in this post: metabolic distress and hypothalamic amenorrhea.

There is yet one more popular hormone problem that causes PCOS. It’s what happens when DHEA-S levels rise.

Elevated levels of DHEA-S contribute to PCOS because DHEA-S is also an androgen, or male sex hormone.

DHEA-S and testosterone act very similarly in the female body. The primary difference is that testosterone is produced by the ovaries, and DHEA-S is produced by the adrenal glands.

DHEA-S levels rise in response to stress. Whenever you feel stressed out, your body has a choice to make: it can continue to direct it’s hormonal resources toward sex hormone production, or it can divert those resources toward stress hormone production.

This process is often called “pregnenolone steal.” The reason we call it a “steal” is that hormonal resources are literally stolen by the adrenal glands and used for sex hormone production.

Thus you end up with lower hormone levels (like estrogen, progesterone, and the pituitary signalling hormones LH and FSH), as well as elevated DHEA-S levels, which can cause testosterone-like symptoms in the body: PCOS, infertility, facial hair growth, and acne.

So in sum, there are several hormonal factors that may be at play in PCOS:

Testosterone levels may be too high largely due to insulinemia

Estrogen and/or progesterone levels may be too low due to psychological and physical stress

DHEA-S levels may be too high due to psychological stress

Causes of PCOS and causes of acne

So in a very brief, very simplified nutshell: PCOS is caused by and large by an imbalance between male sex hormones and female sex hormones. If testosterone or DHEA-S is elevated, PCOS may result. If estrogen or progesterone is low, PCOS may result. Any of these things can happen at the same time, and often do.

(For more on the details of how all this happens, check out the PCOS manual here.)

This hormone imbalance is also one of the primary causes of acne.

How hormones and acne work

There are three separate layers to the skin, and pores traverse these layers. In order to adequately protect your body and keep toxins on the outside, the outer layer of the skin has to be hydrated and strong.

Pores deliver oil to the out layers from the bottom up. In healthy skin, oil comes up through the pores and oozes onto the surface, lubricating the skin and making it look soft and glowy. Think of it like a well, or a hot spring, or an oil rig.

In acne-prone skin, debris from the surface clogs pores, bacteria clog pores, and oil coming up from the bottom clogs pores. Then all this oil oxidizes and bacteria go on a feeding frenzy – which makes the pores become infected and inflamed.

The problem for women with PCOS is that male sex hormones increase oil production.

Estrogen performs an opposite function, and helps sooth the skin.

When estrogen levels are low, and when oil production increases from elevated testosterone or DHEA-S, acne is often the result.

The kind of acne that usually accompanies PCOS is around the chin, the mouth, and the jaw. It can spread to other areas of the face and the body, particularly the shoulders, buttocks, and back of the thighs, because these are the areas where the skin has the most testosterone receptors. If you have acne in these places there is quite a decent chance that your hormones are at least a bit  out of balance, PCOS or no.

For more on hormones and acne, check out this post: cystic acne and hormones: everything you need to know.

PCOS and acne: what to do about it

So what do you do about your acne and PCOS?

For one, tackling PCOS should be a priority.

You can do so by utilizing the manual for overcoming PCOS I’ve mentioned a few times that I’ve used with thousands of women, which you can read all about here.

You can also read some other posts I have on PCOS:

What is PCOS?

The PCOS Diet

5 Things I wish I knew when I was diagnosed with PCOS

PCOS and hypothalamic amenorrhea: What’s wrong with the contemporary understanding and how you can have both

You may also wish to consider tackling your acne from more than one angle. PCOS and underlying hormone problems are in all likelihood a significant factor in your acne, yet there are probably other factors at play. To that end you may wish to check out the posts:

The ultimate hormonal acne treatment plan

Acne: thinking beyond hormones

And, most of all, I highly recommend the remarkable acne program by my favorite thinker on the topic of acne, Seppo Puusa. I have learned so much of what I know about acne from Seppo. You can read all about his work, his program, and what he has to offer HERE. 

 

And that’s it! Please let me know your thoughts, your problems, your experiences in the comments! I and everyone else in our community would be honored to learn through your life and wisdom 🙂

 

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PCOS and Acne - Paleo for Women

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So, just as a heads up - some links above may be my affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you click on it and make a purchase. Doing so is no additional cost to you, but helps me tremendously. Your support is SO greatly appreciated, so thank you in advance if you choose to do so. Check out my entire disclosure to know exactly how things work.

5 Things I Wish I Knew when I was Diagnosed with PCOS

5 Things I Wish I Knew when I was Diagnosed with PCOS

I was diagnosed with PCOS in 2009.

At the time, everything I knew about PCOS came from the flimsy little pamphlet my doctor handed to me after my ultrasound. Even after spending a few months scouring the web for more info on PCOS, I was still pretty empty handed.

It felt nearly impossible to get started on my healing because I couldn’t find any high quality information.

So then there were a lot of things I learned about PCOS over the course of doing several years of research and writing.

In fact, I learned so much that I cured my own PCOS in 2013, and I began curing thousands of other women’s PCOS with my  rather ground-breaking (if I do say so myself) manual on PCOS – PCOS Unlocked.

(It really has done some wonders, check it out for yourself @ here if you’d like!)

Anyway. I have since made it my mission to prevent you from suffering the same years of frustration heart-break. To that end, here are the top 5 things I have since learned, that I wish I had known when I was diagnosed with PCOS:

1. You don’t have to be overweight to have PCOS

You do not have to be overweight to have PCOS. In fact, approximately 35% of women who have PCOS are not overweight. If you are not overweight and you have PCOS, you have a lot of friends.

Most women who have PCOS struggle with insulin resistance. This often goes along with being overweight, but doesn’t always.

It is entirely possible to be “normal” or a healthy weight and be insulin resistant. In this case, you will probably still want to work on your insulin resistance for the sake of your PCOS. The best way to know whether that will work for you is to get tested for insulin resistance.

But plenty of women who have PCOS are normal weight and are not insulin resistant. I was one of them. We are the women who fall through the cracks, because weight loss and insulin sensitivity are the two biggest causes of PCOS doctors focus on, almost to the exclusion of everything else.

So you might, but you do not have to be overweight to have PCOS. And there are solutions for you one way or another.

2. There are many different causes of PCOS

Doctors, authors, and most bloggers talk about only one or two causes of PCOS. They talk about being overweight, and they talk about insulin resistance.

But did you know that stress, hypothyroidism, a low carbohydrate diet, under-eating, overexercising, excessive weight loss and low body weight, inflammation, the MTHFR gene mutation, menopause, and birth control pill use can all contribute to PCOS?

Before I came around, very few people ever talked about these causes. But they are very important underlying problems for just about every woman who has PCOS. My own PCOS was caused by a confluence of many factors: low body weight, excessive exercise, stress, hypothyroidism, and MTHFR.

For a resource (or really, the only resource) that covers how to overcome PCOS from all of its various causes, I’m not sure if you could do better than my own.

3. PCOS affects more than your period

When I was first diagnosed with PCOS, honestly, I didn’t really care.

I mean, sure. I didn’t get my period any more. But I actually thought that was kind of a relief.

Little did I know that the longer I let my PCOS go, the worse my hormone levels got. My testosterone and DHEA-S levels kept climbing (this was bad), and my LH, FSH, estrogen, and progesterone levels kept falling (this was also bad).

I developed acne over time. It became very severe.

I lost my libido.

I began sleeping poorly.

I was infertile.

If I had taken my PCOS seriously right from the get-go, I might have avoided all these symptoms. PCOS can also cause male pattern hair growth (like mustaches), balding, weight gain, mood disorders, and early menopause. PCOS is primarily a hormone condition, but it can affect all of your health.

4. PCOS requires patience

Overcoming PCOS takes time. This is in large part because each woman’s PCOS is unique. You cannot necessarily follow the prescriptions written for somebody else. You need to follow your own path.

Following your own path with PCOS means getting tests done, talking with your doctor or other health professionals, doing research, experimenting with different hypotheses you have about what’s causing your PCOS and how to overcome it, and giving your body the time it needs to heal from underlying health conditions.

The thing about PCOS is that it is always caused by an underlying condition. Until this condition is cured, the PCOS will not go away. No medication will cure the PCOS. No wishful thinking. The only thing that can help you overcome PCOS is making the dietary and lifestyle changes you need in order to heal the underlying condition.

5. Sometimes the most important thing is being honest with yourself.

When I had PCOS, I was in serious denial.

I thought: “there’s got to be a cure out there that will enable me to have my cake and eat it, too!”

I kept looking for the secret pill, the magic bullet.

I suspected that I needed to gain weight in order to regain hormone balance, but I didn’t want to. I had worked very hard starving myself and exercising twice daily in order to fit into the body mold I thought was “sexy.”

So I ignored weight gain as a possible cure. Instead I tried taking metformin and spironolactone, two drugs that did significant damage to organs in my body that I still haven’t recovered from. Instead I waited. Instead I kept looking for a different cure.

Eventually I summoned the courage to gain some weight, and my menstrual cycle returned.

You may not have the exact same story as me, but maybe it’s a similar one. Maybe you suspect you need to eliminate grains from your diet but are afraid to. Maybe you don’t want to give up sugar. Maybe you don’t want to give up being a Cross Fit athlete. Maybe your job is really stressful but you can’t bring yourself to leave. Maybe you’re just afraid of change, or lazy.

Sometimes the best thing you can do for your PCOS is simply to be honest. Do some tests, be virogously honest with yourself, and then craft a plan for healing. This, in my perspective, is the best thing you can do to speed up your healing from PCOS. It’ll help you get right down to the cures you need, instead of flailing about hoping things will just get better.

 

So that’s it for the 5 most important things I wish I knew back in the day.

If I had, I would have saved myself years of both physical and mental anguish.

You can read more about what PCOS is in this post,

or if you already know you’ve got it, check out that manual I wrote for overcoming PCOS, at this link. It’s an immediate download – you could get started on the most effective healing path for you today. !

 

So what about you? What do you wish you knew when you were diagnosed with PCOS? What about other health conditions? What advice would you give your younger self?

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The PCOS Diet

The PCOS Diet

Most women treat PCOS with medication. Usually they do so with birth control pills or with blood sugar regulating meds. However, neither of these options ever solve PCOS.

Drugs may cover up symptoms of PCOS in the short-term, but they are completely ineffective for long-term healing.

But there is one secret key to effective change.

It is a PCOS diet.

Here’s why, how, and what to do about it.

The PCOS Diet: Why

PCOS (read my introductory post “what is PCOS” here) stands for poly cystic ovarian syndrome. It is the condition of having multiple small cysts on the ovaries. It is usually accompanied by elevated male sex hormone levels and irregular menstrual cycles.

Markers of PCOS include acne, oily skin, facial hair, balding, difficulty losing weight, low libido, and missed menstrual cycles and infertility. Not every woman who suffers from PCOS has all of these symptoms, but all have at least a few.

These symptoms are not a result of the cysts on the ovaries themselves. Rather, they are a result of a hormone imbalance in which male hormones are elevated over female hormones.

When doctors proscribe medication for PCOS, they typically have two options:

One is birth control pills. These pills contain progesterone and (usually) estrogen in them. These pills help control the symptoms of PCOS because they increase progesterone and estrogen levels in the blood. Doing so helps restore proper balance between male and sex hormones. The problem with taking these pills is that the underlying hormone imbalance continues to exist. Once you come off of the pill, the chances are close to certain that your PCOS symptoms will come back.

Another is blood sugar regulation. The primary pill used for this is metformin, which I have written about at length here. Metformin sometimes helps (though not always, not all PCOS cases are the same). Even in cases in which it does help, however, it does not heal the underlying problem.

The important thing to know about PCOS is that it is caused by an underlying health condition. If you take medications that cover up symptoms, you are still left with the underlying health problem. In many cases of PCOS (though not all) this is an insulin problem, and may also be a gut problem, or a thyroid problem. All of these problems can cause many other symptoms and diseases in the long-run. In fact it is almost certainly guaranteed to.

The only way to be free of all of these health problems is to make the dietary changes necessary to correct hormone imbalance and heal underlying health conditions.

The PCOS diet: How

I wrote an extensive post about the causes of PCOS here (and an even more extensive book about it here). For a real quick recap, this is what I said:

PCOS is far more complicated than most medical professionals and websites would have us believe. They tell us that PCOS is only a problem of high testosterone and insulin levels.

But PCOS is caused by so many more things! It is also caused by hypothyroidism, by leaky gut, by birth control pill usage, by inflammation…. all of which are problems that can be overcome with dietary changes.

The PCOS diet I describe here helps account for all of those things. I will mention below which specific aspects of the diet are more helpful for different underlying conditions – though all of the points of advice are helpful to know about.

The more you know about your PCOS and what has caused it, the better. That way you can better tailor your diet and healing plan to your needs. I wrote a manual exactly on how to figure out your PCOS that you can read about here. You can also check out this post on PCOS treatment options.

The PCOS Diet: Foods to Eliminate or Limit

From a physical standpoint, it may be best to completely eliminate the following foods from your diet. However, I recognize that this is not necessarily feasible, especially if you have an ambivalent relationship with food and think that an overly-restrictive diet will do you more harm in the long-run.

Restriction, after all, is the primary cause of overeating.

So I advise you to consider these guidelines as firm guidelines you choose. Choose to focus on the healthy foods and to avoid the less healthy foods. Don’t force or punish yourself. Make it a choice – and it will be all the easier to adhere. You may choose (for any number of reasons) to deviate from the guidelines from time to time. Just know also that it’s best to focus on the healthy foods as much as possible.

Processed foods

Perhaps it goes without saying, but this is so important I will say it anyway:

Foods that come in colorful bags and boxes have most likely been “manufactured” to some extent, and contain any number of unhealthy compounds. Trans fats and partially hydrogenated oils may be some of the worst, though all the added sugar in processed foods gives them a run for their money.

Foods that you wouldn’t even expect to be bad are often full of things that aren’t good for you. Breakfast cereals, for example, are usually fortified with folic acid. This was intended to be helpful for pregnant women – but it now instead has been linked to several forms of cancer.

If you instead eat one serving of spinach every day, you would get your daily requirement for folate which is far healthier for you than the chemical altnerative folic acid made in laboratories.

Take a look at the ingredients in whole wheat bread. In addition to being full of gluten and other harmful wheat proteins, for most brands, there is a high amount of sugar and even partially hydrogenated soybean oil in the bread.

Processed foods cause PCOS because they cause nutrient deficiencies and inflammation. They mess up metabolism and make it hard for the body to healthfully detox and metabolize food. Removing them from the diet can do wonders for women with PCOS.

Sugar

I am a perfectly good fan of fruit, potatoes, starches, and other natural plant carbohydrates. Sugar, on the other hand, in sweets, in soda, in sauces, and in just about everything else from restaurants or packages in grocery stores, is incredibly bad for women with PCOS.

Sugar causes insulin levels to spike, and insulin causes the ovaries to produce testosterone. Therefore many women find that there is a direct relationship between how much sugar they eat and how bad their PCOS symptoms are at any given point in time.

Sugar is not the only thing that can cause insulin levels to go haywire. Having inflammation or IBS or other gut problem can also cause dysregulated insulin levels. But sugar is most definitely one big potential bad guy that should be eliminated (as much as possible).

Seed oils

What’s a seed oil? A seed oil is probably the oil 95% of the food you have eaten in your life has been cooked with, especially if you often eat at restaurants.

Seed oils are used in processed foods and by restaurants because they are cheap nd don’t have a unique flavor, which makes them easy to use in any food product.

Seed oils include vegetable oil, soybean oil, canola oil, rapeseed oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, and all other oils that come from seeds or nuts.

They are unhealthy because they are composed primarily of omega 6 fats, which cause inflammation. Inflammation is one of the primary causes of insulin problems, hormone imbalance, and PCOS.

Avoid them by avoiding processed foods, and by cooking with coconut oil (my favorite here), olive oil (another favorite here), or ghee (clarified butter) at home.

Grains

Unlike most bloggers in the paleosphere, I don’t think it’s necessary for everybody to give up grain products 100%.

However – if you have a gut issue, an insulin issue, or most especially an autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis like many women with PCOS do have, you probably do need to eliminate grains at least for a while.

And even for those of us who do not have any of those conditions, grains are still not optimal. The proteins in grains (gluten is one but not the only one) can be harmful to the gut lining. Certain molecules in grains bind with nutrients in the gut and carry them out of the body with excretion. They should not be the staple of anyone’s diet.

Consider eliminating grains for at least a few weeks and see if that helps you! Some women I have worked with have found that eliminating grains was the most important thing they did for their healing. (Though others of course had different problems and needs.)

By grains I mean all bread products, pasta, breakfast cereal, bagels, sandwiches, pizza, etc. Grain-type things that are okay in my book are rice, quinoa, and occasionally corn and oats (though be sure they are gluten free).

Dairy

Dairy is complicated. Some women need to remove it for PCOS and others do not. This is another food, like grains, that I recommend experimenting with. Remove all dairy – milk, yogurt, cheese, cream, and butter (though ghee is fine since it is clarified!) – for at least 3 weeks and monitor if you experience any changes in your symptoms.

Some women need to eliminate dairy because of its harmful effects on the gut. Others find that doing so helps with symptoms of PCOS like acne because dairy is simply a food that has a lot of male-type hormones in it.

If you have an autoimmune disease or IBS….

If you have an autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (or other gut issue) which can all contribute to PCOS, I recommend considering eliminating legumes like beans and peas, nuts, and also the nightshade vegetables tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and pepper. 

Your best bet as a guide in doing so is Dr Sarah Ballantyne, who’s written the book on autoimmunity and diet. You can find the book here.

The PCOS Diet: Foods to focus on

That may seem like a lot of food to eliminate! No processed foods, no oils, no sugar…. well, really all this eliminates is processed food! (If you get smart at reading labels you can still include some foods that come in bags and boxes… I talk about how to do so in this book.)

All that’s left having been eliminated for sure is grains, and possibly, though not necessarily, dairy.

Then you are left with a literal bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy cooking fats like olive and coconut oil, and all the animal products you might ever want, from eggs to ribs to bacon and back.

Vegetables

Vegetables are awesome. All of them. They are rich in B vitamins, vitamin E, vitamin C, and many other antioxidants.

Try to have at least one serving of greens like kale, spinach, chard, or broccoli every day. More often than not, cook the greens, as this reduces a potential threat they might pose to your thyroid gland.

 

Starchy vegetables

Starchy vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, cassava and taro are great choices for meeting your carbohydrate needs (which I consider to be at least 100 grams a day).

Women who struggle with insulin and who are type I PCOS may not want to have a TON of starch, but they should still have at least some carbohydrate – at least 100 grams a day! Women who are type II PCOS and struggle with low hormone levels may instead want to have a LOT of carobhydrate, somewhere around 2 or even 300 grams a day.

Fruit

Fruit is also awesome! Fruit is also full of antioxidants and vitamins. As with starches, women who struggle with insulin and who are type I PCOS may not want to have a TON of fruit, but they should still have at least some carbohydrate!

I especially love berries, cherries, and other dark fruits like plums for great antioxidant content. Antioxidants improve detox and lower inflammation, which is crucial for overcoming PCOS.

Eggs

Eggs are super healthy super foods! They contain all of the building blocks for a single organism in them… so they contain a lot of nutrients we can’t really get anywhere else!

In particular, eggs are rich in choline, which supports liver health, helps lower triglyceride levels, and which can help reduce inflammation and metabolic dysfunction.

For women with all types of PCOS I recommend trying to eat two eggs (and the YOLKS, which are the parts with all the nutrients in them) a day.

Seafood

Seafood, particularly wild caught fatty fish like salmon (a great salmon snack here!) or trout, is great for women with PCOS. Not only does seafood contain high levels of good vitamins like vitamin D and iodine, but it is also the only rich source of the super healthy omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA in the diet.

Aim for one pound of fatty fish like salmon every week. If you cannot get that, consider taking this cod liver oil supplement. This is the highest quality and most nutrient dense fish oil available in the world today (not exaggerating).

Seaweed 

Seaweed is awesome for PCOS because it contains lots of trace minerals in it, including iodine and selenium, which are great for supporting thyroid function.

For the sake of thyroid health, be sure that if you eat seaweed (here’s a super tasty paleo-approved seaweed snack) or supplement with kelp to eat about 10 brazil nuts (raw organic herea week, since those are high in selenium and the seaweed is higher in iodine. It is crucial to get both iodine and selenium in the diet as the thyroid needs both in order to function optimally.

Organ meats

Organ meats are some of the healthiest foods around! Did you know that liver contains 20,000 times the vitamin A of the normal vitamin A “superfoods” carrots? It does!

Aim for about one pound of liver consumption a month. If you don’t like liver (but you should, it’s amazing), try 10 capsules of this grass-fed desiccated liver supplement.

Grass-fed animal products

Grass-fed cows, bison, pork, and other animals are great sources of protein and fat, rich in the B vitamins you need to support detox.

Butter from grass fed cows is also great -particularly ghee, which tastes like butter but is safe for everyone (even those of us with autoimmune diseases) to eat.

Great plant fats: Avocado, Olive oil, Coconut Oil, Palm Oil

Olive oil is an amazing plant fat. It is great at low temperatures (but can go bad and be unhealthy at high temperatures), so use your olive oil mostly for cool foods like salads.

Avocadoes are super healthy and high in vitamin E, which can help promote progesterone production, so this is a definite must for women who like their taste buds and have PCOS. 🙂

Coconut oil is anti-microbial and great for fat-burning, as its a fat with a special molecular shape. I already mentioned that this is my favorite coconut oil. It’s great and super healthy for cooking, and fabulous in both sweet and savory dishes.

Red palm oil is another option that is good for high heat cooking if you do not particularly love the taste of coconut oil. Here is the tastiest, in my opinion.

Fermented foods

Fermented foods are great for PCOS because they are excellent ways to help support gut flora health, which is crucial for overcoming insulin resistance, cooling inflammation and balancing hormone levels.

Here are some of my favorite fermented foods and great links to get them online: kimchi (korean fermented cabbage), kombucha (fermented tea-careful though because it has caffeine!), and coconut-based yogurt.

The PCOS Diet: How to Eat it

Having a list of foods is all well and good, but you are probably wondering at this point how much and when you should be eating these foods.

Unfortunately, the answer to that question vaires based on which type of PCOS you have.  For example, in the manual I wrote (check it out here) on overcoming PCOS, I recommend different amounts of carbohydrate for type I or type II PCOS. I also recommend different meal timing. For type I PCOS, I recommend eating in 3 meals, or perhaps 4 including a snack, every day. For type II PCOS, it is often helpful to eat more frequently than that.

In general, however, here are some good guidelines to follow:

Moderate protein:

A healthy protein level for women with PCOS is between 50 and 100 grams of protein every day. This is the equivalent of 2-4 cans of fish a day (for sizing purposes), which is also roughly about 3 palm-sized servings of meat a day, 0.5-1.0 pounds of meat, or 8-16 oz of meat.

Many women with PCOS – there are no good numbers out there, though in my best estimate is perhaps between 40 and 50% – have a tendency to have elevated homocysteine levels, as a result of carrying the MTHFR gene mutation. Homocysteine is a by-product of protein metabolism, as well as the body’s detox processes. One of the best things you can do to help keep homocysteine levels in check is eat a moderate protein diet. More than 100 grams/day is probably not optimal for a woman carrying the MTHFR mutation.

(Another thing you can do is take a high quality methylated B vitamin supplement. This methylcobalamin (B12) is good. This methylcobalamin with 5-MTHF is even better for some because the 5 MTHF even better helps support the body’s detox methylation pathway. Always start with a low dose and take it in the mornings since B vitamins can be energizing!)

Plenty of healthy fats

It is optimal to eat at least 36 grams of fat each day, which is about 12 grams of fat per meal (or approximately 100 fat calories). Fat is important for helping the body absorb nutrients, as well as serving as a building block of fatty tissues in the body, like the brain. It also helps keep blood sugar levels stable, which is important for keeping insulin (and therefore testosterone) levels in control.

Aim for one tablespoon of fat at very minimum with every meal.

Plenty of fiber

There is no need to supplement with fiber, or to try to eat high fiber cereals. A diet rich in vegetables and fruits will having plenty of its own natural fiber to give you.

Fiber is great for PCOS because it helps moderate blood sugar responses to meals (it slows down absorption in the intestines), and also because it helps feed gut flora, and also because it helps the body keep digestion moving along at a healthy pace.

At least 100 grams of carbohydrate a day

Some women (usually those who are overweight and/or have insulin resistance issues) find that a lower carbohydrate diet helps manage their PCOS. In this case, they should eat carbohydrate on the lower end, but probably not go much below 100 grams a day. I see far too many women suffer ill effects from a low carbohydrate diet to advocate a very low carb diet for any significant length of time.

Other women should definitely try to stay above 100 grams of carbohydrates like fruit and starchy vegetables every day.

For a lot of people in the paleosphere, 100 grams sounds like a lot. But that’s really just 1/2 a sweet potato or one apple with every meal – a much lower carbohydrate intake than the general population eats.

And I personally eat approximately 250-300 grams of carbohydrate each day – so you are probably lower than I am in carbs!

The PCOS Diet: Healing naturally and flexibly

I have not laid out a specific diet plan. I have not given you meal times or necessary serving sizes.

Rather, I have listed foods that are important to avoid, and foods that are important to focus on, and some rough guidelines for making sure you get enough of the things you need. After you meet these minimum requirements, you can fill in the rest with whatever your heart desires.

(I go into my theory of meal sizes and macronutrient ratios a lot more in my guide to female weight loss if you’re interested!)

This diet is a very nourishing one. Choose a variety of foods from the vegetables and fruits, healthy animal products and healthy fats I list, and you will be eating a diet that is highly nourishing, that reduces inflammation, and that helps support hormone balance.

The best part about it all is that it is long-term, and long-lasting. Medications cannot do that for you. Medications are like band-aids. they might cover up PCOS, but they do not solve it.

The diet I describe here, which I have used personally and used with countless clients all over the world, has literally saved so many of our lives. It gave me my libido back. It cleared my skin. It gave me my fertility back.

The PCOS diet really is a secret to healing – so many women are still missing out on it. So many women still don’t know the amazing effects these easy, natural dietary changes can have on their lives.

The PCOS diet is an incredible tool for overcoming PCOS for good, especially if you’ve figured out your own type of PCOS and what caused it. 

You can figure out what caused your PCOS, and tailor this PCOS diet specifically to solving that problem, with the help of my manual for overcoming PCOS. Read all about it here.

You can also check out other posts on PCOS. My favorites are:

PCOS: An Introduction

PCOS and metformin: Everything you Need to know

What Causes and Influences PCOS 

And what about you? Have you tried your own version of a PCOS diet? What works for you? What doesn’t? What do you think of my version of the PCOS diet?

The Secret to Overcoming PCOS- The Ultimate PCOS Diet

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So, just as a heads up - some links above may be my affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you click on it and make a purchase. Doing so is no additional cost to you, but helps me tremendously. Your support is SO greatly appreciated, so thank you in advance if you choose to do so. Check out my entire disclosure to know exactly how things work.