If you’re dealing with a hormonal condition like PCOS, you’ve probably tried every health trend on the planet. Juicing, fasting, low-carb, , vegan diets — sound familiar?
Your instincts are spot on. When it comes to restoring hormonal balance, food IS medicine. But the truth is that many of today’s health food fads only make hormonal symptoms worse. If you’re “eating healthy” but still experiencing symptoms of endocrine chaos, one of the culprits might be on your plate.
In the past few years, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) has been in the public eye like never before. Thanks to celebrities like Victoria Beckham and Daisy Ridley, women around the world who are coping with the condition finally feel less alone.
As a former PCOS sufferer, I couldn’t be happier to see PCOS making headlines. I experienced everything from agonizing acne and weight gain to sleeplessness, depression, and more. It was only after years of trial, error, and frustration that I was able to successfully reverse my hormonal imbalance with one powerful tool that’s too often overlooked in conventional medicine: Food.
Why Cutting Out Dairy and Sugar May Not Be Enough to Heal Your PCOS
If you’ve been diagnosed with PCOS, you’ve probably heard over and over about the dangers of sugar and dairy. And, it’s true: these two foods are unparalleled in their ability to wreak hormonal havoc (caffeine is another nutritional villain when it comes to hormones, so it’s best avoided, too).
To get your period back, clear your acne, stop hair loss, and lose weight you’re wise to keep sugar, dairy, and caffeine out of your diet. But you’ll also want to take a close look at the other foods and beverages that might be sabotaging your success.
When you’re willing to dig deeper and root out the hidden “healthy” foods that undermine hormone balance, you’ll make leaps and bounds in easing symptoms.
Some “Healthy” Foods May Make Your PCOS worse
Before I made it my mission to fix my hormones and help other women do the same, I had no idea that some of the foods I believed to be “healthy” were actually making my problems worse. Now, I see how shocked my clients are when I tell them that some of the hyped-up health foods in their grocery carts might be hindering their progress in reversing symptoms.
For women with PCOS, it’s important to know which “healthy” foods to avoid. If you’re hormonally-sensitive like I am, these foods—foods that can be healthy for others—have a stronger effect on you can make the symptoms you desperately want to be rid of even worse.
The 5 “Healthy” Foods You Have to Quit ASAP To Beat PCOS
Allow me to play mythbuster and highlight the foods you probably never thought could have an impact on your ovaries:
- Artificial sweeteners. The quest to give up sugar—and get off the blood-sugar roller coaster— is so important. In all the years I’ve worked with clients, I’ve rarely met a woman who is struggling with hormone issues who isn’t also struggling with blood sugar issues. But in the quest to ditch the sweet stuff, we often turn to sugar substitutes, which come with their own problems.
One cause for concern is the intensely sweet flavor of these synthetic substitutes. When we rely on them heavily, they can hijack of our taste buds and make more complex flavors, like those found in vegetables and low-glycemic fruits like berries, less appealing—and the fewer whole, real vegetables and low-glycemic fruits we eat, the more we deprive the liver of the phytonutrients it needs to function optimally. The liver processes and eliminates used hormones from the body; when it doesn’t get the phytonutrient support it needs, it struggles to eliminate estrogen and other hormones from the body, contributing to hormonal imbalance.
For some women, I include stevia in this category. It’s not artificial, but, in some traditional societies, folk wisdom holds that regular intake of stevia is a form of birth control. For women who aren’t hormonally-sensitive, small amounts of stevia probably won’t have a profound effect on their fertility or cycles. But for those of us who are hormonally-sensitive PCOS sufferers, it’s best to err on the side of caution and choose a different sweetener, especially if you’re currently heaping spoonfuls into your herbal teas throughout the day.
- Red meat. Paleo diets have become as trendy as intense boot camp classes (exercise is a whole other important part of the equation…) in recent years. And all too often, women with PCOS are advised to eat like cavemen, subsisting mostly on lots and lots of protein-packed meat to lose weight and counteract the damaging effects of sugar. But here’s the deal: In my experience, if you have PCOS, following a Paleo diet will not bring about weight loss and it certainly won’t bring back your period. A high protein diet causes a decrease in the production of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), which is vital to reducing testosterone levels — something that’s critical in PCOS recovery.
Plus, many women with PCOS have a specific genetic problem known as the methyl-tetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) gene mutation. Eating Paleo when you have the MTHFR gene mutation can create too much of an amino acid called homocysteine, which can cause an increase in PCOS symptoms.
Upping meat intake is also often coupled with decreasing carbohydrates and this is a real issue for PCOS sufferers. Recent research suggests that PCOS may be connected to autoimmune thyroid disease (poor thyroid function) and your thyroid needs the glucose from good carbohydrates (like quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat rather than glutento function optimally.
- Raw kale. When eaten raw, all cruciferous vegetables contain substances called goitrogens that suppress thyroid function (or cause hypothyroidism) which contributes to PCOS. As a rule of thumb, it’s always a good idea to cook kale, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, bok choy and cabbage before eating. One easy way technique is to saute them in a pan with a little coconut oil.Don’t worry about celery, romaine lettuce, beet leaves, and chard — you can eat those in their raw form to your heart’s content;they don’t contain this goitrogen chemical.
- Soy. It’s pretty common for women to swap in soy for dairy when they ditch milk, but this exchange isn’t a good one. Soy isn’t your ally if you have PCOS because it contains “phyto” or plant estrogen that acts like estrogen in the body—and eating too much of it confuses your body into thinking it has enough of the real deal in supply. This sends a signal your endocrine system to slow down estrogen production, subsequently slowing the production of luteinizing hormone (LH), and effectively shutting down ovulation.
- Cooking oils like canola, sunflower, and vegetable oils (and synthetic spreads, like margarine). Unhealthy fats are bad news for hormonal harmony. For one, eating too many unhealthy fats crowds out our consumption of healthy fats, which are important for maintaining healthy levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Cholesterol is a precursor to all the body’s steroid hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, and FSH. Simply put, and contrary to media reports about cholesterol in recent decades, we need cholesterol to make some of our most important hormones.
Vegetable oils and other cooking oils, like sunflower oil, are high in omega-6 fatty acids and low in omega-3 fatty acids. We need to consume both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids through diet (the body can’t produce them and we need them to live), but the problem is that the Western diet is flooded with omega-6 fatty acids—and tragically short on omega-3 fatty acids. When omega-6s are disproportionately high in the body relative to omega-3s, its a recipe for inflammation, which is the archenemy of hormonal health and overall health.
Canola oil presents its own set of problems. It’s higher in omega-6s than omega-3s, like other vegetable oils (though not by as high a margin), but the real causes for concern with canola are GMOs and toxic processing. The vast majority of the plants from which canola oil is harvested are genetically modified—and the oil is extracted by heating and crushing the plant seeds and then mixing them with hexane. In addition to being classified as a neurotoxin by the CDC , hexane and other organic solvents like it, drive up inflammation and interfere with endocrine health. .
Non-food bonus tip for hormonal balance!
BONUS: Ditch staying up late to binge your favorite TV show or finish a work project. Food isn’t the only thing that affects hormones. Regularly skimping on sleep is a sure-fire way to throw blood sugar off balance, put your adrenal system into overdrive, and send a whole bunch of suboptimal signals to your endocrine system. Prioritize good sleep the way you do healthy eating, and your hormones will thank you.
to your FLO,
Good things come in threes:
I want to hear from you!
First, do you have PCOS?
Second, have you tried giving up sugar and dairy?
Third, everyone you know is hormonal – spread a little good ovary karma and share this article on social 😉
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