The question I hear most often from women is, “What is the best diet for my PCOS?” It’s usually followed up with a run through of all the popular diets, “Is Paleo the best diet for PCOS? How about Low Carb? How about Macrobiotic? Vegan? Weight Watchers? Raw?” The great news is that when you’re looking for the best diet for your PCOS, usually you’ve already come to realize that you need to treat the root cause of this health issue with the right foods. That realization, in itself, is a huge step.
Perhaps you’ve tried Metformin and it just didn’t work for you, or you only ever wanted to use this medication short-term. Now, every body is different, and your PCOS may be different from your sister’s PCOS or your friend’s PCOS, but there are certain guidelines, diet-wise, that all women will benefit from following. I have helped many, many women with all kinds of PCOS (different symptoms, different life stages, different experiences) to manage their symptoms long term and feel better within weeks with the FLO Living diet. But first, let’s look at these guidelines and what the best diet for PCOS must include if it’s going to work.
Here are some of the problems with popular diets if you have PCOS:
- Eating too much animal protein (I’m looking at you Paleo, Atkins!) can prevent ovulation. It increases the amount of estrogen in the body, creating hormonal imbalance. A Harvard School of Public Health study showed women who eat more animal protein than plant protein ovulate less frequently. We need protein, yes, but we actually don’t need all that much – excess consumption of protein actually converts to sugars. It’s hard for the female body to breakdown all that meat, especially when your cycle is at peak estrogen levels already.
- Most women with PCOS struggle on a Low Carb diet (hi, Atkins, Paleo, South Beach, etc!). While it’s important to recognize that there are bad carbs (white bread, pasta, potatoes) and good carbs (whole grains), and while it’s important to avoid gluten on the whole, cutting back carbs can make a PCOS sufferer feel even worse, because it kicks in blood sugar instability. I suggest brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat on a daily basis, and when you get to your pre-menstrual phase you’ll be thankful for the option of sweet potatoes! It can feel easier to stop eating carbs in the first half of your hormone cycle (the follicular phase), but the shift that happens in the second half makes low carb diets unnecessarily punishing.
- A diet that is too reliant on grains for protein and for feeling full and satisfied – like a Vegan or Macrobiotic diet – can create gut dysbiosis and decrease absorption of all the key nutrients that are required for hormonal balance, especially if your grains are not processed properly – ie soaked. If you have PCOS, this will make your symptoms worse. Whole Grains are great, but not in large amounts. Grains can stop you from carb-loading or feeling the craving for bad carbs like white bread and pasta, but you need to be careful for to go crazy with grains either! You only need a half cup serving at one time.
- Any diet that encourages calorie-restriction (Weight Watchers, Raw, etc) will cause spikes and crashes in your blood sugar, making your PCOS symptoms much worse. Processed foods increase inflammation and often contain foods that are toxic for your hormones like pesticide-laden vegetables, dairy, gluten, and non-organic, GMO, processed soy. Many fresh juices contain as much sugar as a glass of Coca Cola and are treated by your body exactly the same way. Whole foods are a much better choice for women with PCOS and any woman who is hormonally-sensitive. The stress that calorie restriction puts on your body provokes an internal inflammatory response. For the most part, these diets can only be followed short term, and then you will be primed to over-eat, even binge, when you have the chance. Many studies have shown calorie-restriction diets simply do not work longterm.
When I first developed the FLO Living protocol I was experimenting on myself. Believe me, I tried all of the diets I’ve mentioned here, first. I found what worked for me and my PCOS – the foods that manage my symptoms of weight gain, acne, and depression. Over the years, I’ve worked with thousands of women with PCOS of different kinds and I’ve honed and refined and perfected my diet protocol to support them all in overcoming their own symptoms to move forward, feeling better. I have followed up with my clients over the years and seen them continue with the FLO Living diet long term without a problem. They’ve carried it through their lives and never feel restricted or deprived or, importantly I think, hungry!
These other diets – Paleo, Macrobiotic, Calorie-restriction, Fasting – are not based on your unique female biochemistry, they’re based on research that doesn’t take into account the effects on mood, energy, and appetite throughout the menstrual cycle. Essentially, they were created for men and male biochemistry, male hormone patterns. No wonder they don’t work for women with PCOS!
Always remember, that once you have the right information about how your body really works, you can start making health choices that finally start to work for you! You can do this – the science of your body is on your side!
to your FLO,
Good things come in threes:
I want to hear from you!
First, do you have PCOS?
Second, which diets have you tried already?
Third, everyone you know is hormonal – spread a little good ovary karma and share this article on social 😉
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How do you know if your hormones are healthy? The answer is in your 5th vital sign – your period.
The color of your flow, frequency of your period, and symptoms you have each month can tell you a lot about your health. There are 5 different V-SIGN TYPES, and knowing which one you have will help you get healthy now and prevent disease in the future.