In my last post, I told the story of how I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome at a young age, and how having PCOS has affected my life. I also introduced my recent transition to a whole-foods, plant-based diet and how I believe that change (combined with the power of guided meditation) has allowed me to overcome my PCOS diagnosis.
Now, I don’t know of a clinical study to support my experience (yet!), and I do believe that each of our bodies are unique and need different things to support our health. But that said, I’ve seen such a dramatic and positive change in myself that I wanted to share it with all of you in case it can help someone else.
The Connection Between Food and Body
I built Circle + Bloom based on my belief in the mind-body connection. I have seen how meditation and visualization can make a profound impact on people’s physical health. And although I also knew that the food we eat makes a difference for our physical health, I didn’t truly know the science behind it until a few years ago, when I read a publication called The China Study.
First released in 2005, The China Study documents the most comprehensive study ever undertaken of the relationship between diet and disease risk. Led by a nutrition researcher who partnered with teams from China and England, the study’s findings focus on the health benefits of a whole foods, plant-based diet.
I know, I know. I’m not trying to make you give up your favorite foods. I haven’t given up everything 100 percent – but I do avoid meat and dairy about ninety percent of the time.
But it wasn’t that one book alone that convinced me. Soon after reading The China Study, I watched the documentary “Forks Over Knives”. This film follows the personal and professional journeys of two researchers as they explore the effects of what we eat on our health. It proposes that most (if not all) of human diseases like cancer, heart disease and diabetes can be controlled or reversed with a whole foods, plant-based diet.
After taking in both of those, my mind was blown. I started to transition my own approach to eating, and eventually was able to convince my husband to join me. Over time, our children have also chosen to eat the same way.
It’s only been a few years since I stopped eating meat and dairy, but I’ve already seen a huge change in my health. One big change has been that my PCOS is gone. During my last exam, my doctor saw absolutely no evidence of PCOS in my ovaries.
A Clinical Look: PCOS + Diet
I love the site NutritionFacts.org for well-researched and cited medical information. They deliver information in a way that’s easier to digest than just reading a wordy and complicated medical journal.
Last year, I saw a video by Dr. Michael Greger called “Best Foods for PCOS”.
He researched a number of studies that all seemed to point toward a similar finding: that a specific kind of toxins (called advanced glycation end products, also called AGEs or glycotoxins) from foods including meat show a causal relationship to chronic diseases – such as PCOS.
The receptors for these AGE toxins happen to be concentrated in the ovaries, and so the ovaries may be more sensitive to their effects. Not to mention that women with PCOS tend to have nearly twice the levels of AGE in their bloodstream.
According to Dr. Greger’s video, “AGEs might indeed be contributing ‘to the cause of polycystic ovary syndrome…and infertility.”
In order to cut down on the AGE toxins you consume, you need to know where they’re found. Generally, meat is high in AGEs and meat cooked using high heat has even more AGEs (meat cooked by steaming and broiling has fewer AGEs).
In addition to decreasing your intake of high-AGE foods, you can eat more foods that can help pull AGEs out of your system, like brown rice and mushrooms.
There is medical evidence that reducing AGE intake helps with polycystic ovaries.
In one study, participants were switched from a baseline diet to a high-AGE diet and then to a low-AGE diet over a period of two months and they showed parallel changes in insulin sensitivity, oxidative stress, and hormonal status — all markers of PCOS.
In a blog post on the PCOS Awareness Association site, Jennifer Nelson wrote about a conversation with her doctor that put the idea of the influence of diet on health into perspective for her:
“Then she [the doctor] told me something that has stuck with me ever since my diagnosis 2+ years ago; she said ‘All you must do is ask yourself; do you want ice cream, or do you want a child of your own?’”
Non-Food Treatments for PCOS
For women who aren’t trying to become pregnant, doctors will often prescribe hormonal birth control for PCOS to regulate periods and improve excess hair growth and acne. Many doctors also prescribe drugs like metformin to help regulate insulin levels, and spironolactone to lower androgens and curb excess hair.
All of these medications come with side-effects and are only treatments, not a cure.
So whether you’re hoping to avoid side effects or you’re trying to become pregnant, making different food choices and listening to guided meditations could be alternative ways to reduce or resolve your PCOS. Maybe it’s worth a try?
How I Eat Now: The Foods That (I Think) Cured My PCOS
Change is never easy. So I started slowly, and made one little change at a time. Now, most of what I eat on a day-to-day basis is fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds, and whole grains.
I avoid processed foods most of the time (sorry, french fries!) and rarely indulge in a steak. Overnight oats with fruit are a favorite breakfast, while big salads with chickpeas or lentils for protein are an easy lunch. Dinner could be a veggie stir fry with rice, zoodles with marinara, or roasted squash.
For help figuring out what to eat as I’ve made this change, I’ve been using a meal planning service called MealMentor made by the Happy Herbivore, who has lots of cookbooks as well. I also love the blogs Minimalist Baker and Oh She Glows.
A great place to start for people who are new to the plant-based diet is at the blog Clean Food Dirty Girl. Her post “The Mother Of All Whole Food Plant Based Resources For Plant Based Newbies” is a great introduction and full of links and helpful tips.
Healthline has a post that gives helpful guidelines about foods that can be beneficial for women with PCOS and those to avoid. The article suggests eating more:
High fiber vegetables that combat insulin resistance by slowing down digestion and reducing the impact of sugar on the blood, like:
- cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts
- greens, including red leaf lettuce and arugula
- green and red peppers
- beans and lentils
- sweet potatoes
- winter squash
Foods that help reduce inflammation, including:
- almonds and walnuts
- olive oil
- fruits, such as blueberries and strawberries
And avoiding refined carbs and processed foods (white flour products, pasta, muffins and pastries, white potatoes), sugary snacks, and inflammatory foods (red meat, etc.).
Kym Campbell at Smart Fertility Choices also has a wonderful post, “How To Do a PCOS Diet Correctly – The 13 Things You Need to Know,” which goes into detail about her recommendations that include:
- Avoid fad diets
- Swap processed foods for nutrient dense whole foods
- Exclude sugar and be smart about fruit
- Eat low-carb and slow-carb from whole food sources
- Eat healthy fats
- Cultivate your gut microbiome
- Eat plenty of non-starchy vegetables
The diet that is right for you will be different from what’s right for someone else. Try out some of these ideas, and see how you feel!
Make PCOS and Diet Changes Easier with Meditation
I’ve talked a lot about how meditation and visualization can help lessen PCOS symptoms, but these tools can also make it easier for you to make changes to your diet and stick with them.
Our Circle + Bloom guided meditations for PCOS (25% OFF during the month of September!) can help you visualize what your body should be doing in terms of insulin balancing, weight loss, releasing excess androgens, and cleansing your ovaries of cysts or growths. We also have other programs like our Happy Mind and Healthy Body program that can support building new healthy habits, reducing stress, and positive thinking.
Read more about PCOS on Circle + Bloom:
- 5 Pre-Bed Poses for Women with PCOS
- Maureen’s Story Overcoming PCOS to Get Pregnant
- Three New Medical Findings on PCOS and How They May Impact Your Ability to Conceive
With love & gratitude,