So now that you know you have PCOS (find out more here if you are unsure), and you know what's going on in your body, what can you do about it? The most important change you can make is to your diet and the first step is to quit refined sugar. Sound difficult? It’s actually not that hard once your body learns a new way of enjoying food. In fact, low sugar, whole food eating can be an delicious experience! So much so that you will never want to go back.
Being sugar-free can be a delicous experience!
Changing your eating habits can be trying. It can be hard and it does take commitment but if you are sick of feeling the way that you do and are ready for a change, why not give it a try? It is important to be gentle on yourself and realise that change doesn't happen overnight. Like learning any new skill, in learning to eat differently you will make mistakes and fall off the horse. The main thing is that you get back on and keep trying to make sustainable changes that become a way of life.
Where do I start?
Start with these 3 steps:
Step 1. Break the Addiction
Break the sugar addiction with a 2-week detox. During this time strictly exclude all refined sugars, sweeteners (including honey, maple syrup, agave syrup, coconut nectar/sugar, rice syrup, other syrups & dried fruit), alcohol, all grains, legumes (peas, beans & lentils) and white potato. Limit fruit to 2 pieces per day and stick mostly to berries, citrus, apples and kiwi fruit. During this time you will most likely get sugar cravings. The next step helps with that.
Step 2. Include quality protein with every meal.
For example: fish, chicken, lean beef & lamb, ricotta, organic natural yoghurt, goats cheese, raw nuts (brazil, almond, walnut, cashew, hazelnut, coconut), seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, flaxseed, soaked chia seed), eggs, organic tofu & tempeh. To ensure success, eat every 2-3hrs. Plan your snacks and meals in advance to stop you reaching for a sugary treat. Add cinnamon to food as often as possible for added blood sugar control (great with yoghurt and berries or in chia coconut milk pudding). If you are really struggling there are natural medicines that can help immensely. Goat's rue, cinnamon, chromium, myo-inositol, magnesium and gymnema are some of the key remedies used. See your naturopath for an effective, personalised prescription.
Step 3. Reintroduce gentle carbohydrates.
Once you have completed your 2-week sugar detox you will need to continue to limit sugar, refined grains and alcohol. This can be difficult when these things are all around you. Plus, treating yourself now and then feels good. Stick to these guidelines for best results:
- Have no more than 1-2 standard drinks in an evening and no more than 4 standard drinks per week. Stick to quality red wine as this contains beneficial antioxidants.
- Exclude all refined grains (especially wheat and corn) and but begin to introduce selected whole grains back into your diet. Choose from brown basmati rice, oats, quinoa, buckwheat and millet. These elicit a more gentle rise to your blood sugar than refined grains and are less inflammatory. Some white rice is ok but choose basmati rice and lower the carbohydrate content by stirring it around in a dry pan for a few minutes (until it begins to smell nutty) before cooking as usual. Limit bread to 2 slices per day (maximum) and have 100% buckwheat bread (Naturis makes a nice one or make your own). Alternatively you could have a long-fermented sourdough spelt bread if available from a bakery in your local area.
- Continue to avoid all forms of sugar and limit fruit to 2 pieces daily. Simply learn to snack on other things - e.g. boiled egg & green beans, carrot and hommus, celery and ABC butter, capsicum, snow peas and a handful of nuts, fritata, soup, chia pudding, yoghurt with berries etc. If you really need a sweet snack, try 20-40 grams of 85% dark chocolate with some berries. An occasional treat of something sweeter (e.g. 1-2 times monthly) may not cause you problems, but ask yourself: do I really want this? Often times it will taste sickly sweet and you won’t even want to finish it. If making the occasional dessert at home sweeten only with about a tablespoon of honey, coconut sugar or maple syrup and the addition of fruit.
If you feel like “why me?” realise that sugar is not bad for you only, it affects everyone negatively. For you this manifests in the worsening of PCOS symptoms and for others it is linked to other problems, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, digestive disturbances and more. Thank your body for letting you know that too much sugar is harmful.
As you start to look at food differently my hope is that, like me, you will become inspired by delicious whole food recipes that nourish your body and have health benefits far beyond hormonal health.
All the best on your health journey,
For a comprehensive treatment solution and access to an exclusive support section, including email support from Josephine, get The PCOS Solution.