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 reset your metabolism by quitting 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 so delicious and satisfying that you will never want to go back to your old days.
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.
Breaking the Addiction
Break the sugar addiction with a 2-week detox. During this time exclude all forms of sugar including natural sugars like honey, maple syrup, agave syrup, coconut nectar/sugar, rice syrup, other syrups & dried fruit. You’ll also need to take a break from alcohol as this disrupts blood sugar. Limit fruit to 2 pieces per day and stick mostly to berries, citrus, apples, pears and kiwi fruit. During this time you will most likely get sugar cravings. The next step helps with that.
Include quality protein with every meal.
Quality sources of protein include: 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, beans, chickpeas and lentils.
Tips to help you succeed
To ensure success, eat every 2-3hrs during your sugar detox. Plan your snacks and meals in advance to stop you reaching for a sugary treat. Some snack ideas:
boiled egg & fresh green beans
carrot and hommus, celery and ABC butter
capsicum strips, snow peas and a handful of nuts
yoghurt with berries and chia seeds
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.
Once you have completed your 2-week sugar detox don’t rush to eat all the sugary things and desserts again. Instead, have a look at how you have benefited so far. Your PCOS will likely not be reversed just yet but you may start to notice you feel better - more energy, less foggy and sluggish, you might even notice weight loss. The key to relieving PCOS symptoms such as acne, irregular periods and hirsutism is to stick mostly to your new way of eating. For best results aim for:
No more than 1-2 standard drinks in an evening and no more than 4 standard drinks per week. Stick mostly to quality red wine as this contains beneficial antioxidants. Steer clear of alcohol sweetened with sugar.
Continue to avoid all forms of sugar and limit fruit to 2 pieces daily but allow an occasional treat on special occasions (e.g. 1-2 times monthly). You’ll find that your taste buts have reset and often times sweet treats taste sickly sweet and you won’t even want to finish them. If making the occasional dessert at home sweeten only with 1-2 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 but others will get other problems, such as weight gain, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, digestive disturbances, thrush 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.
Get started by checking out a few of my favourite recipe creators (remember the sweet recipes are occasional treats): Teresa Cutter, Nourish & Inspire Me, Nutrilious, Well Nourished & Yotam Ottolenghi.
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.