Hormone-Happy Foods for PCOS
What you choose to fuel your body with can have far-reaching effects on your cognitive, physical and hormonal health – after all, ‘you are what you eat’ as the age-old saying goes. Typically, PCOS disrupts the balance between oestrogen, progesterone, androgen (male sex hormones), insulin and LH – hormones that play a vital role in regulating your mood, sleep and appetite. So, what are the best foods to restore some much-needed harmony to your hormones?
Hello healthy fats
Contrary to popular belief, we all need fat in our diets to maintain optimal health. But we’re not talking about filling up on unhealthy saturated, hydrogenated and trans fats, we’re talking about the good kind – the unsaturated and monounsaturated sorts. Your body needs these nutrients to produce hormones and keep them balanced, as they help your body metabolise vitamins and mineral. Healthy fats also support the reduction in circulating testosterone, which is often the root cause of many unpleasant PCOS symptomsi. Think nuts, seeds, oily fish, avocado and lashings of olive oil. Following a ketogenic diet is also a great way of incorporating healthy fats into your meals.
Go for grass-fed meat
If you have PCOS, your body will be crying out for nourishing, nutrient-dense foods – not extra hormones and toxins that can wreak havoc with it! In recent years, red meat has received a bad press from health and wellness activists, but in truth, it ultimately depends on how the animal is reared. If you’re going to eat meat, make sure it’s grass-fed. This guarantees its crammed with essential fatty acids and vitamins – not loaded with hormones and pesticides, which could potentially throw your hormonal status quo into chaosii.
Be mindful that ‘organic’ doesn’t necessarily mean the animal has been bred in proper conditions; it merely denotes they’ve been fed with organic feed while raised in confinement. So, for all you carnivores out there, seek out grass-fed meat if you can!
Fantastic fermented foods
Your gut health is responsible for countless biological marvels that happen in the body. And if it’s compromised, you can experience a host of debilitating health problems, including those that concern your hormones. Your gut eliminates and rebuilds hormones, increases the absorption of minerals including magnesium, iron and calcium, and helps control inflammation – so it’s pretty essential at managing your PCOS symptoms.
Another noteworthy point is that your gut produces most of your happy hormone, serotonin, which can support your emotional wellbeing during PCOS, especially if you’ve lost your confidence or self-esteem. An excellent way to improve your gut health is by eating fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha and miso, as they are extremely rich in lactobacillus acidophilus and bolster your friendly bacteriaiii.
Opt for organic
The function of the female reproductive system relies on the exact balance of hormones and their concentrations in the body. Research now suggests that the chemicals sprayed on non-organic produce can interfere with the androgen and oestrogen receptors in the body, which may contribute to ovarian cycle irregularities, impaired fertility and modulation of hormone concentrationiv,v. For women with PCOS therefore, it’s always advisable to opt for organic produce wherever possible.
Let’s talk low GI
Nutritionists have been harping on about the glycaemic index or GI for years – a buzzword denoting the rate at which different foods affect your blood sugar levels, with high GI scoring products causing it to spike. Eating a low GI diet then can be extremely useful if you suffer from PCOS, as this will trigger a gradual rise in blood sugar levels and lower the amount of insulin produced in the bodyvi. Elevated insulin can spark the body to convert testosterone to oestrogen, which can disrupt your hormone balance – something you’ll want to steer clear ofvii! If you feel peckish throughout the day, try grazing on these low GI snacks: walnuts, cashews, apples, pears, dried apricots, red peppers, or a slice of soya and linseed toast. Regular exercise can also help to improve insulin sensitivity and the way that the hormone works in your body.
PCOS can run amuck with your hormones – fact, but that’s not to say you can’t do anything about it. As the above guidelines have demonstrated, there are plenty of nourishing food groups that can restore your hormones to a healthy balance. This – in addition to exercise, supplementation, self-care and lifestyle changes – will give your hormonal health the TLC it needs. To discover even more ways you can reclaim control over your PCOS, take a look around our the rest of our hub.
Gower, B.A., et al. (2013). Favourable metabolic effects of a eucaloric lower-carbohydrate diet in women with PCOS. Clinical Endocrinology. 79 (4): 550-557.
Robinson, J. (2007). Pasture Perfect: The Far-reaching Benefits of Choosing Meat, Eggs, and Dairy Products from Grass-fed Animals. London: Vashon Island Press. 60.
Marco, M.L., et al. (2017). Health benefits of fermented foods: microbiota and beyond. Current Opinion in Biotechnology. 44 (0): 94-102.
Nicolopoulou-Stamati, P., et al. (2001). The impact of endocrine disrupters on the female reproductive system. Hum Reprod Update. 7: 23-330.
Bretveld, R.W., et al. (2006). Pesticide exposure: the hormonal function of the female reproductive system disrupted? Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 4 (30).
Traub, M.L., (2011). Assessing and Treating Insulin Resistance in Women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. The Journal of Diabetes. 2 (3): 33-40.
Sam, S. (2007). Obesity and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Obesity Management. 3 (2): 69-73.