This guest blog post was written by board certified functional nutrition coach Jenna Longoria, HHC, AADP.
Disclaimer: the information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not designed to replace individualized recommendations from a practitioner. Always check with your doctor before adding supplements or making changes to your treatment plan.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition of insulin resistance and ovulatory dysfunction.
This is why diet is the most crucial component of putting PCOS into remission.
PCOS is a metabolic syndrome, so women with it must balance their blood sugar in order to put their symptoms into remission, which is why many women find success (although at a cost) with diabetic medications such as Metformin. However, Metformin depletes B vitamins and has unpleasant gastrointestinal effects, so it’s not an ideal option.
Instead, it’s best to adapt our diet and lifestyle first, and most times (in addition to certain supplements) this is all it takes.
"With the right diet and lifestyle hacks, you can be symptom free and be a #PCOSTHRIVER just like me!"
Three Diet Tips for PCOS
1. Balance Blood Sugar Levels
It all starts with blood sugar.
It’s crucial for women with PCOS to keep their blood sugar levels balanced, because high blood sugar leads to insulin resistance, which then prompts the body to pump out more insulin. This insulin then signals our ovaries to produce excess testosterone. Once we have elevated androgens, the light switch for PCOS is then turned on.
How to Balance Blood Sugar
We can flip off this switch by ditching the dairy, gluten, and eating low glycemic foods.
Everyone should avoid artificial sweeteners that contain either saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose. Studies have linked these to depression and cancer. Studies have also shown them to alter gut bacteria by killing off the good guys and promoting the growth of bad bacteria. This leads to inflammation, which is the root of all disease.
Women with PCOS need to use sweeteners with reservations. Stevia, monk fruit, and xylitol are my preferred sweeteners and can be used daily. Raw honey and maple syrup are okay on occasion as well.
Chromium has been shown to reduce sugar cravings and spearmint tea is also a great option to satisfy a sweet tooth and bonus is it reduces androgens.
2. Lower Inflammation with Healthy Fats
It’s important to keep our inflammation down because staying in an inflammatory response will trigger the symptoms of PCOS by releasing harmful chemicals such as cytokines in the body.
This is why you should eat as many omega 3 fatty acid fats (the Good Guys) as possible and stay away from the processed, junk oils (the Bad Guys).
The Good Guys:
- Unprocessed organic oils like coconut oil, avocados and avocado oil.
- Organic butter from grass-fed cows, clarified butter.
- Extra virgin olive oil.
- Raw nuts and seeds like chia seeds, flax seeds, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts.
- Egg yolks from pastured hens.
- Lean meat from animals that are free range and/or grass fed.
- Coconut oil, which has special medium-chain fatty acids that promote a healthy metabolism, immune system, skin and thyroid.
The Bad Guys:
- Corn oil.
- Canola oil.
- Soy oil.
- Vegetable oil.
- Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats.
- Margarine and shortening.
3. Clean Your Protein
It’s best to avoid all factory farmed meat, because you are what you eat eats.
If you are eating beef from a cow that was fed GMO corn and pumped with hormones and antibiotics, you are not eating steak, you are eating glyphosate ridden corn that looks like steak— it’s an inflammatory cocktail that is best to avoid.
The same goes for farm-raised fish, as well. It’s just corn that looks like fish.
This is why it’s crucial to make sure your protein is coming from a clean and humane source.
Factory farmed meat is high in xenoestrogens, which means they mimic your hormones and cause your estrogen levels to skyrocket. This is not good! Estrogen dominance is already something women with PCOS struggle with, so we mustn’t add fuel to the fire!
Signs of estrogen dominance include moodiness, bloating, breast tenderness, acne, annovulation, painful periods, and anxiety.
Game plan: Stick to humanely raised and organic meats to avoid the added hormones, antibiotics, and the inflammatory omega 6 fatty acids. When eating fish opt for Alaskan Salmon and other wild caught low mercury fish like cod, tilapia, or trout.
Keto and PCOS
Now it's time to talk Keto, because well… it’s so hot right now.
Keto Best Practices
For women with PCOS, I’m a huge fan of the Keto diet, but only as a therapeutic diet observed for about 4-12 weeks. This is because the Keto diet can be harmful if practiced too long.
There was a small study in 2005 that tested the ability of the keto diet to help manage PCOS, and even put it in remission, and it showed promising results.
However, the trial groups only practiced the keto diet for 12 weeks.
You see, although the keto diet is excellent for reversing PCOS, diabetes, and balancing blood sugar, if practiced over a long period of time, women can stop menstruating.
This is because women need a certain amount of carbohydrates (somewhere around 150 grams daily) to ovulate and have a period. The keto diet calls for less than 50 grams a day, so women who practice this diet very often stop having periods a few months later.
Keto for 4-12 weeks (in tandem with working with a health practitioner) and then practice intermittent fasting while observing a “ketoish” diet that includes healthy carbs like a few servings of white rice or sweet potatoes ideally taken in the evening.
As women we need to aim at about 150 grams daily. This number could be 100 grams for some, or higher or lower for others.
Intermittent Fasting and PCOS
Intermittent fasting is an excellent tool to balance blood sugar levels, increase mental clarity, boost energy levels, repair our DNA, and reset our digestive system.
Time Restricted Eating
A great form of Intermittent Fasting for women with PCOS is what’s called “Time Restricted Eating”.
This means one goes 12-16 hours without eating, and eats all of their food for the day within a certain window. Starting at 12 hours is best (for example stopping eating at 8PM and then having breakfast at 8AM) and then working up to 14 or 16.
It’s best to limit your extended fasts of 14-16 hours to 3-4 times a week, but 12 hours should be your daily baseline.
It’s very important to note that you must listen to your body and let it tell you how long of a fast is right for you. Personally, I find that 14-16 hours is my magic spot! But it took some trial and error.
Basically, the more time you let pass between your dinner and your first meal of the next day, the more of an advantage you are giving your body to regenerate and replenish.
This is all due to ketones.
When you go 12 hours or more without eating, your body switches from using glycogen for fuel to fat. When the fat is burned for fuel, it produces ketones.
Ketones are a more efficient source of fuel for the body, as they promote weight loss as well as lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and insulin resistance.
Sample IF Schedule
|Time of Day||Meal|
Break-fast (12 hours fasting)
Break-fast (14 hours fasting)
Break-fast (16 hours fasting)
Remember, PCOS is not a curse.
No, it can’t be cured, but with the right diet and lifestyle hacks, along with the correct supplements, you can be symptom free and be a #PCOSTHRIVER just like me!
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