Have you heard that food elimination can help you if you have PCOS? I will tell you why eliminating food groups, and restricting foods can be problematic.
“Don’t eat this, it will make you feel worse… Only eat this many calories and you will lose weight… try keto, avoid x, y, and z foods and you will be fine”. YIKES! I hear this as often as you do. When patients come to me with a PCOS diagnosis, often the first thing they ask is “what should I avoid”, “should I cut x, y or z out of my diet?” I emphasize managing the symptoms and focusing on what we can add to their diet to make it more balanced and nutritious, instead of taking away. I take a look at your specific case and symptoms in order to come up with a plan. Often, people feel defeated and hopeless when they try to avoid, eliminate and restrict foods.
Let’s review some of the main false recommendations we hear regarding PCOS and nutrition.
- Gluten free: We hear this all the time. Go gluten free! It will solve all your problems! This is not always true.
As we know, one of the main drivers for PCOS is inflammation. It has been assumed that decreasing gluten in your diet will decrease inflammation in women with PCOS. There is no scientific research to back up this claim.
Many people think gluten is the culprit of their GI symptoms and inflammation. We sometimes will try going gluten free for 2-3 weeks. If there is not an improvement in symptoms, we add it back in. I also have to mention that if patients do experience some symptom relief, it is often not from eliminating gluten but from decreasing fructan-containing foods (a type of fermentable sugar) that causes a lot of bloating, discomfort and other GI symptoms. Since there is no evidence that going gluten free for PCOS helps reduce symptoms, we can however work on your gut health (http://www.realyounutrition.com/how-to-manage-your-pcos/) and identify foods high in fermentable sugars (FODMAP) that may be causing you discomfort
Going gluten free also has its disadvantages. Gluten free products are typically lower in fiber and sometimes other nutrients. Furthermore, these products tend to have more added sugars and oils to help “hold” the product together and give it more flavor.
- Dairy free
Eliminating dairy is often another recommendation that is often heard. Studies have shown that women with PCOS can have dairy, as there has been no link to dairy consumption and excess inflammation.
That being said, if you suffer from acne, it may be worth doing an elimination of dairy to see if your symptoms improve. They have found that frequent dairy intake can contribute to acne development (fat free and low fat milk groups had the most impact on acne) based on research studies.
Dairy products stimulate insulin growth factor 1 and DHT levels which increase androgens resulting in more oil production and therefore more acne. Low fat and fat-free milk can exacerbate acne more as when you remove the fat of the milk, there is an alteration in the hormone composition of milk leaving it with more androgens; increased androgens leads to more acne production.
Therefore, the recommendation is two or fewer servings each day of full-fat dairy; one serving of dairy is one cup of milk or yogurt, or 1.5 ounces of hard cheese.
- Intermittent Fasting
What is intermittent fasting?
Basically, it is the practice of only eating during a certain time frame and “fasting” during a certain time frame. Many people practice a mild form of this where they stop eating after a certain time in the evening and resume eating the next day in the morning, others only have a smaller time frame to eat, and others may even alternate eating and fasting depending on the day.
With regard to PCOS, here is what I have to say regarding intermittent fasting: Our hormones are very sensitive to scarcity and stress. These two conditions can cause our hormonal systems to shut down and make our bodies feel that they are under a threat. This can increase adrenal hormones like cortisol and aldosterone. Your body will also start to down regulate sex hormone production. The reason for this is because your body thinks you are going into a war or famine, which would not be a good time to reproduce. This causes major hormonal imbalances, and can create further disturbances with menstrual cycles.
I think it is important to consider what “type” of intermittent fasting is being done. If your last meal ends at 8pm, you go to bed at 10pm and wake up and eat breakfast at 8am, that is reasonable. However, if you are skipping breakfast and not eating until lunch, or alternating days you eat and fast, I would advise against it. Waiting long periods of time to eat can cause hormonal imbalances, blood sugar disturbances, and is a difficult practice to sustain long term.
Want to take charge of your PCOS once and for all? Have more questions? Email me to book a 15 minute discovery call at [email protected] .
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