Good nutrition has tons of health benefits. Eating right can help boost your immunity, strengthen your bones, decrease your risk of disease, maintain a healthy body weight, and even live longer. And, if you’re a woman living with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), good nutrition can help you manage your PCOS symptoms and possibly reverse the effects.
PCOS can’t be cured, but the right diet and lifestyle changes can help relieve side effects and reduce your risk of long-term complications – like Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
So, today I’m walking you through the components of a PCOS reversing diet. Here’s what you need to consider for your new healthy eating habits:
How To Reverse PCOS with Diet
Discover your carb tolerance.
Carbs are generally regarded as a no-go for diets…they usually tell you to go as low carb as you can! This can be dangerous, though, because everyone’s carb tolerance is different. Eating too few calories can cause stress, nutrient deficiencies, period irregularity, and worsening acne.
So, the name of the game isn’t necessarily to go “low carb,” but to discover your carb tolerance and go “lower carb.” I recommend starting at 120-150 g of carbs a day and adjusting from there. For more on carb tolerance, listen to this episode of the “A Cyster and Her Mister Podcast.”
Consider cutting dairy and gluten.
Dairy and gluten are known to worsen symptoms for some women with PCOS. When our bodies absorb dairy and gluten proteins, it triggers an inflammatory response. This is when your immune system attacks your own healthy cells!
When this occurs, it can lead to weight gain, acne, digestive problems, and more. So, talk to your doctor and consider cutting dairy and gluten from your diet.
Eat 3-4 meals a day.
As a registered dietitian AND someone with PCOS, I always recommend eating 3-4 meals per day. Usually, this is breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and some snack in between breakfast and lunch or lunch and dinner. (Or both, if you prefer!)
When you eat balanced meals, you’ll have fewer cravings throughout the day, and you’ll be less tempted to reach for unhealthy foods that worsen your symptoms and make it hard to lose weight.
Drink herbal tea.
Unsweetened herbal tea has several health benefits for women with PCOS. It has healthy vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can jumpstart your metabolism, reduce stress, promote good sleep, and help regulate moods!
Each combination of ingredients will have different effects, so here are some of my favorite herbal teas for reversing PCOS:
- Green, white, and black: antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties
- Peppermint and spearmint: anti-androgenic effects
- Cinnamon: improving insulin resistance and relieving stress
- Ginger: anti-inflammatory properties and female hormone regulation
- Licorice root: reducing testosterone and healing cravings
Eat more fiber.
Fiber-rich foods like dark leafy greens, berries, whole grains, pumpkins, and beans are really helpful for managing PCOS symptoms. They help relieve digestion issues, regulate hormonal imbalances, lower cholesterol, and maintain healthy insulin levels. This is especially good if you’re a Cyster who struggles with insulin resistance from your PCOS.
Water is essential to everything in our body. Without proper hydration, you can experience all sorts of negative symptoms like constant thirst, dry mouth, fatigue, dizziness, and lack of mental focus. When you replace sugary drinks like coffee and soda with water, you instead give your body something it really needs!
When you’re properly hydrated, everything runs smoother. You’ll likely see improvements in digestion, acne, joint pain, energy, headaches, blood circulation, and mental focus. Water can also help suppress your appetite, making weight loss much easier!
Increase magnesium intake.
Did you know that women with PCOS are almost 20 times more likely to have a magnesium deficiency? It’s the truth! When Cysters receive the right amount of magnesium, they can see improvements in inflammation, insulin resistance, period pain, stress management, and even sleep! You can find magnesium in our multivitamin linked HERE.
Decrease sodium intake.
Sodium is one of the culprits of high blood pressure and coronary heart disease, yet most Americans eat way more than what’s recommended by Dietary Guidelines. Keeping your sodium levels low by cutting out salty foods like soups, cured meats, savory snacks, cheese, tacos, and bread.
Avoid processed sugars.
Processed sugars break down quickly, which means they don’t make you feel full no matter how much you eat. That excess glucose can shoot up your blood sugar levels, worsening symptoms that come from insulin resistance like weight gain, fatigue, a lowered immune system, and constant hunger. High fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, and molasses are just some examples of processed sugars to avoid.
Reduce your alcohol and caffeine intake.
Both alcohol and caffeine in excess can contribute to some of your PCOS symptoms. This is because alcohol is full of carbs that raise your blood sugar levels and disrupt your sleep. In turn, too little sleep further worsens your insulin resistance! So, any excess of alcohol could exacerbate your PCOS symptoms.
And, as for caffeine, many Cysters naturally have higher levels of stress hormones. Caffeine works by stimulating your nervous system to make you more alert. Your body does this by producing more cortisol (AKA the stress hormone.) Cortisol, when in balance with melatonin, is helpful for keeping you calm but awake. However, when one or the other gets out-of-whack you get stressed and tired!
This all just means that if you drink too much caffeine, your body that’s already overproducing cortisol, making you fatigued yet wired. Yep, caffeine can actually make you MORE tired. Consider cutting the caffeine and see if you notice a difference.
Eat proteins and healthy fats.
Protein helps your body properly absorb sugars, which helps stabilize your blood sugar levels. You’re probably familiar with protein from meat, but make sure you get vegetable proteins in there too, like beans and lentils.
Healthy fats are anti-inflammatory foods, which are so helpful for women with PCOS. Many Cysters have chronic, low-grade inflammation that leads to digestive issues, joint pain, weight gain, fatigue, food sensitivities, and more. However, healthy fats like salmon, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, and avocados can help reduce inflammation and improve these symptoms.
Eat your fruits and vegetables.
We all know that fruits and vegetables are good for everyone, but if you have PCOS, you could particularly benefit from your daily dose of fruits and veggies. Both are usually high in fiber, which makes you feel fuller longer and supports digestion—and that’s not to mention all the additional vitamins and minerals you get from a healthy serving of fruits or vegetables!
Ensure that your meals are full of intentional vegetables and fruits like broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, apples, pears, oranges, and peaches! And remember, eating fruits and vegetables with the skin on will give you the most beneficial fiber.
Be intentional about your herbs and spices.
Herbs have several health benefits as well. That’s why herbal tea is so good for you! Each herb has been shown in various studies to hold different healing properties. Everything from lowering cortisol and inflammation to balancing androgens and insulin sensitivity. You can see a full list of helpful herbs HERE, but a few to add include cinnamon, turmeric, and ginseng!
The right foods can help reverse your PCOS symptoms!
You don’t have to live with PCOS, you can heal your symptoms and lose weight naturally to feel like your pre-pcos self again. Foods are so powerful! Make sure the foods you’re putting in your body are helping you and not hurting you. Find more ways to relieve your symptoms HERE.
If you’re ready to take the plunge and start a PCOS friendly lifestyle, join The Cysterhood! We have hundreds of recipes, a delicious meal plan, PCOS-friendly exercises, and a community of Cysters just like you who are taking control of their body and reversing their PCOS. I can’t wait to join you on your PCOS healing journey.