Posted on April 27 2020
Time to Read: 6 Minutes 30 Seconds
With the uprising of the industrial and packaged food industry we are also seeing a boom in metabolic diseases such as thyroid and PCOS. Research just a decade back that showed the prevalence of PCOS in less than 3- 10% of the female population, is now pointing to one in every ten women affected by PCOS. That is a massive jump and if we do not act upon changing our lifestyle and diet, this will only get worse. Let's explore together the potential causes of PCOD and what food's will help best reverse this syndrome.
As the name suggests, Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is characterised by cyst formations in the ovaries along with inflammation of the ovaries. However, what most women do not realise is, that you do not actually need to have the cyst to have PCOS. According to the Rotterdam criteria for diagnosis, having two of the below mentioned three symptoms would lead to diagnosing someone with PCOS. Symptoms being:
- Oligo/anovulation- Lack of ovulation during a menstrual cycle.
- Hyperandrogenism- Increased levels of testosterone (male sex hormone).
- Polycystic ovaries- Actual cyst found on ultrasound.
Other symptoms of someone struggling with PCOS include:
- Excess facial or body hair
- Blood Sugar Resistance/ Diabetes
- Painful and irregular periods
- Mood swings
- Acne- particularly on the side of the face.
- Difficulty getting pregnant.
Lets first breakdown into what causes PCOS to understand what to eat to treat the same.
AGE'S (Advance Glycation end products)
AGE's are basically a type of proteins or fats that when exposed to heat and sugar, change their chemical structure and cause chronic diseases. They do this by increasing oxidative stress (basically what causes ageing) and inflammation (triggers the immune system to overact) in the body. Multiple studies have shown the correlation between higher AGE levels in women who struggle with PCOS vs the control group who do not have PCOS. Take a look at this study below (Linked here)
In fact, PCOS affected populations have almost twice an much AGE levels than others. The most logical thing to do then is to make sure your lifestyle and diet moves towards dropping AGE levels to be able to reverse PCOS. The first place you can start with is not consuming food high in AGE.
I will list the food list to avoid here in a bit but it is also important to understand that cooking method itself plays a huge role in increasing the AGE molecules in food. Take a look at this:
Raw chestnut's have an AGE of 2723 kU/ 100 grams but just roasting them increases the AGE to 9807 kU/ 100 grams. Deep frying, broiling and roasting drastically increases the AGE content of foods. On the other hand, low- fat, high- carb, unprocessed food diet tends to have the least amount of AGEs.
That being said, plant- based foods STILL had way lower amount of AGE's irrespective of the cooking method. What foods topped the chart then? Take a look yourself:
Dairy products, meat and oil's top the list. If you are reading this blog and have made it this far, you are probably affected yourself or know someone who is affected from PCOS. Observe your diet and note the amount of times you reach out for deep fried or roasted food. This should be motivation enough for you to stop.
So how much junk is too much junk? Scientifically speaking, even eating a single meal high in AGEs can have a massive affect on inflammation. Smoking in the form of hooka's or cigarettes also drastically increases the AGE levels. A deep fried meal over the weekend combined with smoking or passive smoking a few times a week is a formula to ensure your PCOS get's worse.
This is why it NEEDS to be a lifestyle change and not a temporary diet. Drop deep frying at home completely, if you must eat outside, choose from vegetarian options vs meat. Drop dairy cheese and butter's completely too. Read these blogs to help you make the switch.
Blood Sugar resistance and Testosterone.
In about half the cases of women who are affected by PCOS are also affected by diabetes or pre- diabetes. I will do my very best to explain Blood Sugar resistance in simple terms so stay with me here.
Every time you eat or drink anything, the food is broken down into small sugary cells called glucose. The glucose floats around in the blood and is transported throughout the body and is eaten up by the cells in the body to be used as energy. This given you the energy to exercise, walk, digest, eat, think, breath, literally everything. After using up all the glucose, if extra is left, it needs to be stored away for later use. This is when the hormone
Blood Sugar comes into play. This hormone, released by the cells, goes and converts the glucose into something called glycogen, which can then be stored in the liver and muscles.
Resistance is when for some reason, even though the hormone is released by the body, it does not convert the glucose to glycogen. This alarms the body to release even more of the hormone but in vain. Now the body has excess Blood Sugar and glucose floating around in the blood and does not know how to deal with this. Excess blood sugar if not stored as glycogen may eventually also lead to obesity.
Animal proteins and saturated fats are the number one cause of hormonal resistance. Excess Blood Sugar triggers the ovaries to create the male sex hormone testosterone. Elevated testosterone levels is what causes excess facial hair, irregular periods, inflammation of the ovaries and even cyst. Thus, reducing floating resistance is one way to reduce testosterone.
Now contrary to the half truth we have been hearing about carbs, its really not the carbs causing resistance. Sure, carbs break down to glucose and if you do not consume carbs, there would be no free floating carbs glucose in the body, but that not the root- cause, its not the solution to our problem.
There is some reason the hormone is not working to help store glucose to glycogen. This is not carbs but actually, fat. Specifically, intromyocellular fat cells. Check this study linked here that split participants into two groups. Group A were put on a high carb sugar diet with candies and bread while group B was put in a high fat diet with butter and eggs. Within just two day's, the high- fat group ended up with twice as much blood sugar as the low fat group:
Bottom line, again, watch what you are eating. Here is PCOS Diet for Weight Loss for Indians.
So what should people with PCOS eat?
First lifestyle change
Stop smoking hooka's/ cigarettes or passive smoking. Smoking increases AGE's in the body and will keep you inflamed and sick. Read this study to know more.
Second lifestyle change
Eat more fibre vs fat. Fibre helps absorb some excess testosterone and flush the same out of the body. If I have to give you specific amounts, eat three cups of fruits and 5 cups of vegetables per day.
Third lifestyle change
Drink plain spearmint tea twice a day. Researching multiple herbs, this was the only one I found to be effective. Here is the full research if you want to read it.
Fourth lifestyle change
Switch your cooking method from frying/ broiling to steaming and boiling instead. Explore oil free cooking for at least 2 meals per day.
Fifth lifestyle change
Have one serving of brown rice per day and one 100- 200 grams of mushrooms at least 5/7 days. Read this study that shows how brown rice and mushrooms (among a few other foods) can help pull AGE's out of your system.
Sixth lifestyle change
If there is one thing that can 100% help with Blood Sugar resistance, its resistance training. Add in some form of resistance training to your routine. could be yoga or animal flow or traditional weight training. Aim for a minimum of 4-6 houes of resistance training per week.
Start making lifestyle changes sincerely and let me know if the comments below which one helped you the most.
For customised meal and fitness plans to help you reverse PCOS, get in touch by clicking here.