PCOS Plan of Attack

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For those who want the abridged version and are tired of drowning in the myriad of information out there I have put together a condensed ‘cheat sheet’ of quick tips to positively affect PCOS.  It’s a good place to start to quickly and effectively get your health back on track, however, please do take the time to read up on the reasons behind each item.

GET AS MUCH AEROBIC EXERCISE AS YOU CAN

  • Before each meal, do at least 3 minutes of high intensity exercise – quickly running up stairs, sprinting, star-jumps/jumping jacks etc.  Make sure you walk briskly for a minute before and after to warm-up/warm-down and keep within your level of ability and fitness to ensure you don’t do yourself any damage.
  • At least once a day spend at least 20 minutes taking a walk for your health.  Not to get errands done, but for exercise, pleasure and recharging your battery.

EAT A HEALTHY DIET BY INCREASING FOODS WHICH HELP AND AVOIDING SUBSTANCES WHICH HARM

  • Eat small quantities as often as possible – eating frequently helps to recalibrate your metabolism to a faster level, in the opposite way as dieting can slow your metabolism down.  Eating frequently will also help you avoid becoming hungry, which can result in over-eating.  Small frequent meals will help to ensure you blood sugar and insulin levels remain even rather than spiking in response to a large amount of carbohydrates ingested at the same time.
  • Eliminate or decrease significantly all refined carbohydrates from your diet.  This includes white flour, white bread, white rice, sugar of all forms, cakes, biscuits, pasta.
  • Limit your total carbohydrate intake to absolutely no more than 150 g a day.   Many women with PCOS find that they need to limit carbohydrates to as little as 20 g a day to achieve the results that they want.  Make sure that the carbohydrates you eat are from low glycaemic index foods.
  • Increase your fibre intake – it helps to slow the absorption of sugar into your blood stream.  Increasing the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables you eat is the best way to increase your fibre intake.  Taking half a teaspoon of psyllium fibre or wheat germ with each meal is another way you can easily increase your fibre intake.
  • Limit your intake of fruit to no more than 2 servings a day.
  • Reduce your intake of all processed foods and increase the amount of pure, unprocessed food.  As a general rule, the closer a food looks to the way it did when it was grown and picked the better it will be for you.  Fresh vegetables and fruits have higher levels of vitamins in them as well as enzymes which can be destroyed by heating or freezing.
  • Eliminate or significantly reduce the amount of caffeine you consume.  It has a negative effect on blood sugar and insulin levels.
  • Eliminate or significantly reduce the amount of alcohol you consume.  Alcohol is a highly refined form of sugar and also keeps the liver busy detoxifying the alcohol metabolites when it could be getting rid of excess hormones which cause some of the most distressing symptoms of PCOS.  Excessive consumption of alcohol can also damage the lining of the intestines and reduce the ability to absorb nutrients from food.
  • Eat foods and herbs which support liver function such as: dandelion (taraxicum officinale), st mary’s thistle (Silybum marianum), burdock (arctium lappa), cabbage-family vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel’s sprouts, beetroot, carrots, onions, artichokes and lemons.
  • Eliminate or significantly reduce the amount of unhealthy fats and increase healthy fats in your diet.  Unhealthy fats include trans-fats (contained in almost all processed foods), too much saturated fat especially from non-organically raised meat, polyunsaturated oils such as canola, corn, sunflower, vegetable, soybean oils, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils.  Healthy oils include cold pressed coconut, olive, avocado or rice bran oil, egg yolks, fatty fish, butter and the fat from organic, pasture-raised, grass fed meat and poultry in moderate amounts only.  All oil is 100% fat so needs to be limited to a reasonable percentage of a healthy diet.
  • Be aware of potential chemicals which can interfere with hormone regulation.  Pesticides and plastics are two very common sources of hormone-affecting chemicals in the modern age.  Store your food in glass containers and avoid pesticide exposure as much as possible.

SUPPLEMENT WITH HERBS & NUTRIENTS WHICH CAN SUPPORT CARBOHYDRATE METABOLISM & BALANCE HORMONES

  • The most important nutrient to supplement with for women with PCOS is D Chiro Inositol.  Studies have consistently shown a deficit of this nutrient in women with PCOS and significant improvement in symptoms and fertility in those who supplement with it for as little as 6 weeks.  Ideally all women with PCOS should take DCI on a long term basis to reduce the risk of chronic cardiovascular disease.
  • Vitamin D deficiency is also most common in women with PCOS.  The best way to ensure you have adequate Vitamin D levels is through regular sensible sun exposure without sunscreen.  By sensible, I mean 10 minutes or less at a time.  If your skin is getting pink from sun exposure then is too much and can cause damage.  Please have your Vitamin D levels checked by your doctor as soon as possible.
  • Other vitamins which either help improve insulin sensitivity or have been implicated in PCOS include Magnesium, Zinc, B Complex Vitamins, Vitamins C & E, Vanadium, Chromium, Co-Enzyme Q10 and Alpha Lipoic Acid.
  • Herbs which have been shown to increase insulin sensitivity include Gymnema (gymnema sylvestre), Bitter Melon (momordica charantia), Cinnamon (cinnamomum zeylanicum), Green Tea (decaffeinated only – camellia sinensis).
  • Herbs which can help to regulate hormonal imbalance include Vitex (vitex agnus castus), Dong Quai (angelica sinensis), Paeony (paeonia lactiflora) and Liquorice (glycyrrhiza glabra), Saw Palmetto (serenoa repens) and Blue Cohosh (caulophyllum thalictroides).

www.sparkpeople.com can help you to track your carbohydrates, however be wary of much of their advice – whilst it is suitable for the general population, it is not tailored towards those with insulin resistance or polycystic ovarian syndrome and some of the advice may do us more harm than good.

www.glycemicindex.com is an excellent resource for learning about the glycaemic index and glycaemic load of foods and educating yourself to make the best choices when it comes to carbohydrate containing foods.

15 Responses to PCOS Plan of Attack

  1. Marie says:

    thanks for saying what I”ve been thinking…while SP is a great resource…their information is not necessarily good for we pcos’ers….and I find that WILDLY frustrating…
    Thanks for putting all of this info together.
    Marie in Vermont

    • My PCOS Info says:

      You’re very welcome Marie. Thanks for appreciating it :) What a lovely website you have, too. I’m a crocheter, not a knitter, but you have made some real works of art there!

  2. Kristen says:

    I have read in many places that cinnamin is good for helping with sugar and insulin levels…I see you say it is not good. I feel confused.

  3. Angela says:

    hi great website!i was recently diagnosed after years of suspicion, i researched and researched and came up with a plan like this one, I’ve been on it two months, lost 15 lbs and now have normal blood sugar. i dont take any medications or birth control. I really enjoy it i dont feel deprived or anything like that.I just wanted to thank you for putting such a huge effort into making a sensible informative site. I’ve really been struggling to find coherent and comprehensive info in one place, I despair at PCOS forums as everyone seems to be heavily medicated but nobodies talking about getting cardio! Anyway, just thanks, this is a great site.

    • My PCOS Info says:

      Hi Angela,

      Thank you so much for your kind words – it makes all the effort worthwhile, knowing that it helps people and they appreciate it.

      Congratulations on putting in all the hard work to get your body back under control.

      Well done!!

      All the best,

      Anne

  4. Adedayo says:

    Hi there! Thanks for this great site you have compiled. I also suspected for years but just confirmed it after marriage. I live in West Africa so the information about treating PCOS nutritionally wasnt helpful because most of the recommended foods do not grow here e.g. cauliflower, broccoli, but your site [esp. this page] has been helpful immensely. Where can I get DCI here in Africa?
    Well done!

  5. sofia says:

    “Unhealthy fats include trans-fats (contained in almost all processed foods), too much saturated fat especially from non-organically raised meat, polyunsaturated oils such as canola, corn, sunflower, vegetable, soybean oils, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils. Healthy oils include cold pressed coconut, olive, avocado or rice bran oil, egg yolks, fatty fish, butter and the fat from organic, pasture-raised, grass fed meat and poultry in moderate amounts only.”

    I am a little puzzled by your advice. It is normally said that saturated oils are bad and the unsaturated oils are good for the health.
    http://www.healthcommunities.com/nutrition-guide/fats.shtml

    • My PCOS Info says:

      Thank you for your comment Sofia. I understand your confusion. For the past 60 years or so the commonly accepted advice has been that saturated fats are bad for us, particularly with respect to cardiovascular health. What we have begun to learn in the last few years, however, is that some types of saturated fats are actually very good for us and the low fat diets we thought were healthy, are in fact not.

      This subject really deserves it’s own article in order to properly respond to you. I will put it on my to-do list; it’s an important subject and the cause of a great deal of confusion, but in the meantime here is some basic information to get you started.

      To begin with, let me explain the difference between saturated, mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fats. Fats are made up primarily of carbon chains, with 2 hydrogen atoms attached to each carbon atom. A carbon atom has a valence of 4, meaning it is capable of attaching itself to 4 other atoms.

      Carbon Atom Attached to 4 Hydrogen Atoms (Methane)

      In saturated fats, the carbon atoms have no double bonds, they are each attached to the maximum number of other atoms that they can be, which makes them very stable. Most saturated fats are solids at room temperature and are the least susceptible to oxidation by exposure to heat, light and air.

      Saturated Fat Molecule

      In mono-unsaturated fats, there is a single double bond between two of the carbon atoms, which makes them slightly less stable than saturated fats as they are capable of ‘grabbing’ an extra hydrogen atom. Mono-unsaturated fats are generally considered to be a healthy fat. Examples include olive oil, avocados & macadamias.

      Mono-unsaturated Fat Molecule

      Poly-unsaturated fats have more than one double bond, or are ‘missing’ more than one hydrogen atom and are the least stable of the fats, as they are capable of hydrogenating or ‘grabbing hold of’ multiple additional hydrogen atoms and are extremely susceptible to oxidation by exposure to heat, light or air.

      Poly-unsaturated Fat Molecule

      To give you an example of a healthy saturated fat, let’s take a look at coconut oil. It is 95% saturated fat, compared to the fats found in most meats which are only 50% saturated. Coconut oil is made up of 66% medium chain triglycerides which are very easily metabolised by the body and according to some studies may actually assist in weight loss. 50% of fatty acids in coconut are lauric acid, a medium chain triglyceride which is metabolised in the human body into monolaurin, an antiviral, antibacterial and antiprotozoal monoglyceride. Essentially, it is capable of destroying any pathogenic organism which has a fatty coating, by dissolving the fat that encapsulates the cell and causing the contents to spill out, leaving the virus or bacteria non-viable, though recent studies have indicated that it may have other additional methods to account for it’s anti-viral activities.

      B. Martena, M. Pfeuffer, J. Schrezenmeir (2006). “Medium-chain triglycerides”. International Dairy Journal 16 (11): 1374–1382. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016%2Fj.idairyj.2006.06.015

      St-Onge, MP; Jones, PJH; “Greater rise in fat oxidation with medium-chain triglyceride consumption relative to long-chain triglyceride is associated with lower initial body weight and greater loss of subcutaneous adipose tissue”. International Journal of Obesity 2003, 27 (12): 1565–1571 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12975635

      St-Onge, MP; Jones, PJ. “Physiological effects of medium-chain triglycerides: potential agents in the prevention of obesity”. The Journal of nutrition 2002,132 (3): 329–32.

      Takeuchi, H; Sekine, S; Kojima, K; Aoyama, T “The application of medium-chain fatty acids: edible oil with a suppressing effect on body fat accumulation”. Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition 2008, 17 Suppl 1: 320–3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18296368

      H. Tsuji, M. Kasai, H. Takeuchi, M. Nakamura, M. Okazaki, K. Kondo “Dietary Medium-Chain Triacylglycerols Suppress Accumulation of Body Fat in a Double-Blind, Controlled Trial in Healthy Men and Women”. The American Society for Nutritional Sciences 2001, 131: 2853–2859.

      A low fat diet (where 20% of calories come from fat) has been found to induce the changes in blood fat levels which tend to result in hardening of the arteries
      German JB, Dillard CJ. Saturated fats: what dietary intake? Am J Clin Nutr September 2004 vol. 80 no. 3 550-559 http://www.ajcn.org/content/80/3/550.full

      Here is a fairly general article on why saturated fats are actually beneficial: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2004/09/08/saturated-fat.aspx

      Best regards,

      Anne

  6. sofia says:

    Dear Anne, thank you so much for your answer. It’s quite disturbing though to see that medical “truths” may prove wrong in time when a new theory appears. What if DCI proves to be bad for PCOS in the long term?:) I’m willing to buy it, but..you see my point. Thank you again.

    • My PCOS Info says:

      My pleasure Sofia. I agree with you, it’s incredibly disconcerting to learn that things we were taught are in fact incorrect in light of the information gained by the incredible advancements we have seen in science. It’s definitely a good argument for the need to never stop learning. I think that as DCI is a naturally occurring nutrient and we are merely re-normalising our levels back to what they would be in a normal non-insulin-resistant person that the likelihood of DCI winding up to be detrimental to us is extremely low, if not non-existant. I also trust the way I feel. I feel better taking it and my body seems to function better as well, i.e. more energy, a more regular menstrual cycle etc. I think ultimately there will be a better way to treat PCOS than just d-chiro inositol. I hope that one day we will discover why women with PCOS don ‘t absorb as much DCI from their food as other people, why they excrete it at far greater rates than others and why some may have difficulty in converting DCI into DCI-IPG and that once we learn these things we may be better able to target the cause rather than merely trying to ameliorate the downstream effects. But that day seems a fair way off at present, so in the meantime I think that taking DCI and other insulin sensitising nutrients/herbs and controlling carbohydrate intake is helpful. We know that the effects of high insulin levels and high blood sugar levels if it comes to that are very very bad for the body. That is definite :) We know that DCI (and some other substances) reduce insulin levels, blood sugar levels, normalise blood fat and cholesterol levels and that this helps to normalise our reproductive hormones. We also know that it’s a nutrient that’s available in some foods, such as buckwheat, chickpeas, soy lecithin and pumpkin seeds. I’m a lot more comfortable taking something that is a nutrient rather than a synthetic chemical that we may not know enough about yet and that the foods from which d-chiro inositol is derived are generally considered healthy.

      I hope this information helps to make you feel a little more comfortable with your decision to take DCI. I will email you some of the studies which talk about some of the things I’ve touched on here. If you have any questions at all, please let me know.

      All the best,

      Anne

  7. Tiffany says:

    This is really helpful! Simple and straight to the point. Thank you for providing this help. My doctor is not help when it comes to natural ways to help with my PCOS. He give me metaphormine and tells me to loose weight. If only it was that easy.

    • My PCOS Info says:

      You are very welcome Tiffany. Thank you for your kind words. I’m glad you find the information helpful. I found it really hard to find reliable information about PCOS as well, that’s why I put this site together. If you have any questions, please let me know. I’m here to help.

  8. Liz says:

    I have suffered with PCOS for my entire life. Like many of the women posting on this site I too have been told by untold numbers of doctors that there is no cure or treatment and basically go home and do your best to up with extremely heavy periods, lenghtly bleeds, clotting – I could go on but you know the symptoms… the worst is the depression and low self-esteem in relation to being obese. I truely had lost all hope and thought there was no suuport – I was on my own essentially. Imagine my surprise at discovering this site and that I’m not alone. I’m now feeling more positive about the future and I’m heading to the pharmacy tomorrow to put into effect my action plan based on the advice and results from other pcos-ters.

    THANK YOU

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