Since the time she was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome in 2011, she has worked hard to eat healthy in order to better regulate her hormones so she could lose weight and boost her fertility.
In 2014, after talking to her doctor and going through tons and tons of google searches, she found the Paleo diet which promised better hormone control. This was related to the very low carb intake.
She was sold. She lost over 60 pounds in the first 6 months.
However, over the course of the last few years, she found that no matter how many carbs she cut out of her diet she couldn’t lose any weight. In fact, her weight kept fluctuating the same 45 pounds. She also felt worse than ever. She had no energy and always felt like her head was fuzzy.
Even more devastating to Sarah was how getting those 2 pink lines on a pregnancy test was still just a dream.
Is a diet that promotes more protein and less carbohydrates the BEST for PCOS?
If you do a google search for what the best diet for PCOS is, you will most likely come across the 3 biggies: Low carb/low GI, Keto, or Paleo.
For more clarity, grab my PCOS diet cheat sheet by clicking here.
In future posts, I will walk you through each diet specifically so you can better understand them and if they would fit into your fight against PCOS.
For this article, we are going to discuss: “Is cutting out carbs the BEST way to regulate my hormones, lose weight, and boost fertility if I have PCOS?”
Let’s start from the beginning.
What are carbohydrates?
A carbohydrate is a macronutrient found in many foods. It is essential to the overall well being of your body. It is the primary energy source for your central nervous system and working muscles.
Carbs naturally occur in plant based foods such as beans, vegetables, fruit, and whole grains. Food manufacturers add them into some foods during their processing.
Why are many health practitioners concerned about your carb intake with PCOS?
One of the problems women with PCOS face is insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance is where your pancreas secretes insulin in response to any spike in blood sugar, but the insulin is no longer very efficient at metabolising the sugar correctly. Insulin’s job is to get the sugar into the cells so your body can use it for energy. With insulin resistance, it is running around without accomplishing anything.
Carbohydrates are what give you the biggest blood sugar spike after you eat them which is why many health practitioners recommend you limit them.
The thought is that if you control the spike in blood sugars, this will help the whole process function better.
Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Cutting your carb intake has some awesome immediate benefits.
- Lower blood sugar levels
- Lower insulin levels
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower triglycerides
And the one that cysters are most excited about: WEIGHT LOSS!
The goal of any diet plan to effectively “fix” our PCOS is to increase insulin sensitivity. We want that cute little insulin to be able to do its job.
If you are looking to lose weight, going low carb will help with that! There are tons of cysters who have lost weight switching to a low carb diet.
If only things would stop there…
This is where I must burst your bubble.
Yes, a low carb diet will help you initially lose weight, and the loss of weight will definitely help with your PCOS symptoms.
But, the research shows that long term, they are NOT the answer.
The Unspoken Downside to the Low Carb, Keto, and Paleo Diets
When you cut carbs, you are most likely cutting fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains.
What do you find yourself reaching for to get all that “extra” protein you supposedly need.
You are most likely eating more protein from animal sources like lean meats, eggs, etc.
Do you think that crowding out whole, unprocessed plant based food that is so rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber with food like lean meats, eggs, fish, etc. which have no antioxidants or fiber will actually fuel your body efficiently?
Does anything about that stand out to you?
You are pretty much eliminating the food that has the highest nutrient density you can possibly get for food choices that are missing vital nutrients like antioxidants, fiber, and is very low in health-giving probiotics.
I am sure by now you have come across the recommendations that we avoid dairy products. This is because dairy protein increases your insulin like growth factor (IGF-1) which increases aging, causes hormones issues because of how it mimics insulin in your body. Recent research studies show the same thing happens with ALL animal products.
Plant based protein sources do not increase the IGF-1.
Low carb diets that rely on more animal products are also acid-forming which affects the pH of your body. This can lead to a host of diseases, especially cancer.
What about all that saturated fat in a low carb diet? It puts you at a greater risk for heart disease such as heart attack, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
Think your kidneys are safe? A low carb diet puts your body into ketosis which is a different way to metabolize your food. This puts a lot of undue stress on your kidneys which can increase your risk of kidney stones and kidney damage as your body tries to rid itself of all the ketones.
Your body will also start leaching calcium to help bring your body into balance again which puts you at greater risk for osteoporosis.
Yes, but will it balance out my hormones because I am not giving it all those sugar spikes?
By not giving your body carbs which are its choice fuel, it will have to alter the way to provide energy for your body. It does this by starting to metabolise fat stores and your lean muscle mass for energy. The by products are called ketones.
This is a very inefficient way to provide energy for your body and will do nothing but wreak havoc long term.
This is why if you continue long term you will start noticing a lower immune system, slower metabolism, increased stress hormone (cortisol), lower thyroid levels, and you will feel lousy, spaced out, lightheaded, sluggish, and cranky. You may also have a funny smell in your breath.
Don’t we have enough issues already besides adding those to the puzzle?
If you slow down your metabolism, affect your stress levels, and lower your thyroid levels, you are going to gain all that weight back and feel too tired to go about your daily routine.
YES. You can lose weight and whenever you lose weight with PCOS, you will experience some improvement in other symptoms.
Any diet that involves some calorie restriction or macronutrient (carb, fat, protein) restriction will decrease insulin resistance and you will lose weight.
However, long term you are doing a lot of damage to your body. It just isn’t the way your body was designed to function.
The Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences states that our human brain REQUIRES 130 grams of carbohydrates A DAY MINIMUM to function properly. Your brain functions on carbs. If it isn’t getting what it needs, how do you think you are going to feel? A low carb diet can recommend as low as 20 grams of carbs a day…just saying!
My friend…please do not do this to yourself.
You deserve so much more!
Carbs are not your enemy.
There is NO SINGLE MACRONUTRIENT that is your enemy. You need all three: carbs, protein, and fat for your body to function.
So, are you going to go out and binge on lots of sweets, bread, and all those other foods we crave?
Carbs from sources like processed food, sugar, sweets, white flour products like bread and pasta will NOT be health promoting.
When I give you PERMISSION to EAT CARBS, I am talking about eating a diet that is HIGH in green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, root vegetables, fruit, beans, legumes, and 100% whole grains. It is a way of eating that is low in processed food, animal based products, dairy, sugar, salt, and oil.
For more clarity, grab my PCOS diet cheat sheet by clicking here.
So, now the question remains:
Is a diet that is HIGH in carbs actually be the healthiest option for you?
First, if you look at the populations around the world with the lowest incidence of diabetes and who actually live the longest, they all have something in common: their diets consist of 60-70% carbs (from whole, plant based food) and about 10-20% in protein and fat.
There are virtually no cases of diabetes in these populations.
What does the most recent research regarding insulin resistance show?
Dr. Joel Fuhrman is a doctor who is on the front lines of using nutrition to heal his patients. He stated, “Probably every nutritional scientist and physician in America knows that insulin levels and insulin resistance parallel body weight. That is basic Physiology 101…So, it is certainly true-as the advocates of animal-food-rich diets, such as Atkins, Heller, Sears, and other proclaim-carbohydrates drive up insulin levels temporarily. These writers, however, have not presented the data in accurate fashion. A diet revolving around unrefined carbohydrates (fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes) will not raise blood sugars or insulin levels. Studies have shown that such a diet can reduce fasting insulin levels 30-40 percent in just three weeks.”
Dr. Fuhrman isn’t the only one touting this information. There are numerous well designed studies that have shown a very high-carbohydrate diet can actually reverse insulin resistance in the long run.
In other studies on diabetics, utilizing a high-carb diet blew the results of low-carb diets out of the water when it came to improving insulin sensitivity. All the participants were on insulin when they started, none were on insulin after 6 months, and 75% no longer needed oral diabetic medication after 6 months. The high carb diet they were on was 70% carbs, 12% protein, and 18% fat.
Another study was conducted by Dr. Neal Barnard and showed statistical significant reversal of insulin resistance with a vegan diet. In the 22 weeks of the study, serum glucose levels dropped by 28% using a 75% carbohydrate diet.
There are many more studies that show that eating a well designed diet of plant based food that is high in carbohydrates does not make insulin resistance worse. It actually reverses insulin resistance.
Carbs are not the enemy.
When you eat a real, unprocessed, whole foods diet based mainly in plant based foods, you are giving you body EXACTLY what it needs to heal itself. You are drowning your body in phytochemicals, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
How can you not do anything but THRIVE?
In my own practice, this has been the game changer.
It has done nothing but proven itself over and over again.
Does this actually work?
When Sarah first came to me we evaluated how she was feeling on her current diet plan. She started the Cyster Diet Plan in October 2015.
She was reluctant to eat so many different foods that she labeled as “bad” such as fruit and whole grains, but was willing to try anything with the blessing of her doctor.
It has been 18 months since she started a whole foods, plant based diet. She does still eat some animal products but usually as a topping every now and then (like what I do).
She started out at 250 pounds. In that time period, she is now 145 pounds and finally in the “healthy” BMI range. She has kept that weight off in the last 5 months.
Her favorite non-scale victories? “I have crazy energy, have so much more endurance, no more acne, and my crazy cravings are pretty much history. My taste buds have changed and I just feel so much more vibrant…I don’t know how else to describe it. I just feel lighter and feel deprived. I am eating way more food now and don’t worry about it.”
For more clarity, grab my PCOS diet cheat sheet by clicking here.
Where does that leave you?
In the past few years, I have helped hundreds of cysters use a whole foods, plant based diet to totally kick PCOS in the ovaries.
As a nurse, it is my job to take care of you the healthy way. I only do things based on research from well designed studies and trusted sources.
Sometimes it means going against what is “popular”.
I care about you. I want you to thrive.
In order to do that you need a diet that is totally focused on vegetables, fruit, beans, 100% whole grains. I’m not saying you can’t eat meat, but it is so high in fat and has very little nutritional value and absolutely no fiber…it has been shown over and over again to lead to so many of the diseases mentioned above.
- So I take a balanced approach. I recommend the diet I just mentioned of real, whole plant based food.
- I use meat and other animal products sparingly, like a topping.
- Get rid of the processed food like sweets, white bread or pasta, chips, processed meats, etc.
This will set you up for a life of health.
You will regain mental clarity, energy, lose weight, better immune system, boost fertility, and you will be feeding your body the most vitamins and minerals and antioxidants you possibly can.
Can you just imagine what your body will do with all that goodness?
It’s about getting the most nutrients per calorie you put in your mouth.
Ask yourself as you eat “am I getting the most for my money (calorie)?”
I LOVE you cysters and want you to realize how awesome you can feel just by switching up how you think of food!
If you are looking for the guidelines that have set your fellow cysters up for regaining their energy, losing weight, and boosting their fertility while feeling amazing…grab my PCOS diet cheat sheet by clicking here.
Research discussed in this article:
- Fuhrman, J. (2014) The End of Diabetes