PCOS Nutrition Part 10: Bring it All Together; My Tips for Making the Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Diet (PCOS) Work
First off, I want to thank everyone for following along these last 10 days. I hope it has been helpful in explaining WHY we suggest what we do in treating and managing Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) with diet.
I was thinking that the best way to finish it off would be to recap, and give some of my tips to help you keep on track. Some of these have only come to me this week while trying to stay the course myself. It is often easier to tell other what to do, but once you walk in their shoes the truth becomes clearer. I have been telling clients what to do for PCOS for awhile now. After being strict about the diet this week, I will say, I have some new insight, and I think it will help you as much as I feel it will help me to communicate with you and clients. Here is what I found/find helpful for maintaining the Basic Principles of the Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) Diet.
Making Baked Goods with Nut Flours
Many of the recipes and foods that we love are not forbidden, they just need some modification. Take my Almond Flour "Fried" Chicken. By not only substituting the white flour for almond flour (which is just ground almonds, which are high in Vitamin E by the way), but baking the chicken, you make a healthy and more nutrient dense meal with out sacrificing the satisfaction and flavor.
Knowing what can be substituted in baking and "flour" based cooking is a big help. With the increase in the diagnosis of grain and gluten allergens, which cause increased inflammation, the substitution possibilities are endless.
When it comes to baked goods, there are many "paleo" recipes out there that utilize Coconut Flour, Almond Flour, Garbanzo Flour, Barley Flour and other that are low glycemic and more nutrient dense substitute. Experiment, see what works for you and what meets your families tastes. My family has no problem with the coconut and almond flavors, so we use those most of all.
Make Your Own Dairy Substitutes
Coconut and Almond Milk are expensive!!!! Goo!! I couldn't believe the price difference between regular (even good, quality, organic milk) and Good Almond Milk (without added junk), wowzers! I found a couple of great video tutorials on how to make your own nut milks.
I read an article recently on the growing problem with nut milk by-product. There are huge amounts of almond meal that are discarded in the making of Almond Milk. What a waste! If you make it at home, you can safe the almond meal and use it in cooking, as pie crust, or in smoothies.
Homemade nut milk is also more flavorful, creamier, and WAY cheaper.
When You Cook, Cook Big
Many of us do not have the time to cook for ourselves even once a day, let along 3-6 times per day. I find/found it helpful to cook BIG MEALS when I did cook. This way I would have portioned out meals that work as mini-meals throughout the day. Making them into ready-to-go, easy to grab containers is helpful for busy work weeks. Grab a couple for breakfast, lunch, snack, whatever you need for the day, and know that they are balanced, portioned and ready to eat.
Learn to Feel Satisfied Not Full
One of the first things I work on with clients looking to loose weight, is learning to feel satisfied. This is often the biggest, and hardest thing for people to do. This means eating with consciousness.
When you eat any meal, sit and eat and enjoy each bite. Do not wolf down your food. The signals in your digestive system take about 15 minutes or longer to catch up with your brain. This is why you often eat till you are full, and feel fuller as time goes on after finishing your meal. By eating with consciousness, and enjoying each of your bites, you will naturally reach point where your immediate hunger has been satisfied. This is the point when you should stop eating this meal. This is how you know your digestive system has reached a manageable point, this is the amount of food that your system can hold and digest at one time. For each of us, this is different, but in general it is not 1/2 a chicken with a baked potato and a bowl of corn…it's really more like 4-6 oz of chicken, with 2-4 oz of sweet potato and a hand full of green beans, some it's less.
If have been in the habit of eating very large meals for a long time, your stomach is partially expanded and this awareness may take some time. Do not despair, like all arts it takes practice and if you are dedicated, you will get there.
Eat When You Are Hungry
When we are using diet to keep blood sugar levels controlled, the smaller meals play a big part, as does eating when you are hungry. It's okay to be hungry!!!! Many people fear the nagging growl of their stomachs. This is OKAY!!! Just make sure you eat when you feel hungry.
Now, here is the deal, many people THINK they are hungry when they are really just bored, routined, or thirsty. To really be hungry is to need to eat for body fuel. Being "hungry" because someone at work brought doughnuts and they look yummy, is not being hungry. Being hungry is need fuel so badly you will choose the fruit, or nuts. I had an example a couple of weeks ago on my Facebook feed...
Example: I keep a bag of mixed nuts (almonds mostly) in my car. I am notorious for skipping meals, or not planning ahead on road trips. I keep this bag in my car for the times I am really hungry, nut just craving food. I HATE NUTS!!! Honestly, I really do. If I had to choose between nuts, and dried fish…I would choose dried fish (it's honestly really good…hooray for odd childhood cultural snacks). But, If I am really hungry, those nuts are the most amazing thing I have ever tasted! THAT is how I know I am actually hungry. Afterwards, I am completely satisfied and ready to tackle the next couple of hours.
Keep a Snack Stash
Like I mentioned above, I have an emergency stash of snacks in my car, purse, work bag, and backpack. Not only is this for me, of those times that I am actually hungry, but for my kiddos. Same goes for them, if they are REALLY hungry, they will whatever snack I have in the car.
These snacks are NOT graham crackers, cookies, cheddar bunnies, etc… that are tasty, but healthy snacks like raw nuts, seaweed snacks, veggie sticks, etc…(that are also tasty, just not American, processed, tasty) This way I know that they, or I, am actually hungry and not just bored on the drive somewhere.
Carry a Water Bottle
Staying hydrated is my personal biggest issue. I found it easier to make sure I have a water bottle with me 24/7. Even if it is not full, I will see it in my purse and realize I need to drink some water. The more hydrated you are the more your fluids are nourished, blood flows smoothing, joints are lubricated, and our organs are in better health.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a disease associated with increased pus symptoms (in the ovaries, of course). The more hydrated you are, the thinner the fluids are and the more efficiently they can be moved and clear from the body.
These were great this morning. We got up and geared up for a day of fishing. I needed easy meals that would pack well this early morning.
Breakfast #10 Grab-and-Go Egg Cups
Preheat oven 350
In a cupcake tin, coat 6 spaces with 1/2 Tbsp Olive Oil. Layer with Ham, spinach, and crack an egg into each. Sprinkle with Salt and Pepper. Bake until yolks are cooked through.
* NOTE: There are several variations of these on the internet (love me some Pinterest). Get creative with the ingredients. Today's were super quick and easy to put together.
* NOTE: These are great snacks too.
Lunch #10 Chicken and Leek Salad with Apple "Chips"
Makes 6 Servings
With Apple Slices (1/2 an apple)
Debone and shred chicken (save bones for future bone broth), reserving 1/4 cup of the juice from cooking. Add chicken and juice to mixing bowl. Slice only the white parts of the leek, wash well, and add to bowl. Chop the water chestnuts and add to bowl. Quarter grapes and add to bowl. Add Mayonnaise and mix well. Season with S/P to taste. Let set, it tastes better.
Use Apple Slices as Crackers.
I honestly don't have pictures of most of what I ate today, because I left my phone at home (camera)…oops. We did however bring Hummus, Carrot Sticks, Cucumber Sticks, Dried Apricots, Cashews, Kind Bars and more, for the family to snack on throughout the day.
I ended up eating a little of everything.
We've spent a lot of time, now, talking about what you should NOT have! I seem to say NO quite a bit in life…maybe that's why my children "lovingly" call me Mommy No-Fun!
I feel I need to redeem myself a bit with you all. I KNOW this sounds like there is just nothing in the world you can eat. I promise you, there is a world of delicious foods out there for you. It may take some experimenting and time to get use to them and how to cook them, but it is worth it.
Here are the TOP TEN foods that I think every women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) should eat regularly.
1. Green Vegetables
There are a LOT of great green vegetables, so instead of making my entire top too vegetables, I made one category for them...they are that important and cool! Most of us, not just those with PCOS, need to increase the green. This really does many anything GREEN! Green vegetables are a rich source of Vitamins and Minerals, many of which are extremely important to those managing Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). There really is no set right green vegetable that is better than another. I think variety is the best way to approach. My rule of thumb is to have something green at each meal, if you can, if not at the very least once a day. Here are some of my favorites and why?
Most Green Vegetables, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, work to cleanse the Liver. They are also used to Nourish the Yin (cooling aspect and fluids) and Blood (well, blood).
There many others, but these are common, easy to cook with, and taste great. Get creative, and go GREEN.
Use herbs to flavor foods naturally, while giving a little extra boost in nutrition. Many of the herbs be use in cooking are excellent sources (much like the greens up top) in vegetable base fat-soluble vitamins. They add flavor that is satisfying and creates dishes that are notch above just plain salt and pepper.
Herbs, as medicine, are a big part of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Parsley works similar to other leafy greens being good for the liver, yin and blood. Herbs are often used in TCM cooking to create a stronger medicinal effect on the dishes.
There are definitely others, but Parsley is the King.
Most people have Cinnamon in their pantry. Not only does it have beautiful and slightly sweet and spicy flavor, but it is medicinal.
Known as Rou Gui and Gui Zhi in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Cinnamon is warming. It is good for helping to regulate the digestion and body temperature. It is a common remedy for alternating fever and chills, or hot flashes followed by chills. It warms the Spleen and Stomach
Beans, Beans the magical fruit….we all know how it goes, right? There is a wide variety of beans, and some are higher on the glycemic index, so take a look. Most of the common varieties are just fine, and very good for our digestive systems, as well as giving us good protein, and nutrients. The combination of Fiber and Protein is beneficial for helping with blood sugar control. The fiver in legumes, works similarly to the fiber in leafy greens to inhibit amylase enzymes that breakdown carbohydrates, thus slowing the breakdown and absorption.
Avocados are crazy popular these days. Mostly because of the health benefits associated with the fat in the fruit. I think most people think it is the saturated fats in Avocados that are so healthy (since there has been a swing to better saturated fats), but honestly, Avocados are only 1/9 saturated fat, the rest is a combination of Omega 6 polyunsaturated and Oleic Acid Monounsaturated. They are 75% fat, with vitamins and minerals.
Read my article on differentiating Dietary Fats for more on these fats.
REALLY all nuts should be welcome on your plate. They are each full of wonderful nutritional benefits…Walnuts with Omega 3. I really like Almonds.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, nuts (in general) warm the essence, the internal energy, of the body. Almonds in particular, are good for the intestines.
7. Primitive and Wild Grains
I say "Primitive and Wild Grains" because these are the grain that tend to be lower on the glycemic index, and contain a better ratio of proteins and fats, and more nutrients. My favorites are Quinoa and Wild Rice. They give a steady flow of GOOD glucose (because we do need some), while being balanced. Always combine with other proteins and fats.
When you are choosing grains, always choose WHOLE GRAINS. This means in their natural form and fully enact with bran.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Grains are good for nourishing the Spleen and Stomach, and nourish the blood.
Not everyone loves fish, and that's okay. We now have awesome, quality nutritional supplements that help you get your fish…hooray for fish oils. FIsh is a great way to get our Omega 3 fatty acids. Like I mentioned before ALA is the plant form of Omega 3. When an animal consumes plants based Omega 3, it must be broken down into EPA and DHA to actually be used in the body. The food chain of fish is Algae, small fish, and then large fish. By eating fish like Salmon, we are eating a concentrated form of Omega 3. Algae is a high source of plant based Omega 3. All the little fish eat the algae, and the salmon eat the smaller fish and they accumulate more. Fish is our highest meat source of Omega 3 fatty acids in a very usable form.
Caution when choosing fish sources. Choose sources that are low in mercury. If you do consume mercury rich sources, limit.
Most seafood, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, is Yin nourishing.
I absolutely love eggs for anything reproductive…fertility, pregnancy, postpartum. In several tribal cultures, eggs were only given to women and children. With pregnancy women consuming up to a dozen a day. Why?
Egg are made to grow and sustain life. They provide almost every nutrient, in high amounts, needed for reproduction, pregnancy, and breast-feeding.
There is a difference in quality though, not all eggs are created the same. Commercial chicken eggs are often very devoid of the nutrition that should be there. BECAUSE these chickens are missing out essential foods (insects), as well as sunshine (poor caged chickens.) When choosing eggs, go with pasture-raised (not just cage free), they are worth the price!
Pasture Raised eggs have twice as much Vitamin E, twice as much Omega 3 Fatty Acids, and a Third more Vitamin A. They also contain Vitamin D, and B vitamins.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Eggs nourish and tonify the Kidneys (the main organ responsible for reproduction in TCM)
Good Quality oils are super important for good fat sources. Add a drizzle of cold pressed oils to top off your meals. It will an array of different forms of healthy fats, without the worry of ruining them in cooking. There are several fun and creative options to try, (like using the Walnut oil as a drizzle on my sweet potatoes.)
Look my previous post on CHOOSING COOKING OILS, for more information...
Breakfast #9 "Paleo" Biscuit Sandwiches with Berries
Makes 4 servings
For Biscuits: Preheat to 350
In a bowl add Almond Flour, Coconut Flour, Baking Soda, Baking Powder, and Salt. Combine with a whisk. Add in one egg at a time and incorporate smoothly. Fold in cooled Fat (should be somewhat solid, but not hard). GENTLY roll into 4 equally sized biscuits. Place on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown. Let cook 10 minutes before slicing.
In a skillet add sausage patties and cook through, set a side. In same skillet fry eggs.
To assemble: slice biscuits in half, add sausage, egg, and top with other biscuit half. Serve with 1/2 cup berries.
Dinner #9 Mediterranean One Skillet Chicken; Quinoa Tabbouleh
The importance of Fat Soluble Vitamins is paramount in the Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) Diet. As are the Dietary Fats; Saturated and un-saturated fatty acids.
We have already discussed how adding dietary fats into a meal can offset the speed at which the body absorbed sugars. Now, lets talk about the benefits these fats have, DIRECTLY, on the health of our body, hormones, and reproductive organs. My goal today is to help you navigate the excited, confusing, and interested world of dietary fats. Which ones are good (specifically for PCOS), and which ones to avoid.
For more information on Differentiating your Dietary Fats, please click here…
Why Saturated Fats are NOT the Enemy
For decades, saturated fats have been touted as the worst of the worst in the diet world. All based off one study done decades ago that linked saturated fats with heart disease (they tested margarine, by the way). More research is now debunking this long held bad science.
The truth is, your body NEEEEEDS Saturated Fats!
Saturated Fats (and Cholesterol, more below...) are the building blocks of our hormones. Without enough saturated fats, the cell membranes are weak and without structure. 50% of the cell membrane MUST BE SATURATED FAT. Saturated fats are also necessary for hormones signaling, without enough saturated fat in our bodies, our organs lack to proper chemical signaling to produce hormones.
Saturated Fats are the best fats for keeping feeling fuller longer. They help with appetite control. Studies do show that increasing intake of certain saturated fats (medium chain fatty acids) leads to less adipose accumulation (body fat).
Saturated Fats are the best fats for transporting Fat-Soluble Vitamins. Other fats can help with this process too, but these are by far the most efficient as they naturally pull these fats into the cells walls (think Vitamin E). Fat Soluble Vitamins NATURALLY occur in foods rich in saturated fats.
Long Chain Fatty Acids (a type of saturated fat) are one of the best sources of energy for cells. Saturated Fats that are not consumed as energy are turned into triglycerides. I find this very interesting…Glucose is first form of fuel used in the cells, followed by saturated fat, and followed up by protein.
In a normal person, eating a normal diet, a portion of the cells energy would come from multiple sources, with an emphasis on fats. The cells respond better to fat energy sources than sugar energy sources. It is very common for women with PCOS to have high levels of TRIGLYCERIDES. What are these? This is the storage for of saturated fats (not bod fat). So to some extent, yes, saturated fats in the diet lead to heart disease because excess amounts become triglycerides. Here is the deal though, there is a power struggle going on in our cells, between Glucose and Saturated Fat for cell favorite.
As I said, Glucose is the first energy source. This source is instant, and strong, but it doesn't last long. This of the ups and downs of sugar highs. You rise really fast…feel really awesome, talk really fast, can't sit still, and then you drop just as fast and feel fatigued and drained. That is glucose energy acting on your cells. (remember that extra glucose is stored in body fat…okay)
Saturated fat energy is more sustained, more fluid, it is slow release, giving you hours of constant, leveled energy, with now sharp drops, but a slow, fluid decline. This gives you time to realize you are getting low on energy and find more food.
These two both have their place and the cells need some level of both, but too much Glucose energy blocks to utilization of Saturated Fat energy. So, what happens to this unused fat? It is converted into it's storage form…TRIGLYCERIDES.
As you can see, having a diet that is high in carbohydrates and low in fat would cause this reaction. Why the low-fat high carb diets didn't work! They make triglyceride levels worse, and heart disease more prevalent.
Our cells crave and needs more saturated fat based energy, with less Glucose energy. This is even more important for those who have issues with Glucose management. The more sugar in ones diet, the more of a bad wrap Saturated Fats get. It's not the fats, it's the sugars.
What's the Deal with Cholesterol?
Yet another wonderful nutrient brought down by bad science. Similar to Saturated Fats, Cholesterol has been the subject of abuse. It was hated for decades because of the rise in Cholesterol levels (much like the triglyceride levels) in association with low fat diets, more below...
Dietary Cholesterol IS the main building block of our reproductive Steroid Hormones, and Vitamin D. Without Cholesterol, they do not exist. The brain, endocrine organs, adrenals, and sex glands all needs and crave cholesterol to function properly.
Cholesterol provides a coating around nerves that carry electrical impulses, so is extremely important for neurotransmitter health.
Elevated Cholesterol levels are not a caused causes by too much Cholesterol in the diet, but not enough. The body will make it's own cholesterol, to some extent, from the fat we consume. 70-75% is made in the Liver. There are several scenarios that can change the norm. Excess environmental toxics, too much Fructose, Alcohol, and Medications can stress the liver and signal it to produce for cholesterol.
Another situation, that I mentioned before, is the high carbohydrate, low fat diet. The digestive system (like our cells) goes to work on sugars first (it starts in our mouths). When we eat a meal, bile is produced. The bile is designed, primarily, to digest fats and proteins. If we have a meal that is all carbohydrate and very little fat and protein, there is an excess of bile needed. What happens to this bile? It is reabsorbed into our bodies as….CHOLESTEROL! So, a diet that is high in sugars and carbohydrates, but low in dietary fats and cholesterol will lead to an excess amount of blood cholesterol.
Not all Poly-unsaturated Fats are Good!
There has been a big switch in "politically correct" nutrition to trade out saturated fats in the diet with poly-unsaturated fats. This is all well in good, if you are adding in large amounts of Omega 3's, but the majority of people are consuming WAY TOO MUCH!
One of the draw backs to consuming too much (PUFA) Poly-unsaturated fatty acids, I have already mentioned. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that PUFA's latch onto to prevent oxidation. By doing this, they tie up the Vitamin E in the body, leaving little for reproduction.
Another drawback is that many of them are inflammatory in the body, think Omega 6. They CAUSE inflammation. If you have PCOS you know that your body is prone to inflammation already.
Lastly, for now, when breakdown analysis is done of clogged arteries…74% was PUFA's, NOT Saturated Fats!!!
Most of the vegetables oils, and other cooking oils used in our modern cooking are various forms of PUFA's, and not the good kinds. The longer the fatty acid chain, the less inflammatory it is for the body.
EPA and DHA are the converted versions of Omega 3 Linolenic Acid (ALA) found in flax, chia, walnuts, etc.. In the body the ALA MUST be converted to EPA and DHA to be used in the body. We can skip this breakdown process by consuming or Omega 3's already converted by eating meat, especially fish.
Research points very strongly to the correlation between increased Omega 3's and a decrease in PCOS symptoms, but only, it seems, in the converted form or VERY HIGH amounts of ALA.
The opposite was found for other PUFA's, specifically short chain PUFA's like Omega 6.
How Much Fat Should You Have?
Of course this is a topic of heated debate. I personally believe that everyone needs more fat in their diet, and less sugar. Those with disruptions in their hormones need more. Much research points to a those with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) doing better with at least 30% fat, and up to 60+%. But be careful if you go higher than 50% to make sure you are getting enough vitamins and especially fiber.
The Mayo Clinic, in fact, suggests an almost full fat (lower protein and little to no carbohydrate) for the treatment of diabetes and insulin issues (it started as a treatment for Epilepsy). This is an extreme diet, and even they suggest that this is not a lifelong diet, but a reset button. The Ketogenic Diet is a 4:1 ratio of fat:carbohydrate (by grams) with adequate to low protein, it is also calorie restrictive at 1,000 calories per day. They idea behind this is to reset the system, give the pancreas the time and fats to heal and reduce the glucose load so that it can.
With the PCOS Diet is is important to make sure you are cutting out the excess carbohydrates and sugars, but giving your body enough to function (remember, we do need glucose). While balancing it with lots of healthy fats. There is no perfect number or ratio. Making sure that you are adding and eating healthy fats at every meal, and balancing them with vegetables and protein sources…thats the key.
You should have fats at every meal.
Breakfast #8 Apple Cinnamon Almond Flour Crepes
Makes 2 Servings
Heat a skillet over medium heat. 1/2 Tbsp Coconut Oil, Apple, and sprinkle with cinnamon. Cook until apples are soft and fragrant. Set Aside
In a bowl add Almond Flour. Add one egg and 1/2 the milk, mix till smooth. Add the remaining egg and milk, mix till smooth. Add Vanilla and blend. Heat a crepe pan over medium heat. Add 1/4-1/3 Tbsp Coconut oil. Pour half the crepe batter into the center of the pan. Using a crepe tool, spread the batter evenly. Once it begins to brown and solidify, flip. Fold on pan and remove. Repeat.
Top Crepes with Apple Mixture and Sprinkle with Chopped Almonds
Lunch #8 Italian Sausage and Vegetable Bake
Makes 4 servings
Preheat to 400
In a casserole dish, add vegetables, oil, and seasoning. Mix to Coat. Making room in the center place the uncooked Italian Sausage and arrange vegetables around it. Bakes until sausage is cooked through and vegetables are soft.
Dinner Out: Afghan Food
Tried a new restaurant tonight. Not gonna lie, it was good not to cook, although finding something that was on the PCOS diet at this place was hard. Everything came with rice, naan, yogurt sauce, the works.
I opten for the Korma Plate. A combination of Chicken and Meatballs in a tomato and lentil base. REALLY GOOD. I also avoided the rice on my plate (gave it to the kids, who just got a kabob).
It takes some time to really look through the menu's and asking some questions, but it can be done. And sometimes, by branching out, you get to try some really yummy things you would have otherwise skipped over.
Understanding the Different Fat Soluble Vitamins
There has been a resurgence of a long forgotten group of vitamins. The Fat-Soluble Vitamins. Why? Deficiency is becoming epidemic here in America. A Majority of the population is walking around with at least one deficiency in fat-soluble vitamins. The most talked about are Vitamin D and K, so much so that pediatricians are now recommending supplementing infants, and giving newborns Vitamin K vaccines to prevent deadly issues with internal bleeding. YIKES! This could all be prevented with proper diet and lifestyle choices (enjoy some sunshine and eat some cholesterol…more below)
For more detailed information and food sources of these vitamins, check out my previous post…click here
The Overlooked Role of Vitamin E in Treating PCOS
Vitamin E deserves more attention than it has been getting for reproduction. It is often overshadowed by the more easily diagnosed Vitamin D deficiency.
Without Vitamin E, our bodies cannot reproduce...period!
Vitamin E is embedded into the lipid bilayer of our cells (the exterior "skin"). Although there is a lot of gaps in the research on Vitamin E and reproduction, there are some very good correlations.
What does this mean for those with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome? Well, look at a lot of the functions of Vitamin E. Many of the issues associated with low levels of Vitamin E are symptoms of PCOS, are they not.
The Important Role of Vitamin D in Treating PCOS
I want to highlight Vitamin D specifically, because in many women suffering fertility issues due to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, there is a level of Vitamin D deficiency.
There are Vitamin D receptors on the Ovaries, Endometrium, Fallopian Tubes, and Placenta. The receptors are connected to nutrient availability. Why? Because if there is not enough food being consume (nutrient dense food, that is), then the body naturally knows it is not a opportune time for conception. This is primitive. The body would naturally encourage reproduction at times when the sunlight and foods are plentiful (gestation is 9-10 months), so that babies would be born at a time when breast milk would have the highest amounts of nutrition….conception in October, baby born in July. As the Vitamin D levels increase and attach to the ovaries, they stimulate the production of reproductive hormones at the different stages of menstruation (progesterone and estrogens). If there is not enough Vitamin D attached to the ovaries, the ovaries do not release an egg for fertilization because the body is not nutritionally prepared for conception. It is a natural birth control, to make sure babies are born at a time that they are most likely to survive. And this is just the role of Vitamin D on ovulation and conception (although that is a pretty important link to other menstrual irregularities).
Receptors are also in the endometrial lining of the uterus. Vitamin D attaches to these receptors and stimulates the production of progesterone to maintain the pregnancy. There is also a link between the Vitamin D deficiency and Endometriosis and other issues with Endometrium.
Receptors are also found on the growing placentas. Vitamin D attaches to these receptors and stimulates the production of progesterone to maintain the pregnancy, as well as stimulates the growth of the embryo (specifically by stimulating bone growth, and hormone formation.)
There are many other benefits and needs for Vitamin D in the body (thyroid for one), but that is another blog…I am focusing solely on the role within reproductive hormones at this point. But, would welcome any questions you may have.
90% of Vitamin D comes from sunshine. Vitamin D deficiency can be characterized by the following symptoms; general bone pain or muscle pain and weakness; muscle cramping; unexplained depression; fatigue; lack of concentration; mood swings; anovulation; low sperm motility; childhood asthma; sleep irregularities. Unchecked Vitamin D deficiency can lead to severe conditions involving the Cardiovascular, Musculoskeletal, and Neurological systems. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms as well as infertility, you may have a level of Vitamin D deficiency.
One study done at Yale University tested a group of women experiencing infertility. Only 7% had normal Vitamin D levels. Not a single patient with polycystic ovarian disease had normal Vitamin D levels. (ouch).
Another study found that Vitamin D worked as a modulator for implantation of the fertilized egg and formation of the placenta. Which if deficient, could lead to miscarriage.
So, how much Vitamin D do you need? Well, that varies depending on your age, skin type and underlying health conditions. The body can make between 10,000-20,000IU from sun exposure alone, if conditions are right….wowzers….no supplement can match that without becoming toxic…truth. All supplements have a maximum that can be consumed before they become harmful. This is because they are synthetic vitamins, or separated vitamins. They are not found in their natural state and thus are missing many of the other nutrients, enzymes and chemicals that balance out and enable that specific vitamin in the body (sorry, another tangent). D2 is an example of this. It was the go to Vitamin D additive in milk, supplements, etc.. and it was found to be extremely hazardous. Supplements (if good), have switched to a D3. That being said there are times where diet and lifestyle are not enough and a supplement needs to be incorporated until levels are normal.
I have my theory on the high rate of Vitamin D deficiency. I think there are two factors as to why people are not making enough of their own. 1) Too much sunscreen 2)Not enough cholesterol in the diet. For the body to create Vitamin D, Cholesterol in the body interacts with UVB rays from the sun. The outcome is Vitamin D. How much sun exposure do you need…it varies from person to person. Those with fairer skin need less time, those with darker skin need more time. The general rule of thumb is 1/4 of the time it takes for you to get sunburned. Now, this only works if you have enough cholesterol in your blood stream. So, it is important to add in GOOD Cholesterol into your diet.
Breakfast #7 Broccoli Egg Scramble
In a skillet heat 1 Tbsp grease, add onion and broccoli and cook until onion is translucent and broccoli is soft. Set Aside. In a bowl scramble egg and season with S/P/G. Add in 1 Tbsp grease, pour in 3 eggs scrambled, add broccoli mixture back in. Cook, stirring frequently, until eggs are cooked. Serve topped with Avocado and Salsa
Lunch #7 Nicoise Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
In a bowl/container, add lettuce and chopped dill. Top with vegetables, tuna and egg. Drizzle enough dressing to coat, but not soak salad.
Dinner #7 Quick Sage Roasted Pork Chops; Bakes Sweet Potato; Sautéed Spinach
Because of the added Sweet Potato, I calculated the GI and GL for the entire meal! For one serving of each item
This is a great example of how balancing high glycemic foods like sweet potatoes with larger amounts of fat and protein help to lessen the over load on the body.
Reproductive Hormone Basics
Our hormones are the rulers of our reproductive health, yet many of us don't know how they work, or where they come from. A woman's reproductive hormones are produces in the brain and in the Ovaries. The main hormones affecting a woman's reproductive cycles are; GnRH (Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone), FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone), LH (Luteinizing Hormone), Estrogen, and Progesterone.
There are many others, but these are the most important when discussing Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).
What Happens to the Hormones in PCOS
There are still a lot of unknowns with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. In reality, Ovarian Cysts are just a symptom. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we take this symptom and we use it to determine the exact underlying imbalance and we treat. In TCM there are over 5 different patterns associated with PCOS, and each is treated differently and differently between women. In Western Medicine Ovarian Cysts were all lumped into one category. The problem is that there is not one pattern of PCOS. Now, Western Medicine is realizing this and have come up with 5 differentiations of PCOS, sadly, they are all still treated the same. With medications that overstimulate ovulation, and medication to treat insulin resistance. This treatment doesn't work for everyone.
So, how does all of this come together? PCOS is characterized by High Levels of Testosterone, High Levels of Luteinzing Hormones with inability to ovulate.
There are many theories, but nothing concrete as to the cause of PCOS, and why some cases have insulin resistance and some do not. I believe it is a progressive disease and there are many processes we are not aware of. Poor Diet can cause spikes in insulin that can hyperstimulate the recptors, and resistance can cause a deficiency of insulin needed to regulate hormones.
Breakfast #6 Honey Nut Baked Quinoa
Makes 9 servings
Preheat oven to 350, and grease a 7X11 or 8x8 dish
In a bowl, mix Coconut Milk, Honey, and Eggs until smooth. Add in Vanilla, Cinnamon, Cloves, and Nutmeg, and blend. Add in Quinoa and stir in. Pour into baking dish and top with nuts. Bake for 1 hr, remove and let rest 10-15 minutes.
Lunch #6 Turkey Avocado Lettuce Wraps
On a lettuce leaf, spear a tbsp of hummus on each leaf. Layer lunch meat, avocado, and veggies. (add any veggies you want).
Dinner #6 Lemon Caper Salmon, Wild Rice with Pine Nuts, Steamed Green Beans
Let's continue to build on the Blood Sugar - PCOS connection. This is such a big and important part of treating the disease, that I feel there is more information that can be squished into a single post.
So, building upon what we know about the different sugars, and more importantly that we are all aware of the significant importance of glucose control...let's discuss how we structure our meals.
The Benefits of Eating Smaller Meals with PCOS
As we talked about yesterday, by eating smaller meals we are limiting the amount of blood sugar at one time. By using the Glycemic Load as a TOOL, you can see that consuming larger portions increases the glucose stress on the body, even if the foods consumes are lower on the Glycemic Index scale. This alone is the best reason to stick to smaller more frequent meals when treating and managing PCOS with insulin resistance. But there are other reasons.
When we eat a meal, there is a combination of carbohydrates, proteins, fats and nutrients...right? If we eat large portions of food, some of the nutrients that are harder to break down and absorb are flushed through the system. The digestive tract works on the simplest first, meaning carbohydrates and sugars. The body can handle this for a while (like the pancreas handling high amounts of glucose), but eventually it becomes weak, fatigued, and shuts down. A common complaint associated with PCOS is digestive upset. Meaning, gas/bloating, irregular bowel movements (alternating constipation and loose stool), and Gallbladder Disease. These are signs that the digestive system is weak and unable to digest and absorb food properly. Because of this digestive weakness, carbohydrates are the most absorbed nutrition from your food, leaving all the good stuff to loosen your stools (especially hard to digest minerals like zinc, magnesium, calcium and iron...all important for proper reproduction).
By eating smaller meals, we limit the amount of stress on the digestive system. In smaller portions the digestive system is able to properly digest and absorb the food, get a break and be ready for the next meal. If you have a digestive system that is weak and inflamed from overuse, the smaller meals give the digestive system time to heal between each work load.
Food Cravings. Many of us have them. There is a correlation with poor diet and binge eating and food cravings. Yes, there is the emotional mental addiction to food, but there is something much deeper, and more dangerous, in my opinion. Many of the clients I see, especially with PCOS, seem to feel hungry all the time. They crave food. It is a vicious cycle they are stuck in. Their body is craving large amounts of food because the cells are literally starving from lack of vitamin and mineral nutrition, but the more they eat, the less of the nutrients they are absorbing. Eating smaller nutrient dense meals so that the digestive system is able to handle and adequately process each meal to extract the nutrients, feeds your cells more efficiently with less food overall. Once the cells begin to be nourished again, cravings for large quantities of food will diminish.
Balance Each Meal to Reduce Blood Sugar Spikes in PCOS
Now let's build on the smaller meals idea. How do we make these smaller meals nutrient dense and balanced? It starts with understanding how food is digested and how macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) play off each other.
By using the Glycemic Load Calculators, you can make the correlation that by adding fat or protein to a vegetables or fruit, you lower the overall Glycemic Load of that food. By adding fats and proteins, you slow the absorption of the sugars. When you eat a meal, the body produces bile from the gallbladder. This bile is meant to digest fats primarily. If there is no fat in the meal, the body re-absorbs the bile as Cholesterol. One of the main reasons for high cholesterol in the blood is NOT cholesterol in the diet, but too much carbohydrate, or too much carbohydrate not balanced with fat.
Most women with PCOS do best on a higher fat and protein diet. NOT AN ALL FAT PROTEIN DIET!!! But, a diet that is balanced with a smaller portion of carbohydrates and more fat.
Fat slows the digestion of carbohydrates. It reduces the overall rise in blood glucose, and prevents sharp drops (hypoglycemia), which is common in insulin resistance. Also, many of the vitamins needed to balance our hormones are fat soluble, meaning they cannot be absorbed without fat. These vitamins are found in plants as well as animal sources, which is why it is important to add a fat to plant sources which contain little to no natural fat.
Protein takes about 3-4 hours to digest. It helps prevent the sharp drops in blood sugar up to 4 hours after eating, it also keeps our muscles nourished.
So, when making your meals...keep in mind that you need fats and proteins to help balance out the carbohydrates in the fruits and vegetables. Make your plate 1/2 vegetables that are cooked or tossed with some level of fat, and the other half proteins and more fat. (Let's talk more tomorrow about fats, shall we...)
I lean towards a 20/30/50 diet....20% protein, 30% carbohydrate, 50% fat when dealing with PCOS.
When choosing vegetables and fruits, look for color. The brighter the color the more nutrition available. Colors are associated with different nutrients. I talked about this in one of my Lunchbox Series Posts a couple months back...click here to read. Vegetables and Fruits that are in the lower glycemic range will need less fat and protein for balance. Vegetables and Fruits that are high in fiber help to nourish the probiotics of the digestive system, clean the bowels, and regulate bowel movements.
A Reference of Substitutes for PCOS
Often when making recipes for a PCOS diet, we need to make substitutions. Many of the products we use on a daily basis are not okay on the PCOS diet. Dairy, Breads, Pasta, etc... so what can we do as a replacement for these foods?
DON'T EAT THIS ---- EAT THIS INSTEAD
Asian Noodles = Kelp Noodles
Oatmeal = Barley Porridge, Quinoa Porridge
Tortillas = Lettuce Wraps, Paleo Tortillas
Potatoes = Kohlrabi, Cauliflower
White Rice = Cauliflower Rice, Whole Grain Brown Rice, Wild Rice
Desserts = Apples with Cinnamon, Fresh Fruit
Half and Half = Coconut Cream
Milk = Homemade Almond Milk
Yogurt = Cultured Veggies, Coconut Yogurt, Almond Yogurt
Corn Flour = Almond Flour
Wheat Flour = Coconut Flour
Cream Cheese = Cashew Cream Cheese
Soy Sauce = Coconut Amino Acids
Brown Sugar = Coconut Sugar *Fructose, so limit
Coffee = Herbal Tea
Spaghetti Pasta = Spaghetti Squash, Zucchini Noodles
If you have a specific food you are having a hard time finding a substitute for, shoot me an email! I'd love to help you find something that will work.
Breakfast #5 Spinach and Egg Skillet
In a skillet add oil, and toss in Spinach. Let wilt slightly and crack into the center. Put a lid over skillet and let steam until the spinach is wilted and the egg is cooked. Sprinkle on bacon and eat.
Lunch #5 Warm Broccoli and Brussels Sprout Salad
Makes 2 servings
Cut broccoli into florets, and steam until tender crisp. Cook bacon and reserve grease. In a bowl mix Dijon and Vinegar until smooth, add 1 tbsp of reserved bacon grease and blend. Add in broccoli, brussels, apples and mix well. Top with almonds and crumbled bacon. Serve warm.
Better the next day: Make big meals and use the leftovers for future meals and snacks.
Dinner #5 Crockpot Cajun Red Beans with Roasted Okra and Onions
Crockpot Cajun Red Bean Soup
Makes 12 servings
In a crockpot, add dry beans and cover with water. Let soak overnight (should double in size). Drain and add back to pot. Add ham hock and all other ingredients. Add enough water to cover. Cook on high for 10 hours.
After talking sugars yesterday, I though this would be a nice roll into the Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load. These are two values that many with PCOS, Insulin Resistance and Diabetes have heard about. There is actually quite a bit of confusion and controversy around these two, and honestly I am a bit torn on their benefits.
What is the Glycemic Index?
The Glycemic Index is a value of how quickly a food raises blood sugar levels in the body. This measurement is determined through human trials. During these trials a subject is given a fixed amount (100gr) of a specific foods after an overnight fast. After consuming the food, blood samples are taken at specific intervals to measure how quickly the food is broken down into glucose to raise blood sugar levels. Glycemic Index is measured on a scale of 0-100, with 100 being pure glucose. The high the Glycemic Index value, the quicker the food is broken down and higher the amount of glucose in the blood. The lower the Glycemic Index value, the slower the food is broken down and the lower the amount of glucose in the blood.
Here is why I don't like the Glycemic Index:
Okay, now that I've gotten out why it bothers me, it is still a useful tool for those suffering with insulin resistance and blood sugar issues. BUT, you also have to keep in mind that just because a food has a lower GI, doesn't mean it is low in sugar. As I mentioned in the last post, many lower GI foods are actually just higher in Fructose, which causes it's own issues in the body and can still make insulin resistance worse.
So what to do?
For those with blood sugar issues, I do think that it is a good place to start, and a good reference for helping keep blood sugar levels down. You just have to apply the rest of the principles and not just substitute one sugar for another. Using the GI database as a tool can help you make a mental list of foods that are generally going to spike your blood sugar and those that will not.
What is the Glycemic Load?
The Glycemic Load is a way to apply the Glycemic Index. The Glycemic Load estimates of the affects of the amount of carbohydrate consumes by taking into account the Glycemic Index value of that food. While the Glycemic Index only measures the effects of 100 gr of a specific food. The Glycemic index can measure the affects of any amount of food, an entire meal, or an entire day's worth of meals. As I mentioned previously, eating big meals can be just as damaging to blood sugar as eating sugar. Eating smaller portions of foods decreases the overall rise in blood sugar.
It is a "simple" math equation to get the GL of a food:
GL = GI/100 x Net Carbohydrates (in serving size)
Simple right? Sure, but who has time for this...who can take the time to find the GI, and the net carbs of each food and do the math.
The downsides to the Glycemic Load are similar to the Glycemic Index, because it is based on the Glycemic Index. Like the Glycemic Index, it can lead to overeating, but is much better at keeping it in check because it shows the affects of entire meals and how portion size affects the blood sugar levels.
How do We Apply the Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load?
As much as I really don't like these value systems, it is the best we have right now. For those with insulin resistance, keeping blood sugar down is an important step, and these tools can help you (if you know how to use them).
There are lists available for the known food values for the Glycemic Index Scale, and more are being tested. (I've got a couple of lists at the end for you...yeah!) Those are helpful for keeping the really high glycemic foods off your table.
Low Glycemic Index <55
Medium Glycemic Index 55-69
High Glycemic Index >70
When looking at the Glycemic Index list, foods in the High Glycemic Index range shouldn't be on your plate...period! Make the majority of your meals be Low Glycemic. Medium Glycemic is the grey area. In my opinion, if you are struggling with blood sugar issues, these too should be avoided...at least until the blood sugar levels have stabilized and symptoms are better controlled. Then, and only then, you can start adding them back in and make a symptom assessment as to weather those individual foods affect you.
Thank goodness for modern technology, and the invention of APPS! There are several apps out there that do the math for you. I have "LOW GI" on my computers and use it to calculate. This app not only calculates the Glycemic index of a food and meal, but also the Glycemic Load of each, as well as for the entire day. The downside to this app is that many of the things that I use are not in the database...boo!
My tips for this app:
Low Glycemic Load <10
Medium Glycemic Load 11-19
High Glycemic Load >20
List of High Glycemic Foods - Or Foods You Should Cut Out
You will notice that most of these are Breads and Bread Products...so needless to say, it's best to just cut out the bread and baked goods.
Breakfast #4 Carnitas Breakfast Bowl
In a skillet, heat oil and add onion and bell pepper. Cook until they start to brown. Add Carnitas and Green Chili's, cook until onions and peppers are cooked through. Layer Beans with Carnitas mixture and top with Avocado.
Snack #2 Hummus and Veggies with Blackberries
Lunch #4 Homemade Sauerkraut and Rosemary Meatballs
Topped with Leftover Meatballs
Shred cabbage, place in a GLASS bowl and coat with salt. Let set 3-4 hours, until they cabbage begins to juice. Stuff cabbage TIGHT into glass jars, leaving 2 inches of room at the top. Add water until the cabbage is submerged. Close lid tight and set one counter. Leave for 5+ day opening lid (burping) and pushing cabbage under the bring daily. After 5 days, taste for flavor and texture. Leave on counter until it is desired fermentation, and then store in the fridge. Cabbage will continue to ferment in fridge, but much slower. Will be fresh, if refrigerated, for up to 6 months.
Dinner #4 Coconut Green Curry Grilled Chicken with Thai Brussels Sprouts Salad
Excessive amounts of sugar are a significant component to every degenerative disease. The high amount of processed sugars in our diets; soda, cookies, cereal, chips, baked goods, etc…are affecting us at younger ages. How many children do we each know with issues of excessive weight gain, hormone disruption, or even heart disease? It's a staggering amount, in my opinion, and something that can be prevented…but that's another soap box (see my kid's lunchbox post series for more).
Sugars are complicated, I know! Kind of like trying to differentiate dietary fats, differentiating dietary sugars is a little bumpy. Hopefully, I can do a good job of helping you navigate this.
What is Sugar?
It's that delicious sweet stuff we are all addicted to! But, seriously…sugars are a type of carbohydrate, and an instant energy source for our bodies. The term sugar is typically used to refer to table sugar (extracted from either sugar cane or beets), but encompasses two groups of carbohydrates called; mono-saccarides and di-saccarides. Theses saccarides are naturally found in fruits, vegetables and grains, and especially high in starchy fruits and vegetables (starch is several glucose molecules stuck together, which is why starchy foods are broken down into high amounts of blood sugar).
Monosaccarides are (Mono = one) single molecule sugars. These are simple sugars that are extremely easy to digest and absorb. They include Glucose, Fructose and Galactose.
Disaccarides are (Di = two) multiple molecule sugars. These are more complex and require digestion to break them down into monosaccarides before absorption. These include Sucrose, Lactose, and Maltose.
Breaking Down Glucose (Not physically)
So Glucose, the building block of all sugar and the raiser of blood sugar. Let's learn a bit more about this basic sugar.
Glucose is absorbed in the intestines, and raises blood sugar…which to some extent is normal and good. Our brains need glucose to work properly, and our cells need glucose for energy production. In response to rising blood sugar levels our bodies producing insulin (a hormone) in the Pancreas. Insulin binds to the Glucose and transports it into the cells that need it. Any unused glucose is transported to the fat cells, by insulin, for storage. Doesn't sound too bad, right?
Well, the problem arises when the body is constantly given high levels of glucose through poor diet, or high amounts at one time through binge eating. The Pancreas does a good job of handling the overload for awhile, but eventually it becomes exhausted and has to take a break…so the Pancreas shuts down and the insulin is not produces normally. In PCOS with insulin resistance, the Pancreas is sporadic, it is on the verge of collapse. It is occasionally able to manage the necessary insulin production, and other times shuts down. Eventually this will turn into a complete shutdown of insulin production…aka Type 2 Diabetes. When the blood sugar is constantly elevated and the Pancreas gives up, the cells become starved of energy but the blood in the sugar remains high. (why PCOS women crave sugar.) This can lead to damage in the body.
Breaking Down Fructose
Fructose is often not mentioned when dealing with PCOS, insulin resistance or diabetes, but it is an important sugar. It does not raise blood sugar directly, so is often used as a substitute for those who are working to manage their blood sugar levels. I know, it seems that you can't do anything right in nutrition the more you learn, but I promise that is not the case.
Fructose is naturally found in fruits, and some vegetables, and is what gives fruit is sweet flavor. Like Glucose, Fructose is absorbed through the intestines, where it then travels to the liver to be processed. Although insulin does not transport Fructose to the Liver, it is used to stimulate the production of the protein used to transport Fructose to the Liver. The Fructose is then converted into Glucose, Glycogen, and Glycerols.
Fructose is the most consumed form of sugar in America. Found in most packaged goods as High Fructose Corn Syrup, in sodas, baked goods, and in many other packaged products. In normal amounts found in fruit and honey, it is easy to manage in a healthy human body. In large, or concentrated amounts over long periods of time, it causes damage. High consumption of fructose is linked with:
Many women with PCOS who have had their blood work done, will notice an elevated triglyceride level. This is because of too much fructose.
Learning to Read Labels
Oh those darn nutrition labels. It really bothers me that they can legally be so un-disclosing and deceitful. I am also very surprised when I find added sugar in things that do not need attend sugar…apple sauce is sweet enough on its own. Always check the labels.
Here is a list of common "added sugar" terms:
So, How Do We Avoid Excess Sugar
Of course you can't, and don't want to eliminate all sugar from your diet…you need some level of sugar. What you want to eliminate is junk sugar and excess sugar.
Of course when you have extreme symptoms and even the full onset of Type 2 Diabetes, this changes the game…and the limit of what your body can handle decreases significantly.
If I am going to use a sweetener, MY PERSONAL go to is RAW, UNFILTERED HONEY. Why? It is a mix of Fructose and Glucose, as well as Maltose. But, it's big claim is that it actually provides nutrients and immune boosting phytochemicals (high fructose corn syrup can't claim that). Some research actually supports that honey has the opposite effect than it should on blood sugar, and the theory is that it is because of the added nutrients and chemicals. ONLY RAW, UNFILTERED HONEY provides these nutrients and phytochemicals. They are destroyed and removed in the pasteurizing and filtering processes. Honey provides Vitamin A, All the B's, C, D, E and K, as well as Magnesium, Iron, Calcium, Potassium and Iodine. As well as many other chemicals and antioxidants (over 80 different types). It's glycemic index is 55 (more tomorrow).
Maple syrup is my second choice. It is mostly sucrose (65%), with a small percentage of single glucose, and fructose. Why do I like maple syrup? One; it's another natural sugar source that has been consumed for thousands of years. It is rich in minerals (more than honey) as well as vitamins, and other phytochemicals. It also has a GI of 55. Different grades have different levels of sugar, and more concentrated amounts of different nutrients. Click here to read more
There is quite a bit of information on this topic alone. I welcome questions that may have not been addressed.
Breakfast #3 Coconut Quinoa Breakfast Porridge
Makes 4 Servings
In a saucepan, add Quinoa and Coconut Oil. Toast Quinoa until golden. Add in Coconut Milk, Vanilla and Cinnamon. Bring to a simmer and cook until all liquid is absorbed. Add water if not tender.
Top with Apricots and Hemps Seeds.
* Depending on how you like your texture, add more water if needed. I like mine mushy.
Lunch #3 Bibimbop
I could have easily just made another lettuce wrap for lunch from yesterday's leftovers. I decided to remake those ingredients into a completely different meal. This way you have more options. This is a grain bowl, at it's best. I used the Bulgogi and Kimchi from my dinner last night, but you could use any leftover asian food. The key is to top it with an egg. I like mine poached, but traditionally they are fried.
Dinner #3 Lemon Rosemary Meatballs with Kale and White Beans
I had great intentions today, and a planned out menu. Things changed when I got a call from my cousin (in town for the weekend) wanting to get together for lunch. Mexican it is! Luckily, mexican has options. Where we went, I could have order some Pork Green Chili (Minus the cheese), or Carne Asada, but ended up going with the Fajitas (minus the tortillas and condiments). It came with spanish rice and beans, and a side of guacamole…I verified than non was made with dairy. Below I have the before and after photos to show you what I ate off my plate and the portion size for a small lunch.
I was originally going to dive right into insulin resistance, but a questions was brought up by someone, and I want to go ahead and address it first.
The question is "Why would someone really need to avoid dairy, if they did not test positive for dairy sensitivity or allergy?"
So, obviously, if you have a food allergy test come back with a strong positive for allergy or sensitivity, you should not consume dairy. This is just going to exasperate the already inflamed body. But as for the other reason why diary is an issue, lets break it down a bit.
Traditional Chinese Medicine Reasons to Avoid Dairy with PCOS
I am going to start here since, well, I am an acupuncturist and this is my primary focus in treatment. In TCM, dairy is phlegm producing. This means it creates a sticky or tackiness in the body. Symptoms of phlegm in the body are mucus or infection based. These include cysts, excessive weight gain, cystic acne, digestive gas and bloating, chronic sinusitis, chronic yeast infections, and allergies. Do any of these sound like symptoms of PCOS, yes they do. PCOS is a condition characterized by phlegm. They main complaint is phlegm/mucus filled cysts on the ovaries. Dairy is reserved in TCM, for those exhibit a very weak, frail and thin constitution. Those who NEED those nutrients that typically are used to grow baby animals to heal and nourish their malnourished bodies. If you are in a group that has an exceptionally high rate of milk intolerance naturally, this is even more important to you.
Africans/Black Americans (70%)
Mexican Americans (50%)
Western Medicine Reasons to Avoid Dairy with PCOS
This is little more in depth and fun for me to discuss. As much as I love TCM, its view is simple. Diary is phlegm producing, you have a phlegm condition, you avoid dairy. Done! From a Western standpoint we see the chemical analysis, the hormones, the measurable reaction in the body. That, and we as Americans have a difficult time visualizing the TCM theory. This is a nice way to bridge the gap.
In Western Medicine we know that PCOS is also related to insulin resistance. If you are struggling to manage your PCOS you are creating a perfect environment to develop Type 2 Diabetes in the future. It is extremely important for those with PCOS to balance their insulin levels and to keep them from spiking.
Diary is not just a nutrient rich food that is used to grow babies into adults. It contains naturally occurring hormones and stimulates that send signals in the baby animals body to GROW. These include IGF-1. INSULIN GROWTH FACTOR 1. Now this little hormone is really good at its job...to grow a baby into adult. In an adult, it causes you to bulk up in both muscle and fat. It does this by increasing Androgen production, again something PCOS women have too much of already. IGF-1 is similar in structure to insulin, and it mimics insulin like activity. This can create irregular blood sugar levels and lead to a hypoglycemia response. When your body has difficulty regulating blood sugar levels it eventually burns out, which is the reason that PCOS women are more likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes.
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS HORMONE FREE MILK
Lactating cows are pregnant and postpartum. Naturally they produce hormones and naturally those hormones are present in milk, even grass fed/organic/raw milk.
Dr. Mark Hyman listed over 60 hormones found in a single glass of milk, which included:
Not only does milk add additional hormones to the mix, but like I mentions above, it also contains compounds that signal the production of additional hormones.
Breakfast #2 Asparagus and Prosciutto Mini Frittatta
Makes 1 serving
Preheat oven to 350
In a small dish scramble eggs with seasoning (S/P/Nutmeg). In a single sizes cast iron pan heat oil over medium heat. Add tomato, prosciutto, and asparagus. Cook 1 min, or until tomatoes start to juice, pour in eggs. Cook on stove until edges begin to cook and crisp, move to oven and cook until eggs are done.
Lunch #2 Steak Fajitas
Because I did not make this myself, I am only guessing based on what I see as to what was in it and what I actually ate. The GI/GL values below are estimated.
Dinner # 2 Bulgogi Lettuce Wraps with Cucumber Kim Chi Salad and Brown Rice
Before we get started, I want to suggest that those who are really interested in making these changes wait until the end of the series to begin. There is quite a bit of information I want to bring to you, and it is going to take several posts to get it all out. Please read them all, as they will all have good information, and will build upon each other.
What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)?
PCOS, or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, is an all too common condition affecting women. It is characterized by the abnormal growth of small cysts on the ovaries, caused from the inability to ovulate. While the cysts are benign, they represents a hormone imbalance. This disruption of the normal flow of reproductive hormones can cause:
If left untreated, those with PCOS are more likely to develop:
PCOS is the most common cause of infertility and reproductive disorders in the US. At last estimate (that I have read) 1 in 15 women is diagnosed with PCOS. PCOS is often difficult to diagnose, and in many cases the only symptom is irregular menstruation.
Diet and Managing Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
The most common treatment method given to women is Medication! Rarely, sadly, is any other form of treatment considered, especially diet. More women that I can count come into my office with stories of Birth Control Pills, Clomid, Metformin and others. These medications do serve a purpose, don't get me wrong, but more often than not they cause women to feel worse and can actually make symptoms worse by depleting nutrient reserves necessary for normal hormone function.
I came across this study awhile back that I found helpful:
A research study done by the Research and Clinical Center for Infertility compared diet and lifestyle modification against common western treatments of Clomid (for ovulation) and Metformin (for insulin resistance). The study took 343 women with symptoms of obesity and infertility with PCOS and assigned them to 4 different treatment groups. 1) Clomid 2) Metformin 3) Clomid + Metformin 4) Lifestyle and Dietary Modification. Results were that those who received the dietary and lifestyle modification had an increased rate of pregnancy as compared to those who only received medical treatments. Clomid group - 12.2%; Metformin froup - 14.4%; Clomid + Metformin group - 14.8%; and Dietary and Lifestyle group - 20%. Lifestyle group also had a significant reduction in waist circumference, total androgen and lipid profile.
Why is this? Because diet and lifestyle is the foundation of health. You can mask and force certain bodily functions with medications, but if you do not change your daily routines of diet and lifestyle, the condition is never fully treated, only hidden under the cloud of chemicals.
In all cases, diet must be changed. I have never seen a client with PCOS eating a healthy diet….sorry, I haven't. Most are craving sugar, eating processed foods, and including dairy (we will talk more about this later), all of which make symptoms worse. Many are really trying, don't get me wrong, but most are either cheating too often, or are having a hard time navigating and establishing the necessary changes.
Basic Principles of Managing Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) with Diet and Lifestyle
So now that you are aware that diet MUST BE CHANGED IN ALL CASES, let's begin.
These are MY principles. These are the rules that I have established for my clients with great success. They are based in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Modern Nutrition, and Research. This is a basic list, and I will address these in upcoming posts in more depth.
Breakfast #1: Baked Eggs with Spinach and Prosciutto
Super easy breakfast that can be changed up by changing the veggies used. Can be a great way to use leftover veggies. What I did this morning was grease a small dish with oil, added the raw spinach (could use frozen or pre-cooked, I like the crispiness of the cooked raw), and torn prosciutto, topped with two eggs and seasoned. Baked at 400 until eggs were cooked to desire.
I was going to add nutrition data on here, but honestly I don't believe in counting calories. Quality and nutrient density matter much more. What I will do is add the GI and GL for each of my meals.
Lunch #1: Cilantro Lime Slaw with Crockpot Pork Carnitas
Snack #1: Cinnamon Apple and Cashew Butter
I really don't feel I need to write down a recipe for this, it's just 1 apple sliced, sprinkled with Cinnamon, and 2 Tbsp Raw Cashew Butter.
Dinner #1: Oven Fried Chicken Legs with Cauliflower Puree, Asparagus, and Raspberries