Did you know that one in ten women in the United States have a hormonal imbalance called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, also known as PCOS? If you’re living with PCOS, you may be struggling with symptoms such as weight gain, cystic acne, ovarian cysts, facial hair, hair loss and more. Many doctors prescribe drugs such as birth control, metformin and spironolactone to control your hormones and manage symptoms. As a Registered Dietitian, I recommend diet change, specifically going gluten and dairy free.
At catered fit, the paleo plan fits the PCOS criteria perfectly. By eating gluten and dairy free, you will reduce inflammation in your body and as a result, hormonal balance occurs. Gluten causes inflammation by promoting a protein called zonulin, which contributes to leaky gut syndrome. This is when the lining of your stomach allows particles to go through into your bloodstream and cause inflammation. In addition, dairy contains insulin like growth factor (IGF-1), which mimics the hormone insulin and triggers high testosterone, resulting in unmanaged PCOS symptoms. In addition to cutting out gluten and dairy, I recommend the following tips to obtain hormonal balance.
Dry Brush Every Night
Brushing your skin can really increase circulation and help your lymphatic system, which is what circulates hormones throughout the body and excretes toxins. Though our body’s lymphatic system can work on its own, it does not have a regular pump within the body. We need to exercise, walk, and work out for it to function properly. When we’re too still, our lymphatic system doesn’t do a very good job of flushing out toxins like carcinogens and pesticides. Dry brushing is a great way to get the lymph system pumping and flushing out toxins more efficiently.
Try using a body oil while brushing, I like to use the Ouai Rose Hair & Body Oil. Start by brushing your arms and legs towards your heart. Then, brush your chest and stomach in a counterclockwise motion. You don’t need to brush too hard to stimulate your lymphatic system, because you don’t want to make yourself red or burn. My favorite part of my nightly routine is dedicating at least five minutes to brushing my skin.
Eat More Adaptogens
Adaptogens are plant based powders and teas that can help your body adapt to stress in a natural and holistic way. I like to have a variety of adaptogens throughout the day because they keep me feeling light and relaxed. Try adding them into your daily routine to receive all their great benefits.
Maca powder supports the endocrine system by aiding the ovaries and adrenal glands. I like to incorporate maca by adding this cacao magic protein powder from Philosophie into my smoothies, along with banana, spinach and almond milk. I also have my patients start their mornings with it in their high-protein oatmeal for a plant-based breakfast. I can actually feel my body awaken. unlike the jitters from a cup of coffee, I get a calm and confident feeling.
Ashwagandha improves the body’s resistance toward stress and as a result, it improves hormonal balance. I like to add some ashwagandha powder to a cup of tea in the mornings to get my thoughts clear and start my day.
Ginseng strengthens the hypothalamus to aid in hormonal balance. The easiest way for me to get some ginseng into my daily routine is by drinking ginseng tea in the afternoons. Sometimes I like to mix it up by adding some ice and lemon to it for an ice tea vibe.
Avoid Eating Sugar & Refined Foods
When we eat sugar or refined foods, they are quickly broken down to be used by our cells for energy. The key that opens up the cell to get the sugar inside is called insulin. When we overeat foods that are sugary and refined, we have a constant influx of insulin trying to get that sugar into our cells to be burned up. Eventually, the cell gets overworked and resistant to insulin, which is how insulin resistance develops. Now we have insulin and sugar floating around in the bloodstream for long periods of time, wreaking havoc on our hormones and leaving us at risk for diabetes.
As hormonally sensitive ladies, we should be very cautious of having too much insulin in our blood stream because it can cause hair loss, acne, and coarse hair growth. The excessive insulin left in the bloodstream triggers an increase in androgen hormones, which then surround our hair follicles and cause our hair to fall out. The androgen hormones also stimulate oil overproduction, which leads to cystic acne on our face and neck. Insulin also
stimulates testosterone production, which surrounds the follicle of our light hairs on our face and turns them into a dark, masculine hair. This all may sound daunting, but I have seen such amazing transformations with my patients, including myself, after changing their diet and staying consistent with it.
Cut Out Gluten & Dairy
Medical literature has discovered a strong connection between gluten sensitivity and hormonal imbalances, especially with progesterone levels. This is because eating gluten while being gluten sensitive, will cause inflammation in your body. Chronic inflammation exacerbates hormonal problems, especially for women with PCOS, because it triggers our stress hormones. As a result, the sex hormones such as estrogen, testosterone and progesterone, take a back seat.
As if gluten sensitivity was not enough, most likely you are a bit sensitive to dairy. That additional source of estrogen from dairy or soy will affect you way more than your friends who are not as sensitive. Some symptoms that you may notice include getting sick all the time, having general fatigue and even stubborn weight gain. Again, not to worry, by simply eliminating gluten and dairy from your diet, your symptoms can be entirely reversed.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21392369 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4085920/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4600520/
Keep Stress Levels Low
Modern day chronic stress might look like this: you wake up early, rush to work or class, skip breakfast, drive in traffic and continuously drink coffee all day to stay awake. You feel constantly fatigued and burned out but don’t know why because you’ve been doing this for so long. This is chronic stress, your hormone’s worst enemy. It causes stress hormones to constantly be released. These signal the hypothalamus, which controls our hormones and can eventually turns off ovulation.
The adrenal gland also produces a hormone called DHEA-S, which is similar to testosterone, in that it causes facial hair and acne. You can have your levels checked by a Registered Dietitian in order to address whether you need to evaluate your lifestyle or supplement to help you recover. The good news is that adrenal fatigue is reversible once the stress is removed, but it takes time to recover, just as it takes time to get to that point of fatigue.
Learn more about this in my instagram @PCOS.weightloss
Author Tallene Hacatoryan, MS RD CLT, is a registered Dietician located in Newport Beach, California, working primarily with PCOS clients.