September is PCOS Awareness Month and here are the Top 10 lifestyle changes you want to consider for PCOS. If you need more info, read my previous posts on “What is PCOS” and “How Chinese Medicine View PCOS“.
In the treatment for PCOS, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment but eating right for a healthy gut health is very IMPORTANT. It will help to improve leaky gut so that the toxins or metabolic wastes don’t “leak” out into your system to cause inflammation. Inflammation will affect insulin resistance which is the one of the main cause of PCOS which will then affect your weight which is related to the fat storage and hormones…. it’s a vicious cycle. Together with medical treatments, and these simple lifestyle changes will help feel better physically and emotionally to better cope with PCOS.
So, let’s start!
Intermittent fasting ☕
For some, breakfast is the most important meal but perhaps not for women with PCOS. There are different kinds of fasting such as:
- The 16/8 method: Just skip breakfast and restricting your daily eating period to 8 hours, such as 1–9 p.m. Then you fast for 16 hours in between. For “breakfast”, you can take black coffee or tea with natural organic bergamot oil or butter/ghee coffee is ok too. ( I personally do this and think this is the most sustainable 🍵)
- Eat-Stop-Eat: Fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week, for example by not eating from dinner one day until dinner the next day.
- The 5:2 diet: You consume only 500–600 calories on 2 non-consecutive days of the week; eat normally the other 5 days.
Fasting can increase your sensitivity to insulin, increase length of telomeres for longevity, allows for autophagy (the body’s natural cleaning house system to remove unnecessary or dysfunctional components) to take place , improves gut health and reduces inflammation.
Honey, cane sugar, agave, maple syrup, coconut sugar are still sugar. Creative names like dextrin, corn syrup, HFCS, maltol, and 60 more fancy names are all sugars! Medjool dates, dried fruits, mango, lychee, banana, longan, durian are all high in fructose sugar so I’d limit them. Nowadays, most processed food has some kind of sugar in it. Your ketchup, BBQ sauce, fruit juice, “healthy” granola, “healthy” yogurt, salad dressings,…. As a rule of thumb, sugar shouldn’t be come up in the first 3 (or 5 for me) on the ingredients list. It’s tough in the beginning but your body will adjust and crave for it lesser.
Don’t be like Pikachu, put that ketchup down.
Sugar Controllers: Cinnamon, Bittergourd, Fenugreek
Cinnamon can control blood sugar and as a warming TCM herb, it can warm the uterus, move blood (cold constricts, warm moves) and bring the “fire” to the where it belongs, also known as “引火归元”.
Bittergourd is cooling and contains an insulin-like compound called Polypeptide-p or p-insulin which has been shown to control blood sugar. As a kid,my grandma always said “Bittergourd cleans your blood” and made Goya Chanpuru (Okinawa style stir fried bittergourd with eggs). Now I know it “cleans the blood sugar”.
Fenugreek lowers blood sugar levels after the meal taking 5-50 grams of fenugreek seed once or twice daily seems. It is also good for period pains. Taking 1800-2700 mg of fenugreek seed powder 3 times daily for the first 3 days of a menstrual period followed by 900 mg 3 times daily for the remainder of two menstrual cycles reduces pain in women with painful menstrual periods.
Seaweeds (nori, wakame, kombu) and kelps are also good in controlling blood sugars. They provide fibers and sulfated polysaccharides that can support gut health by increasing the amount of “good”gut bacteria. They are low in calories and helps to keep you full if you’re trying to lose weight.
Black Fungus (ear woood) are beneficial in dissolving fibriods and other uterine tumours. Note that seaweeds and black fungus are cooling and suitable for those with heaty symptoms (night sweating, flushed face, feeling hot etc). Those with weak digstive system and constant loose stool should eat them with ginger in moderation.
Guthealth is paramount in PCOS. Did you know that those microorganisms that live in your gastrointestinal tract weighs 1kg and outnumber your cells by 10:1? It’s like they rule your gut! When you gut flora is messed up, your gut will start passing harmful & useless substance into your body (leaky gut) which will cause inflammation and insulin resistance which will aggrevate your PCOS. Pro-biotics from fermented food (miso, natto, kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles) together with Pre-biotics (found in vege and fruit that acts like food for the microorganisms) can help your gut to flourish.
How to take probiotics supplements
– Get a blend of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium.
– Take on an empty stomach, 30 minutes before food to minimise survival of the bacteria from stomach acid.
– Start from 5 billion CFU (colony forming unit) and slowly increase to 15 billion. Too much too fast can cause bloating.
– Keep them in the fridge away from direct sunlight like vampires.
Go! GO! G.I. Low
Sorry, not you G.I Joe. The Glycemic Index (GI) is a relative ranking of carbohydrate in foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels. Choose food with Glycemic Index (GI) that is 55 or less. These food are slowly digested, absorbed and metabolised and cause a slower and less rise in blood glucose and therefore doesn’t cause an insulin spike.
– 100% whole wheat or pumpernickel bread
– Oatmeal (rolled or steel-cut), oat bran, muesli
– Choose long grain over short grain rice
– Berries, citrus fruits, non-starchy vegetables and carrots
– Ripe fruits are higher in GI … but you won’t eat unripped fruits right?
– Usually high fibre and high fat food is lower in GI.
More fibre 🌿
Imagine eating the whole apple versus drinking apple juice without the fibre. Drinking juice will spike you insulin whereas fibre will help to “gel” the sugar and prevent blood sugar from rising so much. Always eat the whole fruit. Whole grains such as brown rice, oats, barley, pulses, legumes are good, but avoid soy products. This is to prevent an extra load of phytoestrogens (plant estrogen) from further disrupting the hormones.
Less animal products🥩
Go for grain fed meat. Organic or free range eggs (not available in Singapore). As Dr Hyman puts meat as “Condimeat“- treat meat like condiment. Just a palm size portion during each meal will suffice. Or trying going vegetarian (plant based, not carb based) 2 days in a week. Avoid milk because they are usually pumped with hormones that may aggravate PCOS. Fermented milk such as yogurt and cheese is ok to take in moderation.
More good fats
Yay to avocado, butter, ghee, olives, olive oil, coconut oil, MCT oil. Nay to transfat, margarine, shortening, hydrogenated fats, blended vegetable oil. Make a habit of looking at the back of the package. In a food product, the ingredients are listed in descending order of weight- meaning the ingredient listed first is present in the largest amount and weighs the most, while the ingredient listed last is present in the smallest amount and weighs the least. And, shorter the ingredients the better! 🥜
Watch your weight
If you are overweight (BMI above 25 and waist circumference above 80cm), it’s time trim those lovehandles. Fat cells store estrogen which can have a direct influence on pcos and fertility. Losing 5 to 10% of weight if you are overweight can have a significant improvement.
BMI = Weight (kg) divide by Height (m)²
More self care & love your Liver
Track your cycles and note how you feel because you know your body best. Try apps such as MyFLO or Glow or chart your Basal Body Temperature (BBT) like the one like this, to track some key information. Try acupuncture because it will help to put you in parasympathetic (rest & digest) mode and lower cortisol to better cope with emotional stress and regulate blood stagnation and smooth flow of Liver Qi.
In Singapore, there are many online forum such as those on SingaporeMotherhood.com, MummySg or SingaporeExpats.com where experienced users can share their experiences with doctors (good or bad), and get recommendations. Consulting with an endocrinologist of gynaecologist who specialises in PCOS would be ideal. Public hospitals such as KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital is also well suited to diagnose and treat women’s PCOS. This platform that I found called “Doctor x Dentist” allows your to find doctors and ask for treatment quotations in Singapore.
During the treatment of PCOS, on-going support is important. Surround yourself with friends and family and doctors you can talk to about stress, health, body issues and everything in-between.
Hope these tips will help you in your healing journey.