Replay of Facebook/Instagram live weekly PCOS Month series.
Part 4: PCOS Power Foods – Sept 23 2021
Welcome to part 4 of the PCOS Awareness Month series! Once again I’m Sara Galipeau, your plant-powered nutritionist owner of Love Plants for Life, diving in with the good stuff you’ve been waiting for all month.
Tonight we’re talking PCOS power foods, supps, and fitness to help support healthier hormone balance and symptoms of PCOS including, as we outlined in part 1: low energy, erratic periods and ovulation, mood flux, skin problems, digestive distress, and more. And in parts 2 and 3 I did touch on some top foods for fighting inflammation and aiding digestion, which are important to address first when we’re dealing with hormone imbalances. You can’t remodel a home soundly if the sewers are backed up and the walls are on fire by building a foundation on raw sewage and smoldering embers. So from the point of dealing with that, tonight we’re going to home in a little closer to hormone support – which is better when the plumbing is connected well and the frame is stable.
PCOS Power Foods
At the top of my list of PCOS power foods: seeds. Think about it this way – seeds have everything they need to support a new plant’s growth. They’re packed with minerals and vitamins and essential fatty acids. So we’re looking at flax, pumpkin, sunflower, sesame seeds – whether you adhere to seed cycling or not, these are the ones that are usually used, being rich in lignans, omega-3 and omega-6 in balance, magnesium, zinc, selenium, B vitamins… these also happen to be building blocks for hormones, used to signal hormones, and used to help your body process or metabolize hormones for elimination. So, seeds! Sesame seeds are also rich in inositol, which I’ll talk about a little more in a bit.
Next up: walnuts and almonds. Research has pointed to intake of these nuts having the potential to increase sex hormone-binding globulin, which in turn could help lower levels of testosterone, which is often elevated in PCOS sufferers, affecting ovulation, skin condition, body composition, hair growth and loss, mood… that said, the study used a lot of nuts to reach a clinically therapeutic effect – something like 2 oz. or 24 walnut halves every day – but like everything else I’m talking about, still a worthwhile inclusion for general support.
Similarly, spearmint tea showing similar effects as walnuts, so adding a cup of tea to your daily routine could be beneficial as well. Bonus: it’s great for digestion and reducing inflammation, so it’s also a good one to start with when you’re working on inflammation and digestion.
Berries! A lot of people with PCOS, again, also have insulin resistance, and are often told to cut out all sugar. Now, while that can be beneficial for reducing inflammation and the stress it puts on so many body systems, a lot of people interpret that to mean they should cut out fruit too. But then you lose a valuable source of vitamins and minerals that we need for synthesizing and signaling hormones, fiber which is critical to improving hormone balance as well as cholesterol levels, and antioxidants for fighting that inflammation. Berries are a fantastic addition for all of the above, as well as being naturally lower in fruit sugars.
Oats and starchy vegetables! So along the lines of people being afraid of fruit, people also tend to try to avoid grain products and potatoes because they’re carbs and of course the keto and paleo styles encourage staying away from carbs. But one – we need carbs to keep our system fueled, and a lot of carb-rich foods contain the bulk of the nutrients we need to build hormones in the first place, including fiber. And two – root vegetables, oats, winter squashes like pumpkin are all rich in resistant starch, which acts as a prebiotic, feeding the microbiome, like we talked about in part 3.
Cruciferous vegetables! They contain fiber and minerals, but also a family of antioxidants – glucosinolates – that may help us in the metabolism of hormones, including estrogen, which many people have out of balance particularly in ratio to progesterone, so estrogen dominance. Eating crucifers like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts… on the regular is a pretty good idea for working on hormones. Plus, some of them are mucilaginous, meaning they break down to a gel-like substance that may help soothe and protect inflamed tissues of the digestive tract. Another note though: since many people with PCOS also deal with thyroid issues, more hypo than hyper, having crucifers lightly cooked is the usual recommendation as some compounds like oxalates may prevent mineral absorption that the thyroid needs… and they’re a good source of inositol, which again I’ll talk about in a minute.
There are so many more foods I could add to this list. For now, let’s move on to a couple of supplements.
PCOS and Supplements
Remember that you should always check with your primary practitioner before adding supplements, and be sure to follow the label for usage.
So I mentioned inositol a moment ago and when it comes to PCOS, this is considered a power nutrient. It’s part of the B complex family of vitamins, considered vit B8. A lot of supplements targeted for PCOS either contain inositol or are just inositol, but a specific type called myo-inositol has been studied for its potential benefits for ovulation as well as mood. I also posted earlier today about its benefits for insulin regulation and boosting SHBG, which in turn would affect testosterone, and thus ovulation. You can get myo-inositol in capsules as well as powder and of course PCOS formulations.
Ashwagandha is another one – it’s an adaptogen, helping balance stress hormones like cortisol as well as sex hormones and thyroid hormones, as well as being anti-inflammatory. There are of course standardized herbal supplements and formulas, as well as ashwagandha root powder that can be added to smoothies and other foods.
And finally, what about exercise? So first, there are a few types of exercise that show benefits for improving insulin sensitivity and these include HIIT and resistance training. BUT! The key is finding the sweet spot for them. I see a lot of people really overdoing it, especially on HIIT, which reaches a point of steeply diminishing returns. Less is more with this type of exercise, and after that it’s just added stress that depletes your resources and your hormones. So short HIIT workouts once, maybe twice a week is usually a pretty good sweet spot; resistance a couple of times a week; and then prioritize gentle movement and stuff that feels good and fun to do! Exercise ultimately is both stress relieving and stress inducing and it’s important to recognize when you’ve passed that sweet spot and started burning yourself out.
That’s going to cover it for tonight. Remember to grab the free PCOS Breakfast Bundle to see the foods we talked about in action, and I will be back again next week with the final part in this series, talking about how to get started making the changes that stick so you can see progress and that hormone alchemy truly happening.