Female infertility,  Nutrition

PCOS and fertility. Can diet help you to conceive?

I was diagnosed with PCOS when I was 20 years old. In that specific moment I was overweight, I had a lot of acne and some thick hair was growing on my face and all over my body.

I wanted to find a solution for my acne and excessive hair growth so I visited some doctors.  At the same time I visited a nutritionist in order to lose weight.

After some basic tests: a vaginal ultrasound and a hormonal analysis, the results were clear. I had PCOS.

The medical staff gave me two solutions. For one side, my nutritionist offered to work with me on a new healthy diet. And for the other hand my doctors suggested me to take hormonal birth control pills. They said I could stop my hormones and PCOS will be ok.

In that moment, I started to take some birth control pills and I left them after a couple of week. The reason is that they were deeply affecting my mood. I’ve never felt so miserable.

But instead, 17 years later I still maintain a healthy diet. The diet definetly helped me to control my PCOS, my health and my fertility.

What is PCOS?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (from now on PCOS) is a syndrome that affect women. Women who have PCOS experience insulin resistance and they have higher androgens levels. Androgens are mainly “male” hormones that women do have as well but in really small amounts. Some of these hormones are: testosterone, androstenedione, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), among others.

PCOS provoques hormonal imbalance

Symptoms of PCOS can include:

  • difficulty with weight management
  • irregular periods
  • infertility
  • acne
  • excessive body hair growth

Insulin Resistance

The main characteristic of women who have PCOS is the Insuline Resistance.

When we eat carbohydrates, our body transforms them into glucose. Then this glucose goes straight to the bloodstream and from there to each cell of our body. The main glucosa goal is to reach and “nourish” every human being cell. Our body uses a substance called insulin to transport the glucosa to each cell. This substance is secreted by the pancreas.

When we have an altered carbohydrate metabolism (this is what happens to women with PCOS) or when we have been for a long time eating a diet full of simple carbohydrates (which is also very common in women with PCOS). The body detects that there is too much glucose in the blood and is forced to secrete large amounts of insulin, well above normal.

Over time, cells become accustomed to large amounts of insulin and they increasingly need more and more insulin to capture glucose. They become insuline resistant. Therefore, the pancreas is forced to work harder and harder to secrete insulin in response to the same amount of glucose in the blood.

How this affect women’s fertility?

PCOS may produce anovulation (absence of ovulation). Insulin has the ability to estimulate androgens (male hormones). Too many male hormones reduce the follicular maturation and rises the chance of ovarian cysts. These cysts occur because the ovary is unable to release the egg. This immature egg gets stuck on the ovary, and therefore anovulation occurs.

An androgens increase also produces obesity, anxiety and emotional instability.

Can I get naturally pregnant if I have PCOS?

Yes, of course, but it is a little more difficult. Women with PCOS a lot of times are very irregular. So they often don’t know exactly when they are ovulating (if the do).

Can I do something to help to boost my fertility if I have PCOS?

Yes of course. You can fight PCOS through three different ways:

  • Exercise

If you try 30 minutes of daily moderate exercise you will improve insulin resistance for 24h / 48h.

  • A low glycemic diet

Eliminate from your diet all sweets or fast absorption carbohydrates (refined products, flours, sugar …). This type of food is quickly transformed to glucosa, and as a consequence, stimulates too much insulin in a very short time. Priority, you should eat slowly absorbed carbohydrates such as legumes or vegetables, always, combining them with healthy proteins and fats, which help to stabilize insulin levels.

  • Take insulin-sensitizers

Also, There are substances that improve insulin body’s sensitivity. The most common is metformin, mainly used by people with diabetes type 2. Metformin is effective but needs medical prescription and has many side effects.

Another one is inositol, a supplement that distributes fat equitably in our bodies.

¿What is best PCOS Diet?

First of all your diet should mainly include real food.

If you are looking to stabilize your hormones and boost your ovulation I suggest you focus on foods high in:

  • Zinc: pumpink seeds, oysters or grass-fed beef
  • Vitamin D: sardines, wild-caught salmon, sardines
  • B vitamins:: avocados, nuts and all kind of seeds.

Also you should avoid foods that provoque inflammation and increase the foods that nourish the most

Avoid Sugar

Everybody knows sugar is bad for our health. Sugar (natural or artificial) spikes your blood sugar and insulin and causes body inflammation. At the same time it feeds bad bacteria and causes yeast infections.

Avoid Gluten

Gluten is a protein found in some grains (including wheat). Foods containing gluten are naturally high in carbohydrates and inflammatory proteins, making them ideal to avoid for women with PCOS who are looking for a baby.

At the same time, modern wheat has really little to no nutritional value. During the refining process, manufacturers take out all the nutrients and enrich wheat products with (a lot of times) synthetic nutrients.

Also, many people may be gluten-sensitive and not even know it. Nowadays, it is estimated that up to 70% to 100% of the human population has some type of sensitivity to gluten.

And finally, Gluten containing food may block key vitamins and minerals absorption in the gut. Gluten can reduce the production of digestive enzymes that are needed to help break down foods and aid in nutrient absorption.

Avoid Dairy

Dairy is inflammatory food for many people. So I suggest you to avoid all conventional dairy products, even grass-fed ones, if you wish to stabilize your male hormones.

In addition, dairy products contain hormones. Even grass-fed dairy contains natural hormones that can interfere with your own and bring more trouble to your PCOS condition

Get enough Fiber

Fiber helps to balance hormones and stabilize blood sugar. You can find fiber in: strawberries, pears, avocados, bananas, carrots, broccoli, artichokes, lentiels, chickpeas, quinoa, almonds, chia seeds or dark chocolate.

So eat natural, healthy real food and you will control your PCOS.

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