The polycystic ovary syndrome (abbreviation PCOS), is a common health disorder with females.
It is estimated that 10% of women worldwide are suffering from PCOS in their reproductive age. These numbers tell us that the problem is in-fact quite extensive and should be addressed with all seriousness.
One of the PCOS affected women is also my good friend Svetlana. She was unable to give birth to a healthy baby due to this illness for more than 3 years. During that time she had 2 miscarriages in the early stages of pregnancy. She followed every ob-gyn’s advice and was treating her PCOS with Clomifene and later also with Metformin. After 2 years of being unsuccessful she decided she will try alternative methods, changing her lifestyle and diet. In continuation, I will present what foods she added to her diet, and which ones she banned.
Before jumping into the 9 foods to improve fertility in females with PCOS, let’s first answer 5 common PCOS questions to understand the topic better.
What is PCOS?
PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) is a female health problem. It refers to a set of symptoms, which are caused by increased levels of androgens (male hormones) in female body. In healthy women, without PCOS, the ovaries release matured egg each month to be fertilized by male sperm (this is known as ovulation). While in women with PCOS, there are many fluid-filled cysts growing inside the ovaries – These contain immature eggs, and the egg never matures enough to trigger ovulation [healthline.com].
What are the side effects of PCOS?
- Imbalanced hormones: decreased estrogen and progesterone, increased androgens.
- Irregular periods: menstrual cycles without logical time pattern – infrequent and prolonged.
- Acne: red pimples on the face may occur with females who have PCOS.
- Hairiness: PCOS can contribute to excessive hairiness of woman body.
- Insulin resistance: Women with PCOS sometimes produce higher levels of insulin than normal.
- Infertility: women suffering from PCOS usually experience difficulties trying to conceive.
- Possible miscarriages: miscarriages are not uncommon with women suffering from PCOS.
What is the main cause of PCOS?
The main cause for PCOS is yet to be known. It is believed that imbalanced hormone levels are the key factor contributing to development of PCOS, while the disease is also strongly related to insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone that transforms sugars into energy. Insulin resistance means that body is unable to properly use produced insulin, and starts producing even more. Overproduction of insulin can cause ovaries to produce higher levels of androgens (male hormones, e.g. Testosterone). The root cause leading to such behavior of body functions can be pinned on various elements: unhealthy lifestyle, unhealthy diet, obesity, genes and the list goes on.
Can I get pregnant with PCOS naturally?
Of course. In-fact most women diagnosed with PCOS eventually give birth to at least one child. This should give you hope, while the fact that you should do something about it, remains. Why? – Because, if you want to give birth to a healthy baby (without abnormalities), doing nothing about your PCOS can be very problematic. Also, untreated PCOS can lead to additional health problems, such as: heart diseases, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol levels, endometrial thickness, etc. The treatments you may take are the traditional ones (medication), but I’d like to emphasize on the fact that no medication can be as effective as you yourself changing the lifestyle and start healthy diet.
Here are 9 foods to improve fertility in females with PCOS
First we’re going to take a look at your new dietary plan. These are the 9 foods to improve fertility in females with PCOS. These foods have properties, that beneficially fight hormonal imbalances, while also contributing to increased female fertility.
Insulin aspect should not be neglected. As we mentioned earlier, it is known that females suffering from PCOS tend to have insulin resistance. Foods that don’t raise blood glucose fast are therefore a good choice for women with PCOS. These foods are called “low GI foods” – the GI stands for Glycemic Index [source].
Try making your meal portions smaller, while distributing them from 3 to 5 times per day. Eating less, more often, and adding to your menu some of the 9 fertility-friendly foods that we list below, should improve fertility in women suffering from the PCOS.
1. Yellow Maca
There are three types of Maca. Or better said, three colors. Black, yellow and red. The yellow type being the one that affects fertility, increasing your chances for conception.
Another great feature of the Maca root powder are the hormone balancing properties. This makes it perfect for females with PCOS, suffering from hormonal imbalances.
Mix 2-3 tea spoons of yellow Maca powder into your morning smoothie. It Is recommended that you take it before your day starts because Maca also boosts your energy levels.
Nuts of all kinds can be a great snack to enjoy, while also effectively treating your problem with PCOS. You may read an extensive article on nuts benefits for PCOS here.
Almonds, Pistachios, Walnuts, Hazelnuts … just about all types of nuts are rich with proteins, vitamins and antioxidants. They tend to be high in fats, but the type of fat they carry is the healthy kind of fat (monounsaturated fats).
Various studies suggest that nuts have healing properties when it comes to preventing heart diseases, improving insulin, and can be highly beneficial to balancing hormone levels.
Freekeh is an ancient grain originating from Levant. It is often seen among other low GI grains. These include Quinoa, Spelt, Brown rice, and other.
Freekeh is in comparison with other grains in some views truly superior. It has 3 times more fiber than brown rice, and twice the amount of protein. This picture presents the data pretty well. Needless to say, Freekeh is a very healthy choice for women with PCOS.
Cooking it is simple. Just like any other grain, mix it with water in a pan, boil it, let it rest for a few minutes and voilà. Bon appétit.
Similar to Freekeh, Quinoa is another grain type of food. However, botanists may argue with that, proclaiming Quinoa to be a fruit instead.
The real power of Quinoa lies within the fact that it carries efficient amount of all 9 amino acids, which is rare for a plant source of food.
Females with PCOS trying to improve fertility, should definitely take advantage of Quinoa’s nutritional value. The fact that you can prepare Quinoa in 101 ways makes everything even more exciting. Great for making risottos, soups, salads, deserts and when you want to start your day revitalized, even breakfast.
5. Full fat ice cream
We may have got you a bit scared by now that all you’re gonna be eating from now on are bran-like foods. While they can be delicious, something else has to be on the menu also.
So, here we have it – ice cream. Yummy! But this is not your typical ice cream, which is infused with artificial flavors and sweeteners. This ice cream is natural full-fat ice cream, and this is what your body truly craves for.
Try this recipe: Bananas, coconut milk, a bit of maple syrup, and your favorite type of nuts. Put all inside the blender and grind until you get a smooth liquid. Freeze for 3-4 hours, and enjoy.
6. Cow liver
Meat fans, I am happy to announce that this list of 9 foods to improve fertility in females with PCOS, is not just another vegetarian diet plan. Every one of us should be able to find something tasty here, without being forced to eat grass for the rest of our lives.
Human has been eating meat since 2.6 million years ago [source], and meat-eating has been a crucial factor in human development. Avoid processed meat, though!
Why cow liver for PCOS? – Mainly because it is naturally high in coenzyme Q10, which contributes to a better egg quality.
Yes. My favorite breakfast. Eggs!
Eggs are source of folate, vitamin B and also rich in choline, which reduces birth defects. While eggs are truly an astonishing meal that can greatly benefit fertility in females with PCOS, I see people doing several mistakes.
Nowhere did I write you should eat white bread along! Or to add that artificial mayonnaise you’ve just recently grabbed from Aldi’s shelf.
For bread try using spelt flour and make yourself some homemade bread. It’s so much healthier than the pre-packed white flour bread.
Salmon: One of the best natural sources of vitamin D and Omega-3 fatty acids.
Regardless if you have PCOS or not, Salmon should be on your menu frequently when trying to conceive. Vitamin D deficiency is one of the greatest infertility causes in both, men and women.
As with all other foods on this list, try getting the “bio/eco” version of Salmon. Preferable caught in the wild, not bread somewhere on the farm.
Occasionally adding fish to your menu is in general a very healthy thing to do.
Urghh … Saved the worst for the last (well, at least for me). I tried those slimy things, and just can’t stand the feeling when they travel down my throat. You aren’t supposed to chew on them much, but rather swallow them whole.
However, some people I know, enjoy eating Oysters very much, and it is in-fact very healthy. Oysters tend to increase fertility, while also boosting one’s libido.
Women suffering from PCOS, can boost their fertility by eating Oysters. This is due to high volume of zinc that is carried within the Oysters. Zinc is crucial for egg production and for hormonal balance.
4 foods to avoid if diagnosed with PCOS
In previous chapter we went through 9 foods to improve fertility in females with PCOS. In this chapter we will do the exact opposite – Which foods should you avoid if you have PCOS?
Before I begin, I must say that banning any food from your life entirely is a bad choice and might kick-back. What we recommend here, is merely changing the balance. You should still occasionally eat something sweet, you should still occasionally do carbohydrates, just do it less than you’re doing it now. If you have PCOS try eating more healthy foods with low GI.
Females with PCOS should focus their meals on being rich with vitamin D, folate, zinc, omega 3s … but most importantly make sure that the source of these nutrition is natural. Do not go for capsules (dietary supplements), instead try finding some real food, that is rich with listed elements. Also, make sure that the food you are consuming is in-fact grown in nature, instead of being processed with toxic chemicals, which serve no other means but prolonging shelf life.
1. Sugar and artificial sweeteners
Everyone is telling their kids that they shouldn’t eat candy and sweet stuff, but when it comes to ourselves it’s a bit more difficult isn’t it?
Why is sugar bad for women with PCOS? – With polycystic ovary syndrome it is quite crucial to avoid sugars. This is because sugar intake increases blood glucose levels, resulting in higher insulin. PCOS is all about hormones, concretely the insulin. You do not want to make your insulin levels go haywire.
Instead of adding sugar to your morning coffee or tea, try honey. It may take some time to adopt, but I prefer honey over sugar now. It gives more taste, it’s actually quite delicious and very friendly to your throat. But I did feel like it’s completely off when I first tried it.
2. High G.I. Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are supposed to be an enemy of PCOS. Every layman forum you read, they say “Do not eat carbs, or else!!!”
Well, it is true half way. The proper expression would be “Do not eat high glycemic index carbs.” (High GI being above 55 for women with PCOS). These kinds of carbs degrade into sugars with fast speed when entering our bodies. And this is what we’re trying to avoid here. We want foods that we ingest degrade into sugars slowly and steadily, affecting our PCOS condition as little as possible.
Specifically, which high G.I. carbs should women with PCOS avoid:
- White wheat bread [G.I. value = 75 ± 2]
- White rice [G.I. value = 73 ± 4]
- White spaghetti [G.I. value = 49 ± 2]
- Couscous [G.I. value = 65 ± 4]
- Cornflakes [G.I. value = 81 ± 6]
- Muesli [G.I. value = 57 ± 2]
These are just 6 common foods, every person eats. However, if you have PCOS, you should consider eating low G.I. foods instead.
Here’s a data sheet with 28 examples of low G.I. carbs to consider instead.
Soy being one of the main GMOs (genetically modified organism) it should be avoided by everyone, not merely by females with PCOS trying to improve their fertility.
Just to warn you upfront; when you’ll go Googling for soy and its effects on fertility and PCOS in general, you will get mixed opinions. This is because there are so many variables.
Soy can actually be good and have benefits to fertility and women with PCOS, if:
- it is not a GMO;
- it wasn’t sprayed with dangerous pesticides that can act as endocrine disruptors,
- it is not processed (soy milk, soybean oil);
- if ingested in optimal amounts.
I had found this very helpful article on soy, which I recommend reading to everyone who’s looking for more info regarding soy and PCOS. But let me ask you. How can you be sure that the soy you’re having is the right kind of soy?
It is like a car salesman would show you 10 identical cars, but only one of them would actually have an engine under the hood Now pick the right one … I’d rather go to the other dealer who actually has engines built into all of his cars.
I am not myself surprised that “milk” has been added to this list. Why? Because how it’s made in the modern days. This study confirms direct correlation between milk intake and PCOS. It says that low-fat dairy is the type to be worried about. While fat-rich dairy products can actually increase estrogen (which is good for PCOS), and can in-fact work beneficial to ovulation performance.
Whenever someone asks me, where do I get my milk, I tell them “straight from the cow”. Raw milk is the best milk. You shouldn’t heat it up or cook it or anything. Just go for plain raw milk. I am drinking it for 10 years now and honestly, the milk you’re getting from the store has zero nutrition compared to raw milk. While also being chemically induced and filled with preservatives.
Here’s a video that tells benefits of raw milk:
People are afraid of naturally occurring microorganisms that have been living on this planet for thousands of years. But are unafraid of ingesting synthetic chemicals that were discovered just recently, maybe a decade or two ago?
Did you know that only 43% of human body is made of human cells? – Other 57% are microbes and bacteria. We cannot live without bacteria. We need bacteria.
Anyway … back to the topic. Studies suggest that processed dairy and low-fat dairy can be problematic for women suffering from PCOS, increasing androgen levels and insulin.
It can therefore be a wise decision to cut low on dairy products when fighting PCOS.
Recommended lifestyle changes for women with PCOS
You should know yourself well enough and identify what you’re doing wrong in your life.
I know how hard it is to get rid of unhealthy habits, but merely following our diet composed of 9 foods to improve fertility in females with PCOS will just not do it.
If you have been diagnosed with PCOS and if you are having problems with:
- obesity (your body mass index is above average),
- smoking (you smoke more than 10 cigarettes per day),
- drinking (you drink alcohol daily),
- not being active (your life doesn’t include exercise routine),
- being stressed out (you tend to live under high pressure all the time).
Then you should (or better yet, must) consider changing your lifestyle in order to manage or perhaps even reverse your PCOS.
Try finding yourself a healthy hobby. Anything that makes you sweat. Whether it is cycling, jogging, mountain hiking, fitness training, or just a longer daily walk … anything at all. By sweating it out you are cleansing your body of all the toxins, while also reducing stress levels.
Drinking is another bad habit, that can affect your entire immune system. Although drinking one glass of dark wine per day is recommended, anything more than that is unhealthy.
And smoking? It can’t ever be healthy. Even 1 cigarette per day is one too many. There are chemicals in cigarettes far more toxic than tobacco itself. Therefore, you should quit smoking instantly.
Face it, merely dieting won’t change your health to the better, if you are countering it with bad habits. For foods to improve fertility in females with PCOS to work, lifestyle changes are needed simultaneously. It is not easy to break habits that are contributing to your situation. But think about your baby and about your own health. Do you want your baby to be born healthy? Do you want to live to see your child grow up? – Think about that and take actions.