How to Lower Androgen Levels Naturally in Women with PCOS

Block Androgens for Quick Symptom Relief

PCOS causes our bodies to produce too many androgens (“male” hormones like testosterone).


These cause frustrating and embarrassing symptoms like acne, hair thinning, excess hair growth, irregular cycles, and weight gain.

While ultimately we want to identify what is triggering your body to over-produce androgens (your “PCOS Root Cause”) and reverse it, this takes time. 

In the short term, blocking the effects of excess androgens can help with symptom relief.

After experiencing the humiliating symptoms of PCOS for more than a decade, I know how difficult it is to go about your day-to-day life and not just focus on your symptoms.

I’ve spent long periods of my life feeling too embarrassed to leave the house because my skin was breaking out, my energy levels were tanked, and I felt so bloated and unwell.


By getting some quick wins with your symptoms, I know you will be motivated to dig deeper and work on your root cause.


You won’t need to follow these anti-androgen principles forever – they will just be helpful in the short term until you have found a lifestyle plan that works for you and your root cause.


Once you are confidently implementing your individualized protocol, your body will stop over-producing androgens and you will likely no longer need the principles in this blog post.

The Anti-Androgen Plan

The first step in my best selling PCOS book, PCOS Repair Protocol, is to block the effects of excess androgens in your body so that you can find some relief from symptoms while we dig deeper into your root cause.


You’ll follow three simple daily rituals to improve your symptoms while we work on your root cause.

How do you know if you have excess androgens?

It’s common for your doctor to run a blood test to check your testosterone levels when you have PCOS. 


If you’ve had this test recently, it may have come back with a higher than normal result.


If this is the case, you can confidently assume excess testosterone is a key factor triggering your PCOS symptoms.

But what if your blood testosterone results are normal or on the lower side?

Many women that I work with have received normal or even low testosterone results in their blood work, yet suffer from significant androgen excess symptoms.


There are a few reasons for this.

Firstly, testosterone is difficult to measure in your blood. A blood test for testosterone is only able to measure the testosterone that is circulating around your body. This doesn’t let us see how much testosterone is bound up in your tissues – for example, trapped in your hair follicles causing acne, excess hair growth, or thinning of the hair on your head.

Secondly, testosterone is just one of the many androgens that cause the symptoms of PCOS. Testosterone is the most common androgen, which is why it is most frequently measured by your doctor. In your unique type of PCOS, your symptoms may be driven by another kind of androgen (like DHEAS, which is commonly raised when you experience high levels of stress).

Lastly, a testosterone blood test doesn’t take into account how strongly an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase is working in your body. This enzyme is responsible for turning testosterone into a similar but much more potent form called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Like testosterone, DHT gets into the hair follicles and causes acne, hirsutism, and

hair thinning.

The 5-alpha reductase enzyme has been shown to be around four times more active in women with PCOS than controls. 


This means that even with normal levels of testosterone, your body may be far more efficient at converting testosterone to DHT, contributing to symptoms of PCOS.

How Do I Know If I Have Imbalanced Androgens?

The best way to assess for high androgen levels is to look at your symptoms. 


This is a much more reliable way of confirming if androgens are an issue in your PCOS symptoms. 

The most common symptoms to look out for are:

  • Acne around your chin, jawline, upper lip, neck, chest, and back

  • Thinning hair in the crown of your head or a widening part

  • Receding hairline

  • Extensive hair growth around your chin, neck, jawline, chest, breasts or back.

The 3 Step Anti-Androgen Plan

Each day, follow these three simple rituals to reduce your symptoms, increase your energy, and reduce sugar cravings:

  1. Drink two cups of spearmint tea.

  2. Enjoy a PCOS Repair Breakfast.

  3. Take an anti-androgen supplement.

Daily Ritual One: Drink Two Cups of Spearmint Tea

Spearmint tea has been shown to naturally lower androgens levels in women with PCOS.


In a randomized controlled trial, drinking two cups daily for 30 days resulted in lowered blood testosterone levels, improved LH to FSH ratios, and significantly reduced abnormal hair growth (hirsutism).


At this point in time, peppermint tea has not been studied so for best results seek out a spearmint tea (loose leaf or tea bags are both great choices).

Your goal is to enjoy two cups of spearmint tea daily to support balanced androgen levels.

Get creative with this!

You don’t just have to drink hot tea. 


Try making a big batch and cooling in the fridge.


Use cooled tea as a base for smoothies instead of milk, or freeze into cubes and add to water for a refreshing, cool drink.

Daily Ritual Two: Follow The PCOS Repair Breakfast Principles

Your second daily ritual is to enjoy a PCOS-friendly breakfast. 


We’ll cover exactly what this means and how to tweak your existing breakfast to fit these principles later in this blog post.

Daily Ritual Three: Take an Androgen Blocking Supplement

Your final daily ritual is to take an androgen blocking supplement. 


This step is optional as the first two steps will go a long way in providing relief from some of your symptoms.


However, for faster results, I suggest considering one of the following options. 


I recommend discussing any new supplement regimes with your primary care physician before beginning to be sure it is the best choice for you.

There are many herbs and vitamins that naturally help your body to balance androgen levels and reduce the conversion of testosterone to DHT, therefore improving your PCOS symptoms. 


Some of my favorite choices include those listed below.

Natural androgen blocking nutrients:

  • Saw palmetto - reduces 5-alpha reductase activity and promotes estrogen balance

  • Reishi mushroom - blocks DHT conversion in the hair and skin follicles, reducing excessive hair growth

  • Stinging nettle leaf - increases sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), which mops up excess androgens in the blood

  • Zinc - reduces acne formation and helps wound healing of existing acne scars

I have used a combination of the supplements listed above for many years with my clients and seen dramatic improvements to stubborn acne, frustrating hair growth, thinning hair, and irregular ovulation.

While their results were incredible, my clients got sick of taking handfuls of pills each day, so I created Nourished Androgen Blocker – a single capsule containing the ideal ratio of natural androgen blocking nutrients in a convenient once a day dose.


The ingredients used in Nourished Androgen Blocker have been shown to powerfully lower high androgen levels, slow testosterone conversion to DHT, improve acne, and promote regular ovulation. 


Learn more about our Androgen Blocker supplement here.

Along with an androgen blocker, you might like to also consider an inositol supplement.


Inositol is a nutrient similar in structure to a B-vitamin that has been studied extensively for its ability to improve irregular cycles, increase insulin sensitivity, promote ovulation, and enhance egg quality.


If you struggle with irregular cycles or are planning to conceive in the near future, you will benefit from adding inositol to your regime, no matter which PCOS type you have.

Nourished Inositol For PCOS contains a 40:1 ratio of two forms of inositol: myo-inositol and D-chiro inositol – a similar ratio to what is found in the human body.


A 2017 study that compared this 40:1 inositol combination with Metformin found the inositol group had significantly more weight loss, resumption of ovulation, and natural pregnancy than the Metformin group.


Inositol has very few side effects and is safe to consume whilst trying to conceive, during pregnancy, and whilst breastfeeding.


It is also safe to take alongside Metformin as it works in a different way to improve your body’s sensitivity to insulin.

The PCOS Repair Breakfast Principles

What you eat for breakfast is the most impactful habit you can change for your PCOS. 

More than any other meal of the day, your breakfast can either dramatically improve or worsen your symptoms.

Simple tweaks can significantly reduce cravings and improve your energy levels, mood, and focus for the rest of your day.

It can also boost your metabolism, support your body to find a healthy weight without feeling deprived, promote regular ovulation, and help lower the production of androgens.

The problem with cereals, toast and fruit for PCOS

Let’s take a look at some of the most common breakfast meals: cereal, toast, fruit, and oatmeal. 

What these meals all have in common is that they are high in carbohydrates and low in protein.

The carbohydrates in these foods are broken down into glucose (sugar) in your blood. 

This glucose needs to be stored in your cells for when you need energy later.

The hormone insulin is responsible for mopping up all of the sugar in your blood and telling your cells to open their doors and let the glucose in to be stored.

I like to think of insulin as your taxi driver and the cell as your home. The insulin taxi picks you (the glucose) up and drives you home.

Once you get home, your very courteous taxi driver gets out and knocks on your front door to let you inside.

In a normal situation, the door opens straight away and lets you inside. You can go inside, rest, and come back out when you are needed next.

For women with PCOS, it’s common for the taxi driver to knock and knock without any answer.

Because the door isn’t opening, your taxi driver gets on the phone to some of their other taxi driver friends and asks them to come over and help.

The other taxi drivers arrive and together they all knock on the door louder than before. Finally, the door swings open and you are able to go inside.

This analogy describes what’s called insulin resistance.

This is estimated to affect at least 80% of women with PCOS, contributing to many of its hallmark symptoms like weight gain, acne, and irregular cycles.

Because our cells have become a little deaf to the door knocks from insulin, our bodies send out more and more insulin to have the same effect on our blood sugar levels.

Having high insulin levels triggers your ovaries to produce more testosterone, worsening the symptoms of PCOS and making it harder for you to lose weight.
When this has gone on for a while, it’s common for your body to send out far too much insulin all at once when you eat a higher carbohydrate meal.

Insulin is really efficient at mopping up all the glucose in your blood, causing your blood sugar levels to drop quickly.

This sudden drop in blood sugar might cause you to feel jittery, hungry, moody, or low in energy soon after eating a standard breakfast like cereal or toast.

This drop in blood sugar is called reactive hypoglycemia and it is very common for women with PCOS.

Eating a higher carbohydrate, lower protein breakfast places our blood sugar on a rollercoaster for the rest of the day.

You might notice you are starving or really low in energy within a couple of hours of breakfast and find yourself snacking on sugar or caffeine to get you through the rest of the day.

Before I adopted the PCOS Repair Breakfast, I ate what I thought was a “super healthy” breakfast every morning for years. It was a smoothie made with lots of frozen banana, oats, and yogurt.

Even though I felt really full after drinking this, within an hour or two, I would be STARVING. 

Like “get me to the nearest cafe before I do something crazy” kind of starving.

I’d spend the rest of the day snacking on sugary treats or crackers and drinking coffee to survive my plummeting energy levels.

I felt grumpy, moody, and shaky if I didn’t eat every two hours and was constantly preoccupied with when and where I’d be getting my next meal.

When I switched to the PCOS Repair Breakfast, I found that not only was I satisfied until lunchtime, I also had no more cravings for sugar for the entire rest of the day – even after dinner! 

I couldn’t believe how switching up one meal could so significantly impact the rest of my day.

These principles have been a game changer for so many of my clients over the years who have been able to achieve massive results just through this one simple change.

Even if you don’t experience the symptoms of insulin resistance like increased hunger (if you’ve ever felt “hangry,” you know what I mean!), weight gain around your middle, rollercoaster energy, or sugar or carb cravings, you will still benefit from following the PCOS Repair Breakfast principles.

The PCOS Repair Breakfast is helpful even if you are underweight or don’t have any issues with insulin resistance.
This is because eating a higher carbohydrate meal like toast, cereal, fruit, or oatmeal causes your body to produce more insulin to bring your blood sugar levels back down.

Insulin causes our ovaries to produce more androgens, worsening your PCOS symptoms.

Following the PCOS Repair Breakfast principles will help to balance your hormone levels, no matter which root cause of PCOS you are dealing with.

Why A High Protein Breakfast Is Key For PCOS

Unlike a higher carbohydrate meal, enjoying a high protein breakfast first thing in the morning is one of the best ways to keep your blood sugar levels stable.

Protein-rich foods don’t cause a large spike in your blood sugar levels, which means your body doesn’t need to release as much insulin.

Eating this way assists the effects of your overnight fast without skipping breakfast (more on why that’s not a good idea in the FAQs below).

Protein is also extremely satiating, meaning it keeps you feeling full and satisfied for a long time.

When you follow these principles, you should feel full for at least three to four hours (and sometimes even up to six or seven hours).

If you find you are feeling hungry after two hours, you might benefit from adding more healthy fats to your breakfast (like avocado, nut butter, or coconut milk).

The PCOS Repair Breakfast is essentially a high protein, low starch, and low sugar breakfast. You are going to be aiming for 30-40 grams of protein, along with lots of non-starchy vegetables and some healthy fat.

You will be keeping your carbohydrate and sugar levels to a minimum.

This means no starchy vegetables (like potato, sweet potato, or pumpkin), no grains (like oats, bread, cereal, or rice), and no legumes (like chickpeas or baked beans).

You can enjoy a serve of berries as these are naturally low in sugar and high in fiber, but avoid other fruits at breakfast time.

Don’t worry – you are not cutting these foods out of your diet, and you will be able to include them in other meals during the day.

After years of trialing different diet tweaks with my PCOS clients and myself, I have found that avoiding these foods in your first meal of the day is incredibly impactful.

For now, I just want you to focus on changing your breakfast. Don’t worry about any of your other meals or snacks – we’ll cover those another time.

This way of eating is likely going to feel very new to you, especially if you are used to eating a “standard” breakfast, or maybe not eating any breakfast at all.

I want you to go easy on yourself as you start to follow these principles.

If you are struggling to meet the protein target, I suggest starting with a smaller amount of protein (like 20 grams) and slowly working your way up from there. 

After eating this way for a few weeks, you will notice that your hunger, fullness, and taste buds start to adapt.

How Do I Eat Protein For Breakfast?

One of the easiest ways to get your 30-40 grams of protein is to use a high quality protein powder and/or collagen.

Other great breakfast sources of protein include eggs, salmon, bacon, sausage or even leftover meats from the night before!

Collagen is an amazing option for women with PCOS as it not only provides 10-20g of protein that you need to add to your breakfast, but is also incredible for skin health.

The Importance Of Vegetables For PCOS

My biggest tip to help you implement these PCOS Repair Breakfast principles is to focus on vegetables that grow above the ground.

These vegetables tend to be much lower in starch, and therefore they don’t impact our blood sugar levels. 

They are also great swaps for some of the traditional carbs you are used to eating.

For example, frozen cauliflower or zucchini are great swaps for fruit in a smoothie.

Try blending your favorite flavored protein powder (like vanilla or chocolate) with some frozen cauliflower or zucchini, plus some almond or coconut milk. 

Or replace the toast you usually have with your eggs with some sauteed greens like kale or spinach.

If you are finding the protein volume overwhelming, try mixing up your protein sources so that you are not having a big serving of one food.

For example, it would take four to five eggs to reach your 30-40g protein target (one egg contains around seven grams of protein). 

Instead, you could have three eggs (21 grams of protein) plus a scoop of collagen powder in your spearmint tea or a smoothie with a scoop of protein powder as a drink on the side.

If, like many PCOS Cysters, you have spent much of your life following restrictive diets, eating a large breakfast can feel really overwhelming at first.

I encourage you to stick with it and trust the process. 

This change will have a powerful impact on your PCOS within weeks.

You won’t need to eat this much protein at other meals of the day.

We will cover specific strategies for your lunch, dinner, and snacks once we have identified your PCOS root cause.

I suggest sticking with this breakfast step for at least two to three weeks before moving on to making your next change.

Taking the time to get used to this new habit will help you avoid getting overwhelmed by making too many changes at once.

By starting with improving your breakfast, you will notice that, for the rest of the day, you have increased energy, feel more full and satisfied, and have fewer cravings. 

This will make implementing the next change so much easier.

Summary: the PCOS Repair Breakfast principles

  • 30-40g protein

  • No grains, starchy vegetables, legumes, or beans (chickpeas, tofu, baked beans)

  • Low sugar fruits like berries

  • No sugar or sweeteners (honey, maple syrup, sugar in your tea)

  • Add some healthy fats (nut butter, coconut milk, avocado)

  • Add plenty of non-starchy vegetables (zucchini, cauliflower, greens).

About The Author - Tamika Woods

Tamika Woods | PCOS Author | Nourished Natural Health
Tamika Woods, Clinical Nutritionist (B.HS; B.Ed), Bestselling Author

For a decade, Tamika battled chronic acne, irregular cycles, mood swings, hair loss, painful periods, severe digestive issues and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). You name it - she's been there!

Tam was finally able to clear her skin, regulate her cycle, be free of period pain and fall pregnant naturally with her daughter in 2020. It took Tam 10 years and tens of thousands of dollars in tertiary education to get the answers she needed to get better.

She didn’t want other women to suffer as long as she did which is why she has dedicated her life to helping women in the same position as she was.

Tam helps women interpret what their bodies are trying to communicate through frustrating symptoms, and then develop a step-by-step roadmap to find balance again. She's here to help you get on track!

Tamika Woods is the author of the Amazon best seller PCOS Repair Protocol. She holds a Bachelor of Health Science degree (Nutritional Medicine) as well as a Bachelor of Education, graduating with Honours in both.

She is a certified Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) Educator and a certified member of the Australian Natural Therapists Association (ANTA).

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FAQs about the PCOS Repair Breakfast

Can I use protein powder?

Yes!

I encourage you to go for whole food sources of protein where you can, but as a busy mum myself, I know how difficult finding time to make a large breakfast can be. 


If you would like to use a protein powder to meet your protein goals, look for one that is made from pea, egg white, collagen, hemp, beef protein isolate, or a combination of these.


Avoid protein powders that are made from whey as dairy products tend to stimulate insulin production. 


Look for a brand which uses natural sweeteners like stevia or monkfruit, and avoid artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose.


Finally, check the nutrition facts label and look for a protein powder that contains less than 4 grams of carbohydrates per serve. 


Look for a flavor that you know you will enjoy, so that you will actually use your protein. 


Some companies offer trial sizes of different flavors so you can sample a few and find one that you really enjoy, before committing to buying a big tub.

I’m missing my regular breakfast. What are some swaps for my favorite breakfast foods?

It can be really hard to give up old favorites!  

Here are some of my 
favorite swaps:

  • Swap oatmeal with banana for chia pudding (chia seeds soaked in almond or coconut milk) with a handful of berries

  • Swap a banana smoothie (my old favorite breakfast) for  smoothie made with frozen zucchini or cauliflower, plus a flavored protein powder (e.g., vanilla or chocolate)

  • Swap two eggs on regular toast for three eggs on a high protein/keto bread, or three eggs plus some smoked salmon or chicken sausage on a bed of sauteed greens

  • Swap a cereal or muesli bowl with fruit and yogurt for bowl of coconut yogurt with a handful of nuts (like macadamias and walnuts) and fresh or frozen berries

  • Swap a breakfast burrito made with a regular tortilla for a flaxseed wrap with a high protein filling like smoked salmon or bacon.

Why shouldn’t I skip breakfast or try intermittent fasting for my PCOS?

Intermittent fasting and skipping breakfast are commonly touted as “solutions” for women who are struggling with weight loss or other PCOS symptoms. 


However, the truth is, skipping breakfast is one of the worst things you can do for your hormone, blood sugar, and insulin levels.


Research shows that skipping breakfast has a far more significant impact on our hormones than skipping dinner.22

 

An interesting study in 2013 took 60 women with PCOS and split them into two groups. 


The first group ate a large breakfast and a small dinner, and the second group ate a light breakfast and large dinner (similar to how many of us are used to eating).


Other than the timing of the meals, the women in both groups ate exactly the same ratios of carbs, fats, and proteins and the same calories over the course of the day. 


After 90 days, the women eating the large breakfast had a 50% decrease in testosterone levels, greatly improved insulin sensitivity, decreased androgenic symptoms, and a 50% increased ovulation rate.22 


The large dinner group had no changes.


This study suggests that something as simple as changing the timing of your meals could have a dramatic effect on your PCOS symptoms. 


PCOS causes our hormones to function differently than other women. 


This means that diets and styles of eating that work for other people might not work the same for us. It’s important to keep this in mind.

How soon after waking should I eat my breakfast?

Ideally, aim to eat your breakfast within an hour of waking up. 


This is because the research shows this timing has the best effect on our blood sugar and insulin levels for the rest of the day. 


If you like to exercise first thing in the morning, you might like to have a small snack, and then eat a larger meal following the PCOS Repair Breakfast principles after you finish exercising. 


This is fine as well. After a few weeks of experimenting with this new way of eating, you’ll find what works best for you.

What should I eat before working out in the morning?

Exercising first thing in the morning before eating can cause increased cortisol levels. 


I suggest having a small snack before starting your workout to prevent this. 


The best choice is a small carbohydrate plus protein or fat-rich snack. For example, half a banana with some almond or peanut butter.


Even though we are avoiding starch and sugar in the PCOS Repair Breakfast principles, if you eat this small amount of carbohydrates within 30 minutes of exercising, the carbs will be used as fuel for your workout and therefore won’t contribute to significant insulin production. 


Once you have finished your workout, you can enjoy a larger meal following the high protein, low carb breakfast principles.

I’m feeling really full or unwell after eating such a large breakfast. Is this normal?

Many of my clients find they don’t feel hungry in the morning and prefer to skip breakfast or have something light like some fruit or a piece of toast, only to be starving later in the day. 


For women with PCOS, our insulin issues, gut bacteria imbalances, and history of restriction and dieting can cause our hunger and fullness cues to be a little out of whack.


If you don’t usually eat breakfast or are used to a lighter breakfast, it’s normal for it to take time for your body to adjust. 


My clients have found that after two to three weeks, their hunger stabilizes and they feel much better eating this way.


 In the meantime, you might like to delay your lunch time meal or eat a smaller lunch until your hunger adjusts.


If you feel nauseous or struggle to eat first thing in the morning, try having one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice in a glass of water around ten minutes before your meal. 


This helps to stimulate appetite and prepare your stomach for food.


If you struggle to eat a full breakfast, try a drinkable breakfast like a smoothie that still meets the PCOS Repair Breakfast principles. 


You could try sipping on this over a longer period of time as you go about your morning routine.


Remember, you likely won’t have to eat this much protein at breakfast forever, just while your insulin and other hormones are finding balance again, which usually takes around three months.

I’m feeling hungry two hours after eating this breakfast. Is this normal?

If you are feeling hungry within two hours despite hitting the 30-40 grams of protein target, try adding some extra healthy fats to your breakfast to keep you fuller for longer. 


Ideally, this breakfast should keep you full for at least three to four hours.


My favorite healthy fats are coconut milk (great in smoothies), nut butter, avocado, and olive oil.

What about dairy?

We’ll cover whether or not reducing dairy could be helpful for your type PCOS in chapter 17, however as a general rule, dairy tends to cause an increase in insulin, so it’s best minimized at breakfast time. 


You can swap dairy for coconut or almond milks and yogurts.

How do I know if a vegetable is low in starch?

A good rule of thumb is vegetables that grow above the ground are generally lower in starch and higher in fiber.


 Vegetables that grow below the ground tend to be starchy vegetables (with the exception of onion and garlic). 


To find out if a particular vegetable is low or high in starch, you can Google “is [insert vegetable] a starchy vegetable?”. 


This tends to be a pretty accurate way of determining it.


Some of the most common starchy vegetables to avoid in your breakfast include potato, sweet potato, corn, beans and legumes, yams, peas, pumpkin, and butternut squash.


You’ll be able to enjoy these foods later on in the day.


Some of the most common non-starchy vegetables include asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber, eggplant, mushrooms, onion, garlic, capsicum (peppers), spinach, kale, tomato, and zucchini.


 You can enjoy as much of these non-starchy vegetables as you like – there is no limit as they won’t cause a spike in your blood sugar.

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