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.
Each day, follow these three simple rituals to reduce your symptoms, increase your energy, and reduce sugar cravings:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It can be really hard to give up old favorites!
Here are some of my favorite swaps:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.