Episode #31: Restrictive Diets and Hormone Health

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Restrictive Diets and Hormone Health

What you’ll learn in this episode

“What diet is the best for PCOS?”, this is a question that I get asked all the time and it is an important question to be asking.

In this episode, we are going to go through the pros and cons of different diets and dietary recommendations and what to watch out for that can make your PCOS significantly worse.

What Are Restrictive Diets

So first let’s lay a little groundwork about what is a restrictive diet. You may have heard recommendations to reduce or eliminate dairy, sugar, gluten, or carbs if you have PCOS. These are examples of restrictive diets Then there are fad diets such as the keto diet, the Atkins diet, Weight Watchers, Slim fast, or any of those types of protocols where you order some meal replacement and follow exactly what they’re having to eat. These could also include the South Beach diet And then a new one I’ve been hearing a lot about and seeing a lot about in certain health circles is Octavia. Then there is calorie restriction and macro counting. 

While many people see short-term success and there are some basic good principles behind these methods, they come up short for most in terms of hormone balance and long-term success. 

Lifestyle vs diet

Since PCOS can’t be cured, your genes are what they are and will always respond to your environment in the same way, it’s important to create a lifestyle that works for your genes as well as for YOU! For this reason, a quick-fix diet isn’t the best approach to PCOS health. 

The best way to approach eating for PCOS 

Throughout this episode, I have given little pointers but it begins with the mindset that this is a lifestyle and not a diet

I find that there are a few phases as you approach eating to nourish your PCOS. Hit it hard at the beginning focusing on what your current primary root cause needs in regard to nourishment and then as your hormones begin to balance you will build momentum and it will get easier. Then you can find more balance in how strict you are with your PCOS nourishment. During this episode, I discuss these phases in more detail so be sure to listen. 

Alright my friend, if you are ready to start reversing your PCOS by nourishing your body without having to follow a restrictive diet listen to this episode now. 

Let’s Continue The Conversation

Do you have questions about this episode or other questions about PCOS? I would love to connect and chat on a more personal level over on Instagram. My DMs are my favorite place to chat more.


So go visit me on IG @nourishedtohealthy.com


Let’s Continue The Conversation

Do you have questions about this episode or other questions about PCOS? I would love to connect and chat on a more personal level over on Instagram. My DMs are my favorite place to chat more.


So go visit me on IG @nourishedtohealthy.com


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Read The Full Episode Transcript Here

[00:00:06.970] – Speaker 1

What diet is the best for PCOS? This is a question that I get asked all the time and it is such a good and important question to be asking. In this episode, I’m going to go through the pros and cons of different dietary recommendations. What to watch out for that can significantly worsen your PCOS as well as how to create a way of eating that works best for your body. So let’s get started.

[00:00:36.090] – Speaker 2

You’re listening to the PCOS Repair Podcast, where we explore the ins and outs of PCOS and how to repair the imbalances in your hormones naturally with a little medical help sprinkled in. Hi, I’m Ashlene Korcek, and with many years of medical and personal experience with a polycystic ovarian syndrome, it is my joy to watch women reverse their PCOS as they learn to nourish their bodies in a whole new way. With the power of our beliefs, our mindset, and our environment and the understanding of our genetics, we can heal at the root cause.

[00:01:11.750] – Speaker 1

Welcome back to the PCOS Repair Podcast where today we’re going to be talking about all the fad and restrictive diets that people are using in attempts to lose weight and repair their health and feel better and what lessons. To take from those ways of eating and how to create a way that works for you that is really healthy for your PCOS and is going to help to reverse your PCOS symptoms as well as help you maintain optimal health regardless of having PCOS. So, without further ado, let’s go ahead and dive in. So, first of all, I want to just talk about some terminology. The word diet is really just how you eat, but in our culture, we have created it to mean a short-term way of trying to lose weight or achieve a certain goal and then we have all of these kinds of fad diets that hit the news, hit the tabloids, that celebrity is trying or so and so has tried and has dropped some weight. And then I want to throw out there that a lot of these ones have been researched. So there’s research backing these up that has really only been researched to the point of did people lose weight on this diet.

[00:02:21.190] – Speaker 1

There isn’t a lot of research that goes further to did people keep it off. Did it lead to long-term health? So what I want to talk about today is really how to eat so what diet is best for PCOS? And I’m going to do my best to try to not use the word diet because of that connotation with a short-term way of eating, but instead talk about just how we want to eat to support our PCOS hormones. So my philosophy when it comes to PCOS is that PCOS is not curable, meaning we have the genes that we have, and we have a sensitivity to our environment that’s not going away. Now, we can reverse PCOS, we can live in a body that does not appear to have PCOS. If you tested for it, it would not show up on lab tests. So we can put it into remission, reverse it, whatever you want to call it. And when we do that, if we stopped following the lifestyle that allowed us to do that, it would creep back in. And so a diet, obviously a short-term diet is not going to be the answer to our PCOS struggles.

[00:03:28.040] – Speaker 1

It’s going to be a short-term possible fix. But the problem is that when we stop and start things, some of the methods that we can use to lose weight or try to improve our PCOS symptoms, they can actually harm our root causes and make our root causes of PCOS worse, thereby actually worsening our PCOS, even if for a short time we drop a few pounds. So those types of diets are going to be things like the keto diet done poorly because there are some places where I think the keto diet can be of assistance for people with PCOS. Also similar to the keto diet is Atkins Diet, Weight Watchers, and Slim Fast, those type of methods, lead to losing some weight in the short term, but what they are doing to your health, to your nutrient stores, to your metabolism, to your root cause of PCOS is not good. So the way I like to approach eating for PCOS is, first of all, we need to discover the root cause because how we focus on eating is going to be very dependent on what is your current primary root cause of your PCOS. So I’m not going to go into that here in this episode.

[00:04:41.780] – Speaker 1

If you want to go back to episodes three and four and take the PCOS Root Cause Quiz, I will link to those in the show notes below. But what I want to talk about here is the steps that you would take to discover how to eat that’s going to be best for your body. There’s a lot of information out there on how to eat for PCOS and it’s very generalized and it’s not necessarily going to be right for each person. So I want to help you figure out how you go about figuring out the best way to eat for your body so that you can see the results that you want. So first step, take the Root Cause quiz and discover your PCOS, and current Primary Root Cause that’s the first step. The second step is going to be to address that root cause through nutrition. There are other things that we can do to help address that root cause, but today we’re talking about how we eat. So you’re going to tailor what you eat to that. And the point there is that you’re going to go all in. When we are trying to reverse something, when we are trying to heal something, we have to go stronger.

[00:05:45.240] – Speaker 1

We’re trying to use the way that we eat, and the way that we nourish our body to be like a therapeutic treatment for our PCOS. We’re not just trying to eat more fruits and vegetables, we’re really trying to improve our health. So we have to go stronger. This will be depending on how strict you are, depending on how much improvement you need in your health. These are things that are going to vary a little bit in length to start seeing people’s period’s return. It takes at least four weeks. That’s the earliest anyone’s going to see any improvement and you’re not there. So at a month, you’re still going to need to go stronger to really see your body respond and start to heal and reverse your PCOS. So at about a month, you may start to see some improvement at about three months. A lot of people are doing really well if they’re following it fairly strictly. Some people, especially if they have a fair amount of weight to lose or have several root causes that are really acting up. It may take longer, like six months, but really by three months, we’re seeing some serious, significant improvement, which is really exciting.

[00:06:50.510] – Speaker 1

So that’s step two. You nourish your body to address your primary root cause at a pretty all-committed level. Then you start to create the habits, the lifestyle. You’ve kind of learned what is working for you. Over those three months, you’ve made some serious improvements in your health, fertility, weight loss, and whatever it is that your goals are. And now it’s time to really make sure that it is sustainable. Okay? This is a step that a lot of people miss. Addressing your root cause is great, but if we don’t keep it sustainable, it has just become another short-term diet. I’m not someone who likes rules, so I am a strong believer in finding balance not only in my hormones but also in my lifestyle. I don’t like to say that there’s anything off-limits when it comes to what I eat, but I am very intentional about what I eat and when. So intentional doesn’t mean that I don’t eat certain things. It just means that I know how I nourish my body most of the time and then I intentionally deviate from that and have an indulgence because ultimately I want you to live a very full life on your terms.

[00:08:04.960] – Speaker 1

Now, again, there is no generalized blanket statement here because this is going to vary extremely across each and every woman who has PCOS. And it’s even going to vary for each individual woman through different phases of her life. So when you think about it as a teenager, what kind of lifestyle do you want to have? Well, you want to feel good in your health. That’s what it’s all about, right? So if you’re here listening to this, I’m assuming that’s because you want to have good health, you want to feel better in your body, you want your PCOS to disappear. You want your body to function optimally in the way that you desire, and that’s the key. You want your body to function in the way that you desire. And that’s going to be very different for every single person, and it’s going to be different at different stages of your life. So as a high school student, you want to be able to go out with friends, you want to be able to eat pizza, and you want to be able to stay out late sometimes. You want your PCOS to disappear and you want your body to function.

[00:09:03.940] – Speaker 1

So how do you combine those two? Well, as I said, first of all, we have to get things reversed so you can’t start off with quite as much balance. You’re going to have to be a little more hardware with addressing your primary root cause. But then as you realize, okay, I want to be able to go out this weekend with my friends, and I don’t want to have to order something different. I wanted to be able to eat what they were eating. I may not eat as much of it because I’m being aware of my PCOS needs. However, I don’t want to have to live in this PCOS bubble. I want to be able to enjoy my life. Okay, well, that means you nourish your body the rest of the time in a more strict way, and then you have times when you get to be a little more lenient. This also is going to change as you’re trying to get pregnant in your later 20s or early 30s. This is something where you may have another round of being really strict with your PCOS nourishment. Or you may just need a little bit more strictness depending on how well you’re balancing your hormones.

[00:10:04.590] – Speaker 1

Overall, as we have careers, we get busy, some people work night shifts, some people travel a lot, and some people you can see the vast differences here are going to need to tailor how your life works in your healthy lifestyles very differently. And so this phase of addressing your PCOS nourishment needs is really going to be how do you fit what you have learned in those months of reversing your PCOS? How do you fit that into the way that you like your life to be? Another aspect of this is to what degree do you want your health optimized. Are you trying to just reduce your risk of long-term complications? Are you trying to optimize fertility? Are you trying to lose a little bit of weight? Are you trying to be ultra-fit? What are your goals? This is going to be very different for each person in what they expect and desire from their body. So my husband and I like to do a lot of outdoor adventures that require a decent amount of physical ability. And so for me, I require a fair amount of my body. I want my body to function at a certain level, and that requires a little bit more than if I was okay with just maintaining a certain weight and having good energy and feeling good.

[00:11:24.030] – Speaker 1

I require one step further and how I want my body to function. So, again, this is going to vary and there’s no right or wrong. It’s really looking at how do you want your life to be and how do you want your body to function in it and how can you achieve that in a balanced way. And so that’s something that is a third phase that we oftentimes like I said, we oftentimes skip this phase and it oftentimes leads us back to square one, where we need to reevaluate and readdress our root cause and we tend to kind of stay in that cycle. And so we really want to get into how do we need to function in a lifestyle, how can we do it in a balanced way where it’s not all or nothing and we’re not living in this ultra restrictive way of eating, but at the same time getting to enjoy our life? And how do we most key part develop the habits that allow us to do that in a way that feels easy, manageable, and not weighed down and restricted? So what is a restrictive diet? We talked about keto, Atkins, Weight Watchers, and things like that, but then a lot of people talk about restricting certain types of foods, so that would be considered a restrictive diet, wouldn’t it?

[00:12:29.120] – Speaker 1

So restricting things like dairy, gluten, sugar, and all of carbohydrates, all of those are restrictive diets. Now, again, I like to live in a place of I don’t want anyone telling me that I can’t eat something ever. Now, I’m fairly choosy about when and how much, but I don’t want to be told I can’t have a donut. Yesterday we were at the Pumpkin patch with my kids because at the time of this recording, it’s October and they make the best they’re not very big, but they make the best apple cider donuts. So every year we buy a bag and they come in exactly five, which is the size of our family, and we each get one. Did I throw mine away? No. I enjoyed my apple cider donut. Now, is that something that I do very often? No, it’s not, but I thoroughly enjoyed that donut and I did it without guilt and my hormones are not going to suffer for it. It had gluten in it, it had sugar in it. I don’t buy into those kinds of restrictive diets. Unless and here’s the unless you have a food sensitivity, and then if it’s going to make you feel like crap after eating it because you have a gluten intolerance or you have a dairy intolerance, then, by all means, don’t eat those things.

[00:13:35.780] – Speaker 1

Because the goal here is to feel great in your body and enjoy your life. Right? So if eating a doughnut, although it might taste good, is going to make you feel awful as soon as it hits your stomach, then don’t eat that. So that doesn’t count as a restrictive diet. That counts as it does not agree with your body. Okay, so little difference there at the beginning and what you’ll see. If you follow my PCOS detox protocol, which I will link to in the Show Notes as well, I do walk you through a week of detox eating. So where do you really remove all of those potentially irritating foods and slowly add them back in over the 30 days of momentum to see what does and what doesn’t agree with you? It’s kind of like an elimination protocol for PCOS. In this protocol, you are doing two things. You are learning to listen to your body. First of all, you’re removing everything and detoxing how you eat. So you eat an extremely clean, strict week, rip the band Aid off, so to speak, and allow your body to kind of purge all of the icky foods or even fake foods that are part of our Western way of eating.

[00:14:38.290] – Speaker 1

And then you slowly get to start listening to your body, learning how to listen to your body, discovering what agrees or doesn’t agree in a way of fairly clean food. So what we’re looking at here is, do you actually have a gluten and a dairy sensitivity, or do you have a sensitivity to too much processed additive-filled, preservative-filled, sugar, inflammatory, oil-type filled foods? And what most people find is that they’re actually not very sensitive to the foods that I have on the meal plans. And so they can actually enjoy small amounts of gluten in a healthy way, they can actually enjoy small amounts of dairy in a healthy way. And again, this allows us to live a less restricted life. So it’s really beneficial to go through a protocol like that. Again, I’ll link to it in the Show Notes below, but again, it does require some restriction at the beginning to learn to let your body have a chance to speak to you so that you can listen to it and see what is working and what is not working. But overall, the goal is still to get to that third phase where you’re not living an overly restrictive life, you’re just living a life where you are in control of what you’re eating.

[00:15:48.550] – Speaker 1

You are choosing wisely, and you are eating intentionally. Okay, the next type of restriction that we often hear about is calorie restriction. So this is the go-to exercise more, eat less calorie restriction for weight loss. So if you follow anyone in the nutrition world, there’s a lot of talk about macros and don’t restrict calories and all these things like this. If you restrict your calories too much, too fast, and you do this kind of yoyo of like, I don’t eat and then I kind of eat too much, and then I don’t eat. Again, you are setting your body up to feel freaked out. Okay? And that’s going to create a whole lot of problems in your root causes in your metabolic system and not do good things for your PCOS. That said, the only way to lose weight is to allow your body to burn the fat that you want to lose. To do that you do have to be under some degree of calorie restriction but there is a very strategic and correct way to do that so that your body can feel peaceful and calm while you’re doing it. Okay? So those are things that I walk women through when I work with them one on one or in the PCOS root cause boot camp.

[00:16:54.900] – Speaker 1

And so again, there are calculations for all of this. It’s fairly in-depth but the bottom line is that you don’t want to significantly restrict calories. You want your body to feel like there is plenty of food but they could just kind of tap into those stores a little bit. That’s the bottom line. But there are a lot of intricacies to it that go beyond what we can get into today. Do you want to eat to nourish? Yes. We want times when we can deviate from our healthy lifestyle and we can intentionally enjoy some planned indulgences. To enjoy an apple cider donut when you’re out of the pumpkin patch with your kids, to enjoy pizza or a meal out with friends, to enjoy an adult beverage, to enjoy something. How much of that we are doing? It’s really good to start by understanding what is nourishing your PCOS, and what is harming your PCOS. And that way you can say, like, okay, I’m only going to eat so much. That’s not assisting my PCOS. And the rest of the time I’m going to just really focus on making sure I am nourishing my body instead of just eating because I wanted to taste good or I was hungry or I was snacking.

[00:18:02.560] – Speaker 1

So just to recap here, the first thing you want to do is discover your PCOS root cause so that you can start addressing it through the way that you eat. The next step is to take what you learned as you listen to your body during that phase and hit it hard for a couple of months to then start to ease off as you continue to listen to your body in a way that continues that lifestyle, moving away from the mentality of a diet and more into the mentality of a lifestyle that fits your needs. And this goes beyond nutrition and how do you fit that nutrition and the nourishment that your body needs to help maintain your PCOS health? How do you fit that into the lifestyle that you want? What your career entails? What your social life looks like? What your health goals are? Are you still trying to optimize fertility? Are you still trying to lose a little bit of weight? What is it that you desire from your body? Then we pretty much just repeat. And so the next thing I want to talk about is how do we go about finding some of those options.

[00:19:04.290] – Speaker 1

Because there are so many things that are out there. And until you have done those three phases, there are a lot of pitfalls out there. So when we look at these mainstream ways of eating diets or diet plans, they can trip us up because they are made for generalized situations. They don’t look at your specific situation either in your PCOS root cause or your lifestyle needs. And so they can really be helpful for some people if you know what to look for, they can also be a little bit problematic. And so as you are looking for these things, there are a couple of things I want you to keep in mind. A lot of people say, oh, Paleo is really close to how you should be eating for PCOS. So Paleo has some really good recipes. The problem with that specific way of eating is that it’s designed for people who tend to have a lot of food sensitivities. And although it focuses on a very primal way of eating, the way that our ancestors may have eaten, because it has a lot of really good protein from meat sources and it focuses on a lot of whole foods, it tends to be higher in sugar, although natural sugars than some women with PCOS are going to find works for them.

[00:20:16.950] – Speaker 1

Paleo recipes, they tend to be very processed, even though it’s whole foods that are being processed. If you make like, say, Paleo brownies, you’re using a lot of really dense foods of either coconut flour or almond flour. And these are things that, although in small amounts are fine, tend to still be trying to replicate foods that you use to eat with just Paleo ingredients. And sometimes that is not necessarily going to be the most beneficial way to eat. So just following a method of eating such as Paleo, although they can have some really good recipes and some really good ways to start eating healthier foods, just following that protocol may or may not be overly beneficial, and you still have to be careful. Are you choosing to mostly eat your vegetables and your really nutritious foods, or are you making recipes that try to mimic previously enjoyed dishes? Okay, so then as we talk about what to eat and how to find good recipes and good ways of eating for your PCOS, this becomes difficult because it is so individual. And so one meal plan can be difficult, especially if they weren’t designed by someone who has PCOS or understands PCOS, or if they weren’t designed for someone who has PCOS, in particular, your type of PCOS, like your root cause, what your body’s needing, taking your food sensitivities into account, and so forth.

[00:21:40.660] – Speaker 1

So those are some things that you might want to look out for. Meal plans can be extremely helpful in helping you streamline your week and make sure that your good nourishment really happens. But choose them wisely. They can be less helpful if you have to do a lot of modifications to them. So you want them to be created for someone who has PCOS and you want them to be created by someone who understands the nutritional needs of someone who has PCOS so that they’re not overly restrictive. But they do allow for easy substitution if you’re someone who can or cannot tolerate dairy, gluten, et cetera. And they all should be fairly low in processed sugars and things like that. So those are sometimes when meal plans can be advertised as being healthy and yet they’re still using processed foods or too many sweeteners or sweeteners that are artificial and so forth. So just keep that kind of thing in mind when you are looking at meal plans, and meal replacements. This is going to be where you purchase a shake or you purchase a protein bar or a prepackaged meal. These are going to be from things like Nutrisystem Optifast, South Beach Diet, and other plans like this where they send you a box of prepackaged foods.

[00:22:51.790] – Speaker 1

These are usually filled with preservatives because how do they keep the food good in a package without a ton of preservatives and fillers and processed things that are not going to be good for your GI system? And basically, I call it fake food, gets just filled with a bunch of stuff that’s not really editable. The FDA allows it, but it’s not real food. Like if you ate an apple, it doesn’t have any of that stuff in it. If you ate some broccoli, it doesn’t have any of that. If you ate chicken breast or something like that, it doesn’t have that in it. But here we put it in these foods because we need it to have a long shelf life. So we want to limit that. There are times and places when it is a better option than the alternative. And then of course that’s where the lifestyle part comes in, right? But for the most part, we don’t want that to be the go-to plan. So what should you do? So the best approach for eating for PCOS is to of course begin with the mindset that it is a lifestyle, not a diet.

[00:23:42.350] – Speaker 1

So although I really strongly encourage you to hit it hard, be strict at the beginning, get over the hump, see some improvements, really get to those root causes, and begin to reverse them, ultimately it’s going to become a lifestyle and needs to be sustainable. And so if that requires you to find a pretty good best, you can find a protein bar for a certain day of the week because that day is just difficult to get a lunch pack, that is what you should do. Okay, so there’s time and place for some of these things, but we don’t want to have a protein bar, like, literally be your breakfast every single morning because you’re missing out on an opportunity to get other nutrition and you’re eating something that has a lot of extra ingredients that aren’t ideal, and there’s a lot of better things to have for a planned indulgence. So we don’t want that to count as our planned indulgence. But the best ways to nourish your PCOS are always going to be to keep it simple, keep it whole food based. This is going to include lots of vegetables, lots of fruit, and lots of good high-quality protein.

[00:24:41.430] – Speaker 1

This can be found in many different sources. And then switching from inflammatory fats to healthy fats that allow your body to create all of the types of hormones and body tissues that your body needs, and reducing the number of filler foods, packaged foods, processed foods, foods filled with preservatives, and things like that, the best you can. So again, that is the overview of how you want to approach eating for PCOS. So when people ask me what is the best diet for PCOS, there’s not really the best diet. I don’t agree with having to cut out dairy, having to cut out gluten, or having to eat a certain way. However, in the beginning, healing your PCOS root cause, and reversing that PCOS root cause takes some effort and you’re not going to see great results if you are halfway doing it. So in the beginning, it does take a little bit more of an all-or-nothing approach and then you get to ease into the lifestyle of it. That is the big picture of how you want to be eating for your PCOS health. It also is very individual. And so I know some of what I’m saying here sounds a little bit vague.

[00:25:45.720] – Speaker 1

I don’t want to say this is the one way to do it because it won’t be the one way for everybody, it might be the one way for me, and it might not be the one way for you, but there is a way of learning how to listen to your body. And that is what’s going to help you find a way of eating that works best for you. So there you have it, my friend. If you have found this episode helpful, be sure to hit the subscribe button so that you get notified each and every week when the next episode of PCOS Health becomes available. And if you have more questions about how to get started eating to nourish your PCOS or any other questions about the topics that we discuss here on the PCOS Repair podcast, I hope you go and find me over on Instagram at Nourish to Healthy and I’d be more than happy to continue this conversation with you there. And until next time. Bye for now.

[00:26:36.270] – Speaker 2

Did you know that studies of PCOS epigenetics have shown that our environment can either worsen or completely reverse? Our PCOS symptoms. I believe that although PCOS makes us sensitive to our environment, it also makes us powerful. When we learn what our body needs and commit to providing those needs, not only do we gain back our health, but we grow in power just by showing up for ourselves.

[00:27:00.570] – Speaker 1

This is why I’ve created a guide for you to get started.

[00:27:03.410] – Speaker 2

My PCOS Fertility Meal Guide can be found in the show notes below. I want to show you how to create an environment that promotes healing while still being able to live a life that you enjoy. This guide is completely free, so go get your copy now so that you can step into the vision that you have for your life and for your health.

Take The PCOS Root Cause Quiz

   What Do Your Symptoms Mean?

  Discover your current PCOS Root Cause

Start to reverse PCOS at the root cause. 

Results are not guaranteed. Please see Medical Disclaimer for more detail.

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About Show

Welcome to The PCOS Repair Podcast!

I’m Ashlene Korcek, and each week I’ll be sharing the latest findings on PCOS and how to make practical health changes to your lifestyle to repair your PCOS at the root cause.

If you’re struggling with PCOS, know that you’re not alone. In fact, it’s estimated that one in ten women have PCOS. But the good news is that there is a lot we can do to manage our symptoms and live healthy, happy lives.

So whether you’re looking for tips on nutrition, exercise, supplements, or mental health, you’ll find it all here on The PCOS Repair Podcast. Ready to get started? Hit subscribe now