Treating PCOS through nutrition

By Tamara Roe L.Ac

*Tamara has been practicing acupuncture and Chinese medicine since 2004. She focuses much of her practice on women’s health care, specifically fertility and Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART)


Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS (also known as Stein-Leventhal syndrome), is the most common hormonal disorder among women of reproductive age, affecting approximately 1 in 15 women. PCOS is characterized by an imbalance of female sex hormones and androgens which causes irregular or absent periods, excessive facial and body hair, thinning of the hair on the head (male patterned baldness), acne, cystic ovaries, infertility, and insulin resistance. Insulin resistance in PCOS patients is often associated with obesity and elevated cholesterol levels. The body is ineffective in its production of insulin and regulation of glucose in the blood which may eventually lead to Type 2 Diabetes.

Women with PCOS encounter:

• A 40% higher risk of diabetes by the age of 40 and an increase for gestational diabetes

• Increased cardiovascular risk; PCOS is a marker for heart disease

• Increased weight gain and difficulty losing weight

• Hyperinsulinemia

• Hyperlipidemia

• Struggles with acne and hirsutism

• Cystic ovaries, infertility and endometrial cancer

• Depression

• Eating disorders

• Infertility

Insulin resistance causes insulin and glucose to build up in the bloodstream. High insulin levels increase the production of male hormones called androgens, causing symptoms such as body hair growth, acne, irregular periods and weight gain. Because the weight gain is triggered by male hormones, it is typically in the abdomen, the area where men tend to carry weight. Instead of having a pear shape, women with PCOS tend to have more of an apple shape. Abdominal fat is considered the most dangerous kind of fat because it is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and other health conditions.




The first step a woman with PCOS can take is to begin to manage her weight if she is overweight. By losing just 10% of her body weight, a woman can affect enough systemic change in her body to re-regulate ovulation and menstruation. Fat cells store and produce estrogen and androgens. Most women with PCOS have elevated levels of these hormones circulating in their bloodstream so shedding the extra pounds, especially around the middle, can regulate sex hormone levels. There are also foods that will help to regulate estrogen and other hormonal levels in the body.

A) Cruciferous vegetables help to metabolize excess estrogen in the body-

· broccoli

· cauliflower

· kale

· watercress

· brussels sprouts

· cabbage

B) Fibrous foods* help to bind to excess hormones in the body and excrete them via the bowels-

· legumes including lentils, white beans, black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, edamame

· whole grain oats and oatmeal

· artichokes

· peas

*fibrous foods also help with insulin resistance by slowing down glucose uptake in the intestines

C) Spearmint tea, milk thistle tea, and licorice root tea lower testosterone levels by blocking the androgen binding sites.

D) Avoid meats and dairy that have been altered with hormones



All PCOS patients, overweight or not, must address insulin resistance and impaired glucose metabolism. Simple and refined sugars need to be eliminated. Diets should focus on unrefined complex carbohydrates with low glycemic indexes, and these carbohydrates should be combined with proteins or fats for optimal breakdown and metabolism. Nutrition should be based heavily on lean proteins, mono- and polyunsaturated fats, and a wide array of vegetables, with carbohydrates comprising a much smaller portion of the diet.

A) Eliminate all refined sugar and carbohydrates:

· white bread and pasta

· white rice and rice cakes

· most processed foods

· cereals

· soda, fruit juice, sweetened mineral waters

· any foods with high glycemic indexes

B) Eat only complex carbohydrates.

· brown rice

· whole grains

· whole wheat*

· legumes

· cabbage

· asperagus

· broccoli

· lettuces

· celery

*depending upon your individual needs, your healthcare practitioner may have you avoid foods with gluten

C) Increase fiber intake (see above).

D) Focus on lean proteins.

E) Eat only good fats.

· olive, vegetable, sesame seed, coconut, canola oils

· avocados

· nuts and seeds/ nut and seed butters and oils

· cold water fish: anchovies, sardines, mackerel, lake trout

. Salmon


RULE # 3

Nutrition should also focus on cleaning up the liver. Insulin resistance can take its toll on the liver, and over time, this condition can lead to fatty deposits in the liver. This damages the liver and causes elevated liver enzymes. Furthermore, the liver is the site of hormone metabolization. For hormones to be properly balanced, the liver must be functioning optimally.

A) Support liver function and detoxification.

· dandelion greens

· rocket

· watercress

· lemon or lime juice

· cabbage

· tumeric

B) Eat organically grown fruits and vegetables & Eliminate alcohol, caffeine, processed foods, unnecessary medications.

Pesticides and chemicals put undo stress on the filtration and metabolization function of the liver. By eliminating these toxins, you allow your liver to focus on metabolizing and clearing excess hormones from your system.



At Reproductive Wellness, we meet most of our PCOS patients because they come to us with fertility issues. We have two clinics in San Diego where we address PCOS and other health problems through nutrition, supplementation, acupuncture, botanical herbs and other natural methods. By approaching diet and nutrition first, we lay the groundwork for a healthier, more fertile landscape. By normalizing hormone levels, we affect the entire hormonal cascade leading to the growth and release of a mature, healthy egg.

We also regulate the reproductive cues to support a fertile endometrium and allow for an appropriate luteal phase so that a fertilized egg has the opportunity to implant, grow and develop.

Our end focus is not only to initiate a regular menstrual cycle. Our goal is to support fertility, leading to a healthy, full-term pregnancy. And the basis of any healthy pregnancy begins with optimal nutrition.

The added necessity for our PCOS patients is that this is a condition that lasts long past the reproductive years. It is a lifelong condition with many health ramifications extending far outside of the fertility scope. The most effective long-term treatment is through weight management and nutritional support.


Tamara Roe,

Reproductive Wellness LAc


If you are in the San Diego are and you are suffering with PCOS and would like to schedule a consultation with Tamara to discuss PCOS or other health concerns, please call 858 381 2281. We offer complimentary first consultations.

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