Living with PCOS: Things to Avoid

Danger sign
Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase “First, do no harm”. It’s a phrase used in medicine, and it refers to the physicians duty to consider first how any interventions or treatments may cause unnecessary harm when treating a patient.

When it comes to living with PCOS, I think that before we start trying to add new and helpful things into our diet or routine or supplement regimen, we first need to take a look at anything that needs to go. As helpful as improving our nutrition or anything else may be, if we are still clinging to things that are counter-productive, we may find that the results of our efforts are slower or less than we might hope for.

The list in this post may seem random at first glance, but these are all pieces of the puzzle, and unfortunately, balancing hormones is a fairly complex puzzle as anyone who has tried will attest to. The exciting thing, though, is that the pieces do start to come together and make incremental differences that will build upon each other and ultimately bring about real change and improvement!

To start us off, here are the first five of ten items I want to address, in no particular order:

1) Soy

In a very brief nutshell, here is the main issue with soy as it relates to PCOS:

  • Soy phytoestrogens disrupt endocrine function and have the potential
    to cause infertility and to promote breast cancer in adult women.

To read a fairly short and simple but helpful article on the effects of soy, including on hormones, see Soy: Is it Healthy or Harmful. As well, this Soy Alert! index at the Weston Price site (where the above statement was taken from) is a goldmine of articles addressing all of the various concerns with soy. I can’t say it strongly enough, but soy is NOT the health food that it is promoted to be! In my personal experience, I have previously been told to try using soy for my hormone issues, and it is evident within days that it is doing nothing but throwing me even further off balance, as I grow more irritable, tired, and begin to break out. Soy is a definite no-no, in my books!

2) Refined sugars and grains

I have only addressed it briefly so far, but a large part of the underlying problem in most women with PCOS is the way their body handles blood sugar and their insulin balance. Clearly eating more sugar only exacerbates this problem (particularly refined, white sugar, rather than whole food sweeteners such as fruits or even honey, which are lower on the Glycemic Index than white sugar). Eating foods high on the Glycemic Index (which are usually refined and/or sugary), causes your blood sugar to spike quickly, and then drop, influencing not only your hormones, but also your weight, mood, energy and more.

As for refined grains (source),

We know that eating too much sugar can lead to blood sugar imbalances.
Since white flour breaks down into sugar, it too can lead to blood
sugar problems.
I often work with people suffering from blood sugar problems who try to defend
their diet by claiming that they don’t eat any sugar. Yet they have
a bagel for breakfast, pasta for lunch, pizza for dinner, and snack on pretzels
all day long–not realizing that even though those foods don’t
taste sweet, they quickly turn into sugar! As far as your blood sugar is
concerned, your body doesn’t know the difference between a teaspoon
of sugar and a slice of white bread!

Of interest: Replacing White Flour with Whole Grains in Four Simple Steps, Adjusting your Taste Buds Part 1, and Part 2, and Traditional Diets (an excellent overview of Weston Price’s findings and dietary suggestions)

3) Environmental Estrogens

These are chemicals (usually toxic) which act similarly to estrogen in our bodies. Technically, these environmental estrogens are called “xenoestrogens”, and they are a major problem because they mimic and disrupt hormones, and can actually trick the body into thinking that it has too many or not enough hormones, and can seriously mess with our delicate hormonal balance. Many of us have bodies that are on a bit of an estrogen overload, or have “estrogen dominance” as it is often referred to. Here is a great article which explains this concept.

A few specific places to avoid these xenoestrogens: pesticides, herbicides, conventional meat (given growth hormones), plastics (BPA, PCV, dioxin, etc.), fabric softener and dryer sheets, soy, beauty products (pthalates and petroleum-derived chemicals like parabens)

Some of the information out there is a bit sketchy, but these are some of the better lists that I was able to find of environmental estrogens and how to avoid them: Environmental Estrogens and Xenoestrogens Interfere with your Normal Hormones, and Health and Xenoestrogens (note- I don’t know much about either site, so be discerning- I’m recommending these sites/articles solely for their lists and info on what to avoid, nothing else). As well, here’s a good article from EWG on Nine Ways to Avoid Household Toxins. I know this is a lot of information and links, but take what you can from it and don’t stress out about the rest! You can always come back to look at it again later.

4) The Pill

The pill
Upon diagnosis of PCOS, most doctors will quickly pull out their prescription pad and suggest using the birth control pill to “regulate or establish regular menstrual cycles”. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Though the Pill gives the appearance of a regular cycle, in actuality it is suppressing the natural hormones that cause a woman’s cycle to occur, and the bleeding that comes about at the end of the month is a false, withdrawal bleed, not the result of a completed menstrual cycle. This completely undermines our efforts against PCOS, as it suppresses and upsets the hormonal balance that we are trying so hard to re-establish. What we want to do, as I will discuss more in future posts, are things that will support a normal hormonal balance and thus a naturally occurring menstrual cycle, rather than one controlled by drugs!

In addition, the Pill has these (among many, many other) effects, that also fight against those of us with PCOS:

In Solved: The Riddle of Illness, Dr. Stephen Langer writes
“the Pill. . . can cause severe bodily damage in hypothyroidism.” Oral contraceptives may aggravate insulin resistance and longterm
risk of diabetes and heart disease… Many women taking the Pill have reported weight gain–a sign
of estrogen dominance and/or insulin resistance–as well as depression
and even psychosis.

Excellent information on this topic in the article Rethinking Reproductive Health, and Just Say “No” to Birth Control Pills (and no, I’m not trying to give my opinion on what method of birth control to use, if anything, but am only trying to highlight some of the dangers of using the Pill specifically).

5) Caffeine

Forgetting for the moment all of the other reasons you know that coffee (and other caffeinated beverages) are bad for you, let’s focus on a few that may have a direct impact on PCOS:

  • Coffee and other stimulants increase insulin levels, a definite negative for those struggling to control insulin and blood sugar levels
  • In general, caffeine intake has been linked to lowered fertility rates (this is somewhat debated- there are stats on both sides of the debate)
  • Caffeine contributes to acidity in the body (rather than neutral or slightly on the alkaline side as they should be). This acidity can impact hormonal balance.
  • At the very least, caffeine minimizes absorption of important minerals and other nutrients, and can even cause our body to excrete (get rid of) excess nutrients through our urine. When trying to build a healthy body with a healthy hormonal balance, we want to keep every nutrient we take in!

Next week, I’ll cover the next 5 things to avoid, and then I’ll move on to some of the things that we want to add in to our diets, as well as lifestyle changes and supplements that can help!

For what it’s worth, to those who may be looking at this list and feeling discouraged, I don’t do it all perfectly. Out of these five and the next five, the two that I really struggle with the most are sugar and caffeine. I’ve mentioned before that I grew up eating a lot of junk, and with a real addiction to sugar and coffee. Old habits die hard. Though I have gone through long seasons (since working on my health) where I have been completely caffeine and/or sugar free, I have not managed to do either one continuously. At home, I find it easy to avoid sugar, but when out with friends, I struggle with saying no and feeling left out. When it comes to coffee, I find I can give it up pretty easily, but then when I move into seasons of extra stress and tiredness, I pick it back up as a comfort food and a way to cope with fatigue.

I am currently working to seriously cut both refined sugar and caffeine completely out of my diet once again, as I know full well the effects they have on my body. I hope it’s helpful to know that I’m not some sort of wonderwoman who finds this all to be a piece of cake. It’s natural to struggle to give some of these things up, but I want to encourage you (and myself) to keep pressing on and doing the best we can to steward our bodies and our health, for His glory!


6) Vegetarianism/ Low-Fat Diets 

There are a few really good reasons to keep up your intake of both animal products and good fat sources in order to promote a healthy reproductive system:

  • Being underweight can seriously compromise your cycle and fertility (and eating both vegetarian or low-fat can both contribute to having a BMI that is too low)
  • There is growing evidence that low-fat dairy and diets in general contribute to decreased fertility
  • Vitamin A is an incredibly important nutrient when it comes to healthy fertility and pregnancy (more on this to come), but despite all the hype about receiving it adequately through plant sources, it’s most usable form is found in (you guessed it) animal products and full fat dairy! Check out this Diet for Pregnant and Nursing Mothers, put together based on the traditional, cultural diets for women during their child-bearing years. These would be great suggestions to take to heart!
  • These diets include insufficient (but absolutely necessary) dietary components such as good cholesterol, Vitamin D and essential fatty acids (all important for reproduction). See this article for more on how diet affects women’s reproductive health.

7) Conventional Tampons and Pads

Many women may have heard of more natural or reusable (cloth) products for women, but the reason is most often either for environmental concern, frugality, or comfort. What is unknown to many women is that both tampons and pads contain chemicals that are harmful to our bodies, including to our reproductive systems and also our level of fertility.

I mentioned last time that we need to be aware of environmental estrogens and do our best to avoid them, many of which are harmful chemicals found in food, beauty products and household products. So let’s just add tampons and pads to the list of products containing unwanted toxins, which is particularly concerning when you consider the close and prolonged contact these products have with vulnerable parts of our body. Most (except for the natural brands) contain high levels of chlorine, from bleaching. As well,

Chemicals in tampons include dioxin caused by bleached rayon, aluminium, alcohol, and additives which also produce dioxin. (source)

Dioxin is a particularly toxic chemical, quite possibly one of the most toxic out there, and any amount introduced to our bodies may be harmful. For a really good overview and a wealth of links on the topic, see this site. As well, there are links to reproductive and hormonal disorders specifically, such as this article on Tampons and Endometriosis, and this one on Dioxin and Male Sterility, and this EWG article which mentions the possible link between chemicals and reproductive system disruptions..

For more on the topic of women’s products and alternatives, as well as some more links to safety and health issues, see this previous post of mine.

8) Trans Fatty Acids

I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all heard that we should avoid trans fatty acids. So why should those with PCOS avoid them in particular? Two basic reasons:

  • They’ve been connected to a decrease in the response of blood cells to insulin, which is not good news for those with diabetes or any other insulin related disorder. I mentioned last time that those with PCOS struggle to balance blood sugar and maintain correct insulin levels, so eating trans fats will only exacerbate this problem. (Sources- Here, here, and here)
  • They also interfere with the conversion of omega 3 fatty acids, and can promote further deficiency of these all important fats, which most of us already struggle with as it is. As I mentioned above, EFA’s are important for a healthy reproductive system, as are all good fats. (Again, you can find more about this topic deep in the midst of this detailed interview of fats expert, Mary Enig, PhD).

As trans fat labeling laws are not yet ideal yet, don’t rely on the packaging to tell you whether or not they are present in a food. Look in the ingredients for the words “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” or even “shortening” before deciding to indulge.

9) Toxins in Food

Lastly, there is yet another area of toxic chemical exposure to examine, and that is sadly in our food. Here are a few ways that food additives, pesticides and contaminating chemicals have an effect on PCOS and hormone balance:

BPA– Found in canned foods (through the inner lining of the can). Increases insulin resistance, mimics estrogen, and is linked to recurrent miscarriages (source). Here are some tips for avoiding BPA.

MSG/Aspartame– MSG is found is the great majority of packaged foods (see this list of names it goes by), and Aspartame is in chewing gum (nearly every brand!), diet sodas and other beverages, “sugar-free” treats, some candies, and more. “What causes PCOSExcess intake of substances such as excitatory amino
acids, found in many food additives like MSG, aspartame,
glutamate, etc. that affect the pituitary regulation of
the ovary cycles
” (source). As well, MSG intake greatly reduces the success of achieving pregnancy (source).

Pesticides– Many (DDT,
vinclozolin, endosulfan, toxaphene, dieldrin, and DBCP, to name a few) have hormone-like activity (source). Pesticides in general are thought to be endocrine disrupters (disrupting the work of the thyroid gland, which governs hormones), including Monsanto’s Roundup in particular (a very common pesticide). One study of 3 common farm fertilizers specifically showed endocrine/thyroid disruption. See my post on knowing what to buy organic, and also on washing your produce.

Where to go from here

Now that we’ve looked at some of the Don’ts of living with PCOS, I’m eager to move on to the Do’s! In the upcoming weeks, I’ll begin to take a look at important dietary changes and improvements to make, supplements to consider, as well as lifestyle tools that can have a positive impact.

For those who have been following this series so far, I hope that you’re beginning to be excited (and not discouraged) as we look at the information that is out there. Though there is work to be done, and things to be changed, I think it is hopeful to realize that improved health is not beyond our grasp. I don’t know about you, but I love to learn that there are actually things that I can do, and that I don’t have to live in passive acceptance of the status quo when it comes to my health!

Which things do you find the hardest to avoid? What do you think about these suggestions? Thoughts and/or suggestions from those who are already trying to put these things into practice?

What are your thoughts on these first five items? Which is most difficult for you? What strategies do you use for avoiding any of these items?

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  1. I really appreciate your blog. I have struggled with PCOS my whole life, and you are the first person I have heard talk about natural solutions to address the symptoms of this disease. No doctor has ever mentioned dietary changes or anything other than going on the pill, taking metformin, and trying fertility treatments when ready to conceive. Because of my symptoms, I finally broke down and had a hysterectomy a few weeks ago at the age of 33. I wish that I had known to try some of the things you suggest before making this decision….perhaps my surgery could have been postponed or avoided. However, we are incredibly grateful for the gift of our 3-yr-old daughter, Grace. I will keep reading your blog and I want to make many of the changes you suggest to improve my health. Thanks so much for the great info!

  2. Joanna, I am so sorry to hear about your surgery. What a difficult decision that must have been. It is so unfortunate that most doctors are not willing to talk about the natural options for improving PCOS. It makes me frustrated, and it is a large part of why I write what I write. I hope that the health changes you are making now do help you! And what a blessing that you were able to have your daughter before this happened. Blessings on you!

  3. Awesome! Thank you! I was SO hoping that wehn I came here tonight I’d find another PCOS post! WOO HOO! I can’t WAIT for the next one.

    I find it very easy to not have caffeine, as it seems to be THE biggest factor is shakiness and insulin stuff during the day. Plus, as you can tell, I’m pretty animated without it. The hardest for me is the pill – mostly because the doc told me that no matter what for the rest of my life until menopause I need to be on Clomid or Birth Control -Comforting, huh?!?! However, I have been losing weight and this is my third month off the pill and my cycle is still NORMAL!!! How is that even possible? Maybe a month or two more until it gets all freaky again?

  4. Definitely sugar! I lived on it when I was in my teen years, and to this day, it is a struggle to stay away from it. But I have noticed it’s one of the biggest things that contribute to my PCOS. If I can stay away from sugar on an almost daily basis, I’m much better off and actually cycle every once in awhile. Before, I’d go literally years without a cycle. And caffeine only calls my name on those nice cold winter mornings. All I want is a nice hot cup of latte. I’ve found that a cup of organic cocoa made with raw milk satisfies almost as much, when I really feel the need.

    *and Kellie – my doctors have told me the same thing! Yet I totally proved them wrong 🙂

  5. It looks as if most of your information comes from the Weston A. Price site. I believe that a lot of the information from there is questionable, certainly not scientifically proven, so I really think you should look for other sources. They are very biased about a lot of things when they don’t (or might not) need to be, IMO. And they promote a diet that is not sustainable for everyone in the long run.

    I think there is too much controversy about soy. I haven’t fully made an opinion, so I continue to eat it in small amounts. This doesn’t seem to cause me a problem.

    I totally agree with #2, and I think that’s probably the hardest for me. I usually buy whole grain products, but I still love refined sugar! 😉

    I’m not sure of the impact of environmental sources (#3) but it just seems reasonable that people should limit their contacts with them. Some are hard to avoid, but some are very easy to change. We’ve been working on that.

    I think the pill has been useful for a lot of women with PCOS, but I admit, I don’t know what adverse effects they may experience. I know that it doesn’t work for me personally, but it has nothing to do with PCOS for me.

    Caffeine…oh boy. I used to love the stuff, but it doesn’t love me anymore. So there are times when I really miss it. 😉 Again, I doubt my intolerance of it has anything to do with my PCOS, but who knows. 😉

  6. Stephanie~ I can’t tell you enough how much I appreciate your posts about PCOS. I can see so many similarities between you and I in the way you think and the things that you do. My thoughts and prayers are for Joanna who had the hysterectomy. I am 33 also. Thankfully, so far I have avoided such procedures. Doctor’s have really frustrated me also. Having stevia on hand has helped me to avoid sugar. I make smoothies with kefir and yogurt and fruit and I add a small amount of stevia to that along with coconut oil and flax seed. I, like you, am on a mission to be sugar free; however, I have moments here and there when I cave in to the temptation. But those times are getting farther and farther apart. I am getting stronger and wiser and more dedicated. How do you feel about green tea. I know it has some caffiene, but it does have the protien L-Theanine in it that is supposed to have a calming effect. Do you consider it okay? I think the Weston A.Price Foundation is a great resource. The benefits of the common sense found there has been made evident in different cultures and in my life personally. I took birth control and metformin for a year several years ago. I only got worse. The only thing that has helped is eating things that God created for me. Great post! Great comments! Please keep the PCOS info coming!

  7. Stephanie – Thank you so much for posting! I am 35 and have had a terrible time with PCOS. I have lived on birth control pills, metformin and clomid for years (not anymore, thankfully!). My husband and I tried for YEARS to have a child when we were finally blessed with our daughter, which I believe was through God’s grace alone. After having her, I decided not to continue with all of those pills as they didn’t make anything better but seemed only to make things worse. Sadly, in 6 years there have been no other children for us but I am so thankful for all that I have in my daughter. I am so frustrated that this condition is so prevalent, the leading cause of infertility in women yet, the medical community seems to have nothing more to offer other than a bunch of pills and a “wait and see attitude”.

    Thanks for letting me vent!



  8. I am 24 and have been diagnosed with PCOS. The symptoms came up after I stopped yasmin and then I was put on the trial for the ‘Neuvo ring’. I went off the neuvo ring because it caused huge problems in my longterm relationship and then shortly aftyer that I became pregnant. However my then partner convinced me that an abortion was the best option as we were not ‘ready ‘ to have a child.
    After my abortion, I started to get acne and mild hituism, I put on a little bit of weight, but not much and i became very manic.
    A few months later I went back on Yasmin, but I bled the whole tome, I then switched to Vallete and that made me experience post abortion stress disorder and severe Depression. So as of March this year I stopped all hormonal Therapies and my moods and weight were completley out of balance, even though I was exercising, and eating well as I have always done.
    I had an ultrasound later this year, only to reveal that I have possible polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
    After talking to many women about the issue, I realize it is more common than not.
    A referred gynocologist tells me I need to go on Dianne and then Clomid when I want to have Children.
    This Gyno knew about my recent reactions to hormonal therapies. I listened to him, as he is so highly regarded. That said,
    I went on Dianne for 7 days, I had a bipolar episode and almost died, I was hospitalised and am lucky to be alive.
    Dianne was so strong, I was nauseous and teary the whole time.
    I know that it may seem that I am blaming these hormonal therapies, but I’m not. I just dont remember if my body functions well or not on it’s own, because i was on Yasmnin for so long. i dont want to punish my body anymore.
    I am having acupuncture, herbs, and Hypnotherapy at the moment.
    I think my body is on the mend.
    Thankyou, as I dont want the pill to ever be an option

  9. Hi everybody. Thank you for this article. This is my second cicle on clomid and although the gyno increased the dosagge, my “ovulation” was even worst than last period.
    I´m suposed to ovulate tomorrow but I don`t even have a leading follicule. Last month I had a decent, eventhough late, follicule. But nothing at all this month.
    This month I switched from cow milk (has a lot of DHT)to soy milk. Also took one glass of flaxseed daily. Now I understand why I shouldn´t drink any more soy milk. But is it the same for flaxseed?
    Please, if anyone knows if flaxseed should not be taken with clomid, please post back.
    Thank you very much,

  10. Silvia, from my understanding, there shouldn’t be a problem with taking with taking the flaxseed. To my understanding, it doesn’t have nearly the same estrogenic effect that soymilk does (and good for you to get off the soy!). However, I wouldn’t take too large of a dose of it, to be on the safe side. By one glass, I assume you mean a glass of water with some ground flaxseed mixed in, which I would think should be fine.

  11. Hello, Im 24 years old and just found out that i have PCOS, I am a mother of an 18 month old and noticed all the changes in my body after i had him. At first I didnt want to believe it so I continued living and eating the way I always have until I noticed things changing like thining of hair and breaking out really really bad. My doctor told me that in order for the systoms to stop I needed to be on birth control and Metformin. I have been taking birth control and Metformin for three months now and noticed that my systoms are getting worse. I have always had really thick hair and you could never see my scalp, now you can totally see my scalp and its really depressing, I’ve been searching the internet to find information on what to eat because my whole life i’ve never eaten healthy so I really dont even know where to begin.
    I finally had a break down the other day and realized that I’m not normal and I need to change my eating habbits and take care of my body, but I still find myself crying because I feel that im so young and I have to deal with this and of course none of my friends understand because they dont even know what PCOS is. But I know that I need to deal with it and get my life back on track in a healthier way. Ill miss candy and coffee but I know I need to stop. I would like to know from anyone what they eat if they are craving chocolate? because chocolate and ice cream are my absolute favorite, I think im addicted to it……LOL.
    Thank you so much for putting this website up, I feel alot better after reading everyone’s comments, I dont feel alone anyone. 🙂

  12. The information here about the pill and its negative impact on the body makes me really nervous. Once I hit puberty, I gained a lot of weight and a lot of body hair out of nowhere. I was miserable and felt very unattractive–the only thing that wasn’t threatened was that I had a very regular monthly schedule.

    When I started the pill, within the next two years I noticed a fantastic shift–my features softened and looked feminine again, and the excess and confidence-crushing body hair lightened and thinned. It was a tremendous boon to my overall emotional well-being, so this news makes me very concerned and scared. I hope it will not be a long-term problem for me to remain on it since my menstrual cycle was regular from the start.

  13. your comments on PCOS on the whole were interesting:
    As a scientist and a PCOS sufferer I’ve done a lot of reading on soy and PCOS. I can say one thing there are no answers out there, the only conclusive bit of research I’ve seen when it comes to soy suggests no effects hormonally only a lowering of LDL cholesterol which is a good thing…

  14. I am 23 and just diagnosed with PCOS. I have always been “over weight” but now i know why! But now that i know what i need to know im looking for some helpful ways to start eating better. I have cut pop out totaly, I only drink a few cups of coffee on the weekends and when im at the mall, im watching my portions but im still having alot of issues with the eating better…blah blah blah that i can stand from my dietitian. I have been on metformin for about 2 months now and have taken birth controll pills in the past but i have an issue remebering to take them. So i am concidering using merina (iud) my gyno and i have talked about this and we feel this is the best idea for me. sorry i know this is all mumble jumble of stuff but im just looking for some help to help myself get on the right track!

  15. Some one once told me that she read an article that stated if you have PCOS, your body is not absorbing sodium. This felt true to me because my body was already mimicking signs and symptoms and too much sodium with just a bite of one meal. The taste lingered in my mouth, causing me to crave sweets. So I have cut out sodium in my own cooking and concentrated sweets. I now crave a salad instead of a donut. But I was am a vegan, trying to eat meat again. I’ rather not eat meat, but I read that that is the “cure” to PCOS. My symptoms did improve while eating meat.

  16. Interesting, since I started drinking soy milk, my pcos and hirsutism got so much better. Also exercise and eat small portions of meals is helping me a lot. I eat several times a day. I eat 6 t0 8 times a day, exercise every day for 45 minutes, and I drink soy milk half glass before each meal. I was in the Atkins diet and make my hirsutism and constipation worse. I tried to be vegan and that was hell for me.(the sugar in fruit make my pcos and hirsutism really painful) The soy milk helps me a lot with my body temperature( I have hypoglycemia symptoms) but, I do not have Diabetes. It also makes my skin soft, helps my nails grow faster and stronger and my body looks better, I am finally getting rid of my apple’s body shape. Something else is helping me is b12 vitamin and a probiotic called Lalacult. It has 26 billion of active lactobacillus. It is the best probiotic I have ever tried, Kefir is not even close to this one, and Yakult is not strong enough even though looks so similar to Lalacult. Exercise, exercise is going to help you a lot with the blood circulation and memory and concentration problems which I used to have a lot.

    Something I always asked my self was if soy milk is soo bad. why asians don’t have any of those problems as we do?? Also I have many male classmates that drink soysilk in the morning, and they do not have health problems, no thyroid problems or something else.

    1. Alice, the key problem with PCOS is that the cause is not really known. There are a lot of theories. One of those is that PCOS may be triggered as a result of a food intolerance. I suspect the causes may be many hence why they find it hard to pin down a fixed cause and hence why different symptoms manifest and y different changes help different people. Soy products are not recommended by many studies as they are high in eostrogen. However it sounds like dairy may be your culprit. Even if soy is not ideal, dairy in alotbof respects is worse. There are lots of hormones present in milk and a lot of other compounds that could be significantly detrimental to pcos sufferes. In addition studies suggest the majority of the population may suffer with varying degrees of lactose intolerance. Im curious, have you replaced milk with soy? I am curios to know if the reason you are better isn’t because soy is a wonder drug but more to do with dairy being the culprit as I’m looking at dropping that myself. Here is an interesting article I just read. click ‘dont be a dairy queen’ in paragraph one too 🙂

  17. This is such a wonderful site, I’m 24 and lately found out that I have PCOS, it is so hard for me because when I see my period it comes and don’t want to stop and lead to excess bleeding and most time i’m in and out of the hospital, taking blood, because my blood count runs very low. The Doctor wanted to put me on birth controll pills, but I say no, is like I dont know what to do. I’m married for 3 years now and my husband wanted a child and I don’t know when and if i will be able to give birth, just hoping and praying that God will grant me my wish:which I know he will. The trouble part of it is that the Doctor’s not even working hard enough for people who have PCOS.

  18. I was diagnosed Friday with pcos I am 26. I had pregnancy scares but I got on depo-provera at age 13 staye d on it until age 19 and I had extended periods when I stopped so the doctor recommended birth control so I continued was on different types some made me feel nausea vomiting. I never had spent time off the pill to determine I had pcos Nov. 2010 I stopped birth control a year later I concieved my first pregnancy I aborted it was with thhe wrong guy I am not sure if the lord will give me another chance but now I regret the abortion and over that year I. Stayed off borth control my periods came every 2 weeks at least it was regular

  19. I am 28 and got diagnosed with pcos last week. I also have an underactive thyroid and high corrisol levels. I do eat fairly helathy but i love my coffee and also like wine with dinner. Should i stop drinking both? I will start clomid nect week as my husband and i are trying to conceive

    1. I would probably try to at least cut back on both, if you’re finding it hard to cut them out altogether. Particularly the coffee, because that is more likely to affect your cortisol levels. I would also consider some things to boost your thyroid function (I can’t speak to this directly, as I have little experience in it, but I would do some research and see what types of foods or supplements would be helpful before turning to any meds- I know for a fact that seafood and supplements like kelp are very important for thyroid function, but I’m not too sure beyond that).

  20. At 20, I recently learned the upsetting news that I had PCOS…it explained my soaring testosterone levels, why I couldn’t weight, and excessive body hair. The cure to PCOS is to lose weight, but it’s nearly impossible. Everything I love is destroying me….Quitting sugar/refined carbs is no problem, but caffeine? It’s so sad that this disorder exists and has ruined my life. I just hope I can cure myself of it. And I agree w/ this article, birth control pills do not work. I’m so depressed I hope I can fix this.

  21. My name is Danielle and I am 30yrs old and have been diagnosed with pcos years ago and been through hell with it and I have just gotten married in Feb of this yr and so far nothing yet and my dr has put me on provera to start a period and clomid to make me ovulate and that is the problem I don’t ovulate and haven’t yet even on the med. This month I have taken the provera and supposed to start a period in 7days and so far I haven’t so the dr said try one more wk and if nothing then come in, I’m just hoping and praying I get one this time because it’s already on day 10 and nothing!

  22. Thank you so much for this site…i am 26, diagnosed with pcos for a few years now…thought it was under control however the past 2 months have been the worst months of my life due to pcos facial hair that keeps getting worse, mood swings, blood sugar keeps dropping, i have been bleeding for 3 weeks now after not bleeding at all for over 12 months….of course i have been married 6 years and unable to become pregnant, i have been put on depo shots, and metformin to try and help, however i think the depo shots have made my symptoms worse….i have had a really bad day today thinking about all my symptoms, and came across this and read the other post, it is really nice to know i am not alone and my body is not the only one that acts crazy haha….i am going to try some of the advice given above…Good luck ladies with pcos i will think of you and you think of me WE CAN FEEL BETTER TOGETHER (i hope)

    1. Hi,

      I know exactly how upsetting the facial hair can be but I was determined to get rid of it so I have IPL every forthright even if I havent had any growth and for the last five months I have been completely hair free. I am 31 and was diagnosed at 22 when I went from 55kgs to 75kgs in less then six months which I found devastating and couldn’t fall pregnant after having no problem with my first. I was extremely depressed but decided to not eat carbs at night and limitedmy bread, sugar and pasta intake, anyway after a year I had lost 15kgs and fell pregnant with my second, I really struggled but making a life style change has helped, I also research and take any advice from other women with PCOS. I now struggle with my 14yr old daughter who has been diagnosed with PCOS 🙁 I find it so stressful as she has all the daunting symptoms and finds it so unfair. Hang in there ladies and stay positive. IPL is a must its given me my confidence back

  23. Thanks for this. I have pcos and I’m addicted to caffeine. I’m also trying to go 100% vegan and notice breakouts a lot lately.. Maybe its the soy? Well i definitely have to wing myself off the caffeine.. I would like to have another baby soon, and abutting that will help the chances I’m totally open to. Even if it is coffee. Thanks

  24. I was just put on Metformin. I have a one day period with pain that last for anywhere from one week to a solid two weeks. I have 2 children a 10year old clomid and a surprise child 8 years later. I am 34 and my Dr wants me to have a hysterectomy. The pain is rough debilitating to be honest. I am so tired all the time. I tried the Advocare diet no such luck for help losing with pcos.My sex drive is gone. It was always overactive and now mostly gone. I am depressed about all this and feel like there isnt much hope. I would love any types of suggestions. I know the Metformin is going to be rough, already tried it once and had to stop because of GI issues.The hot flashes make me angry the lack of sex drive makes it rough on my marriage the not being able to lose a pound is making me crazy!!! I have no intention on having anymore children. I just want to feel like myself again. A endocrinologist wants me to see a gyno about testostrone/estrogen implants. Anyone ever tried anything like this?

  25. I have been suffering with PCOS for about 6.5 years. During this time, I have grown what seems like a full beard, have loss of concentration, am constantly fatigued, no period, and very consistent weight gain yearly. I am newly married (hence I refuse to let any of my facial hair be seen) and would like to start having children in about a year or two. Pregnancy is not at the top of my concern at this point because I am a full-time grad student, but I am concerned about my overall health. Ive been drinking soy milk, taking NAC (N-acetyl cysteine), and will be staring birth control again soon. Ive limited coffee intake for the most part and will soon have to start taking another supplement to help with my fatigue.
    Im not really sure what to do concerning my appetite. I eat like hungry man Jack, which is neither cute or cost effective. I need real advice, from real people (preferably who have some background in medicine, or research– since I am a researcher) who are struggling with PCOS – who were NOT pregnant before they found out they have PCOS, and who are either trying to get pregnant or currently with child. I would like to hear stories or suggestions from theses types of individuals, not just for tips on regulation, but for encouragement for those of us who hope for a brighter tomorrow.

  26. Thanks for a useful information on this site… its very informative in my part coz I’m currently diagnosed with PCOS, me and my husband wanted to have a child. what should I do, pls help me…

    1. Hi Elvie! I would like to give you a little encouragement! i have PCOS…but it is a continuum….i have many many cysts, hair probs (ugh!), overweight, etc….(oh- acne at 39, lovely)…but i do get my period. and i had a baby in 2009! (my 2nd…1st was at age 21 years ago when i did not have pcos) I guess my point is that you might not have to have this big recovery/ reversal from pcos entirely before you get pregnant. a few small changes might make the difference. i wonder if you get periods? I think Stephanie is right on the money, esp. avoiding soy and sugar. I used to eat a lot of soy, and only recently learned about probs w soy. if you have trouble getting preg. i suggest a nutritionist. so many health problems are diet-related, and foods def. affect our hormones. Well, Elvie, thanks for reading my two cents! i wish you all the luck- and babies- you wish for! 🙂 ~paige

  27. Hi everyone….I was just on here reading about soy and pcos. When I was 21 I was severly obese, had facial hair, never ending or non existent periods and could not for the life of me get pregnant. I ended up divorced and having weight loss surgery and got down to 160 lbs. Got pregnant a year later and got pregnant again right after and again right after…my children are all 1 year and 1 month apart ….lol. Anyway I just wanted to post on here that there is hope…Lose weight!!! Go on a diet and if you cant try to get wls….it will save your life. I get regular periods now…I still get facial hair but that doesn’t go away unless you get a medication that starts with an s..don’t remember think its a blood pressure medication…it actually reduces the male hormone (bigger breasts and less facial hair) There is hope but it really boils down to losing weight!

  28. I was diagnosed with PCOS when I was 18. I was put on birth control…i don’t like taking it.
    I stopped when i was about 22 and I went back on it about a year ago. (I am 24 now) I keep trying to tell my doctor I don’t want to be on this pill and there has to be another way, he gets frustrated and says “Stop taking it if you want to grow a mustache” ….I was looking at other options and stumbled upon something called Insulight (sp?!)Has anyone heard of this?

  29. Hi.
    At 26 I was diagnosed with PCOS. i was 50 kgs and pick up 25 kgs within 3 months and my periods had stopped for 5 months. I went to a gynaecologist and he prescribed the pill. At the time i was not married nor did I want to have kids and as I knew nothing about the effects that PCOS had on fertility or the effects of the pill for that matter, i didn’t mind going on it.
    Over the last 6 years I have battled to lose weight, with every diet or new thing on the market including exercise, I have never got below 65 kgs. Only to send my period once again out of whack and pick up all the weight I’d lossed, back again.
    I stopped the pill when I had discovered that it was responsible for my once very think hair thinning.
    I would lose close to a 1000 (100 a day in total is normal) strands just by combing my hair. Chunks of hair would fall in the shower. Also I had a 32 D cup size and now I wear a 32 GG. This scared me. I started having tremendous back pains I have physiotherapy 4 times a week because of this. I have since stopped the pill a year ago. The effects are still taking time to wear off hence I am still not pregnant.
    I have been on numerous PCOS meds (Glucophage (Metformin) / Utrogestan, etc). one medication always counteracts the other.
    I have also been diagnosed with Diabetes as a result of the PCOS.
    From my research I have learned that PCOS is different for each woman. What I do know is that PCOS is worsened by stress. The only way to manage it (as it cannot be cured) is by allowing your body to be as normal / natural as possible. It is not natural to consume pills. These pills anyway work one day and not the next. My remedy for a almost normal life is:
    2 years ago I have decided not to take any pills or listen to any more doctors. I decided to be healthy on my own. I figured it couldn’t be any worse than what I was doing before. So I decided to listen to my body.
    Listen to your body:
    Get at least 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. Whilst a power nap does wonders for you in the day the 7-8 hours sleep must occur at night as our bodies are designed to sleep at night and be awake in the day. Sleep is essential. Do not compromise on it.
    Drink 2 -3 litres of water a day (this will not affect your kidneys negatively – I have researched this for years). 2 litres will give your body what it needs and the 3rd litre will aid our body with the weight loss. Do not consume sodas (even sugar free) as this adds no value to your body. Also do not drink fruit juices as you will get all the nutrients you need from the fruit itself.
    Do not consume bad carbs (sugar; breads; pastas; rice; in essence anything that it flour; wheat or sugar based. (Whilst this is tough – understand that this is something you have do). I pretend I am allergic to it and that make all the difference. It is sometimes hard to resist though. I just keep a record of all the times I do give in to the temptation and that helps me as I visualise the harm I cause to my body. Now I end up having cup of coffee maybe once a month.
    Eat a balanced diet which consists of proteins (red meat; chicken; fish and eggs) and vegetables (most green and preferably fresh) in every meal. Portion control is very important. Do not exceed 200 grams when trying to lose weight. Eat 3 meals a day preferably at the same time of day. Set up reminders if you have to. Do not eat processed food.
    Snack on 2 fruit a day preferably between breakfast; and lunch and again between Lunch and dinner – this is where you will provide your body with the essential natural sugars your body needs.
    I have since lost 33.2kgs (I was 83.2kgs at my worst) in a period of 8 months and I have kept it off for over a year now.
    My gynaecologist advises that my body has total absorbed my cysts and that the diabetes is also under control.
    As for children: sometimes God bestows such blessings upon you at His will. We must just be patients. After 2 years of being married and focusing on my health it is now time to open myself to receiving what God has in store for us.

    Good luck to all the women out there enduring this journey. Know that you are not alone. God has his hands on you always.
    Just remember of all the things that can be wrong we have something that can be managed and when managed will lead us to a long healthy productive and fruitful life. If cancers can be beaten we can definitely manage this.

    Good luck; God bless and stay strong.

  30. I was first diagnosed with PCOS when I was 14. Unfortuntely, I developed early and got my first period when I was only nine years old so it would only make sense that problems would ensue. As I got older, my periods were never very regular. Sometimes I could go three months without a period, but I assured myself that it wasn’t a big deal. I finally decided to go to the doctor when I went 10 months without a period. It was the scariest experience for me. When I finally got my period I had to go to the hospital because I was sure that my insides were rupturing; I’d never felt such intense pain in my life.
    I was immediately put on the pill, and it definitely gave me a regular menstrual cycle, but I still developed a hair problem (worst thing ever) and I get uncontrollable breakouts. I’m still confused about my condition and I’m worried that I won’t be able to have children in the future… But I’m trying to improve my health and hopefully alleviate my complications.
    Thank you all so much for sharing here. Even if it doesn’t immediately fix anything, it’s wonderful to know that I’m not alone.

    1. Hi Amber,
      I too have PCOS and I feel so out of control with my body. My friends always teased me for being a “hairy” Italian, and for a while I thought it was due to using a razor to remove the little “stash” I had going on. Needless to say I have an endless supply of tweezers in my home and car to keep from looking like a man. I’m thinking about laser hair removal or that prescription cream Vaniqua. I too suffer from acne. It’s not horrendous, but it’s that stubborn acne that never goes away. It’s nice to hear someone else has gone almost a whole year without a period. My last one was labor day in 2012. I’m overweight, my diet sucks, I exercise 3-4x a week but I feel like I will never lose any weight. I was told that the pill and hormone therapy are my only options if I want to “fix” this.

      Hope to hear from you


  31. My name is Paige, I’m almost 16 and in about September of last year I was diagnosed with PCOS.
    I have to take the pill everyday for the rest of my life – until I decide to have children.
    I hate having to worry about what I eat and about how my life will turn out.

  32. Hi Steph,

    I was recently diagnosed with PCOS a few weeks ago. My family has a long history of diabetes and other insulin related disorders. As far as I know, I am the only one with PCOS in my family. I was a very athletic child growing up, and when I hit puberty I started to gain some weight. I have never had a regular period and the heavier I got the farther apart my periods were. Currently I am at 230 lbs and I am attending kickboxing several times a week. My obgyn suggested that I go on the pill to prevent ovarian cancer, or I can take hormone therapy. I don’t like any of these options. I’m scared, confused, and I don’t know where to start. I need advice. The more the better. I look forward to your future posts.


    Cristine M.
    New Jersey.

  33. I have was diagnosed with PCOS at the age of 9. I went on clomid and metformin at the age of 23 to get pregnant. It took several years. I then went back to taking Yaz, which works great at controlling the symptoms. I began to get severe migrains a few years ago and now high blood pressure, so my Gyno took me off the Yaz due to a risk of stroke. I am now loosing my hair and the symptoms are taking over my body and I am so upset I can barely function. I would almost rather risk a stroke than live like this with my hair falling out, bad acne and excessive hair in all the wrong places. Any suggestions? I read that spironalactone and hair shampoo might help?

  34. Hi
    I was not getting my regular periods. Doctor put me on pills.. 2 years ago I got sick because I used to feel nausea.. I couldn’t not digest food. I used to vomit almost everyday. I was then diagnosed with pcos. Doctor told me to continue on birth control…. That was the worst decision I feel… I changed my place and had to change my doctor. The new doc told me not take pills and suggested me to loose weight exercise and all.. But she suggested me some othe harmonal medicine to get periods…(primolut) I don’t want to be on medicines. I had my last period on 14th march 2013 that was because of medicine… Now I want get pregnent…what should I do.??? Should I wait for my periods…? I really want to conceive…

  35. Hello,
    Im 29 years old and was diagnosed with PCOS at the age of 15, 15 to 19 were the worst years of my life I gained alot of weight using birth control to control my periods my problem was having them for 6 to 8 months at a time. I know I wanted to kill myself. I stopped taking the birth control pills at age 20 and have not taken any more medication for this disorder, at 21 I was 300 pounds and miserable. I immediately started a heathy lifestyle and over the last 8 years have gotten myself down to 224 pounds and anyone with this disorder knows that its near impossible to lose weight but it is the thing you need to do. I follow a clean eating diet at the moment and it is incredible my periods are not normal still but at least they go away now my energy levels have picked up and i work out 4-5 days a week. If your doing cardio only in your workouts you should probably know that this has a negative affect on your hormone levels and you should switch up 2 cardio days with weight training as weight training normalizes your hormone levels. Im hoping that my advice helps at least 1 of you and just for you to know from personal experience you dont need to be unhappy a negative mind affects your body negatively so stay as positive as you can and choose happiness and a healthy life

  36. I have PCOS and suffer from pre-diabetes and hair growth. My periods have gotten farther apart and I refuse to take birth control. Doctors are so quick to put a Band-Aid on something instead of addressing the underlying issue, smh. I have been on a plant-based (vegan) diet for almost 3 weeks now and have lost almost 5lbs and have noticed a dramatic decrease in the amount and thickness of hairs that grow. I feel that through the research that I have done and my own experience that it is important for us with PCOS to cut out dairy. completely. Give it a try for two weeks and see for yourself it has improved anything.

  37. I am 29 years old and have always thought that I had PCOS. My periods have never been regular, I get acne on my chin, have excessive facial hair growth, and gain weight in my mid section. I, too, found that as I gained more weight, my periods grew further and further apart. About 2 months ago, I decided to eat more healthily. At this point I had not had a period in 8 months. After about a month of cutting out refined sugars, my period came-with a vengeance. I was bleeding heavily (changing an ultra tampon every hour) for four days before I went to the emergency room because I was shaking, had no energy, and was fainting. By the time I got to the ER, my hemoglobin levels had dropped to 6.5 (normal is 12) and I had to have blood transfusions and a D & C to stop the bleeding.

    I’ve been eating a plant based diet and have been on birth control since I left the hospital and can see a huge difference in my symptoms. I am still slightly anemic, but am definitely much more healthy now. It took three weeks for my energy levels to get back to somewhat normal. It is my goal to get off birth control if at all possible, so I am making a concentrated effort to change my dietary habits. I guess I just wanted my story to be a cautionary tale for others-PCOS can be very very dangerous and if you haven’t had a period for a long time, I would highly suggest seeing a doctor so you don’t end up in the ICU like I did.

  38. I agree with everything but caffeine. I mean, I’m not saying it’s not true, but I think it’s a bit like caffeine in pregnancy… a tiny bit doesn’t harm.

    At least for me, I’m not a caffeine addict at this time (I have been in the past) but I have sleeping issues (which I’m not sure how they relate to my PCOS) and somedays I will literally not be able to do anything but stare at the wall and say “What am I supposed to be doing?” without a cup of tea. I do not, however, need two or three cups of coffee. A cup or two of tea is sufficient, and I hope I’m right in thinking that this probably doesn’t harm my PCOS.

    And considering it helps me have more control over my sleep/wake cycle (though I’ve never really been in control) I think that probably helps in hormone management too. Still, I’m abnormal with my sleep issues, I think. But I would also think for anyone, the amount of caffeine in a single cup of tea would be non-harmful. So maybe multiple cups of coffee drinkers should consider switching to tea instead of going cold turkey, as it would be less painful.

  39. When I was young, at the time I started having periods, they were completely irregular. The doc said not to worry about it til I was 16. When it continued, I had my first pap at 17, put on birth control and was on it until I was 28. In my mid 20’s, I was married and we were looking at having kids. That was when I was diagnosed with PCOS. When I learned more about PCOS, I decided to quit taking the pills and go for natural alternatives. I have since started taking vitex and alternate DIM and saw palmetto every other month to regulate my hormones. I’ve also cut all candies, cakes, etc from my diet as well as pop (still have one on occasion) and most processed foods (although I haven’t gone so far as to completely cut all sugar and caffiene). I’ve noticed a huge difference in my facial hair and my periods have come back, although still irregular, at least they happen!

    I highly recommend that women look at reducing and cutting refined sugar, gluten, and dairy products as well as vitex, DIM, saw palmetto (although traditionally for men, those of us with spiked testosterone will notice a big difference!) as well as drinking spearmint tea (spearmint! Not peppermint! Spearmint tea lowers testosterone as well). Treating PCOS with diet is so incredibly important. It also regulates the rest of the pesky things that go along with it – weight gain, facial hair, acne, etc. I still can’t get the annoying acne to go away, though!

  40. probably the worst advice i have ever read in regard to vegetarian diet. meat is a classified carcinogen and causes inflammation in the body and most commercial meat is injected with antibiotics and growth hormones that mess with our own. and i have many vegetarian friends (including myself), none of which are at an unhealthy weight. becoming plant based removed inflammation from the body, and PCOS is an inflammatory disease. please do better research because that part of this just made me discredit this entire post lol

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