Your PCOS Diet Worked for Me, but I Have Vegetarian Concerns
I bought your book a few years back & followed your diet to the best of my ability and it literally healed my body. My periods came back full force in a week and I slowly but surely lost weight. My energy levels and mood improved dramatically.
Not much has happened in the way of reducing my facial hair but 4 out of 5 is not bad... and it hasn't become any worse. I read every one of the newsletters as they are informative and give me hope when I feel down about having PCOS.
I am still following your book for the most part- I would say around 80% of my meals would fit the guidelines of your book. Some high quality organic low GI carbs and goat's milk have been re-introduced into my diet in strict moderation and don't seem to be upsetting things in any way. I have not attempted to get pregnant at any stage as I was doing this would have a strong chance of success (I can just feel myself ovulating each month).
However I am facing a serious ethical crisis that I am struggling with and has brought me to tears from time to time. It is of course about my consumption of eggs and meat. I have always felt strongly about animal welfare from the first time I attempted vegetarianism as a 15 year old. Although I have been ordering free range certified organic meat from one of the most reputable sources around (I'm based in Victoria, Australia) I know the animals must eventually be slaughtered and the methods used are not as 'humane' as some people would have the public believe- an example being the electric stunning used prior to throat cutting does not always work and in some cases animals remain conscious throughout the skinning process until they are literally chainsawed up!
As for the egg industry, I'm not sure about the US but in this country the terms 'free range' and 'free to roam' have been misleading the public as the egg producers try to stretch the meanings of our rules and standards. All egg laying hens are killed when they can no longer produce eggs at a certain rate- free range organic or not. This is of course years before their natural death.
I watched the award winning documentary Earthlings 3 days ago and have not been able to bring myself to eat any meat or eggs or to place my regular order with my usual supplier. I'm not sure if I ever will again. I seriously want to become vegan as it is the only compassionate choice for animals. Naturally I am worried about the effect of this dietary change on my PCOS management, which has been going well.
Are you able to make any recommendations for me. I have been reading up but so far have found no studies on vegan or vegetarian diets in relation to PCOS. I have found articles on it with regard to diabetes though and there was nothing to put me off there. From what I have read so far B-12, Zinc and Vitamin D seem to be the danger zones for vegans/vegetarians. I just remember the chapter in the book saying it wasn't a good idea but there has to be another way. I might consider getting some chickens in my backyard or something but I can't hunt, farm or slaughter my own animals.
I would appreciate any advice you could offer on possible PCOS management for vegans or research that is/has been attempted.
Editor's comments: Hi Amy, you have touched a raw nerve that many people are concerned about.
The reason the "modern world" has so many chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, and the reason why women with PCOS suffer so much is because of our mass-produced, factory-farm produced food and beverages.
The food industry will produce food in the cheapest and most profitable way it can. There is almost no consideration for your health or the well-being of animals that are converted into food.
Most people have no idea of the crap and poisons and worthless calories they consume every day.
Equally important, we have broken our connection with nature. The younger people among us barely know where milk, eggs or hamburger come from. Until the last century or so, most humans raised their own food or acquired it locally. Today, food is assembled from all over the world and presented to you in your local supermarket. We have no connection or understanding of the animals that produced the food, where and how they were raised and cared for, the land where the food was produced, or of the people who worked to create the food.
When we lose our connection and appreciation of our natural world, we become less human. That's how I see it. (Another topic for another time!)
I firmly believe that any women who has PCOS will get better if she can reconnect with her natural world. That includes walking in the local park, going to the beach, visiting nearby mountains, and just exploring different places.
And what about food? Let me tell you a story. A long time ago, I had a long conversation with Arthur Maslow, MD. He was very successful in treating patients with multiple sclerosis. How did he do that?
He instructed his patients to start a garden! Image that! There is something healing about growing your own food. We all know that the freshest, healthiest food is grown in your own yard. In addition, gardening exposed Dr. Maslow's patients to the sun, which produced more vitamin D in the body. Vitamin D is crucial for controlling MS. By the way, vitamin D is also crucial for controlling polycystic ovary syndrome and overcoming infertility.
If you can, I recommend you start growing your own vegetables. If you can, plant nut or fruit trees. If you have a small yard, maybe you can grow some vegetables in pots.
Your idea of raising chickens is a good one. Many people, even in urban areas, have chickens. They are an endless supply of high-quality eggs. Possibly, you could also raise rabbits. The only problem is that you will bond with these creatures and thus will be unwilling to slaughter and eat them. I might suggest that you have someone else slaughter them and when you eat them, consider that you took excellent care of them and cared for them, and in return, they provide you with nutrition for your continued existence.
So why not become a vegan and just eat plant material? Wouldn't that be a wonderful way to avoid all the problems and feelings about eating animals?
The problem is that plant material does not provide you with the full range of nutrition you need.
A primary issue is protein adequacy. Unfortunately, plant proteins are not totally identical to animal proteins. Eating beans and rice is not quite the same thing as eating an egg.
Secondly, lots of women with PCOS who are vegetarians end up eating a diet that is mostly carbohydrates, in one form or another. A carbohydrate-heavy diet is a primary driver and cause of PCOS symptoms. You end up eating too much carbohydrate because you have to eat something. If you remove animal protein, what are you going to eat? Rice? Corn? Soy? Quinoa? Wheat? Beans? All of these foods are high in carbs compared to animal protein. If you eat refined, manufactured products made from these foods, you are exposed to "refined" carbs, which are the worst kind.
Third, some plant protein sources are questionable, especially soy. Most of the soy we consume is genetically modified (GMO). I consider GMO soy to be unsuitable for human consumption, based on the research I've seen. Some of this information is available elsewhere on this site.
Fourth, vegetarians and vegans are going to have reduced vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acid levels. This increases the risk of blood clots and atherosclerosis, according to a research from Zhejiang University in China. These deficiencies also have adverse effects on your future child during your pregnancy. Many women with polycystic ovarian syndrome are taking metformin. Metformin induces a vitamin B12 deficiency, which increases risk.
Fifth, it's not clear whether or not a vegetarian diet helps women to ovulate. One small study suggested that most of the non-PCOS women who went on a vegetarian diet stopped ovulating.
So…finally, is there an "ideal" protein that is not animal-based?
Actually, insects are an ideal source of protein and other essential nutrients. It's too bad that those of us in "advanced countries" will not eat this excellent food. You could raise insects and blend them into your other foods. Of course, I don't expect anyone to do that, simply because it is not appealing. It's so much more convenient to go to the supermarket and purchase chicken laden with antibiotics and other unhealthy substances.
Other than insects, eggs are an excellent source of balanced protein.
Other possibilities of non-animal protein are protein powders such as whey, rice or pea protein.
Are you willing to eat fish? Small fish like sardines are an outstanding source of protein and essential fatty acids. But please note that some new research is indicating that fish are not dumb, unfeeling creatures.
By the way, I have not seen any medical studies to indicate eating a strictly vegetarian or vegan diet is effective for treating PCOS. However, it is well proven that eating more vegetables IS very helpful.