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I Tried The Whole30 Diet To Help My PCOS And Regulate My Hormones
For a year I contemplated trying the Whole30 Diet. I don't like the word "diet", but the Whole30 Diet has been shown to have great results, and can be especially beneficial for women like me who have PCOS. My habits were already pretty similar to Whole30 Diet (I don't eat dairy or gluten) so I wasn't intimidated by the food restrictions. Honestly, it was the thought of giving up wine for a whole month that made me hesitate. But, I was curious to see if the Whole30 Diet would have an effect on both me and my PCOS symptoms, so I finally decided to go for it, and spent the month of November living the Whole30 life.
HOW WAS PCOS AFFECTING ME AND MY SKIN PRE-WHOLE30 DIET?
My skin goes through lots of changes during my menstrual cycle. (My cycle is usually 42 days, but I'm not unfamiliar with the 65-day cycle, or even the 100-day cycle!) One symptom is breakouts all along the jawline and cheek. I never had breakouts as a teenager, or in my twenties. But in my mid-thirties, I started noticing that right around ovulation, the breakouts would start, and they'd continue until I got my period. Once my cycle was over, the breakouts would go away and I would have great skin until the next time ovulation came around. I tried every kind of face wash, mask, and peel. I even went to see a dermatologist who told me that it was all hormonal. I was persistent and tried approaching the situation in a different way: addressing my hormones with supplements. My friend recommended an adrenal support called Super Cortisol Support and a hormone balancer called EstroSense. These supplements did help a lot with symptoms like cramping, heavy bleeding, and cysts in my breasts, but they only mildly helped with the breakouts.
WHAT EFFECT DID THE WHOLE30 DIET HAVE ON MY PCOS SYMPTOMS?
I always thought I did a good job of having a clean, wholesome diet filled with veggies, probiotics, good sources of protein, and no fried or junk food. So I didn't think a change in diet was what I needed for my PCOS. However, two weeks into the Whole30 Diet, I started to have symptoms that I was going to ovulate soon—and yet, no breakouts! At first I thought it might be just a coincidence, but then I noticed another change: less facial hair. (This is something women with PCOS don't like to admit, but excess facial hair is a common symptom.) Now to be completely honest, I do have my facial hair lasered, because otherwise it would drive me crazy and I would be self-conscious. But even with regular laser hair removal, I'd still have some extra facial hair that I would need to pluck. During my Whole30 Diet, though, I had fewer hairs than I usually do.
WHAT CAUSED THE IMPROVEMENT?
With the improvements in my PCOS-related symptoms, I realized that something in my diet change must have affected my hormones for the better. Aside from the lack of alcohol, I have a few suspicions on the culprit. The first are hidden sugars and processed starches, both of which trigger insulin production. Too much insulin can be problematic, whether or not you have diabetes; too much of any hormone isn't a good thing. Another possible culprit is soy. Many foods have soy, wheat, and sugar added to them to improve taste, and we often convince ourselves that the amounts are so small that they can't possibly affect our bodies. (I've been guilty of this—especially with sushi, which I love.) Whether it was the hidden sugar, starch, or soy (or some combination of the three), eliminating them from my diet really made me see a change in my PCOS symptoms. And this has made me reconsider how the little things really do add up.
HOW WAS MY OVERALL WHOLE30 DIET EXPERIENCE?
Doing the Whole30 Diet in November was risky, with Thanksgiving at the end of the month, and I'm not going to pretend it was easy. It wasn't easy. Actually, during the last week I was getting obsessive about wanting wine. (So much so that at one point while cooking Thanksgiving dinner, I actually thought my olive oil bottle was a magnum of red wine!) But I'd committed to 30 days and I wasn't going to give in. As much as I missed the wine (and was very vocal about it), the truth is that I actually really enjoyed the dietary limitations. Whatever I had removed from my diet was making me feel less bloated, giving me more energy, and making my skin look great.
WILL I CONTINUE THE WHOLE30 DIET?
Going forward I can honestly say that I will continue the dietary aspect of the Whole30 Diet—a majority of the time. If I go to someone's home for dinner and they serve quinoa, I'll eat it. If I go out for sushi, I'm going to have rice (brown or black rice, though). However, I am going to consider carrying coconut aminos with me to replace the soy sauce. I'll probably also be ordering fewer salads when I eat out to avoid added sugars in the dressing, and I most certainly will be reading labels more closely (I'm looking at your sugary almond milk, Starbucks). The part of the Whole30 Diet that I won't stick to is the ban on alcohol. Before I started, I only had alcohol on the weekends, and I'll go back to doing that.
DO I RECOMMEND THE WHOLE30 DIET?
If you suffer from PCOS or any other hormonal challenges (or you just feel it's time to change your diet to feel better or lose weight), I strongly encourage trying the Whole30 Diet. And I suggest using an app like MyFitnessPal to track your food and make sure you're consuming enough calories, and that your macros (fat, carbs, and protein) are properly portioned. This diet isn't about restricting calories. My caloric intake didn't change: the caloric choices I made did. As a result of my month of Whole30 Diet, I lost 2.5 lbs and 2% body fat. I was impressed by the amount, since I was already slim before I started, and it becomes harder to lose body fat and weight the slimmer you are. But it was clear that my body could do without some of the inflammation-causing foods I had been previously eating. As for the alcohol, if you think eliminating it is out of the question for you, then just try eliminating the restricted foods. There's no point in setting yourself up for failure if you don't think you'll make it without wine for 30 days. As for me, it'll take a lot of convincing for me to part with my pal vino again. Image via Joyce's Instagram . Joyce is also the creator of Chixi Chickpea Butter. It's delicious!
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