Treating PCOS Through Diet & Movement


If you’re on this page, we’re sorry. It seems like the type of article you’d only read if you thought that you or someone close had PCOS, and PCOS is no fun to have. You do have the power to improve it though – it’s our goal to help you do so.

Here’s what you need to know:

Despite what the name suggests, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) isn’t necessarily about cysts. You can have PCOS without having cysts, and you can have cysts without PCOS.

Ultimately, PCOS is a hormonal and metabolic condition. People with PCOS can’t metabolize sugar effectively and develop insulin resistance as a result. The insulin resistance not only affects their blood sugar levels but also their hormones.

The effects it has on your hormones – increased production of androgen, decreased progesterone levels, and too much estrogen – lead to a whole suite of symptoms that can mess with your health and wellbeing.

Here are 8 common PCOS symptoms:

  • Irregular or missed periods due to a lack of ovulation
  • Pelvic Pain
  • Infertility
  • Excess body hair
  • Thinning head hair
  • Fatigue
  • Acne
  • Sleep issues

Unfortunately, these symptoms are just the tip of the iceberg – PCOS puts you at significant risk for diabetes, heart disease and estrogen-dependent cancers. We try to view the symptoms as warnings, helpfully (albeit annoyingly and painfully) popping up to let us know we need to course correct to avoid danger ahead.

Our founder, women’s health expert and reproductive acupuncturist, Kirsten Karchmer, taught us that our diagnoses don’t doom us. Whether you’ve been diagnosed with PCOS or suspect you have it based on look-alike symptoms, there are ways to change your course; actions you can take to improve not only your current health and well-being, but your long-term health, well-being and fertility.

Kirsten’s Tips for Improving PCOS:

“Manage your weight. This is easy to say and hard to do for many people but especially for a woman with PCOS because her hormones are working against her. Losing just 10 percent of your body weight can have a large enough impact on your hormone levels to modulate your ovulation cycles and help get your period back on track. I know that being told to lose weight can feel like a double whammy because it’s so hard to do, but fat is a big part of what’s contributing to the hormone imbalance, because estrogen and androgens are stored in fat. So even though it’s tough, by reducing your overall fat stores, you can significantly reduce the number of hormones circulating in your body.

Move for thirty minutes every day. This is a little more vigorous than what I recommend for everyone else but still not crazy hard. Research shows that thirty minutes of daily brisk walking, swimming, or yoga can help manage the symptoms of diabetes and improve insulin sensitivity, as well as help with weight control.

Eat to improve your hormone metabolism and elimination. The hormones in the foods you might be eating are the first place to start. Make sure that the animal products you are consuming are organic and hormone free. This is especially true of high-fat animal products such as butter and cheese. Remember that hormones are stored in fat. If you’re consuming high-fat foods from an animal that has been inoculated with a ton of growth hormone, you’re exposing yourself and your already taxed hormone system to a large and unnecessary burden.

Eat the following cruciferous vegetables to help you metabolize excess estrogen in the body: broccoli, cauliflower, kale, watercress, brussels sprouts, cabbage

Eat the following fibrous foods, which will encourage your body to excrete excess hormones and help slow the absorption of glucose in the intestines: lentils, white beans, black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, edamame, artichokes, peas, whole grain oats and oatmeal

Regulate your blood sugar and glucose metabolism. This is pretty much a must for all PCOS patients, overweight or not, and one that they all need to address to prevent insulin resistance and impaired glucose metabolism. You should avoid simple and refined sugars and focus your carb intake on unrefined complex carbohydrates with a low glycemic index. Combine these carbohydrates with proteins or fats for optimal breakdown and metabolism.

Take a few supplements to help manage your blood sugar. These include: chlorophyll, B vitamins, magnesium, alpha-lipoic acid, conjugated linoleic acid, N-acetylcysteine (NAC), saw palmetto, bitter melon, fenugreek, myoinositol and folic acid.

The advice above was mined from Kirsten’s book, Seeing Red, which provides deeper insights into PCOS, the science behind her recommendations, your menstrual cycle, and women’s health at large. You can learn more and get the book here.