I have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and I can honestly say that it sucks. Since being diagnosed at the age of 20 I have probably researched almost every diet or supplement out there that is meant to help with PCOS and most of them have had either no benefits or limited success. That is until I went Vegan. I didn’t convert to Veganism because I wanted to control my PCOS symptoms. It’s just been an added bonus.
WHAT IS PCOS?
PCOS is a hormonal condition that affects a woman’s reproductive system. It is hard to give it a definitive definition because it is a collection of a lot of different symptoms and no two women will necessarily have the same symptoms. Generally though a woman’s ovaries will have lots of little cysts on them when they are looked at through an ultrasound scan. Most women will have irregular or non-existent periods but this some women will have a regular cycle. Fertility issues are common with women who have PCOS. Other symptoms that are common include being overweight, especially carrying weight around the belly, male pattern hair loss and having hair in places only men usually have it.
ARE MY SYMPTOMS GONE?
I wouldn’t say that my PCOS is totally under control because I still display a lot of the symptoms related to the condition. My periods still don’t come every 28 days. The difference is I actually have them now, even if they are every 7 weeks. Prior to going vegan I hadn’t had one in over 2 years! Six weeks after making the change they restarted and I had gained weight not lost it! I could still produce a moustache some men would be jealous of but my chin and my belly are no longer hairy. And most crucially, despite being the heaviest I’ve ever been I’m actually healthier than ever because I am no longer considered insulin resistant. This is very common in women who have PCOS and is pretty bad because it is basically your body warning you that you are likely to develop Type 2 diabetes at some point in the not so distant future.
WHY A VEGAN DIET CAN HELP
I became a vegan for ethical and environmental reasons but I had heard a lot about the health benefits of becoming one. I was quite sceptical about these claims though as most diets seem to make bold claims about the way they can benefit your health. However, I am now a convert and constantly proclaiming the benefits of the vegan lifestyle! My health in general has improved a lot, despite the fact I’ve actually put on weight, not lost it!
PCOS is a hormonal condition. Animal products contain a lot of hormones, especially dairy products. A cow, like a human, can only produce milk when they are pregnant or nursing their young. Milk production is a hormonal process. It stands to reason that some of those hormones end up in the milk and are consumed by people. Cow’s are actually injected with a hormone called Bovine Growth Hormone which doesn’t have a human equivalent. If you are already sensitive to hormones and have an imbalance, as women with PCOS do, then these extra hormones could tip the balance and make them even more unbalanced. I genuinely think just giving up dairy could really help other women control their symptoms. If you think this could help you I’ve written about my favourite milk substitutes here.
This is what I think happened to me. I think now I am losing weight I can probably remove all the symptoms of PCOS, something that has never been the case before. I was a size 12 meat eater and still had most of the symptoms of PCOS when I was diagnosed so I know the vegan diet will be the change if I do relieve all the symptoms.
A vegan diet is also generally more nutrient rich because it is wholly plant based. This must have some positive effects on the body. I think that the improved nutritional value of the foods I have been eating, and the fact that they are lower in saturated fats are what have caused my insulin resistance to reverse. This usually happens as people lose weight, but as I said I’ve gained about a stone since going vegan, rather than lost weight so it must be something about the vegan diet that has caused the insulin resistance to go.
I would be interested to here if any other women have had a similar experience in relieving their PCOS symptoms since going vegan.