PCOS Awareness Expert Interview with Jenna Longoria
Diet and nutrition are the keys to manage your PCOS symptoms.
There are so theories and ideas floating around about what diet is best for PCOS. It can be overwhelming, and I understand why so many women get confused. Which foods are good, which are harmful, how do I lose weight, get more energy, and basically feel better?
And to make matters worse, the healthcare system is not teaching people how vital nutrition is and how it can either fed or fight disease. You need answers that will address your specific concerns.
I reached out to Jenna Longoria from Healthier Notions who is an expert in women's hormonal health. She is a Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner who focuses on diet, lifestyle changes, supplements, and exercise to create hormonal balance. Jenna understands the complextites of PCOS because she also was diagnosed with it. She practices what she preaches and has used the guiding priniciples that she teaches to overcome her symptoms.
Below you will see the Q&A that I had with Jenna about nutrition and supplements for women with PCOS. I hope this clears us some of the confusion around diet and nutrition.
1. Is there a type of diet or way of eating you recommend for women with PCOS?
Diet is the most crucial component of putting PCOS into remission. PCOS can be managed with diet, lifestyle and supplements. Having PCOS does not mean you’re doomed!
PCOS is a metabolic syndrome, so women with PCOS must balance their blood sugar in order to heal, this is why many women find success (at a cost) with diabetic medications such as Metformin. However, Metformin depletes B vitamins and has unpleasant gastrointestinal effects so it’s not the ideal option. It’s best to adapt our diets first, and most times (in addition to certain supplements) this is all it takes.
It’s crucial for women with PCOS to keep their blood sugar levels balanced, because high blood sugar leads to insulin resistance, which then prompts the body to pump out more insulin which signals our ovaries to produce excess testosterone. Once we have elevated androgens, the light switch for PCOS is then turned on.
We can flip off this switch by ditching the dairy, gluten, and eating low glycemic foods.
Women with PCOS must avoid dairy because the protein in dairy spikes our insulin- especially whey protein! Exceptions to this are butter from pasture raised cows, and ghee, but in small amounts. Gluten should be avoided 100% of the time, as it’s inflammatory and it provides no benefit to the body.
Even though PCOS is a genetic condition, it can be turned off with certain lifestyle and dietary changes.
RELATED: 6 PCOS Diet Rules You Must Follow
2. Are there any diets that are particularly harmful to women with PCOS? Why are they harmful?
For women with PCOS, I’m a huge fan of the keto diet, but only as a therapeutic diet observed for about 4-12 weeks. This is because the keto diet can be harmful if practiced too long.
There was a study in 2005 that tested the ability of the keto diet to help manage PCOS and even put it in remission, and it showed promising results. However, the trial groups only practiced the keto diet for 12 weeks.
You see, although the keto diet is excellent for reversing PCOS, diabetes, and balancing blood sugar, if practiced over a long period of time, women can stop menstruating.
This is because women need a certain amount of carbohydrates (somewhere around 150 grams daily) to ovulate and have a period.
The keto diet calls for less than 50 grams a day, so women who practice this diet very often stop having periods a few months later.
My solution? Keto for 4-12 weeks (in tandem with working with a health practitioner) and then practice intermittent fasting while observing a “ketoish” diet that includes healthy carbs like a serving of white rice or sweet potatoes once a day, ideally taken in the evening. As women we need to aim at about 150 grams daily.
A great form of Intermittent Fasting for women with PCOS is what’s called “Time Restricted Eating”. This means one goes 12-16 hours without eating, and eats all of their food for the day within a certain window. Starting at 12 hours is best (for example stopping eating at 8PM and then having breakfast at 8AM) and then working up to 14 or 16.
RELATED: Is the Keto Diet Right for PCOS?
3. What foods are best for fighting inflammation and balancing hormones?
Turmeric, wild caught fish, seeds such as pumpkin, sesame, sunflower and ground flax, free range eggs, grass-fed beef on occasion, organ meats, collagen, bone broth, coconut oil, and coconut milk. And of course 5-8 servings of vegetables a day.
It’s best to avoid all factory farmed meat because you are what you eat, eats. If you are eating beef from a cow that was fed GMO corn, pumped with hormone and antibiotics, you are not eating steak, you are eating glyphosate ridden corn that looks like steak- it’s an inflammatory cocktail that is best to be avoided.
The same goes for farm-raised fish as well. It’s just corn that looks like fish. This is why it’s crucial to make sure your protein is coming from a clean and humane source.
RELATED: 8 Superfoods for PCOS
4. How can you reduce sugar cravings?
Chromium has been shown to reduce sugar cravings, and spearmint tea is also a great option. Mint is also great for lowering testosterone so it’s a win win all around. Also, the less sugar you eat the less you’ll crave. So going on a detox from all sugar for a few weeks will help reset your taste buds. My 20-Day Hormone Reset Detox is a great option to reset and reboot.
5. Is coffee good or bad for PCOS?
This is a tricky and contentious subject! Personally, I mindfully enjoy one cup of Bulletproof Coffee first thing in the morning as I journal. It’s a morning ritual I look forward to and that brings me great joy.
However, my PCOS is in remission, and my cortisol levels are within range. This was not always the case!
When I was having adrenal issues I gave up caffeine for three months, and then transitioned to green tea, and eventually back to coffee once a day. Everyone has a different rate at which they metabolize caffeine, so it’s up to the individual to find their limit. If you feel anxious or jittery after a cup of coffee, then perhaps it’s not the best beverage for you!
To negate any anxious feelings, I drink Bulletproof coffee which is mold free, and I take L-Theanine with it (an amino acid found in green tea) that makes me feel calm and balanced.
6. What are the best and worst sweeteners for PCOS?
Everyone should avoid artificial sweeteners that contain either saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose. Studies have linked these to depression and cancer. Studies have also proven them to alter gut bacteria by killing off the good guys and promoting the growth of bad bacteria. This leads to inflammation, which is the root of all disease.
Women with PCOS need to use sweeteners with reservations. Stevia, monk fruit, and xylitol are my preferred sweeteners and can be used daily. Raw honey and maple syrup are okay on occasion.
7. What supplements do you recommend for women with PCOS?
Supplementing is part of the process for women with PCOS. All women with PCOS should take at minimum Ovasitol, a high EPA/DHA fish oil, methylated B12 with Folate, 500 mg of magnesium, vitamin D+K2, and a high grade probiotic, as well as a well rounded multi-vitamin. An adaptagenic blend is also a good idea.
RELATED: 7 Best Supplements for PCOS
8. How can women who are constantly fatigued improve their energy levels?
Once blood sugar is balanced, cortisol will begin to stabilize. Once this happens the body will begin to regulate its hormones and energy will be restored. Women with PCOS are prone to hypothyroidism, and when our thyroid is low, our energy is low. Balancing blood sugar and cortisol will nourish the thyroid. A low glycemic diet high in fresh vegetables and healthy fats will provide the body with lasting energy as well. Gluten and dairy are draining foods because they are inflammatory and spike our blood sugar, resulting in low blood sugar crashes, so we must avoid those.
Intermittent Fasting is also a great tool because it gives the body metabolic flexibility and will increase energy levels.
9. Can you share one of your favorite go-to recipes?
I was born with a sweet tooth so I love a baked sweet potato with grass-fed butter melted on top sprinkled with hemp seeds, and served with a heaping side of steamed greens!
10. Do you have any secret or out of the box techniques that you use with clients to help them with weight loss?
Intermittent fasting is my go-to because I’ve found it to work every time!
RELATED: Intermittent Fasting for PCOS
I'd like to thank Jenna Longoria for her insightful answers and her expertise. I encourage you to follow her for more information and tips. Having PCOS herself, Jenna has a robust understanding of PCOS and its complexities.
If you are enjoying these expert series, please share them on social media! Let's help clear the myths about PCOS and spread awareness!
Jenna Longoria is a board certified holistic health coach specializing in hormonal health. She was listed by The Huffington Post as one of the top 20 new health writers to follow in 2017. Her work has been featured in Mind Body Green and The Elephant Journal, and she is the author of 7 Steps to a Healthier You: An Attainable Guide to Health which you can get a free download by visiting her website.
Jenna helps women reclaim their hormonal health by working with them to achieve pain-free, regular periods and optimize their fertility. Through her private practice, Healthier Notions, she helps women balance their hormones by using holistic methods such as personally tailored food and exercise plans, lifestyle adjustments, and supplements.
Jenna is a firm believer that the right diet can put any hormonal condition into remission. Check out My 20-Day Hormone Reset Detox.