Kate Parham Kordsmeier’s career involved traveling the world as a professional food writer—until she was plagued with digestive issues at the age of 27. Doctors merely brushed off her concerns, saying her symptoms were just part of aging. However, her life completely changed when she decided to visit a holistic doctor who diagnosed her with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). The bright side? The hormonal disorder taught her how to heal herself naturally with food. “Getting diagnosed was actually the best thing that could have happened to me because I finally knew why I felt so terrible and what I needed to do to fix it,” Kordsmeier says. “Since treating my PCOS naturally, my life has become exponentially better.” In terms of eating, she follows an anti-inflammatory diet to help with insulin resistance, fertility, and weight loss. Kordsmeier now runs food and wellness site Root + Revel, where she delivers inspiration to help people live naturally—without sacrifice.
Kordsmeier isn’t alone in her battle with PCOS—an estimated 7 to 10 million women in the U.S. alone are affected by this hormonal endocrine disorder. Symptoms of PCOS include irregular periods, acne, PMS, weight gain (particularly around the midsection), hair loss, hair growth in strange places (chin, upper lip, sideburns), a string of pearl-type cysts on the ovaries, extreme cramping, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, headaches, sleep apnea, and even infertility.
One thing to keep in mind is that PCOS manifests itself differently in every woman and is not a one-size-fits all diagnosis, according to Kordsmeier. “I personally had no cysts but horrible acne,” she shares. “Meanwhile, one of my best friends also had PCOS but had flawless skin and lots of cysts that caused fertility issues.” This is why she believes that PCOS is so misdiagnosed. Thankfully, her healing natural diet (and lifestyle, but more on that later) has caused Kordsmeier’s PCOS side effects (acne, anxiety, weight gain, irregular periods, and PMS) to diminish. She also insists it’s the reason she and her husband got pregnant on their first try.
Other than avoiding prescriptions and fueling your body with the right foods, Kordsmeier says it’s also about making the right lifestyle changes. Things to rid yourself of? Processed and fried foods, refined sugar and flour, alcohol, and caffeine—all of which can throw your hormones off. And things to embrace? Yoga, meditation, and self-care (since stress hormone cortisol can affect your hormones). Interestingly enough, natural ingredients in skincare, makeup, and household products can help you manage your estrogen levels. This is because other products contain fake estrogens that can cause hormone imbalances. She also relies on some natural supplements.
Kordsmeier says it’s important for women with PCOS to view their body as an interconnected system. Case in point: Women with PCOS often also have hypothyroidism and insulin resistance, which they need to be mindful of as well. “Seriously, food is medicine,” she says. “The right foods will nourish your body, balance your hormones and blood sugar, help you lose weight, boost your fertility, and make you feel great.” If you have PCOS (or think you might), keep scrolling to see the 36 foods she suggests adding to your diet, stat.
“Fiber might just be the most important nutrient to consume if you have PCOS,” says Kordsmeier. This is because PCOS can cause insulin resistance, which then leads to type 2 diabetes. High-fiber foods can actually slow down your digestion and reduce the impact of sugar in the blood, she says. This means that you should opt for cruciferous veggies, leafy greens, berries, stone fruits, tomatoes, peppers, squash, sweet potatoes, lentils, and beans.
GLUTEN-FREE WHOLE GRAINS
It’s all about trying to balance your hormones and blood sugar. Gluten-free whole grains can help you do this, according to Kordsmeier. She suggests consuming at least half a cup of grains every day. Rice, quinoa, lentils, oats, buckwheat, and split peas are all good options. You can also have some popcorn as a snack to fulfill your daily “requirement.” (Sounds tasty to us!)
Foods that are high in protein can help you decrease the amount of insulin your body releases (insulin regulates your blood sugar levels). Try adding more chicken, fish, and eggs into your everyday meals. The rule of thumb? “Make sure it’s always from organic, wild-caught or pasture-raised sources,” says Kordsmeier.
Healthy fats are successful in reducing inflammation, balancing your insulin levels, and keeping your period on track. And in case you didn’t know, sex hormones actually require healthy fats for production. Foods to eat more of? Avocado, nuts, seeds, wild-caught fish, grass-fed butter, ghee, coconut oil, and olive oil.
“Inflammation is highly linked with hormonal imbalances like those found in women with PCOS, so incorporate plenty of anti-inflammatory foods and spices,” says Kordsmeier. Go for cinnamon, which helps regulate both blood sugar and ovulation. Adding a few pinches of turmeric to your dishes can also help you detox. Kordsmeier likes to add basil, mint, thyme, parsley, and cilantro to her dishes for anti-inflammatory properties.
APPLE CIDER VINEGAR
Apple cider vinegar is a bit of a cure-all. We’ve already discussed that experts believe it can treat heartburn, but there are even more benefits to this liquid. “Taking a shot of apple cider vinegar in the morning and/or before meals can improve insulin sensitivity, aid in digestion (preventing heartburn and acid reflux), lower blood sugar responses, and keep your hormones balanced,” says Kordsmeier.
Now that you’ve read about foods for PCOS, it’s time to start incorporating them into your diet. If you’re stumped as to how to start, whip up shakshuka with swiss chard pesto for breakfast, a citrus kale salad for lunch, and a shrimp pesto pasta for dinner.