What you put in your body can be very helpful or detrimental to your health. I have a friend who is getting relief from migraines doing Beach Body Shakeology. Another has complete control of her Type 2 diabetes with her diet change. These are all great!
However, when someone told me she had reversed her polycystic ovarian syndrome using a Paleo diet, I just stopped and scratched my head.
For the record, I have polycystic ovarian syndrome. It has effects and side effects.
- trouble maintaining a healthy weight
- trouble maintaining healthy blood glucose levels
- ovarian cysts
- high levels of androgen
- Excessive body hair including: mustaches, partial beards, full beards, nipple hair, extremely hairy legs and under arms, chest hair, back hair, butt hair, and dark, thick arm hair are all symptoms of this hormone imbalance
- Female patterned baldness/Male patterned baldness
- Severe adult acne that is not treatable with facial washes and scrubs
- severe teen acne that is not treatable with facial washes and scrubs
- low estrogen levels
- You think regular PMS is bad? Meet a woman with PCOS who also has PMS…
- high cholesterol
- anxiety disorders
- very high sex drive
- and a slew of other more minor symptoms that most of us don’t think about
She has a touch of a moustache, a little bit of chin hair, very dark and coarse leg hair, and nipple hair. However, after just six months on Paleo, her excessive body hair is gone. Along with her infertility and ovarian cysts.
I could see where diet would affect weight, diabetes, high cholesterol, and migraines. I don’t believe it’s curing her body hair problems, infertility, or ovarian cysts. Primarily because diet doesn’t really impact androgen or estrogen production. There is some anecdotal evidence that diet can reduce androgen, but the foods on the list are carbs and sugars… Which means all those males that eat breads and sweets should be brimming with androgen and all those that don’t, should have much lower levels of it – as low as females without PCOS – which would lead to infertility, a lack of body hair, and trouble maintaining a healthy weight (they would be underweight).
But I have yet to hear a doctor tell a guy, if you want a kid, you just need to eat more bread and candy bars, maybe a few sodas. I have also never had a doctor tell me that I would need to cut all carbs and sugars to get pregnant.
That androgen/estrogen imbalance is actually the kicker for women with PCOS. It’s this imbalance that leads to body hair and fertility issues, which leads to depression and anxiety/panic disorder. No one wants to be that woman in the locker room who is afraid to take off her bra because she has nipple hair. Or be the one that gets caught shaving, waxing, plucking, or whatever other torture device we use to remove the faint or not so faint moustache and/or beard. Or the one that has to admit it takes two or three razors to shave their legs and underarms, so they just hate doing it.
For the sake of honesty, I will admit that I have a serious androgen imbalance… I shave my upper lip and chin to get rid of those hairs. I hate shaving my legs and underarms because by the next day, I have serious stubble and if I don’t shave every other day, I have guy hair on my legs and in my armpits, but shaving that often dries my skin out so bad that it physically hurts and no amount of lotion helps because I have Sjogren’s. Nor do I want to be the woman in the locker room… I wear my sports bra in and out, even if I change all my other clothes.
This has created some insecurities over the years that I have had to overcome. And I tried to overcome it by lowering my androgen levels. In my early twenties, I went on a “no sugar, no carbs” diet that was high in protein and vegetables that contained natural estrogen. For three years, I struggled to feel better both physically and mentally.
My androgen levels never decreased. My estrogen levels only increased if my birth control had extra estrogen in it. In other words, the PCOS diet, as the nutritionist called it; reduced my risk of diabetes and heart disease. It did not fix the acne, the body hair, the insecurities that led to depression and ramped up my anxiety disorder or the migraines (they aren’t hormone related as it turns out).
The point is, diet helps, it definitely helps with all these physical conditions, but rarely is it a cure all and rarely does it work for everyone the exact same way. I actually gained weight on the PCOS diet. My anxiety got worse and after 3 years, it wasn’t just sugar withdrawal that was the cause. And my depression got worse because my nutritionist kept insisting I was doing something wrong since I wasn’t feeling better on the diet. She was convinced I was hiding in the closet sucking down Snickers Bars on bread. Much later, I would discover that I had mild allergies to beef and pork, so my high protein diet was making me sick because I was allergic and was suddenly flooding my body with meats that I had never eaten in high quantities.
Eventually, I changed nutritionists. The replacement was much more understanding and gave me a tip I will never forget: If you change your diet for a specific reason and you don’t see results in six months, then the change isn’t working and you need to do something else. For me, that something else was exercise. I found I could maintain the diet I had, but when I exercised more, I felt better. My androgen was still high, my estrogen was still low, I still had problems maintaining a “healthy weight,” and I still had to deal with the cosmetic effects of PCOS, but that was the job of a therapist, not a nutritionist.
I am considering the Beach Body Shakeology to help with my migraines, but I will give it a little more time. I want to make sure her results stay consistent. It rarely hurts to try the change (unless you find out later you are allergic to the food you are now shoveling into your body), but don’t feel bad if it doesn’t work as promised. Your body is different than someone else’s body and sometimes, the claims of change are exaggerated (there is no way she lowered her androgen levels enough to not have to shave her moustache which is worse than mine – I also learned that she had laser hair removal for it, which explains it so much better than not eating carbs).