Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I am also not a dietician. I have done my own research about food, diabetes and PCOS to know enough about it to write this blog post. For more information and health advice, please consult peer-reviewed research articles, your doctor or a registered dietician.
On Monday, Dec. 8 I visited my doctor. He’s a vegan-friendly doc that supports my lifestyle. However, he says the vegan foods I’m eating (white bread [homemade], white pasta, high-glycemic fruits) is not conducive to a healthy lifestyle because of my health condition, PCOS.
Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome is a condition pretty common for a lot of women. People with this condition don’t ovulate every month, no egg is produced (not all the time, though). Instead, cysts form in the ovaries. If left untreated, either by medication or a healthy lifestyle, it can be very serious. It can lead to infertility, cancer, heart disease, hypertension and elevated cholesterol level. There’s really no “cure” for it, but it can be “tamed” with a healthy lifestyle.
Link to diabetes
PCOS is an endocrine system condition. What other well-known condition affects the endocrine system? That’s right, diabetes.
I have three Type 1 diabetics in my immediate family, but I also have cousins, aunts, and passed grandparents that have/had it. Diabetes isn’t something new to me and neither is the risk of getting it.
I was tested for diabetes (glucose tolerance test) at a pretty young age to determine whether I would follow in my family’s footsteps. Luckily, the test came back normal. But the risk for it still looms over me like a dark cloud.
That risk is even more heightened now that I have been diagnosed with PCOS. I was diagnosed with it in high school (I’m now 23).
The last thing I want to do is to rely on medication to resolve my health issues. I would much rather treat and control my PCOS with food. So that’s my plan.
I am now eating like a vegan diabetic so that I can help my body’s endocrine system flourish. What does a vegan diabetic eat, you may ask? Well, something that we should talk about first is this thing called the glycemic index.
Abbreviated GI, the glycemic index is arguably one of the most important things for a diabetic to consider when making choices about what to put into your mouth. In simple terms, GI measures how a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood glucose.
For example, when you eat white bread (a high-glycemic food), the body converts the carbohydrates into glucose which makes your pancreas pump out insulin to convert it into energy. People with diabetes should restrict their intake of high-glycemic foods because either their pancreas doesn’t produce insulin at all (Type 1) or it doesn’t produce it at normal rates (Type 2).
Low-glycemic foods have a different effect on the body, especially in people with diabetes. Here’s a clinical study done on prediabetics. The results show that a low-glycemic diet reduced the patient’s “oral glucose–induced insulin secretion.”
Although low-glycemic foods still contain carbohydrates, they typically also contain a good amount of fiber and sometimes protein to help off-set the body’s insulin response.
Increased insulin levels can increase fat storage in the body. Being overweight already complicates PCOS with elevated symptoms. So, eating a high-glycemic diet wasn’t doing me ANY favors.
Low-glycemic foods (not a complete list)
Apples, pears, berries, sweet potatoes, steel cut oats, corn, legumes, stone-ground whole wheat, converted long-grain white rice (lower GI than brown rice, but brown rice has a lower GI than regular white rice), non-starchy vegetables, and carrots.
High-glycemic foods (not a complete list)
White bread and bagels, most processed dry cereals, russet potatoes, pumpkin, popcorn, tropical fruit (bananas, pineapple, mangoes, etc.), and rice pasta.
Not all carbs are created equal
After my doctor’s visit, I didn’t waste any time converting my entire diet around eating low-glycemic and unprocessed foods. That day, I started on my new health journey. And it has been a very, very steep learning curve.
In my previous post about my doctor’s visit, I told you that my doctor said I may not be able to be vegan anymore because of my PCOS. Well, I’m fighting that like a caged animal (vegan pun intended).
I told him my plan was to eat low-glycemic fruits and veggies, more nuts and seeds, legumes, no gluten, and limit my soy intake to occasional organic, non-GMO (for now.) The gluten-free and soy bit is so that I can eliminate possible sources of my symptoms and weight gain and then slowly add them in one at a time to see which my body can tolerate.
He was completely on board! Maybe he was surprised at how proactive I am being, but I take it as a good sign that all he had to say was “Sounds great! Report back in a bit.”
I am also supplementing with a vegan, gluten-free, low-carb, soy-free protein powder. It tastes like it sounds, not very good. I can tolerate it for now, but I really would like to find an alternative to it.
So what do I call myself? A gluten-free, soy-picky, whole foods vegan? That’s a mouth full. In an effort to save time and possible confusion, I have settled on “Paleo Vegan.” People following the paleo, or hunter-gatherer, diet eat lean animal products and plants (no grains or dairy). Obviously, I’m an ethical vegan and won’t be partaking in the former.
My results so far
As of this morning, I have lost five pounds since Monday. I feel like I have more energy and my headaches have subsided. I feel fuller longer and I don’t binge on banana smoothies. 🙂 Only time will tell if this is truly helping my body in the long term.
In addition to eating certain foods, I am also changing the manner in which I eat them. Smaller, more frequent meals will keep my metabolism working all day. Also, pairing carbs with proteins at every single meal seems to be helping too.
In my previous blog post, I mentioned I may have a second health condition. That condition is hypothyroidism. Super! Another thing that is affected by my diet. The diagnosis is not confirmed yet and if it does get confirmed, it’s a relatively mild case of it. But, nonetheless, it’s something I may have to think about and consider when making food choices.
If any of you have experience eating a paleo/vegan diet and have any advice for me, please contact me!