PCOS Diet: 8 Foods That Lower Testosterone For PCOS
When I was diagnosed with PCOS I came to realize diet played a huge role in reversing the symptoms. But unfortunately, I didn’t know where to start. The information found online about diet for PCOS, left me feeling confused and a little overwhelmed.
But I remember there was one question I really wanted to know the answer to.
That was, “What foods lower testosterone in women with PCOS?”
So, I did a little research. I learnt a lot about how certain foods can lower testosterone and improve many of the PCOS symptoms women struggle with on a daily basis.
In today’s post, I am going to answer this question. I have identified 8 testosterone lowering foods that have been scientifically shown to help PCOS. And I will show you why and how they can help you naturally reverse your PCOS.
But before we get into the 8 foods that lower testosterone for PCOS, let’s look at what causes high testosterone in women.
What Causes the High Testosterone in Women with PCOS?
First’s things first. All women have small amounts of testosterone, but women with PCOS are producing too much. High testosterone levels can occur for various reasons. One of the possible causes is insulin resistance. This is a condition where the cells in the body don't respond to the signal insulin is giving and as a result, blood sugar levels remain high. To reduce blood sugar levels the pancreas starts producing even more insulin. High levels of insulin in the body then has the unwanted side effect of telling the ovaries to produce more androgens. Which then causes the PCOS symptoms women experience.
A further possible cause is chronic stress. Stress causes the adrenal glands to release stress hormones like cortisol. As well as male hormones, such as DHEA, DHEA-S, and androstenedione. These male hormones try to protect the body from the damaging effects of too much cortisol. However, the longer cortisol stays high, the more male hormones are released. This then causes a PCOS and its symptoms.
The final common cause of high testosterone in women with PCOS is inflammation. This is an immune system response the body makes to protect us from infections. But unfortunately in women with PCOS, the immune system is constantly activated. As a result, inflammation does not decrease.
So, you now know what PCOS is and what causes the high levels of testosterone. Let’s take a look at the foods that can help lower testosterone.
Flax seeds, also known as linseed, is a member of the Linacea family. It is said to have originated in Egypt. But it is now grown all over the world including Europe, Asia, South America, and some parts of the United States.
Flax seeds are rich in a compound called lignans (up to 800 more than any other food plant). Lignans are very estrogenic and researchers have found that they can reduce male hormones.
Results from a study showed flax seeds (30g a day) reduced total testosterone and free testosterone.
Total testosterone is the amount of testosterone in your blood. Free testosterone is the active form of the hormone that is used by the body.
The PCOS women also reported a reduction in their hirsutism (excess hair growth).
This finding is promising for women with PCOS who must lower their testosterone levels to see an improvement in their symptoms.
Flax seeds can easily be added to your PCOS diet. Throw them into your smoothies, oats, yogurt, salads, or eat them on their own!
Spearmint is a very well-known species of mint and is native to Europe and Asia.
The study found drinking spearmint tea twice a day for 30 days, resulted in a significant reduction in free and total testosterone levels. Also, the PCOS women noticed an improvement in their hirsutism after drinking the spearmint tea.
So, from the results, it can be suggested that spearmint tea may be an effective way to lower testosterone levels and reduce hirsutism. But, the researchers state that further trials must be done to know for certain spearmints effect on PCOS.
Low Glycemic Index (GI) Carbs
As discussed, one of the possible causes of high testosterone in women with PCOS is insulin resistance. So, lowering blood sugar and insulin levels is key to decreasing testosterone levels and reversing PCOS symptoms. The Glycemic Index (GI) can help you do that.
The GI ranks carbohydrates by how they will affect blood sugar levels after consumption.
A carb with a low GI value will be digested and absorbed into the body more slowly. Causing a slower rise in blood sugar levels, that will be lower overall. The opposite would be true for a carb with a high GI value.
Low GI carbs include
- Rolled or steel-cut oats
- Brown rice
- Sweet potato
- Kidney beans
Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels will lower insulin levels. This will then stop the ovary from producing high levels of testosterone.
Walnuts and almonds are a delicious snack and a great source of healthy fats. But they can also lower testosterone levels in women with PCOS.
Researchers compared the effects of walnuts against almonds on PCOS symptoms. This is what they found.
Increases insulin sensitivity
We have discussed the link between insulin resistance and PCOS, as well as the importance of managing blood sugar levels in this post. One way of reducing insulin resistance is by increasing insulin sensitivity.
The results from the study showed the group who ate walnuts improved their insulin sensitivity.
Increases Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG)
Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) is a protein made by the liver. Its role in the body is to bind together with three sex hormones; estrogen, testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT). SHBG then carries these hormones throughout the body to reduce the level of free hormones.
Testosterone bound to SHBG isn’t used by the body. Women with PCOS, however, have low levels of SHBG. As a result, more testosterone than normal is used by the body. Leading to PCOS symptoms like infertility, hair loss and excess hair growth.
The study found walnuts increased SHBG levels by 12.5% and almonds increased SHBG by 16%. An increase in SHBG means the amount of free testosterone will decrease. This will in turn help with the PCOS symptoms.
As you can see, the benefits of eating both walnuts and almonds are incredible for women with PCOS. So, start adding some of these nuts to your PCOS diet to increase your insulin sensitivity and SHBG levels. This will help lower your testosterone levels and reverse your PCOS symptoms.
Add both almonds and walnuts to your oats, smoothies, salads, yogurt, or eat them on their own as a quick snack.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Researchers have found that most women with PCOS suffer from chronic inflammation. Many factors can cause it including insulin resistance and high cortisol. This then leads to high testosterone levels. So, the level of inflammation in the body must be lowered.
Omega 3 fatty acids can help lower inflammation in the body because they have anti-inflammatory properties. A study found omega-3 supplementation (3g/a day) may help reduce testosterone levels and regulate the menstrual cycle in PCOS women.
The results are encouraging for women with PCOS who are looking to lower their testosterone and regain a healthy menstrual cycle.
But the researchers state that more and longer studies must be done to reveal the full effectiveness of omega 3 supplementation.
Reishi mushrooms, also known as the Lingzhi mushroom or Ganoderma lucidum, grow in hot and humid locations like Asia.
Research shows red reishi mushrooms contain a compound called triterpenoids which is said to have the most anti-androgenic effects out of all the mushroom species. Meaning red reishi mushrooms can block the effects of male hormones like testosterone.
Because of its anti-androgenic effects, increasing it may help lower high testosterone levels in PCOS women.
Inositol is a substance, often referred to as Vitamin B8, that is naturally found in most foods but highest in whole grains and citrus fruits.
There are nine forms of Inositol, called stereoisomers, but the two most common forms discussed in the PCOS community are MYO and D-Chiro Inositol.
Inositol has the ability to create an insulin-like effect in the body. Meaning it can act like insulin and help it to work better. A study found Myo-inositol lowered insulin and testosterone levels.
Ovasitol for PCOS
Now, the inositol I personally use is Ovasitol. This is because it is a combination of both Myo-Inositol and D-chiro Inositol found in the body’s normal ratio of 40:1. Such a combination is more beneficial than taking either alone.
The combined approach significantly reduced free testosterone and fasting insulin. But it also increased insulin sensitivity in PCOS women.
I love this Ovasitol so much I became an affiliate. Because I am now affiliated with Theralogix's Ovasitol, you can use discount code 144N11 for $10 off your order!
Licorice is the root of the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant. It is native to Southern Europe, the Middle East and parts of Asia. Licorice root is known for its sweet flavor, but it may also help lower testosterone levels.
Researchers found women who consumed 3.5g of licorice daily lowered their testosterone levels by 32%.
Licorice root may help because it contains glycyrrhizin and glycyrrhetinic acid. These compounds stop the conversion of androstenedione (a weak male hormone) to testosterone.
However, this benefit is only applicable to the licorice root and not licorice candy. This is because it doesn’t tend to contain licorice root.
As you begin to add these foods into your PCOS diet, you will also want to test your testosterone after a few months.
How Can You Test Your Testosterone Levels?
As discussed in ‘the causes of PCOS’ section, testosterone is released by the ovaries and adrenals in women. Testosterone levels can be measured through a blood or saliva test.
When testosterone is bound to Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) in the blood it is called Total Testosterone. Testosterone that is not bound to SHBG is called Free Testosterone and this form is used by the body.
Everywell offer a testosterone test that measures free testosterone levels through saliva. High free testosterone is a good indicator of elevated male hormones. But also, research shows a greater proportion of PCOS women have high free testosterone than high total testosterone.
Normal free testosterone levels in women should be between 0.3-1.9 ng/dL (0.01-0.07 nmol/L). Levels above this are an indicator of elevated male hormones.
Nutrition is a key component in any PCOS treatment plan. To lower testosterone levels, dietary changes must be made. This will help reverse the androgenic symptoms of PCOS like hair loss, excess hair growth.
Women with PCOS can decrease their testosterone levels by eating these testosterone-lowering foods. They include flax seeds, spearmint tea, low glycemic index carbs, walnuts and almonds. As well as omega 3 fatty acids, red reishi mushrooms and licorice root in your PCOS diet.
Now, eating these foods may help lower testosterone levels, but it isn't enough. Achieving hormonal balance and reversing PCOS requires a holistic approach. It is important that you also exercise regularly, manage your stress and get plenty of sleep.
And remember, be patient. Hormonal balance does not happen from one day to the next. Be consistent and committed to your PCOS journey.
Just so you know: This post includes affiliate links. If you buy something through one of those links, I will get a small commission, with no extra cost to you. It helps me keep my little website going. Thank you for your continued support!
Hey there! I am Despina Pavlou, founder of PCOS Oracle and online coach. I want to share with you the diet and lifestyle changes I made to naturally reverse my PCOS and achieve hormonal balance. I believe using my holistic approach you too can take back control from PCOS.