05 January 2008

Juice and PCOS (or just juice in general)

It's interesting what you find when you're not looking. As I browsed my statistics for I'm not a doctor, I found several people got here by searching for information on PCOS and juice.

Wondering what could be the assumed connection, I had a cursory look around the net for current talk about PCOS and juice - what I see creeps me out a bit. I have not been active in the PCOS community for years, because I don't consider my PCOS to be a huge part of my life (and in fact, I don't consider myself to have PCOS anymore - though I still have a few of the longer lasting effects.)

There are people advocating juicing as a means to getting nutrition (as if PCOSers have some more special need for nutrition than everyone else) and there are those saying no juice. But without fail, everyone 'advocating' a stance on this issue was selling something.

Let me give a slightly different perspective on PCOS and juice.

PCOS is a syndrome (a collection of symptoms - not a disease). The symptoms are caused by current lifestyles - including but not limited to diet. Contributors include: inactivity, lower lean muscle mass, reduced quality/quantity sleep, smoking, and modern processing of foods.

How is juice going to fit in to this equation? Under the processing of foods category, naturally. Human beings lived for thousands of years in the hunter/gatherer or primitive farmer way. Our bodies are built to thrive in those conditions. What did our farming/hunter/gatherer ancestors eat? That's what our bodies are built to eat. It is only within the last century that humans began to have free and easy access to sugar, highly processed grain, and processed fruits and vegetables.

They probably ate a lot (a whole lot - piles and piles) of fruits, roots, leaves, and vegetables. Also some meat and fat (with dairy!) So, if juice is made from fruit, what is the problem?

This is where I'm going to disappoint those of you who are searching for strict rules or a magic button (If I do this one thing, my PCOS will not be a problem.) The problem with juice is mostly that it enables you to consume all the calories (and yes, the vitamins) from the fruit without the necessary and beneficial fiber and bulk (which fills us up!). It is much, much, much better to eat the fruit or vegetable in question than to drink its juice.

The second and more pertinent issue regarding PCOS and juice is that removing the fiber (which is what juicing does) speeds up digestion - which means a low GI carrot turns into a higher GI carrot juice. Why would you do this to yourself?

Does that mean juice is always a no-no? No. There are some fruits that are very good for us that are really troublesome to consume in any quantity - pomegranates and cranberries come to mind. I have a history of UTI so I do occasionally drink cranberry juice.

But drinking juice, like everything related to PCOS, must be done in moderation, as part of a balanced diet. And if you're not eating a very balanced diet full of minimally processed, low glycemic index foods - then drinking juice is just throwing fuel on the flame. Your body is already completely out of whack - and that juice can be the last straw.

In the past, when my diet was higher GI, drinking any kind of juice would shove me rudely into an insulin low. Now, because my body isn't stressed to the max trying to balance glucose and insulin, it can handle the odd influx of refined fruit juice.

So can PCOSers drink juice? Yes. Should PCOSers drink juice? That's debateable. Will drinking or not drinking juice cure PCOS? No. No, it won't. What about vegetable juice? My answer to this is a question - why are you more willing to drink the juice than to eat a big plate of veggies? You can even put a sauce on them! They're yummy! And good for you! And they give your digestive system something to do!

And a small bonus tidbit - PCOSers don't require any different nutrition than the rest of the human race.

We all need good, healthy food.


Jim Purdy said...

I agree totally with your comments about a hunter/gatherer diet. I have my kitchen stocked with fresh raw foods, especially ingredients for salads. As long as I stay home, I can stick with a healthful diet. The problem is when go out and start hunting and gathering. My foraging too often ends up a McDonalds or a snack vending machine. Thanks for sharing with us.

Syd said...


Firstly, thank you for reading and commenting. It's nice to think I'm not entirely talking to myself.

Second - I can relate to the foraging issue. Who doesn't like a snack or a burger? The trick is moderation - far more difficult than strict inclusion/elimination, yes?

I'm waging war right now with an old nemisis - cinnamon toast. He's a worthy opponent.

PCOSinConnection said...

There are so many things in this blog that is a huge concern for me. The biggest concern and the one I will address [as to not take up the whole 'board'] is this comment: PCOS is a syndrome (a collection of symptoms - not a disease).

PCOS *IS* in fact a disease directly connected with the Diabetes family. PCOS is diagnosed through symptoms but its cause is the disease of impared endocrine system.

The argument of juice is corrolated with spiking of blood sugar. It depends on the person. I myself drink a lot of juice (fruits and veggies but almost all of my juice is hand blended and contains the fiber as well) due for several reasons. I do not suffer from high spiking so for me, I can handle it.

The biggest difference and I believe direct cause of the increase in diabetics is our ancestors lived more natural lives. Our environment is so contaminiated that it - in my opinion - has damaged our bodily functions and systems. The foods they ate back in the day was natural and unprocessed - today that is hardly the case unless you root back in your kitchen and dont eat boxed/canned goods much. Even restaurants do a lot of processed foods. The biggest inhibitor in our daily functions is the chemicals around us in our world - from cleaning supplies, to our clothes that absorb into our skin, to the air we breathe. All of these have huge impacts on our systems today then they did for our ancestors. Essentially, we do not process our foods the same as we did a couple generations ago.

Anonymous said...

"PCOS *IS* in fact a disease"

Well no. The 'S' stands for 'syndrome' and it's alternatively described as a "disorder".

Sigge said...

"The problem is when go out and start hunting and gathering. My foraging too often ends up a McDonalds or a snack vending machine."

You see your ancestors didn't have to worry about that. They didn't hunt burgers and sweets. ;)

Syd said...

Welcome PCOSinconnection.

Interesting that you say there are 'many things on this blog that are a serious concern' but basically, the only point we seem to disagree on is that PCOS is a syndrome and not a disease. That's just semantics, but I'll support my position.

PCOS is most definitely a serious health issue connected to impaired endocrine homeostasis. That I'll agree with.

But it is a syndrome (which means at it's 'roads which run together' and in medical terminology means a collection of symptoms.)

I am happy to see the medical community and the population at large taking this issue seriously because of the serious ramifications of dismissing it. When I was diagnosed, the common procedure was to put a woman on BC until she was ready to have babies. It ought to be against the law.

But I think the main issue - the one which causes so much trouble, is that the impairment of the endocrine system is a direct result of the factors I mentioned in the original post - it's modern lifestyle coming back to bite us.

There is no possibility that after thousands of years of evolution, women's endocrine systems are suddenly failing to do their job without cause. In medical terminology, such a 'causeless' health issue is called 'idiopathic' which means etymologically 'self driven.' What it actually means is 'we don't know why.'

But we do know why. It's not some mysterious external force - it's how we live that is causing this condition. It's what we eat, it's how we (don't) sleep, it's a sedentary lifestyle. It's not mysterious and it's not irreversible.

This offends some women - I don't want to offend, but to continue to treat PCOS as a 'medical issue' curable only by serious medical intervention is ridiculous. PCOS has serious medical consequences, but it is, in fact - almost all the time, a lifestyle issue. Changing lifestyle will fix the problem with few exceptions.

Whether you drink juice or not has naught to do with me. Indeed, I think that juice can be part of a balanced diet - as I said. But the people who are arriving here after a search are looking for a cure. They're searching for 'juice to control PCOS' and the like. That's not going to happen, which is exactly what I said.

Neither the cure nor the cause of PCOS is juice - it's a small part of the much larger issue - what we eat. Even if juice makes up 10% of a woman's diet, there's still the other 90% to consider. What I'm advocating here is balance - and balance doesn't come in the form of strict inclusion or exclusion. It comes in considering the 'big picture.'

I actually don't think you disagree with most of what I said, but my stance that PCOS isn't a disease seems to have pushed a button. Not my intention, let me assure you.

A disease requires medical intervention. While one can monitor PCOS medically, it neither requires nor benefits from medical intervention. Achieving a healthy state after a PCOS diagnosis is 99% non medical. The heavy load on the road to wellness will be carried by the 'patient' and the majority of work will be done by changing lifestyle. No matter how much metformin, insulin, and fertility drugs you pump into someone - the root of the problem can only be reached by changing the cause.

Syd said...

PCOSinconnection -

One other thing. Please do bring up your other issues. I will be happy to support my position with facts, medical literature, and logic.

And if I'm wrong, I will gladly shout it from the rooftops. My goal is not to gather followers or disciples or believers - rather my goal is to empower people to exert control over their own health and healthcare. We've given doctors both too much power and too much responsibility - we need to fix that problem.

Syd said...

sigge -

Too right.

Jim said...

This just gets better and better. Syd, I agree with you completely. It's too bad that many doctors ignore evolutionary causes, and they instead treat symptoms which are in fact the body's natural defense mechanisms. Doctors and their drugs often cause serious problems by interfering with our finely tuned evolved defenses.

Syd said...

Hi Jim, and WB.

Thanks for your comment. I think doctors have a purpose, but what I think their purpose is probably differs wildly from what they think their purpose is. LOL. I can be a very frustrating patient.

Syd said...

PCOSinconnection -

I do hope you return, because I certainly am interested in what you have to say.

I've re-read your final paragraph and I must say, I disagree.

If I'm reading right, you're advocating the idea that our endocrine systems are permanently damaged and unable to achieve homeostasis, not only because of our altered lifestyles, but also because of environmental contamination.

I would like to see any published study that supports a contamination theory.

You say "...we do not process our foods the same as we did a couple generations ago." This is only true because we don't eat or live the same as we did a few generations ago.

Published research proves that lack of quality sleep promotes insulin resistance/impaired glucose tolerance. Published research proves that smoking tobacco diminishes lean muscle tissues' ability to use glucose. Published research proves that highly processed grains create an unstable insulin response. Published research concludes that lean muscle mass directly contributes to insulin/glucose homeostasis. Published research shows that regular, moderate cardio exercise reduces insulin resistance. Published research proves that resistance training improves glucose tolerance.

And yet...you are dismissing this science to promote the idea that despite all these facts, we don't know what causes the majority of today's obesity, IR, PCOS, and diabetes problems? From what you've said, all these lifestyle factors can't explain the explosion of these disorders?

While I leave the door open to a chemical contribution, I maintain that if one fixes the above mentioned lifestyle issues, one would likely find their IR issues resolved.

Please do support your position that chemical contamination has permanently damaged endocrine systems. I'm very interested.

Jim said...

Syd, I'm very curious about your background. I haven't read many of your blog posts (yet), but the ones I have read sound very interesting. I have recently read a lot about evolutionary/Darwinian medicine/health/nutrition, by authors like Randolph Nesse, George C. Williams, Noel Boaz, Loren Cordain and others, and you seem to think along the same lines they do. Are you perhaps a biologist or anthropologist or something similar?

Jim Purdy, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Syd said...

I'm a college dropout (biology major) with 10 years experience in people/restaurant management and a passion for two things: dessert and practical application of science.

I think I would have made a good anthropologist, if only I'd known back then that people watching could be a job.

Jim said...

Judging by what I've read so far of your blog, you should write a book. Seriously. If nothing else, you could publish-on-demand (for free, I think) at Lulu.com. I'd buy the first copy.

Or have you perhaps already published something, and I've overlooked it?

Jim Purdy

Syd said...

I'm not an author. I do appreciate the compliment, but my knowledge and opinion aren't to be unique or specialized enough to warrant a book.

But I do like that I can publish this blog, and that regular people can read it and learn something they might not have known before - sometimes something that might improve their life.

Soon, I'll be adding a sidebar of recommended reading. Maybe within the next week. There are some really good (accredited) authors who support real, practical science and expose old wives' tales and snake oil for what it is.

Anonymous said...

PCOS is not a new syndrome, disease, condition - whatever you want to call it. Until the past couple of decades it was called Stein Leventhal Syndrome and has been around 1935. That is since BEFORE SLICED BREAD. So there you go - it was around before processed foods. Unless you want to count whole grain cereal as processed food. I doubt the women of the 1930's were gorging themselves on expensive boxed cereal in excess of the rest of the population. I will agree that antibiotics in milk and all the crazy stuff they're putting in foods these days are making the syndrome and other hormonal diseases more prevalent. Many doctors believe PCOS or insulin resistance CAUSES excessive weight gain, not the other way around. Yes, there are skinny PCOSers - these doctors think those women just don't have that effect of PCOS. In my case, I was eating ramen twice a day in college, then in a two week period, I gained forty pounds. Really. That was ten years ago. In that time, doctors have not believed that story. Until now - I have been seeing one of the leading experts in the nation on PCOS and he says excessive weight gain in incredibly short amounts of time is not uncommon with the first onslaught of PCOS. Here's another thing - you can look this up. One way to tell if a woman (I don't know what works in the case of men) is medically overweight and should seek medical attention, or is just large from overeating is, the woman who is medically fat gains weight in her middle and waist, while the woman who eats too much gains weight in her butt and thighs. If you see a woman that is larger in her middle than elsewhere (and I am not a doctor, so this isn't to say women who don't fit this don't have a condition,)then she as PCOS, Cushings, or something else. With Cushings, she'll also normally have a small hump just under the backside of her neck. I think that in this day of derision toward the fat, that people need to know that some of us aren't sitting around in our pantries all day gorging on twinkies. That's the girls who have junk in the trunk. Keep that in mind.