Monday, August 31, 2015

How to Manage Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Through Diet

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition affecting between 1 in 10 and 1 in 20 women of childbearing age. This condition causes the body’s hormones to become unbalanced, leading to issues like ovarian cysts, increased hair growth on the face and body (hirsutism), acne, weight gain or obesity, thinning hair, irregular menstrual periods, and even infertility.

Complications arising from polycystic ovary syndrome include an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, metabolic syndrome, and heart conditions.

While the cause of PCOS is not fully understood, it’s thought genetics plays a role, as does excess insulin or low-grade inflammation throughout the body.

There is currently no cure for PCOS, although a number of techniques can be employed to help manage symptoms of the condition. Sufferers may take medication for acne, hormone regulation, diabetes, fertility etc.

Does Diet Help With PCOS?

PCOS dietThankfully, more and more doctors are beginning to recognize the importance diet plays in preventing and controlling PCOS. In fact, it’s considered by far the biggest lifestyle contributor to PCOS.

I’m going to look at some of the ways you can make dietary changes to manage the symptoms of PCOS, such as weight gain, diabetes, cholesterol, and cardiovascular conditions.

And, while I’m all for treating symptoms of a condition, I also firmly believe it’s important to treat the root cause of the problem. Since experts believe that both inflammation and insulin resistance contribute to PCOS, we’ll look at ways to curb both these conditions by improving your diet.

The Role of Insulin

cols meat sausage rollInsulin is thought to play a major role in PCOS. This powerful hormone, released by the pancreas, exists to transport sugar out of the blood and into the cells.

However, many women with PCOS are insulin resistant, meaning this process doesn’t work correctly within their bodies. As a result, high levels of insulin contribute to many of the symptoms of PCOS, such as weight gain, high cholesterol, diabetes, and ovarian cysts.

Ladies, you’ll be glad to hear that controlling your diet can play a huge part in helping reverse insulin resistance. Firstly, stick to a balanced diet consisting of whole grains, fruit and vegetables, healthy fats, and protein.

Cut out the sugar and processed foods, and choose foods with a low glycemic index (low GI) to stop the high blood sugar levels that contribute to insulin resistance.

If you’re overweight or obese, as 50% of women with this condition are, then you should work towards shedding some pounds.

Sure, it’ll be tough. But it will be worth it.

Losing just 5% to 10% of body weight can improve symptoms of PCOS and reduce insulin resistance.

The Role of Inflammation

inflammation Inflammation is another possible contributing factor mentioned in the development of PCOS and the conditions arising from this syndrome.

While normally a healthy mechanism to ward off foreign invaders in our body, this type of low-grade inflammation is caused when our bodies mistakenly trigger an inflammatory response when no bacteria or viruses are present.

Diet also plays a huge role in regulating this type of inflammation. By making the right choices and eating anti-inflammatory foods, our body will control the triggering of responses to non-existent threats.

Let’s have a look at the best dietary choices to decrease insulin resistance and lower inflammation, and therefore manage PCOS symptoms.


nuts beans legumesWhile standard guidelines recommend that we get 45% to 65% of our daily calories from carbohydrates, women with PCOS should strive for the lower end of this range.

This is because carbohydrates cause a surge and then drop in insulin levels, contributing to insulin resistance and rebound hunger. And of course, both these conditions contribute to weight gain.

I promise you won’t have to starve yourself to get the benefits of a lower carbohydrate intake.

Even switching to a diet consisting of 43% carbohydrates has been shown to reduce fasting insulin levels, and therefore improve insulin sensitivity, in women with PCOS.

Just be smart in your choice of carbohydrates and it’ll make all the difference to your satiety levels. Forget about the fries, white bread, pastries, and pasta, which all cause insulin levels to rise.

Choose high fiber, whole grain carbohydrates like brown rice, oatmeal, whole rye, and whole wheat pasta in small amounts. Not only do whole grains have a lower GI rating, which improves insulin sensitivity, but they also help improve cholesterol levels – another PCOS-related complication.

And don’t forget the vegetables. These are always your best source of carbohydrates, so eat plenty of them.

I’d also recommended you check out my favorite Awesome Low Carb Recipes which are tasty, nutritious and filling.


macronsRegular readers will know by now that I’m no fan of sugar. I’ve talked a lot about high sugar foods and the benefits of kicking the habit.

Sugar is one food that should be removed from the diet of PCOS sufferers…and the diet of everyone else for that matter.

As well as wreaking havoc on insulin levels, it contributes to high blood pressure, inflammation, acne, weight gain, and lots more.

According to the PCOS Nutrition Center, most women with PCOS crave sweet foods – this is due to rising insulin levels. Unfortunately, the only way to combat these cravings is to reduce or remove sugar from your diet.

If you really need a sweet fix, try some low sugar fruit, like berries or melon, to curb your cravings.

Good & Bad Fats

bad fatsThis has to be one of my favorite topics – the importance of fats.

Dietary fat is vital in a PCOS diet as slows the release of glucose, ensuring your blood sugar levels remain relatively stable. Fat can also be important in weight management as it helps you feel full and stops overeating.

One fat you can safely reduce or cut out is saturated fat. It actually contributes to insulin resistance and high cholesterol, meaning it’s not very PCOS friendly. That means cutting out foods like pizzas, cheese, fatty meats like sausage, chips and fries.

Likewise, trans fats are really unhealthy and raise LDL cholesterol (the bad kind), while reducing HDL cholesterol (the good kind). Since you’re already at risk of diabetes, heart disease, and high cholesterol from PCOS, you don’t need to add to the risk by eating these fats.

The exception to the rule is coconut oil and butter. Although these are considered saturated fats, they are short-medium chain fatty acids that act in the body very differently to other types of saturated fats.

Then you can turn to other healthy fats, namely monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats from nuts, seeds, and avocados.

Of course, don’t go overboard on the fat either, limit total fat intake to a maximum of 35% of your daily calories.

No discussion on fats can leave out the importance of omega 3 fatty acids. These essential fatty acids prevent or reduce symptoms of multiple conditions, and PCOS is no exception.

They don’t just decrease cholesterol and lower blood pressure, but they have also been shown to be effective in improving hirsutism and insulin resistance in patients with PCOS.

For full omega 3 benefits, eat fatty fish like salmon and tuna twice a week, and enjoy eggs, almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds and chia seeds regularly throughout the week.

Vitamin D & PCOS

vitamin D foodsVitamin D deficiency has repeatedly been linked to PCOS with between 67% and 85% of PCOS sufferers lacking this important vitamin.

Not only is such a deficiency linked with numerous conditions associated with PCOS, like diabetes and heart disease, but it’s also believed to exacerbate symptoms like insulin resistance, ovulatory and menstrual irregularities, lower pregnancy success, hirsutism and obesity.

You can see why it’s so important that sufferers of this condition get enough vitamin D.

In fact, in a study of 13 vitamin D deficient women with PCOS, normal menstrual cycles resumed within just two months in 7 of the 9 women who had irregular menstrual cycles when given vitamin D with calcium therapy. Two of the women even became pregnant.

The power of the amazing sunshine vitamin!

Foods rich in vitamin D include tuna, salmon, liver, eggs, and cheese. But if you live in a hot climate, don’t neglect the sunbathing, you’ll probably get most of your vitamin D needs through sun exposure.

If not, talk to your doctor and consider taking a supplement to ensure you get enough vitamin D to help alleviate your symptoms.

Myo-Inositol & PCOS

oats berries bowlIf you’re wondering ‘what the heck is myo-inositol?’, you’re probably not alone.

Myo-inositol (also called inositol) is a naturally occurring substance that’s considered to be one of the B vitamins.

This little known nutrient has been found to help women with PCOS improve insulin sensitivity and other symptoms, so it may be worthwhile taking to see if it helps you.

According to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the foods richest in myo-inositol are fresh fruits, beans, grains, and nuts.

As it’s not an essential vitamin (our bodies can produce it by themselves), there is no recommended daily intake. Just aim to get a good variety of these foods in your diet.

You can also buy myo-inositol powder, which you could easily add to a morning smoothie.

The Role of Exercise

out walkingPhysical activity has been shown to play an important, if not essential, role in the treatment and prevention of insulin insensitivity, meaning it’s central to the management of PCOS.

Exercise also helps with weight management, prevents diabetes and heart disease, and regulates blood pressure levels and the menstrual cycle.

A 2014 study has shown that diet and exercise modifications improve fertility levels and regulate hormones of those with PCOS. In fact, exercise alone was found to have a significant impact on the symptoms of PCOS.

At least 30 minutes of aerobic activity is recommended a week. Aim for strength training twice a week, as in order to improve insulin levels and aid weight loss, lifting weights is thought to be an important aspect of exercise for those with PCOS.

In addition to regular exercise, eating whole grain carbohydrates, healthy fats, eliminating sugar, and supplementing with vitamins in order to manage your PCOS, there are a few other things to consider.

  • Make sure to round out your diet with protein-rich foods at every meal such as beans, nuts, eggs, fish, and lean meat.
  • According to the American Diabetes Association, the GI of a food is different when eaten alone than it is when combined with other foods. If you must eat a high GI food, make sure to combine it with low GI foods to lessen the impact on blood sugar levels.
  • Watch your calorie intake and exercise portion control in order to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Limit salt intake – use herbs, spices, and vinegars to flavor your foods instead, and avoid processed foods and ready made dressings. Too much salt can raise blood pressure, which is linked with the heart disease that PCOS sufferers are at risk of.
  • Drink enough fluids every day to alleviate symptoms of water retention, something that can affect women with PCOS. If you get bored with plain water, try some green tea or my favorite fat-melting drink.

Sample PCOS Meal Plan

sample PCOS mealsHere’s an idea of what a typical day looks like on a PCOS friendly diet – pretty good wouldn’t you say?

Just make sure to adjust your portion size based on your calorie needs, which you can figure out here.

If it all sounds a little daunting, don’t worry. With a little planning and preparation, PCOS and its symptoms can be effectively managed through diet and exercise – along with any other treatments as prescribed by your doctor.

Have you had success managing PCOS through changing your diet? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

The post How to Manage Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Through Diet appeared first on Nutrition Secrets.

No comments:

Post a Comment