Does Diet Affect Polycystic Ovaries Syndrome?Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that affects approximately 10 percent of girls and women in their late teens, 20s, 30s and 40s – in other words, one in 10 women of childbearing age. While it is not life-threatening, it can indeed cause health problems if not dealt with promptly and effectively. Good nutritional choices – eating a well-balanced diet with few or no exceptions – can help ease the discomfort of PCOS in most people. In this article, we explain PCOS, describe its symptoms, and suggest ways in which nutrition can help ease discomfort and lessen symptoms. Our focus is largely dietary because obesity (and the health problems that can stem from it) is a common side effect of PCOS, and proper nutrition is vital for any woman dealing with this condition.
What Is PCOS?PCOS is a disorder in the female reproductive system, an imbalance of hormones. (Unfortunately, medical experts and scientists have not yet pinpointed the precise cause of PCOS). Often a patient has high levels of male hormones called androgens and fluid-filled cysts on their ovaries. Women who are coping with PCOS are often insulin resistant, which means their bodies do not use insulin correctly. Consequently, the woman experiences reproductive and metabolic problems, including:
- Irregular or missed menstrual cycles.
- Hair loss or thinning on the head, but unwanted hair growth elsewhere, such as the chest or face, stomach or toes.
- Weight gain, around the stomach area in particular.
- Infertility because of ovulation not occurring.
- Skin problems, including acne and dandruff.
- Pain and discomfort in the pelvic region.
What Risks Accompany PCOS?These symptoms are difficult to cope with, but PCOS puts a woman at risk of other problems, too. These include:
- Type 2 Diabetes because of insulin resistance.
- High cholesterol.
- Anxiety and depression.
- High blood pressure.
- Increased risk of endometrial cancer.
How Does Diet Help Manage PCOS?Recent studies have shown that a proper, balanced diet and regular exercise can help women manage PCOS and stabilize their condition. This happens primarily because a diet of whole foods, lots of fibre, plenty of lean protein and other beneficial nutrients help stabilize insulin levels. Women with PCOS under 40 are often pre-Diabetic; some have full Diabetes. In addition to making positive changes to insulin levels, dietary and lifestyle changes can lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure; help you lose weight; lessen anxiety and depression, and even reduce levels of male hormones.
First, Talk To Your Physician.Before embarking on significant dietary and lifestyle changes, it’s important that you’ve seen your doctor and received a correct diagnosis. If she/he confirms you have PCOS, no doubt she/he will encourage you to make these changes as promptly as possible. Once you are fully apprised of your medical situation, get started making positive changes as quickly as possible.
Foods To Consume When You’re Dealing With PCOSIf you’re a woman coping with PCOS, it’s vital that you consume foods that help manage insulin resistance and production. We dove into the research of doctors, dietitians and nutritionists to put together the following list of foods they recommend you consume as much as possible.
- Low glycemic index (GI) foods such as nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, along with other low carbohydrate foods, are all good choices.
- Foods with anti-inflammatory properties, such as blueberries, and fatty fish (like salmon and sardines), are also good nutritional choices for women with PCOS.
- Extra virgin olive oil should be your go-to for making salad dressing and lightly frying foods.
- Kale and spinach and other dark, leafy green vegetables. And, of course, a variety of vegetables, both raw and cooked (cauliflower, onions, broccoli, etc.), are also high on the list of recommended foods.
- Dried beans and lentils.
- Lean meats, including chicken and plant-based meat substitutes.
- Spices such as cinnamon and turmeric. (Both are thought to have anti-inflammatory properties).
- Foods are high in “good fats,” like avocados. (For more information on foods with the best fats, go to American Diabetes Association).
- A little dark chocolate occasionally is acceptable if you’re a fan of sweets.
Foods To Avoid If You Have PCOSAlthough no one should consume junk food or fast food in large quantities, it is particularly important that women with PCOS avoid these foods entirely. Sticking to the list of foods we just mentioned is the healthiest option, and resisting the temptation to eat processed and refined foods is crucial. Here is a list of items you shouldn’t consume, according to experts.
- Fast foods. That means that foods like burgers, French fries, onion rings, pizza, etc., are off the menu! These foods impact insulin levels and send cholesterol levels and blood pressure soaring, as they contain preservatives and a great deal of sodium.
- Too much red meat. Focus on lean meats like chicken and plant-based proteins like veggie burgers. Eat lots of fish, too, as we suggested earlier – fish that’s high in omega‑3 fatty acids, like salmon.
- Avoid processed meats. That includes hot dogs and deli meats.
- Replace white bread. Opt for whole wheat or rye, or other multigrain breads.
- Sugar-laced pop. Instead of drinking sugary sodas and juices, switch to water.