Symptoms of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome may be bothersome for some women and a serious problem for others, but many patients have found that a PCOS diet can help alleviate some of the discomfort.
Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is a hormonal problem that has an impact on the ovaries and other parts of a woman’s body. It is more common during the years of motherhood and requires treatment, otherwise, it could lead to serious health implications such as infertility and heart disease.
How the diet affects SOP
When ovulation does not occur, cysts may form in the ovaries. These cysts produce the hormone called androgen, which causes symptoms related to PCOS. It has been found that women with PCOS have higher than normal insulin levels. Insulin is a hormone and has an important job: helping the body’s cells to convert sugar into energy. When a person does not produce enough insulin, their blood sugar level may increase. This also happens when people are resistant to insulin. High levels of insulin can produce more androgens. Insulin resistance can occur as a result of having a body mass index above the normal range. A diet rich in refined carbohydrates can hinder insulin resistance and weight loss.
How High Can Insulin Levels Affect PCOS Symptoms?
When insulin is high, it can lead to a large number of PCOS symptoms, including weight gain, increased hair growth, irregular menstrual cycles and high cholesterol. Managing insulin levels in the blood is important if a person wants to manage their PCOS. Avoiding refined carbohydrates and foods that are high in fat is vital for someone who is suffering from PCOS.
Many doctors recommend a low GI diet to their PCOS patients. This includes whole grains and unprocessed foods. Since insulin is not the only hormone affected by PCOS, a low GI diet is needed to address all aspects of the ailment.
Research conducted at Tel Aviv University suggests that timing is everything for women with polycystic ovarian syndrome, the timing of meals that is. The University of Sackler School of Medicine and Diabetes Unit found that increasing calorie intake at breakfast could lead to lower levels of androgen testosterone and lead to a dramatic increase in ovulation frequency. The key was to have high protein and carbohydrates early in the day and reduce calories throughout the day to achieve a reduction in insulin resistance. Experts involved in the study call this a “natural” way for normal weight women who suffer from PCOS to control insulin levels to improve fertility. This natural treatment of PCOS could provide hope for women who have not been able to find solutions to their fertility problems.
Management of the glycemic load in the diet PCOS
Clomid and Metformin are two of the most commonly prescribed medications for women suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome. Clomid, also known as serophene, is a medication used to try to induce ovulation. Metformin was originally formulated to treat diabetes, however, it can also be used with PCOS to help women ovulate and become pregnant.
Recent research shows that dietary efficacy stands out markedly compared to medications. In one study, a team of researchers compared Clomid, metformin, Clomid combined with metformin and lifestyle changes. They monitored pregnancy rates and here’s what they found: Clomid had 12.5 percent pregnancy, Metformin 14.4 percent, a combination of Clomid and Metformin 14.8 percent pregnancy, while diet and style of life had a 20 percent pregnancy rate.
Dietitians tell women with PCOS that when it comes to diet, there is a lot to think about. For example, a diet you hear on TV or reading online might sound good, but it may not be the right fit for someone in your situation. A popular diet program approved by millions suggests bananas with banana and honey for breakfast. Sounds good, right? Well, it actually has a glycemic load of 45, which can cause insulin to spike. Also, there is little protein, so blood sugars will crash and you will have cravings long before your next meal. On the other hand, an avocado and raspberry breakfast shake has a glycemic index of only 6 as well as all the necessary building blocks of all its hormones.
To keep your hormone levels balanced, you need to administer insulin, avoid refined foods, get a good balance or protein, carbohydrates and fat, avoid dairy, avoid added sugar and enjoy vegetables.
PCOS Diet: Foods to eat and avoid management of PCOS
At this point, you are likely to wonder what foods should and should not be on the PCOS food list. Here we are left without knowing what PCOS foods to eat and what PCOS foods to avoid.
Science tells us that high-fiber foods help fight insulin resistance by slowing down digestion and reducing the impact of sugar on your blood. This can help women suffering from PCOS, so a diet full of high fiber foods is a good idea. Below are some high fiber options.
- Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts
- Red leaf lettuce and arugula
- Green and red peppers
- Beans and lentils
- Sweet potatoes and winter squash
Lean proteins like chicken, fish and tofu are also healthy choices for someone who has PCOS, as do foods that help reduce inflammation. Tomatoes, kale, spinach, walnuts, olive oil, blueberries and salmon are examples of foods that help reduce inflammation.
Here are some other PCOS foods to eat:
- Apples and pears
- Kale and collards
- Yogurt (with 15 grams of sugar per serving)
- Nut butter
- Veggie Burgers (with no more than 10 grams of protein)
- Whole grain bread, pasta and English muffin
- Integral rice
- Canola oil or corn oil
- Fresh fruit or canned fruit without added sugar
- High fiber cereals
- White vegetables
Refined carbohydrates lead to inflammation, which can worsen symptoms of PCOS, since inflammation aggravates insulin resistance. Here are some of the foods you should avoid if you suffer from PCOS.
- White bread
- Breakfast rolls
- White potatoes
- Corn syrup, artificial sweeteners
- Artificial colorant
- Trans-fats and saturated fats
- Excess sodium
- Fatty foods
- Anything made with white flour
All of the above is based on suggestions from experts in the field of health, nutrition and medical science. While this is a guideline, you should always consult with a doctor before starting any new diet.
Lifestyle changes to cope with SOP
People of all shapes and sizes of PCOS, but research indicates that about 50 percent are obese. More and more evidence also shows that weight control improves symptoms of PCOS. Nowadays, most women with the condition are advised to include exercise and diet in their treatment plan.
When talking about lifestyle adjustments, doctors often remind patients to avoid falling for extravagant diets that read online or listen to talk in social circles. It is safer to choose foods with low glycemic index and follow the instructions set by your health care provider.
A PCOS exercise routine is another important part of coping. Studies show that regular physical activity is one of the best things you can do to help manage the problem. When it moves, it can help reduce insulin resistance and inflammation. Somewhere between 50 and 70 percent of PCOS sufferers have insulin resistance. Cardiovascular and muscle strengthening exercises are a good idea, but for those who do not like this type of training, a moderate activity such as a 30 minute walk or bike ride is also helpful. PCOS yoga is another option and is considered a form of strength training.
Women who suffer from PCOS are at an increased risk of blood clotting, so stopping smoking is advisable. There are numerous strategies for quitting smoking that can be discussed with a doctor. It is also important to note that there are emotional aspects associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome that women should discuss with medical experts. For example, excess body hair or weight gain can be distressing and impact a person’s self-image, but there are ways to address these concerns. Finding the right support through a physician or through community resources can make a significant difference in the life of a woman who has PCOS.
Some women’s health advocates say that managing PCOS requires looking at “the big picture,” not just diet and exercise. They believe that sleep, stress and self-confidence affect a woman’s ability to cope with symptoms. Often, working on these issues allows a person to make the biggest lifestyle changes, such as diet, which are necessary to ultimately affect their PCOS.