5 Great Ways to Help Manage Your PCOS
Having polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) doesn’t mean you’ve lost control over your body. The hormonal and metabolic condition affects 10 million women worldwide, and symptoms such as infertility, weight gain, excess body hair, and excess levels of androgen “male” hormone originate from insulin resistance. Though common treatments include medications such as Glucophage (metformin) and hormonal birth control to relieve symptoms, your diet also plays a huge role in PCOS management. Following a healthy diet is one thing you can do every day to take back control.
A healthy and nutritious diet can help improve PCOS symptoms by reducing overall inflammation and lowering insulin resistance. Keep in mind that there’s not one perfect PCOS diet, however, it’s clear that an anti-inflammatory diet that’s based on healthy and antioxidant-rich foods is what your eating choices should be built on. Here are some good tips on how to improve your diet for better PCOS management:
1. Avoid high-glycemic foods
Foods that have a low glycemic index (low-GI) won’t suddenly raise your blood glucose and are linked to improved insulin sensitivity. Consider adding more apples, berries, lettuce, kale, spinach, pumpkin seeds, cashews, and oats to your diet.
Consuming foods with a high glycemic index is connected with a larger waistline and higher “bad” LDL cholesterol and lower “good” HDL cholesterol levels in women with PCOS. This is essential because unhealthy cholesterol levels can contribute to heart disease, something that PCOS sufferers are at a higher risk for.
2. Lose excess weight
In fact, losing extra weight is effective at lessening issues linked to PCOS. According to a 2013 study, weight loss in women with PCOS led to improved symptoms (menstrual irregularity, insulin resistance, mood issues) regardless of the type of diet.
Losing excess weight is like bringing the body back into balance. Eat more nutrient-rich foods instead of worrying about if it’s low- or high-carb, -fat, or -protein and the results will follow.
3. Add more omega-3 rich food to your diet
Omega-3 fatty acids are contained in oily fish such as salmon and sardines, as well as vegetarian sources like chia seeds. They are considered heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory. According to a recent study, taking omega-3 supplements for eight weeks lowered blood levels of testosterone (a male hormone) in women with PCOS which is crucial for proper management.
Moreover, women who take omega-3 fatty acids tend to have regular menstrual cycles. Plus, omega-3s help balance levels of luteinizing hormone, an ovarian-stimulating hormone that affects testosterone secretion.
4. Work with a dietitian to make sure your diet is right for you
To treat PCOS effectively, you need to know for sure that you follow a diet that helps you. Plus, many women with PCOS have disordered eating behaviors, such as binge eating.
According to a study, 39 percent of obese women and more than one-third of overweight and healthy women with PCOS have binge eating. Lean women with PCOS were more likely to be binge eaters when compared with lean women without the condition.
PCOS patients often suffer from depression, anxiety, and poor body image, all of which might lead to binging behaviors. Binge eating can make it hard to lose weight, however, it's more important to get the binging under control. Working with an eating-disorder dietitian can help you find out strategies to effectively deal with your feelings, practice self-compassion, and manage your eating disorder.
5. Avoid foods that you don’t tolerate well
Possibly everyone has foods they just don’t tolerate well. Find out which food intolerances or sensitivities you have. Eating foods that you don’t tolerate will result in bloating, indigestion, and gas, as well as higher levels of overall inflammation. If you have a gluten sensitivity, consider consuming naturally gluten-free whole grains (like brown rice). If you have lactose intolerance, it’s best to limit dairy and soy as well, but first work with your doctor to determine if these foods are the culprit.
Keep in mind that there’s no perfect PCOS diet for everyone. You can also help determine if you are intolerant to these foods by considering an elimination diet in which you remove different foods for three weeks, then add them back in one at a time, recording any symptoms that worsen.