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Diet Tips For Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Diet Tips For Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

When levels of certain hormones are out of balance, it leads to the growth of fluid-filled sacs on the ovaries and thus causes polycystic ovary syndrome, commonly known as PCOS. It is a very common syndrome which affects up to 15–20% of women of reproductive age. Irregular or absent periods, hair loss, excess hair growth, acne, weight gain, depression and fertility problems are the most common side effects of PCOS. This syndrome is also associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Unluckily, there is no cure for PCOS. Nevertheless, one of its first-line treatments is diet and lifestyle changes. It is a known fact that, as little as a 5% weight loss for overweight women can restore irregular periods and boost ovulation.

Here are 6 dietary tips which will reduce symptoms and boost weight loss in women with PCOS.

1.Sufficient Breakfast:
To balance out the hormones associated with PCOS, it is recommended to make breakfast the biggest meal, whereas dinner the smallest. Yet, it’s important to consider that increasing the size of your breakfast without decreasing the size of your evening meal leads to weight gain.

2.Adequate Healthy Fats:
Oily fish, avocados, olive oil, unsalted nuts and seeds are examples of healthy fats which contain omega-3 fatty acids. These kinds of fats help in balancing the hormones and improving insulin levels in women with PCOS. However, replacing unhealthy fats with healthy fats, rather than adding further into your diet is the solution to avoid weight gain.

3.Low Carb Intake:
Insulin is a hormone that aids in the transportation of sugar from your blood into your cells for energy. The cells of the women with PCOS don’t use insulin as effectively as they should; this condition is known as “Insulin Resistance”. And when the insulin is not used effectively, its level will accumulate in the blood and will cause unwanted symptoms. The good news is that you can control your insulin levels when you keep on being on a low-carb diet and a low-glycemic index (GI) diet, meaning eating foods that raise blood sugar levels slowly and thus help prevent insulin spikes. In women with PCOS, cutting down carb intake is a great approach to improve hormonal imbalances. It also helps in weight loss due to the naturally higher protein and fat intake. Low carb diet helps in the reduction of blood sugar levels, cravings and appetite, and subsequently promotes satiety. This diet includes whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats and exclude most processed or refined carbs, including sugary foods and drinks.

4.High Lean Protein Intake:
Some of the unpleasant side effects of PCOS are excess facial hair, a deeper voice and irregular periods. And this is due to having higher level of androgen hormones (such as testosterones) than usual. Compared to a high carb diet, a high protein diet rich in lean meat, fish, eggs, beans and some dairy products may aid in decreasing androgen levels. High protein diets also do not cause spikes in insulin levels. Moreover, they suppress “ghrelin”, a hunger hormone and consequently promote feeling of fullness.

5.Staying Active:
Exercise is another key factor in improving PCOS symptoms, as its health benefits range from improving ovulation, increasing insulin sensitivity to aiding in burning fat and hence losing weight.

6.Supplementation of Vitamin D and Chromium:
Among other nutrient deficiencies, Vitamin D and Chromium deficiencies are most commonly known in having effects on the symptoms of PCOS, especially in women who have low levels of these nutrients. Vitamin D deficiency for instance is associated with obesity, insulin resistance and reduced ovulation, whereas, Chromium deficiency is associated with decreased function of insulin. However, more studies are needed to be done on this!

Bottom line, it is true that there is no final medical therapy for PCOS; however the nutritional therapy & healthy living can alleviate many of its symptoms.

Christelle Bedrossian
Beirut, Lebanon



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Dietitian Christelle Bedrossian