Diet for PCOS

Cheryl Zielke
hands on stomach

Many health conditions are successfully managed with certain lifestyle habits as is the case with an appropriate, healthful diet for PCOS. Find out here what PCOS is and what dietary approach is best to diminish its symptoms.

What Is PCOS?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a women's health problem that affects nearly 10 percent of women at any age before menopause. PCOS can accompany certain reproductive stages, such as puberty or perimenopause. Each month the ovaries make a certain number of follicles with the intention that one follicle will become dominant and produce an egg. The next step in the cycle is normally ovulation. However, in women with PCOS, ovulation does not occur because a follicle never succeeds at producing an egg. The term "cysts" is used because the follicle is actually a cyst filled with fluid and hormones, primarily estrogen, in normal functioning ovaries.

Symptoms of PCOS

Classic symptoms of PCOS are:

  • Irregular menstruation cycles
  • No menstruation
  • Infertility
  • Increased hair growth primarily on face, chest, back, stomach, toes, thumbs
  • Acne
  • Oily skin
  • Dandruff
  • Pelvic pain
  • Weight gain
  • Obesity
  • Sleep apnea
  • Type II Diabetes
  • Elevated cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Thinning hair/baldness
  • Thick skin patches arms, neck, thighs
  • Skin tags/excess skin folds in armpit and neck area

Many symptoms are due to hormonal imbalances and increased production of the male hormone called androgen.

Best Diet for PCOS

While there is no known cause for PCOS, genetics are thought to be involved. What is known is that PCOS accompanies insulin resistance in most cases. Insulin is also a hormone that regulates the amount of sugar in the bloodstream. Therefore, dietary intervention characteristics of a diabetic eating plan is an extremely effective diet for PCOS.

Low Glycemic Index Diet

Two types of carbohydrates exist: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are mainly food products made with refined white flour. These types of foods are rapidly digested by the body, which leads to sudden increase in blood sugar and therefore identified as high glycemic food. When insulin is not working effectively as in PCOS sufferers, blood sugar has the potential to remain dangerously high if a high glycemic food or meal is consumed. On the other hand, complex carbohydrates contain appreciative amounts of fiber.

It is the fiber content in the food item that slows the digestive release into the bloodstream, hence offering limited, gradual amounts of sugar to the blood. In this way, the insulin reaction is not as necessary, since these low glycemic foods do not demand its function. A diet, such as a Glycemic Index Diet, for PCOS includes an abundance of fiber-rich foods, including whole grain products and low glycemic fruits and vegetables.

Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Inflammation in the body tends to exacerbate insulin resistance. For this reason, a suitable diet for PCOS is the Inflammation-Free Diet Plan that is void of food items that cause an inflammatory response. Foods high in simple carbohydrates, saturated fats, and trans fat are best eliminated for a suitable diet for PCOS. Besides choosing high fiber foods, unsaturated oils are good choices too. A similar approach to meal planning as suggested by the Mediterranean-type diet with its unsaturated olive oil, fatty fish, olives, and fresh produce is beneficial for persons with PCOS.

Reduced Calorie Diet

Weight loss of just five to ten percent of body weight, if weight status is an issue, produces a significant positive effect in insulin function and PCOS symptoms. By reducing calories and using more calories with physical activity, weight loss occurs. Keeping a food diary is a key starting point for assessing current caloric intake. From this data, small changes in food choices and portion sizes can be made to begin lowering caloric intake.

Other Diet Approaches

Due to its inclusion of lean protein, healthy fats and oils, nuts, seeds, and fresh vegetables and fruits, the Basics of the South Beach Diet is conducive to a healthy diet for PCOS. In general, any dietary approach that is comprised of 50 percent of calories from complex carbohydrates, 20 percent from lean sources of protein, and 30 percent from unsaturated fat is a favorable diet for PCOS.

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Diet for PCOS