The relationship between food and PCOS
One in ten women of childbearing age faces the lifelong challenge of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). The common condition, caused by an imbalance of reproductive hormones, tends to cause symptoms of abnormal menstruation, weight gain, excess body hair and infertility. With no permanent cure, medical providers offer treatment options, including birth control and anti-androgen medicines, to help manage the effects of PCOS. Though, nutrition is also known to play a key role in combating these symptoms.
Dr. Pinky Kurani, an endocrinologist at Advocate Medical Group in Chicago, describes diet as the “mainstay of management” when it comes to improving parameters in PCOS.
“There is no specific recommended diet for PCOS but aiming for healthy nutrition is key,” says Dr. Kurani. “Fresh, minimally processed foods, whole grains, adequate hydration, small frequent portions, avoidance of trans fats or hydrogenated fats, and eating a low sodium diet are general guidelines.”
A good starting point may involve incorporating anti-inflammatory meals that balance fiber and antioxidant-rich food into your lifestyle. This can include Omega-3 rich fish, fruits, vegetables and plant-based proteins.
Results from various studies show that both low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets can be effective in achieving weight loss and improving metabolic syndrome – a set of risk factors specific for cardiovascular disease. These dietary approaches have been found to yield positive outcomes in women with PCOS, such as reducing high glucose and lipid levels.
“Modest weight loss of even 5-10% of body weight has been shown, in some, to restore normal ovulatory cycles and improve fertility in some short-term studies,” explains Dr. Kurani. “Response to weight loss varies among individuals, however.”
While every person’s journey with PCOS is unique, adapting a healthier diet remains a primary approach to alleviating some of the difficult symptoms. It’s important to work closely with a doctor to help manage PCOS.