How can nutrition impact my PCOS symptoms?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that affects approximately one in ten women of childbearing age.
It is characterised by multiple cysts in the woman’s ovaries, caused by an overproduction of hormones known as androgens. The abundance of androgens can result in irregular periods, painful periods or no menstruation at all, making it difficult to conceive. Other common symptoms of PCOS include acne, weight issues and excessive hair (hirsutism). PCOS also carries an increased risk in developing diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and endometrial cancer.
With about 10% of women we meet having a diagnosis of PCOS, we are often asked for nutrition advice on how to reduce the severity of their symptoms to improve their wellbeing.
We have collated our tried and tested nutritional advice, below:
Foods to add
Vegetables and fruit that are high in fibre
- brussel sprouts
- collard greens
- skinless poultry
Foods that promote an anti-inflammatory response
- fatty fish
- green teas
Why add these particular foods? It’s related to insulin production.
Many women with PCOS also show signs of insulin resistance with around 50% going on to develop diabetes before they turn 40. All of the foods listed above assist in the management and production of insulin which in turn has a correlation with controlling weight. When weight is controlled, often the symptoms of PCOS are less severe and the risk of developing other conditions is lowered.
Foods to avoid
Refined carbohydrates (sugary and starchy foods)
- white bread
- white rice
- processed foods with added sugar
Foods high in sugar
- processed snacks
- sugary desserts
Foods that cause inflammation
- processed meats
- high sodium foods (fries, potato chips)
- fried or battered foods
- excessive alcohol
Refined carbs, excessively sugary foods and inflammation are all major players in weight gain and the disruption of insulin production. Reducing the intake of these foods encourages your hormones, metabolism and general mood to stabilise, and can lead to lowered severity of PCOS symptoms and decreased risk of secondary disorders.
Other lifestyle changes that may improve your symptoms include stress reduction techniques (yoga, meditation) and daily physical activity, both of which have an effect on the release and consistency of your hormones. Some women with PCOS who have succeeded with weight loss have even reported an increase in ovulation regularity.
PCOS can be frustrating and unpredictable, and the symptoms and severity vary between women. We believe that by following a balanced diet and taking a holistic approach to your health, the symptoms of PCOS can be diminished.
If you have any further questions about nutrition to combat PCOS, we’d love to hear from you!