PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, which is a hormonal disorder that affects approximately 10% of women of reproductive age, worldwide.
Women with PCOS may experience a variety of symptoms such as an irregular menstrual cycle, excessive facial or body hair, acne, weight gain, impaired fertility and poor mental health.
You may be wondering, is there a specific diet that is best for PCOS? And are there certain ‘off-limit’ foods for those with PCOS?
Keep reading if you want to make nutrition and PCOS that little less overwhelming.
What Is PCOS?
PCOS is a hormonal disorder that affects women of reproductive age. While the exact cause of PCOS is not fully understood, it is believed to be influenced by both genetic and environmental factors.
Some common symptoms of PCOS include excess facial and body hair, difficulty falling pregnant due to menstrual irregularities and increased difficulty in maintaining a healthy weight. Insulin resistance is also common in PCOS, and the risk of developing some chronic health conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes is also higher.
Although there is no cure or “perfect diet” for PCOS, the good news is that its symptoms can often be alleviated through lifestyle and diet changes! Diet and lifestyle changes can help to effectively manage symptoms by regulating hormones, improving insulin resistance, and reducing inflammation.
Nutrition & PCOS
Unfortunately, a “perfect diet” for PCOS does not exist, so getting advice from an Accredited Practicing Dietitian is recommended for more personalised treatment.
Current recommendations are to consume a diet with lots of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats, as this can greatly improve PCOS symptoms by helping to:
- Control insulin and blood glucose levels across the day
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Provide your body with essential vitamins and minerals for ongoing good health
- Reduce the risk of developing chronic health conditions
Pretty much a healthy, balanced diet is your best bet!
What About Carbohydrates?
You might be wondering if eating a low-carb diet is good for PCOS? Well, research shows that it's not the best option for everyone. Instead, focusing on the Glycemic Index (GI) of your carbohydrate sources can be more helpful.
The Glycemic Index measures how quickly your body absorbs your carbohydrates and causes an increase in your blood sugar levels.
Foods with a lower GI cause your blood sugar to rise more slowly and evenly, which can give you more energy throughout the day and help manage insulin resistance.
Include more low GI carbohydrate sources, such as:
- Sweet potatoes
- Legumes (lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans)
- Whole grain breads
- Whole grain pasta
- Brown rice
- Nuts and seeds)
We also want to be mindful of how many high GI carbohydrate sources we are consuming, as these cause a rapid sugar rise in our blood and can negatively affect our insulin resistance.
High GI carbohydrate sources we want to limit are sources, such as:
- White bread and bagels
- White rice
- Processed cereals
- Sugary drinks (sodas, fruit juices)
- Candy and sweets
- White potatoes
- Refined snack foods (biscuits, cakes, chocolates)
Ps. Please don't worry about indulging in your favourite treats once in a while, it's the consistent healthy choices that matter the most!
Exercise & PCOS
When it comes to exercise and PCOS, regular movement can be very beneficial in helping to improve insulin resistance and in reducing the risk of developing long-term health conditions associated with PCOS.
The take home message here is to find a style of exercise you enjoy and implement that into your routine and reap the ongoing benefits on both body and mind!
When it comes down to it, women with PCOS may experience all, some or none of the common signs and symptoms. We all have different starting points, so the right treatment approach will be slightly different for everyone and this is why getting personalised advice and guidance from an Accredited Practicing Dietitian is so important.
We would encourage any woman with PCOS to maintain a healthy diet filled with whole grains, fruits, vegetables, proteins, and healthy fats and find a style of exercise you can enjoy consistently. Together, dietary and lifestyle changes can have a positive impact on managing your PCOS symptoms.
For more information on PCOS please visit: https://www.jeanhailes.org.au/health-a-z/pcos or Dietitians Australia at: https://dietitiansaustralia.org.au/health-advice/polycystic-ovary-syndrome-pcos
This information is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Move With Us encourages all women exploring PCOS to discuss their symptoms with a medical doctor and to follow their ongoing medical advice.