Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that affects women of reproductive age. PCOS is more common than you think, 1 in 10 women experience this!
While the exact cause of PCOS is still not fully understood, it is believed that genetics and environmental factors play a role in its development. PCOS is associated with a range of symptoms, including irregular periods, weight gain, insulin resistance, acne, and excessive hair growth.
As an evidence-based nutritionist, I believe whilst diet cannot cure PCOS, it can play a crucial role in managing PCOS symptoms.
In this blog, we will discuss the best foods to eat if you have PCOS, how diet affects PCOS symptoms, the role of supplements and lifestyle changes in managing PCOS, and much more.
How can nutrition help with PCOS?
Nutrition can help manage PCOS symptoms in various ways. A balanced diet can help control insulin resistance, maintain a healthy weight, reduce inflammation, and balance hormones. Nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, can provide the essential vitamins and minerals needed to support overall health and well-being.
When I work with my clients, I do not prescribe a general diet to all. We work on an individual basis, depending on their needs, health, symptoms and lifestyle.
What are the best foods to eat if you have PCOS?
When it comes to managing PCOS, a balanced and nutritious diet is key. As a Nutritionist I’d like to rephrase this question to, what foods could I add to benefit me and my PCOS. I don’t like to think of “best and worst” “good or bad”.
So, nutrients or foods that might benefit you include:
Fibre-rich foods: Fibre can help regulate blood sugar levels, improve gut health, and support the dibgestive system. Aim for at least 25-30 grams of fibre per day from sources such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.
Lean protein sources: Protein can help promote satiety and maintain muscle mass. Opt for lean protein sources such as chicken, fish, turkey, tofu, and legumes.
Healthy fats: Healthy fats such as avocado, nuts, seeds, and olive oil can help reduce inflammation and promote hormone balance.
How does diet affect PCOS symptoms?
Diet plays a significant role in the management of PCOS symptoms. Whilst there are foods that benefit the symptoms, there may also be foods that trigger particular symptoms. Before jumping to restrict foods from your diet, it is recommended you work alongside a PCOS specialist to monitor and support you with your food choices and diet.
Can supplements help with PCOS symptoms?
While a balanced and nutritious diet should be the foundation of any PCOS management plan, certain supplements may help manage PCOS symptoms. There are my top 3 supplements that may be beneficial for PCOS include:
Inositol: Inositol is a type of B-vitamin that has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, reduce testosterone levels, and improve menstrual regularity in women with PCOS.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D deficiency is common in women with PCOS and has been linked to insulin resistance, inflammation, and other PCOS symptoms. Supplementing with vitamin D may help improve insulin sensitivity and reduce inflammation.
Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity, and promote hormone balance.
What are some lifestyle changes that can help manage PCOS?
In addition to a healthy diet and supplements, certain lifestyle changes can help manage PCOS symptoms. Some lifestyle changes that may be beneficial for PCOS include:
Moving your body: Regular exercise can help improve insulin sensitivity, promote weight loss, and reduce inflammation. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week.
Manage stress: Stress can trigger PCOS symptoms by increasing cortisol levels and promoting inflammation. Engage in stress-reducing activities such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing.
Get enough sleep: Lack of sleep can lead to insulin resistance, weight gain, and hormonal imbalances. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night to promote overall health and well-being.
How can I lose weight with PCOS through nutrition?
Weight loss can be challenging for women with PCOS. It is also important to note, that although weight loss is a typical recommendation from PCOS, it is not always the case. This is why it is important to work with a professional. Nutrition can play a crucial role in promoting weight loss in women with PCOS. Some tips for losing weight with PCOS through nutrition include:
Focus on a balanced diet: A balanced and nutritious diet is crucial for managing weight in women with PCOS. Aim to consume a variety of whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats.
Prioritise regular physical activity: Engaging in regular exercise can help improve insulin sensitivity, aid weight loss, and reduce PCOS symptoms. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, such as brisk walking, cycling, or swimming. Additionally, incorporate strength training exercises to build lean muscle mass.
Be mindful of portion sizes: Monitoring portion sizes can be beneficial for weight management. Practise mindful eating by paying attention to hunger and fullness cues. Incorporating techniques like chewing slowly, savouring each bite, and turning off the tv can also help you feel more satisfied.
Manage stress levels: Implement stress management techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or engaging in hobbies you enjoy. Prioritising self-care and getting enough sleep can also help reduce stress levels and support your goals.
Seek support and guidance: Don't hesitate to seek support from healthcare such as a nutritionist experienced in managing PCOS and weight loss. They can provide tailored advice, monitor your progress, and offer guidance on specific dietary and exercise strategies. Additionally, joining support groups or online communities of women with PCOS can provide valuable insights, motivation, and encouragement throughout your weight loss journey.
Remember, weight loss with PCOS can be challenging, and it's important to focus on overall health improvements rather than solely the number on the scale. Consistency, patience, and a sustainable approach are key factors in achieving long-term success.
How can nutrition help with hormonal imbalances in PCOS?
Hormonal imbalances are a hallmark of PCOS, and nutrition can play a crucial role in promoting hormonal balance. A balanced and nutrient-dense diet can help regulate insulin and glucose levels, reduce inflammation, and support hormone production. Eating a diet rich in fibre, lean protein, healthy fats, and low-glycemic index foods can help regulate hormones and manage PCOS symptoms.
How does insulin resistance affect PCOS and how can nutrition help?
Insulin resistance is a common feature of PCOS, and it occurs when the body becomes less responsive to insulin, leading to high levels of glucose in the blood. Nutrition can play a crucial role in managing insulin resistance by promoting a balanced and nutrient-dense diet. Eating a diet rich in fibre, lean protein, healthy fats, and low-glycemic index foods can help regulate blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity.
Are there any specific diets that are recommended for PCOS?
There is no one-size-fits-all diet for PCOS, as every woman's needs and preferences are different. As I mentioned previously I do not like to prescribe a general diet to all when I work with my clients.
Can nutrition help with fertility issues related to PCOS?
Fertility issues are a common concern for women with PCOS, but nutrition can play a crucial role in improving fertility outcomes. A balanced and nutrient-dense diet can help regulate menstrual cycles, improve hormone balance, and support overall reproductive health. Some specific dietary recommendations for improving fertility in women with PCOS include:
Eating a diet rich in antioxidants: Antioxidants can help reduce oxidative stress, which can affect fertility.
Consuming iron-rich foods: Iron deficiency can affect fertility, so it's essential to consume iron-rich foods such as leafy greens, beans, and fortified cereals.
Eating foods rich in folic acid: Folic acid is crucial for foetal development and can improve fertility outcomes. Foods rich in folic acid include leafy greens, fortified cereals, and citrus fruits.
Working with a healthcare provider: Women with PCOS who are struggling with fertility issues should work closely with a healthcare provider, including a specialised nutritionist, to develop a nutrition plan to support fertility outcomes.
To conclude, PCOS is a complex condition that can significantly impact a woman's health and well-being. This is just a little glimpse into the work I do with my clients. While there is no cure for PCOS, nutrition can play a crucial role in managing symptoms, promoting hormonal balance, and improving overall health outcomes. By focusing on a balanced and nutrient-dense diet, maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in regular exercise, and managing stress, women with PCOS can take control of their health and improve their quality of life.
If this is something you would like support or guidance with contact me here.
If you want to find out if you have PCOS, click here.
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