PCOS and Nutrition: Do Your Food Choices Matter?


You may know that there are many factors contributing to weight gain, but were you aware that Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome may have an influence?

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that is most common in women during their reproductive age (20-30's). Women with this chronic disease have irregular or prolonged menstrual periods and excess male hormones called androgens. According to a recent article in Today’s Dietitian, PCOS is one of the most common endocrine disorders, affecting 9-18% of women. In addition, this disease is commonly overlooked and under-treated.

You may wonder if this could be you, but there are other factors to take into consideration.

These symptoms include:

  • Irregular menstrual periods

  • Elevated levels of male hormone (androgen)

  • Excess body and facial hair

  • Enlarged ovaries

  • Mood changes (depression, anxiety, mood swings)

  • Sleep apnea

  • Increased acne

Using nutrition to treat PCOS is a hotly debated topic. Hippocrates once said, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” Should we be steering our way towards food to help with this chronic disease?

The answer is, absolutely!

Diet and lifestyle modifications are primary treatments to focus on for women with PCOS. The optimal diet has yet to be determined, but there is significant research that shows women who choose anti-inflammatory foods by following the DASH diet are successful.

Anti-inflammatory foods will help suppress the inflammation and enlargement of the ovaries, which alleviates symptoms. This lifestyle modification includes foods that are moderate in carbohydrates and high in fiber. Some examples include: legumes, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet has significant research behind it related to weight loss and decreasing blood pressure. It’s a type of lifestyle modification with high-fiber foods, increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, decreased intake of red meat, lean protein sources (fish, poultry and beans), and limited added sugars.

Not only do these lifestyle modifications suppress inflammation in your ovaries, they also support weight loss as well as decreased blood glucose levels and blood pressure. Additionally, making small changes to your food choices will decrease your risk of other chronic diseases including: diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and certain cancers.

Only a physician can determine a diagnosis of PCOS, so see your local healthcare provider if you’re concerned.

The nutrition recommendations for PCOS are still being researched. Overall, the research shows women who make simple changes to their eating habits will reduce symptoms and help manage the condition.

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