Six lifestyle changes for PCOS patients
A while ago, a young lady came in for her usual annual medical checkup and it was discovered on abdominal ultrasound that she had an ovarian cyst in her left ovary. Immediately she was told of the findings, she started crying uncontrollably and saying things like “How come?” But No one in my family has PCOS. So this means I won’t be able to get pregnant!” She was hysterical and her fears were real.
PCOS affects about 1 in 10 women worldwide and this is why September is awareness month for this disorder. It can be controlled with medications such as hormonal birth control pills and in addition to conventional medical treatment, it is important to know that diet and lifestyle also play a major role to either fight or feed this disorder. But first, let’s explain what exactly PCOS is.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common reproductive system disorder affecting between 5% or 13% of women, depending on ethnicity. African-Americans and Africans experience the highest rates of PCOS while Chinese and Caucasian women experience the lowest rates. Women with PCOS usually have multiple cysts in their ovaries caused by an overproduction of hormones eg estrogens, and is usually characterized by irregular cycles or no menstruation at all. Common symptoms include weight gain, irregular cycles, inability to conceive or maintain a pregnancy, acne, hirsutism etc, When these symptoms are not controlled, complications such as diabetes, heart disease, endometrial cancer, infertility etc may arise.
But the symptoms can be reversed while avoiding the need for any medication – including hormonal birth control. While PCOS can be a frustrating condition that impacts a woman’s life and her fertility, there are a number of evidence-based nutrition and lifestyle medicine therapies that can support complete healing of PCOS.
Eliminate sugar and refined Carbohydrates from your diet.
Sugar is a carbohydrate and should be avoided as much as possible. Many women with PCOS have insulin resistance which means that sugar is not properly metabolized thereby leading to increased blood sugar. Sugar is lurking away in almost all packaged foods, drinks and snacks, and even in supposedly healthy foods such as granola bars and salad dressings. Make sure you read all food labels and familiarize yourself with the different names for sugar.
Also, anything made with white flour eg bread, meat pies, pasta, cakes, white rice etc are all refined carbohydrates and are highly inflammatory foods that exacerbate PCOS symptoms.
Incorporate high quality protein and high fiber vegetables into daily diet.
Most women with PCOS benefit from eating at least some animal protein, such as wild fish, grass-fed beef, organic poultry. I recommend at least 30-35% healthy fats in the diet, daily. Healthy fats include olive oil, avocado, wild salmon, and walnuts. Eating a diet where most of the carbohydrates come from vegetables is ideal. Some women can tolerate small-to-moderate amounts of whole grains and low glycemic fruits, which can be very high in important nutrients such as B vitamins and antioxidants.
It’s not enough to just exercise once or twice a week. Consistent exercise is important for women with the insulin resistance of PCOS. It does not have to be intense exercise, in-fact it’s better to start slow by taking daily hour walks or yoga classes, then build up to strength training and more cardio exercises. Whatever you do, make sure you are consistent with it to reduce PCOS symptoms.
Optimize liver health.
The functioning of the liver is essential for proper hormone (estrogen) metabolism. In order to promote liver health, try losing weight. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is prevalent in women with PCOS. Studies show that people who lost minimum of 5% body weight saw increased liver fat loss, which in turn helps reduce PCOS symptoms. In addition, reduce excessive alcohol intake as it also causes liver damage.
Just as important as the foods you eat, addition of certain supplements are also greatly beneficial to reduce PCOS symptoms. These include myo-inositol, magnesium, and cinnamon (which help with the insulin resistance) that is a hallmark of PCOS. Incorporate B6 and B-complex vitamin (helps boost progesterone production), milk thistle (helps detox the liver), addition of probiotics and calcium D glucarate can also support estrogen elimination.
Struggling with PCOS can be frustrating and stressful, and it can happen to anyone at anytime. Thankfully, incorporating certain lifestyle changes such as these mentioned above can help women overcome the symptoms caused by this disorder.
Disclaimer: This medical information is provided as an information resource only. It does not create any patient-physician relationship and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.
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