Recently the disease has been growing popularity in the community and we will now discuss the nutritional management and what you should do when you have one yourself. Polycystic ovarian syndrome is commonly called as PCOS, a condition that common in women of reproductive age, where a number of small cysts develop in and around the ovaries causing a hormonal imbalance. Each woman's PCOS symptoms are unique. There is no cure for it but can have a significant alleviation of symptoms when there is a lifestyle change including diet.
WHAT COULD BE THE CAUSE?
In general the cause is unknown, but many researchers say it could be genetic disorder which can be passed on or the women have the predisposition to the disease. What I think as a nutritionist is that, with the growing agricultural improvements, least that we concentrate on the quality of the yield which could have a negative impact on health causing various hormonal imbalances. Environmental influences such as having a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption may put you at higher risk of developing PCOS.
Each woman with the disorder can show different and unique symptoms but the most common symptoms are-
- Irregular periods
- Excessive weight gain
- Oily skin
- Excessive facial hair
- Dark patches (Acanthosis nigricans)
Many studies have explored the link between blood sugar, insulin, and PCOS. Here's what science has taught us:
PCOS can cause increased androgen (male hormone) production. Elevated androgen levels put women at a higher risk of heart disease, high cholesterol, and Type 2 Diabetes. Women with PCOS also may experience persistent acne.
Modest weight loss (5-10%) through exercise and diet can alleviate common PCOS symptoms.
FACTS TO REMEMBER ABOUT PCOS
- PCOS is the leading cause of female infertility
- PCOS is the number one health condition women face today, 1 in 5 woman suffering from its symptoms. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the prevalence of infertility in women with PCOS is between 70-80%. PCOS can also increase the risk of miscarriage.
- Obesity is correlated with PCOS, In addition to hormone imbalance, women with PCOS experience insulin insensitivity. Insulin moves sugar (glucose) from the bloodstream into cells for energy. Women with insulin insensitivity due to PCOS are not able to convert sugar to energy, resulting in higher levels of insulin in the bloodstream. Higher levels of insulin cause an increase in androgen production and an increase in appetite. These factors can be correlated (but not a cause) of weight gain. However, it is very realistic to lose weight if you have PCOS.
CRITERIA FOR A DIAGNOSIS OF PCOS:
A diagnosis of PCOS can be made when at least two of the following three criteria are met:
1. Irregular periods or no periods
2. Higher levels of androgens are present in the blood (hyperandrogenism), shown by:
a blood test or symptoms such as:
- excess facial or body hair growth
- scalp hair loss
3. Polycystic ovaries are visible on an ultrasound:
More than 20 follicles (partly developed eggs) are visible on one or both ovaries or the size of one or both ovaries is increased (more than 10ml).
You do not need to have an ultrasound if you have criteria 1 and 2.
MANAGING PCOS WITH LIFESTYLE CHANGE:
A healthy lifestyle can make you go a long way to reduce your symptoms and also lessens the worsening of the disease. A healthy lifestyle basically means to have proper balanced nutrition, mild physical activity and lesser use of processed and self-damaging habits like smoking and drinking.
A healthy diet is not a only solution for PCOS, but it can provide you with vital nutrients and could also help you for losing 5-10% of body weight can reduce the worsening of the symptoms thereby improving the overall hormonal balance.
1. INCLUDE MORE PROTEINS:
High biological value protein could help you improve on gaining good muscle and also to lose excess body fat. It has also proven to improve the overall hormonal imbalance.
2. COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES AND FIBRES:
Choose carbs wisely instead of cutting them out completely, you can always choose a low GI carb which has lesser influence on the glucose levels like
- Whole wheat
3. HEALTHY FATS:
Before you run screaming the other way, fat is not the enemy! There are many healthy fats that you can enjoy in your diet, from avocados to oily fish, and these are incredibly important for eating with PCOS. Healthy fats are a source of essential fatty acids, which are key components in the maintenance of cell walls. Not only that, but they are key for the proper balancing of your hormones, as well as controlling your weight.
One very big concern for women who are experiencing PCOS is fertility and pregnancy and fatty acids play an essential role in both of these. Omega 3, a fatty acid which can be found in sources such as fish or flax seeds
4. FERMENTED FOODS:
By fermented foods what I mean to increase is your pre and probiotic intake which can have a significant role in the overall gut health and improve insulin production as well.
- Idli-dosa batter
Okay, so this might be a broad category but we will narrow it to some top antioxidants and easily available foods which can help you reduce inflammations which can worsen the condition
- Turmeric etc.,
FOODS NOT TO TAKE WHILE YOU WANT TO CONTROL THE SYMPTOMS:
- Processed foods and packaged products, as they tend to have a higher Glycaemic Index (GI), which is directly linked to insulin production and diabetes.
- Unhealthy fats: Foods which have saturated or hydrogenated fats in, include dairy products such as cream or cheese and fatty red meats, as well as processed or fried foods. These unhealthy fats can increase estrogen production, which can make your PCOS symptoms worse, and can lead to weight gain which can also worsen symptoms.
- Gluten and lactose, this is contradictory topic touch upon but one should avoid triggers sent by your body in spite of going with the trend, if you are allergic then it is important not to take them.
You may be wondering, “what’s next?”. You’ve got all of this information about foods to eat with PCOS, but what should you do with it going forward? The most important thing to do before anything else is to talk to a doctor about your options. Many women who are diagnosed with PCOS will be advised to adapt their diet, which is where this information comes in handy, but you may also be given other options to go alongside these changes.