Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal imbalance that affects 6–7% of all women and up to 20% of women of childbearing age.
It is the most common hormonal disorder among women of reproductive age and although the cause is not well understood it seems to be a combination of genetics and environmental factors.
Risk factors include obesity, inactivity, and family history.
PCOS is diagnosed if two of the following findings are present:
- no ovulation,
- high androgen levels,
- and ovarian cysts (which can be detected by ultrasound).
- menstrual irregularity,
- excess hair growth,
- obesity (although you also get a Lean type PCOS),
- trouble getting pregnant, and insulin resistance.
Dietary intervention is essential to manage and treat PCOS.
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SYMPTOMS AND RISK FACTORS OF PCOS:
- Women with PCOS has a 40% higher risk to be diagnosed with diabetes by the age of 40
- Increased cardiovascular risk
- Increased weight gain and difficulty losing weight
- Insulin resistance
- Struggles with acne and hirsutism (abnormal hair growth on face and body)
- Cystic ovaries, infertility and endometrial cancer
- Eating disorders
If you struggle with PCOS you should aim to eat balanced meals and increase physical activity (Read my blog on what exercise can do for you). Weight training or resistance exercise is preferable above cardiovascular exercise as it helps to improve insulin resistance and lowers stress hormones.
Insulin resistance plays a key role in this disease therefore a low glycemic diet (Low GI) is the preferable diet to follow. Hence it is advisable to choose complex carbohydrates high in fiber such as whole wheat bread and combine starch with a fat or protein, to slow the release of carbohydrate into the blood.
DIETARY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PCOS:
- Eat whole grain carbohydrates with protein and/or a fat. Example whole wheat bread with avocado or boiled egg.
- Choose unrefined carbohydrate sources with low glycemic indexes as in table below
- Make carbohydrates a smaller portion of the diet. Make only a quarter of your plate starch or eat only a fist size starch. Consuming more protein and vegetable based main dishes, and making pastas, breads, grains and cereals smaller portions.
- Take a calcium supplement of 1000 mg/day
- Drink 8 glasses of water a day (Click here for tips on how to drink more water)
- Limit saturated and trans fat in the diet. This is fat from animal sources such as fat on meat, chicken skin, cream and butter as well as deep-fried or fatty food such as chips, cookies, chocolates, pies and take aways.
- Focus on healthy fats such as olives, olive oil, canola oil, flora margarine, avocado, nuts and seeds.
- Exercise. Both aerobic and anaerobic exercises are necessary for weight management, cardiovascular health and metabolic function.
- Eat five portions of fruit and vegetables daily.
SO YOU CAN CHOOSE FROM THE FOLLOWING LOW GI STARCH VARIETIES:
|Breakfast Cereals||Low fat, high fibre cereals; Examples: Jungle or Bokomo Oats, Oat Bran, All Bran flakes, All Bran High Fibre, Pronutro Whole wheat, Kellogg’s Special K Muesli, Nature’s Source Muesli , Oat flakes, Future life, Soya life porridge.|
|Bread||Whole wheat, Low GI, Crushed wheat, Brown seed loaf, Rye bread, whole meal pita bread or tortillas.|
|Biscuits & Crackers||Oatcakes, Ryvitas, Provitas (multigrain and original), digestive biscuits and Crisp breads.|
|Pasta, noodles||Durum wheat (avoid quick cooking e.g. 2 minute noodles).|
|Rice||Basmati rice or brown rice.|
|Potatoes||New (baby) potatoes or sweet potatoes. Avoid mashed potatoes and chips.|
|Fruit and vegetables||Avoid all Fresh fruit juices and dried fruit. Aim for 2 portions of fruit per day. Aim for 3 portions or more of vegetables per day. 1 Portion vegetables = ½ cup cooked or 1 cup raw/salad. Remember: peas, beans, sweetcorn, potato and pumpkin are all high in starches and should be counted as a starch and not a vegetable.|
Treatment of PCOS often includes management of irregular menstrual cycles with an estrogen based birth control and an insulin lowering medication.
Current PCOS research shows that lifestyle modifications, especially change in diet, are the most promising intervention for this disease.
You are welcome to share this post to help other women with PCOS.