How to eat for PCOS
This article will cover what PCOS is and how you can support the symptoms of PCOS with your diet.
PCOS, short for 'polycystic ovarian syndrome', is one of the most common hormone conditions. Something that many people don’t realise about the condition is that it is possible to have PCOS without having ovarian cysts.
The most common symptoms of PCOS are hirsutism (hair in areas like the chin and upper lip), acne (most often along the jawline), difficulty losing weight or gaining weight without reason, irregular periods and cysts on the ovaries. However, there are other symptoms which women with PCOS may have, often going undiagnosed for some time. These include headaches or migraines, fertility challenges and difficulties with blood sugar regulation, for example, insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes.
While every woman’s hormonal profile is different, there are broad-stroke changes you can make to support the symptoms of PCOS. As far as completely tailored nutritional support, working with a nutritionist or healthcare practitioner can be essential in maximizing the effectiveness of your dietary interventions. A qualified practitioner will be able to do hormone testing with you and select relevant supplements with the right dosage for you.
The cornerstones of a PCOS diet
Blood sugar balance
This is maybe one of the most important components of a PCOS diet. While PCOS can develop for many different reasons, insulin sensitivity is often linked in research surrounding PCOS. In fact, on average 60% of women with PCOS have been shown to have an issue with insulin regulation.
Supporting blood sugar balance therefore is key. Including a lean protein like chicken, eggs, beans or fish and/or healthy fat like nuts, seeds, olive oil or coconut oil with each meal helps to keep blood sugar levels stable. Eating three solid meals and avoiding snacking also helps with blood sugar regulation.
Reducing carbohydrate intake in general or at least swapping white carbs, like white bread for complex carbs like brown bread also helps reduce the likelihood of blood sugar spiking.
Myo-inositol rich foods
Myo-inositol is classified as a ‘vitamin-like substance’ and has shown to have positive results in supporting both blood sugar function and androgen levels in women with PCOS.
Aim to eat foods rich in myo-inositol every day. Food sources include; beans (particularly high), grains like quinoa, nuts (apart from peanuts), oats and melon.
Liver supporting foods
Our liver has, amongst many others, the important job of clearing through all our broken down hormones. So it is important to consider the liver when thinking about PCOS.
Foods which support the liver include bitter vegetables like radish, watercress, rocket and citrus fruit. Try including a side salad of rocket, watercress and fresh lemon juice to give your liver some food source love.
Consider the bowel
Often forgotten when it comes to hormonal health is the digestive system. More and more studies are finding links between the microbiome and hormonal function. Also important are having regular bowel movements as the stool is one of the ways that we physically remove hormones from the body.
Support your digestive system with high fibre foods like flax seeds, oats and leafy vegetables. Including fermented foods such as sauerkraut and olives helps to keep your microbiome diverse and full of life.
While it seems counterintuitive to optimal health, over-exercise can actually contribute to the symptoms of PCOS. This is due to the high levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) released during certain exercises can influence other hormones.
That’s not to say women with PCOS shouldn’t exercise, they absolutely should but the type of exercise is important.
The best forms of exercise for women with PCOS include yoga, pilates, walking and swimming whereas workouts like HIIT and running should be avoided.
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