PCOS - gaining control of your hormones
What you eat can be very effective diet therapy for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Very often medical advice can be a bit vague -"eat a healthy diet", "lose some weight" or "take some exercise". Many people with PCOS also have irritable bowel syndrome, making management more complex. Often, the foods advised for PCOS can aggravate IBS.
Insulin is a hormone which helps the body use energy from food. Many women with PCOS do not respond as normal to insulin (insulin resistance) and therefore have more insulin in their blood. This higher blood insulin has an effect on the other hormones in the body causing many of the PCOS symptoms (acne, excess hair, irregular periods etc.) Changes in your diet and weight-loss can result in remarkable improvements in hormone levels. As hormone levels normalise, the symptoms of PCOS diminish.
Why does eating 'Low Glycaemic Index' foods help?
High GI foods are generally carbohydrates that are quickly digested and absorbed by the body causing rapid rises in blood sugar levels and insulin. By swapping these for low GI carbs (slowly digested) combined with protein, vegetables and healthy fats, you can minimise rises in blood sugar levels. This will help to keep insulin levels lower. Eating in this way also has the advantages of keeping appetite and cravings at bay, helping with weight-loss, improving the body's response to insulin.
Foods to eat for PCOS:
Small portions of low GI carbohydrate
All Bran, chunky oats (Flahavan's, Jordan's Chunky Traditional Porridge), soya and linseed bread (Burgen, Vogel), oatcakes, beans, lentils, brown rice, al dente pasta, quinoa.
Milk, natural yoghurt, cottage cheese, chicken, lean beef, eggs, and fish.
Vegetables and fruit
Any vegetables, cherries, plums, peaches, apples, pears, and berries.
Such as avocado, nuts, seeds, coconut oil, olive oil, vegetable oil, and oily fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel).
Combining low GI carbs with some protein, lots of vegetables and some healthy fats at each meal results in better insulin and appetite control. Protein and healthy fats lower the overall GI of the meal as they slow down the digestion of the carbs.
The trick is incorporating these foods into your lifestyle - making the right choices at the supermarket, at your favourite restaurant, in the coffee shop etc. There are many meal and snack options, all of which will make you feel full up and satisfied.
The right calorie intake with the optimum combination of foods, will give you control over your blood sugar levels and insulin. A bonus result of eating this way is reduced cravings for foods high in sugars and carbs, weight-loss and increased fertility.
For ladies with PCOS and IBS (bloating, constipation/diarrhoea, abdominal pain etc.), this makes the dietary management of PCOS more challenging and complex, as many low GI foods can make IBS symptoms worse. A combination of low GI with the low FODMAP diet may be necessary. With the help of an experienced dietitian or nutritionist a tailored nutrition plan can make this manageable and very effective.
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