If you’ve recently been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), you probably have many questions that your doctor didn't have time to answer during your 15 minute appointment. So let's start with the most obvious question: What is it?
PCOS is a common endocrine disorder that affects 1 in 10 reproductive-aged women. Some common signs and symptoms include missed or irregular periods, excess bodily hair, acne, weight gain, infertility and pelvic pain.
PCOS is caused by an imbalance of hormones, specifically elevated levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) and insulin. This imbalance can lead to an increase in androgens, hormones that plays a role in male reproductive traits (e.g. testosterone). This isn’t to say that women don’t have androgens. They just have much less of them.
And like the name ("Polycystic Ovarian" Syndrome) suggests, women with PCOS will often have small cysts surrounding their ovaries, although not always.
While pharmacological treatment may be necessary for some symptoms, lifestyle modifications are needed to get to the root cause of the issue for long-lasting effects.
One of the most important lifestyle modifications is your diet. So it's natural to question what you should eat.
If you’ve done any sort of Googling, you’re probably confused about what to eat for PCOS. There's A LOT of misinformation out there and each diet is going to work differently for different people.
The right diet for you should help improve symptoms, including weights loss and menstrual regularity. It should also be sustainable and leave you feeling good.
Here are some considerations:
1. Choose low glycemic load carbs. These are slowly digested and help stabilize blood sugar levels. Examples include whole-grain bread, brown rice, quinoa, sweet potato, and legumes.
2. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. They are high in fiber and essential vitamins and minerals. They also have a low glycemic index, which means they have less impact on blood sugar levels.
3. Include lean protein and plant-based protein sources. Lean protein sources, such as chicken, and seafood, and plant-based protein sources, like tofu, almonds, legumes can help regulate blood sugar levels and promote satiety.
4. Choose healthy fats. Healthy fats, such as those found in avocados, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish, can help reduce inflammation and improve insulin sensitivity.
5. Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water can help regulate hormones, improve insulin sensitivity, and promote weight loss.
6. Limit inflammatory foods. Sugary beverages, processed foods (cake, sweets, frozen foods, all the good stuff), and foods high in refined carbs (white rice, white bread, pastas, cereal) can cause inflammation and spike your blood sugar.
Great, anything else?
Physical activity can improve your insulin sensitivity, reduce inflammation levels and reduce your risk of heart disease. If your goal is weight loss, it can help with that too.
Seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist, specifically one that is trained to treat PCOS, can help tremendously with symptom management. Having the right support is crucial for getting control over your PCOS symptoms. You don’t have to be alone on this journey.
Speaking with a physical therapist over the phone is a good first step. Contact us to get started.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are based on the opinion of the author, unless otherwise noted, and should not be taken as personal medical advice. The information provided is intended to help readers make their own informed health and wellness decisions.