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PCOS: What You Should and Shouldn’t Eat

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common endocrine disorders affecting women of childbearing age. It’s an imbalance of hormones that causes problems like weight gain, insulin resistance, type II diabetes, and high blood pressure. Because PCOS also affects your ovaries, you may have irregular periods which can lead to infertility. 

While there’s no cure for PCOS, research has shown that your diet can improve some symptoms of PCOS. Many people with PCOS have been able to resume a normal menstrual cycle by changing their eating habits and losing a small amount of weight. Let’s take a look below at how your diet can affect your PCOS symptoms.

How does diet affect PCOS?

What you eat can affect your PCOS symptoms and ovulation in two main ways - the first being insulin resistance. Many people with PCOS experience some level of insulin resistance which can cause type II diabetes. Insulin, made in your pancreas, helps the body break down sugars and carbohydrates and convert them into energy. 

When you’re insulin resistant, your body can’t use the insulin you make and your blood sugar levels go up. Your body will continue to make more and more insulin trying to correct your high blood sugars.  Too much insulin affects your ovaries and they start to make too much androgen hormone. All ovaries make a little bit of androgen hormone, but when there’s too much it can stop ovulation from happening. 

The second way food can affect PCOS is by changing your weight. Being insulin resistant can make it harder to lose weight. When you eat a lot of carbohydrates or refined sugars, your body can’t manage insulin production and weight loss becomes difficult. By managing your weight, you can also control some symptoms of PCOS. Women who eat a healthy diet can improve their mood, blood sugar levels, and menstrual cycles.

What foods should I eat with PCOS?

Combating insulin resistance should be the goal with a PCOS diet. Try adding foods that are high in fiber, have anti-inflammatory properties, and lean proteins. 

Foods that are high in fiber or have a low glycemic index cause digestion through the GI tract to take longer. Longer digestion prevents your blood sugar levels from rising as much or as quickly as other foods.  

Some examples of low glycemic and high fiber foods include:

  • Whole grains
  • Legumes
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Lentils and beans
  • Broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts
  • Starchy vegetables, like sweet potatoes
  • Squash
  • Fruits

Foods that are anti-inflammatory can also help reduce some PCOS symptoms. Examples of anti-inflammatory foods include:

  • Fruits, like strawberries and blueberries
  • Olive oil
  • Almonds
  • Spinach and kale
  • Turmeric

Lean proteins, such as fish and chicken, are beneficial for both weight loss and heart health. PCOS can affect both your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Eating lean proteins, especially fish that is high in omega-3 fatty acids, can protect your heart. 

What foods should I try to avoid with PCOS?

Foods that are widely seen as unhealthy should be avoided in people with PCOS. Anything that could cause weight gain and big fluctuations in blood sugar levels can make PCOS symptoms worse. 

Some examples of foods to avoid include:

  • Anything with refined sugars and carbohydrates, white bread, muffins, pastries, etc.
  • Fried food
  • Processed meats, such as hot dogs and deli meat
  • Sugary beverages and candies

Are there other lifestyle changes to consider with PCOS?

Besides diet, exercise is another lifestyle change that can improve the symptoms of PCOS. Exercise combined with a healthy diet can reduce insulin resistance and promote weight loss. Keep in mind that even a minimal amount of weight loss can improve ovulation in women with PCOS. Setting weight loss goals and creating a plan can help alleviate the stress associated with PCOS and infertility. 

You can also support your hormone levels with Pink Stork’s Myo/Chiro Inositol 3:6:1 blend. This blend of Myo-Inositol and D-Chiro-Inositol supports ovulation and fertility as well as your skin health. 

When to see a doctor

You should schedule an appointment to see your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms of PCOS:

  • Irregular periods
  • Unwanted hair growth on your body
  • Moderate to severe acne
  • Weight gain
  • Pain in your pelvic area
  • Trouble getting pregnant

Because most of the symptoms of PCOS seem minor, many people don’t realize they have it until they have trouble getting pregnant. If you have one or more of the symptoms above, call your healthcare provider for an evaluation.

Final note…

Lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, are the biggest ways you can improve your symptoms of PCOS. A diet filled with high fiber foods and whole grains can help promote weight loss and manage insulin resistance. Weight loss in women with PCOS can help to regulate menstrual cycles and ovulation when trying to get pregnant. Foods to avoid include refined sugars and carbohydrates because they can cause insulin resistance and hormone imbalances. Don’t wait to seek treatment for PCOS.  If left untreated, PCOS can put you at risk of developing other health conditions, like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.