Long-lasting sustainable changes are the prime criteria behind managing PCOS because there is no permanent cure for PCOS and it is to stay for life. It is important to note that research results reveal diet and lifestyle changes as the most effective way of managing PCOS. When diagnosed with PCOS, the first concern would be to initiate and regulate a healthy diet. Most gynaecologists recommend diet changes along with prescribed medication. Though medications may show improvement, diet and lifestyle changes will be more effective in the long run. Symptomatic effects of PCOS like irregular or absent periods, hair loss, excess hair growth, acne, weight gain, depression and fertility problems can be overcome by the first-line treatment of diet and lifestyle changes. PCOS is also associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity which require specific diet intake to avoid complications. There are evidence-based diet recommendations that can bring about positive change in the management of PCOS. Looking for best treatment for PCOS?, visit chennaipcosclinic.com
Low GI Diet
Insulin resistance wherein cells don’t accept insulin as good as desired, is very common in women with PCOS. As a result, the circulating levels of Insulin and blood sugar increases. Foods that prevent Insulin spikes and Glycaemic Index are to be eaten. Glycaemic Index (GI) is a scale for measuring how fast food can raise blood sugar levels. To stabilise Insulin levels, a low glycaemic index diet that allows a slow rise of blood sugar levels would be of help. Eating whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats consist of a low GI diet. GI diets are barred of processed foods, refined carbs and sugary drinks. Women with Insulin resistance caused by PCOS can benefit from a low GI diet in many ways of controlling unpleasant symptoms.
According to a study, 95% of women on weight control plus a GI diet improved with menstrual regularity as compared to 65% of women only on weight loss diet. Another study revealed that a combination of high protein, low GI and weight loss diet had improved results as compared to a weight loss diet alone, among 60 obese women with PCOS. The inclusion of a low GI diet brought out reduced levels of inflammatory markers and improved Insulin sensitivity.
Low Carb Diet
To minimise hormonal imbalance linked to PCOS and to enhance weight loss in women with PCOS is the aim of consuming a diet low on carbs. Low carb diets are naturally higher in proteins, healthy fats and low in GI. This provides a feeling of fullness, reduced appetite and food cravings leading lower blood sugar levels. During the conversion of carbs into glucose, Insulin is produced. A diet of less carbs showed less of Insulin concentrations in the body. When continued over a period of time, also showed improved PCOS symptoms. Reduction of carbs intake in 30 women with PCOS had positively improved hormone levels. Positive results were reflected as low blood sugar, blood Insulin and Testosterone levels with increased Insulin sensitivity. Apart from facilitating hormonal balances low carb diet also helped better weight loss in comparison to women on conventional diets. Women with PCOS on low carb diet lost an additional 5 % of weight than those on the standard diet.
Androgens or male sex hormones such as testosterone are above the normal levels in women with PCOS. Excess facial hair, male voice and menstrual irregularities are attributed to higher levels of male hormones. A high protein diet is known to lower free Androgen levels in women with PCOS. A diet with 30% of protein content as compared to 15% had positive effects on PCOS symptoms. A high protein diet would also mean low on carbs, thus reducing Insulin levels. High protein diets also suppresses Ghrelin, a hunger hormone, better than a carb-rich diet. Foods such as lean meat, eggs, fish, beans, lentils and dairy produce are ways to consume a high protein diet.
Diet With Healthy Fats
A sufficient supply of healthy fats that include Omega 3 fatty acids will help balance hormone levels and improve insulin levels in women with PCOS. Foods with healthy fats are oily fish, avocados, olive oil and some varieties of nuts and seeds. An improved 22% against Insulin resistance was achieved with Omega 3 supplemented in a study involving 61 women with PCOS. A similar study supplementing Vitamin E in addition to Omega 3 for 12 weeks showed marked improvement in insulin sensitivity and reduced testosterone levels. Reduced blood insulin in obese PCOS women was achieved in a study even without supplementing Omega 3 but just by replacing some carbs with unsaturated fats in the diet. However, it is recommended that instead of adding healthy fats, replacing fats from fried and processed foods with healthy foods is better for weight loss and control.
Foods that can add value to the diet for relief from symptoms in women with PCOS are:
- Foods that help reduce inflammation, such as tomatoes, kale, spinach, almonds and walnuts, olive oil, fruits, such as blueberries and strawberries, fatty fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and sardines.
- High fibre foods that may include cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts, leafy greens like spinach and red lettuce, green and red peppers, beans and lentils, almonds, berries, sweet potatoes, winter squash and pumpkin.
- Whole foods are foods that are natural and unprocessed in any way such as whole grain millets, cereals, nuts, fruits and vegetables.
Foods that can be avoided in a diet with an objective to ease PCOS symptoms are:
- Gluten content of the food can increase inflammation and testosterone in the body.
- Dairy foods contain IGF1 which can further worsen Insulin resistance and hence not recommended.
- Soy products are known to delay ovulation and can exacerbate menstrual irregularities.
- Refined carbohydrates, mainly bakery products like pastries, white bread, pastas etc.
- Fried foods that form a major part of fast food.
- Sugary beverages such as sodas, packed juices and energy drinks.
- Processed meats such as sausages, kebabs and luncheon meats.
- Solid fats that include margarine, butter etc..
- Excess red meat.
Starting with small manageable steps from meal to meal would be the way to eating better for PCOS. Making one meal PCOS friendly at a time and then moving on the next meal when comfortable with the first one would be a smart way to proceed. It has been established that a healthy, wholesome and sumptuous breakfast meal and lighter meals during rest of the day is ideal for maximum weight loss and lower Testosterone levels. However, dynamic meal planning would be the best to suit individual requirements in women with PCOS.