Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) affects up to 15-20% of women of childbearing age. It occurs when the levels of certain hormones are out of balance, which leads to the development of fluid-filled bags in the ovaries. Side effects include irregular or absent periods, hair loss, excess hair growth, acne, weight gain, and depression and fertility problems. PCOS is also associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Unfortunately, there is no cure for PCOS, however, symptoms can be relieved through healthy eating and favorable lifestyle changes.
In fact, in overweight women, only a small weight loss of 5% can restore irregular periods and increase ovulation. Below are 7 dietary tips based on evidence that can relieve symptoms and promote weight loss in women with PCOS.
1. Try a Diet Low in GI (Glycemic Index):
Insulin is a hormone that transports blood sugar to cells for energy. Women with PCOS are often insulin resistant, which means that their cells do not use insulin as effectively as they should. This increases blood insulin levels and causes unpleasant symptoms. However, a diet with low glycemic index can help keep insulin levels stable. The glycemic index (GI) is a measure that expresses how quickly a food increases insulin levels. A low GI diet consists of eating foods that slowly increase blood sugar levels, which helps prevent insulin spikes. The low GI diet usually consists of eating natural fruits, vegetables and grains, lean proteins and healthy fats. It also involves avoiding most processed or refined carbohydrates, including sugary foods and beverages. A diet low in GI can have many health benefits, especially for women who have insulin resistance from PCOS. One study found that menstrual regularity improved in 95% of women controlled by a dietary regimen to lose low GI, compared with 63% of women controlled with a standard weight loss diet. Another study that included 60 overweight women with PCOS found that after a high-protein diet, and low GI, insulin sensitivity improved and the levels of inflammatory markers were reduced, compared to women on a loss diet. Of standard weight.
Summary: A diet low in GI can help restore irregular periods, reduce inflammatory markers and improve insulin sensitivity in women with PCOS.
2. Do not Limit Breakfast:
Women with PCOS are encouraged to eat regular meals. One study found that having a larger breakfast and having a smaller dinner may help balance the hormones associated with PCOS. For women of normal weight with PCOS, eating almost half of their daily calories at breakfast for 90 days reduced insulin levels by 8% and testosterone levels by 50%. In addition, these women ovulated 30% more than the women who ate a smaller breakfast and a fuller dinner, suggesting better fertility.
“However, it is important to keep in mind that increasing the portion at breakfast without reducing the portion at dinner is likely to tend to gain weight”.
On the other hand, this was only a study that included 60 women, so additional research is needed to corroborate the advantages of making breakfast the largest portion of food.
Summary: Eating a larger portion breakfast and a smaller portion dinner can help improve hormone levels and improve ovulation in women with PCOS. However, more research is needed.
3. Eat Enough Healthy Fats:
An adequate supply of healthy fats, including omega-3 fatty acids, has been shown to help balance your hormones and improve insulin levels in women with PCOS. Some healthy fats include fatty fish, avocados, olive oil and unsalted nuts and seeds. A study that included 61 women with PCOS found that providing omega-3 fatty acid supplements over eight weeks improved insulin resistance by about 22%. Similar results were found in another study in which supplements of omega-3 and vitamin E fatty acids were supplied for 12 weeks led to better insulin resistance and a reduction in testosterone levels in women with PCOS. Even without omega-3 supplements, adequate intake of healthy fats can also improve insulin resistance. For example, one study found that replacing some carbohydrates with unsaturated fats resulted in a reduction in blood insulin levels in obese women with PCOS. However, to avoid weight gain, instead of adding more fats in the regular diet, try to replace unhealthy fats in processed or fried foods with healthy fats.
Summary: An adequate supply of healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce insulin and testosterone levels in the blood and improve insulin resistance in women with PCOS.
4. Reduce Carbohydrates:
Reducing carbohydrate intake can improve the hormonal imbalance linked to PCOS and increase weight loss in women with PCOS. Insulin is produced when carbohydrates are converted to glucose within the body. One study showed that a moderate reduction in carbohydrate intake among women with PCOS, reduced insulin levels in the blood. Therefore, over time, carbohydrate reduction can improve PCOS symptoms. In addition, in a group of 30 women with PCOS, a modest reduction in carbohydrates had very positive effects on hormonal levels. These included reductions in blood sugar levels, blood insulin and testosterone, as well as improvements in insulin sensitivity. These benefits are not limited only to a better hormonal balance. A low carb diet has also been proven efficient to help promote weight loss. For example, women with a low carb diet lost a little more weight than those with a conventional diet or a diet higher in monounsaturated fats. Compared to a standard diet, a low carb diet in women with PCOS can lead to an additional weight loss of 1-5%. Weight loss in the first place is slightly associated with a low carb diet , this may be due to the increased intake of proteins and natural fats that are beneficial factors for losing weight. It can also help reduce blood sugar levels, cravings and appetite, all while improving feelings of satiety. Alternatively, it may be that by reducing carbohydrates, this spontaneously leads to a low GI diet, which can improve the hormonal effects of PCOS.
Summary: In women with PCOS, a moderate reduction in carbohydrates lowers insulin and testosterone levels and also improves insulin sensitivity. It can also result in a slightly greater weight loss.
5. Eat a Lot of Lean Protein:
Androgens, like testosterone, are male sex hormones. While women have androgens, the levels of these hormones tend to be higher than normal in women with Polycystic ovarian syndrome. This partly explains some of the unpleasant side effects of PCOS, such as excess facial hair, a deeper voice and irregular periods. One study found that free androgen levels in women with Polycystic ovarian syndrome were much lower when they followed a diet rich in protein (30% protein), compared to a diet low in protein (15% protein). Compared to foods high in carbohydrates, foods high in protein do not cause large increases in insulin levels. A high protein intake also suppresses ghrelin, a hunger hormone, for much longer than carbohydrates. As a result, a protein-rich diet is likely to be much more abundant and reduce insulin levels, which can have positive effects on Polycystic ovarian syndrome symptoms. It is highly recommended to include a lot of sources of integral proteins in your diet, such as lean meat, fish, eggs, beans and some dairy products.
Summary: In women with polycystic ovary syndrome, eating a protein-rich diet is associated with a lower appetite, lower insulin level and lower testosterone levels, compared to a high carbohydrate diet.
6. Stay Active:
Regular exercise has many health benefits, especially for women with PCOS. For example, one review found that key benefits include an improvement in ovulation, a reduction in insulin resistance (up to 30%) and greater weight loss (up to 10%). In women who are overweight and obese with PCOS, body composition improved when exercise was combined with a weight loss diet. In fact, only three hours of exercise per week has been shown to be very efficient in improving insulin sensitivity and reducing belly fat in women with PCOS. A study in women with PCOS found that, exercising for a period of three months also reduced inflammatory markers. This is important because chronic inflammation tends to be more common in women with PCOS and is related to insulin resistance.
Summary: Regular exercise can improve ovulation and insulin resistance, help burn body fat and reduce inflammatory markers in women with PCOS.
7. Some Supplements May Be Useful:
Studies show that certain supplements can help relieve PCOS symptoms, especially in women who have low levels of nutrients. For example, vitamin D deficiency is associated with some of the negative side effects of PCOS such as obesity, insulin resistance and reduced ovulation. Therefore, it is often recommended that women with PCOS who are deficient in this vitamin take vitamin D supplements. However, it has not been shown that vitamin D supplements will reduce these negative side effects. Therefore, more research is necessary. Interestingly, vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common deficiencies worldwide. The main source of vitamin D is the sun. If vitamin D levels are low and you don’t get much sun exposure, most health professionals would recommend taking a supplement. Another nutrient that can help improve PCOS symptoms is chromium, an essential mineral that helps increase the action of insulin. Chromium deficiency is much less common, as it is found in a wide range of foods. Foods higher in chromium include shellfish, mussels, nuts and some fruits and vegetables, such as broccoli , pears and tomatoes. One study found that providing supplements with 1,000 mcg of chromium for two months improved insulin sensitivity by 38% in obese women with PCOS. However, this study was very small, so more studies are needed to confirm this benefit.
Summary: Taking vitamin D and chromium supplements can help improve Polycystic ovarian syndrome symptoms, especially if women have deficiencies. However, more studies are needed to demonstrate its benefits in women with Polycystic ovarian syndrome.
While there is no cure for Polycystic ovarian syndrome, choosing the right nutrition can lead to a happy and healthy life. If you are overweight, it has been proven that a 5% weight loss greatly improves PCOS symptoms. Choosing foods low in GI, moderately reducing carbohydrate intake, avoiding sugary foods and having a good intake of healthy fats and lean proteins is a good start. Regular exercise can provide important benefits, too. By taking good lifestyles, you can control the symptoms of PCOS in your favor.