By Sorcha Dunne | @sorchateresadunne
PCOS, or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, is a common health condition that affects many women. It occurs when a woman’s ovaries produce an increased amount of androgens (male sex hormones) which are usually only present in small amounts. These increased levels of androgens can lead to numerous small cysts forming on the ovaries, which in turn can interfere with the growth and release of eggs, resulting in missed or irregular periods. It can also cause excess body hair growth, male pattern baldness, oily skin, acne, weight gain, and infertility.
The exact cause of PCOS is unknown, although research suggests that it is often associated with profound insulin resistance and while there is currently no cure for PCOS, consuming a PCOS-friendly diet can help improve many of the associated symptoms and bring some relief and support. Below, we have listed 6 nutrition tips for managing this common condition.
Limit Inflammatory Foods
Inflammation causing foods like red meat and processed meat, fried foods, and artificial trans fats should be limited since they can increase levels of inflammatory markers. In addition, too many omega-6 fatty acids and too much sugar, refined carbohydrates, and saturated fat can also cause inflammatory effects.
Consume lean protein
Lean protein is beneficial for women with PCOS as it has minimal effect on blood glucose levels and helps facilitate digestion and metabolism. Protein also plays an integral role in synthesising hormones, including oestrogen, testosterone, and insulin, which are often impaired in women with PCOS. Some lean protein sources include tofu, poultry, and fish.
Limit foods high in refined carbohydrates
Food high in carbohydrates can cause inflammation and exacerbate inulin in women with PCOS. Thereby it is recommended that they be avoided or limited. This includes highly processed foods like white bread, breakfast pastries, and sugary desserts.
Consume anti-inflammatory foods
Research suggests that women with PCOS tend to have higher levels of inflammatory markers, including c-reactive protein (CRP), pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines, and white blood cell count. Modifying your diet to reduce inflammation can have a beneficial effect on PCOS. Some anti-inflammatory foods include tomatoes, kale, spinach, almonds, walnuts, olive oil, berries, and oily fish.
Limit sugary snacks and drinks
Similarly, foods and food products that contain high amounts of sugar, such as fizzy drinks and juices, should be limited. When reading food labels, look out for sugar’s various names, such as sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, and dextrose.
Consume high fiber foods
High fiber foods can help combat insulin resistance by slowing down digestion and reducing the effect of sugar on the blood. High fiber foods include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, beans and lentils, nuts, berries, and sweet potatoes.
It is important to note that untreated PCOS can lead to serious health problems. If your symptoms persist, inform your doctor or healthcare professional. They can work with you to identify the cause and recommend the next steps.