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Diet and PCOS


Just like with any diagnosis, women who have been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) may experience the disease differently from one another. That being said, there are definitely symptoms and associated issues that tend to be very, very common among the diagnosed. Skin problems. A little (or a lot) of extra weight that wasn't really earned (which is wholly unfair). Facial hair. Completely unreliable or the total absence of ovulation. Basically a slew of things that may make you feel like you're personally bringing sexy back.

Some with PCOS may experience all the symptoms, some just a few and some won't even know they have it until they've been unsuccessfully trying to conceive for some time and finally consult a specialist. When you are freshly diagnosed, the list of symptoms can be very illuminating (you mean all this stuff I have going on is related???) but also overwhelming. The one unfortunate commonality between us is the potential of trying to conceive to be difficult. Whether Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a term that's been in your vocabulary since teendom or something you're just figuring out, when you start thinking about building a family, getting symptoms under control becomes hugely important.

While there is a plethora of methods and treatments available to help treat PCOS - what's one of the best and simplest ways to keep your PCOS as best under control as possible? Diet. PCOS is in large part about the relationship between your body and food.

Dr. Liyun Li, a Reproductive Endocrinologist at Pacific Fertility Center in San Francisco, explains what PCOS has to do with how your body processes food.

"Patients with PCOS may also have something called insulin resistance or pre-diabetes. It means that PCOS patients are at increased risk to develop abnormalities with their ability to metabolize and utilize ingested sugar from their diet."

Difficulty processing sugar is not always evident on the outside as one might assume.

"Often these patients may be overweight or obese," Dr. Li explains "however, even normal weight or lean women with PCOS may have this problem."

While it may sound like how well your body handles sugar is only going to affect your waistline - it really does directly affect conceiving.

"Dysfunction in blood sugar metabolism can make ovulation more irregular. Diet that is heavy in simple sugar and carbohydrates is the worst in terms of impacting PCOS symptoms negatively, making ovulation less and less frequent," explains Dr. Li, and that causes a chain reaction. "When ovulation becomes less frequent, other symptoms of PCOS such as acne or facial hair may be exacerbated."

In terms of diet specifics - there are definitely foods someone with PCOS may want to avoid. Likewise, there are foods that they may want to get more of in their life.

"Foods that contain simple sugar and carbohydrates such as white bread or rice, pasta, desserts with high sugar content, are probably best to avoid. Low fat foods that contain fiber, vitamins, and proteins such as fruits, vegetables, nonfat diary, beans, and white fish and meat are healthier options."

It's also better for someone with PCOS to eat snacks than it is to go into a meal with a completely empty stomach.

"Try to avoid big meals with large quantities of carbohydrates and sugars at any time, but in particular at dinner or before bedtime. It is better to eat a nutritious snack for satiety between meals than going to meals hungry and ending up eating large portions. If inadvertently you had a large meal which can be very easy during the holiday season, try to take a 30 minute walk to work off some of the sugar."

If you are going to eat a large meal, just like your mother told you - it's best to make it the most important meal of the day.

"A good healthy and substantial breakfast loaded with protein and fibers is important," Dr. Li explains. "It can provide energy throughout the day."

Any sort of diet adjustment can seem scary - but it doesn't have to be. Start small, change the things that you can, lean into it. If it helps just one symptom of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or makes ovulation just a little bit more frequent, what a fantastic improvement.


Comments (1)

Some women may be very athletic and if they find they have PCOS it can be related to adrenal stress which not only aggravates insulin resistance, but can also directly have an influence on balance of key hormones. Stress, Insulin Resistance, Hormone Replacement Therapy, Oral Contraceptives, Overexercise, Low Body Fat, Toxicity/Liver congestion and more can all lead to PCOS and affect fertility. There are safe conservative ways that can still be very effective before turning to more aggressive and expensive drugs, medical procedures and surgical options. Sometimes the most effective strategy is not the quickest or the one most available.

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