Don’t worry if you’ve been diagnosed with PCOS, mama, our expert dishes on tips to help
So let’s talk… Polycystic ovarian syndromes (PCOS). Believe it or not, it’s the most common endocrine problem in a woman and one of the leading reasons for female infertility. It is often associated with depression and anxiety as well as metabolic dysfunction, including insulin resistance and excess androgens (male hormones such as testosterone). The cause of PCOS is complex and variable and can manifest itself through a spectrum of symptoms, including infertility, irregular menstrual periods, multiple ovarian cysts, acne, hirsutism (excess hair on woman’s face and body) and obesity.
After confirming a diagnosis of PCOS…
Usually, the first-line medical approach is hormonal contraceptives for menstrual abnormalities and hirsutism, clomiphene for infertility and metformin for diabetic symptoms. These treatments, which may manage some symptoms, do not address the underlying causes of PCOS, not to mention the long list of side effects. On a good note, a number of medicinal herbs and nutritional supplements offer safe and effective therapeutic options with the capacity to address the broad symptoms associated with PCOS.
As with any health concern, improvements to diet and lifestyle significantly help the patient’s symptoms. Yes, that’s right you have to eat your way to managing PCOS! Considering the high amount of obesity amongst PCOS patients, a weight loss program is essential. Having said that, long term modest weight loss is far more important in PCOS than acute weight loss.
The good news is…
As little as 2-5% reduction in weight can be enough to improve metabolic and reproductive symptoms in women with PCOS. Exercising at least 150 minutes per week is recommended in all women with PCOS that is equivalent to ONLY 21 minutes of fun moving a day! Of this, 90 minutes per week should be aerobic activity at moderate to high intensity.
Mediterranean, low carbohydrate and high protein diets have all been shown to be effective in managing PCOS. However a Palaeolithic (Paleo) diet in a clinical setting has been shown to be more promising in reducing symptoms associated with PCOS. This suggests that dietary interventions may best be individualised to patient needs rather than protocol driven.
Who doesn’t love fat?
Fats build healthy cells, improve brain function, and promote glowing skin; most of all fat is the most crucial element for hormonal balance.
Healthy fats we love include:
- Olive oil
- Animal ghee
- Unrefined coconut oil
- Avocado oil
- Flaxseed oil
Avocados and nuts, especially walnuts, cashews, almonds, and nut butters made from these nuts have all been shown to improve insulin sensitivity for women with PCOS.
Fats our bodies are not a fan of and need to remove are:
- Safflower and sunflower oils
- Corn oil
- Cottonseed oil
- Mixed vegetable oils
- Vegetable shortening, and all products listing them as ingredients and all products made with partially hydrogenated oils of any kind.
Trust me your body will love you for it!
The importance of removing refined, processed foods and artificial sweeteners is vital for the healing process of PCOS.
Have you eaten a rainbow today?
The best way to obtain all the daily vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients is by eating a diet high in fresh foods with an abundance of fruits and vegetables choosing from all colours – organic where possible.
Not a fan of fish?
If fresh fish twice a week is not being consumed than supplemental fish, in capsule or liquid form (two to three grams a day of a product containing both EPA and DHA) should be taken. Look for molecularly distilled products certified to be free of heavy metals and other contaminants and third party tested.
Some studies have shown that Inositol may have a positive impact on women with PCOS, lessening the infertility and weight gain associated with this condition. Some foods with high inositol content include:
- Lima beans
- White beans and green beans
- Fresh orange
Both lean and overweight women who suffer from PCOS have been found to have higher levels of Bisphenol-A (BPA). BPA has been linked to both insulin resistance and increased androgen levels. Therefore a detoxification program is well worth looking into in assisting the clearance of BPA.
Avoid canned foods, plastic containers, water bottles and bottled juices where BPA is mostly found. Your body and the planet will be happy you did.
With PCOS, most patients will need hormonal imbalances addressed. Herbs are a wonderful way to tackle hormonal issues.
Below are some of my favourite herbs to manage PCOS:
- Paeonia lactiflora (White peony) and Glycyrrhiza glabra (Licorice) are two successfully used herbs in the treatment of PCOS.
- Drinking Mentha spicata (Spearmint tea) twice a day has been shown to reduce hirsutism, acne and androgen levels.
- Trigonella foenum-graecum (Fenugreek) improves blood glucose control and has the same effect to that of metformin.
- Cinnamomum zeylanicum (Cinnamon) significantly reduces insulin resistance. It also modulates inflammation and has been traditionally used for female reproductive problems.
While the above recommendations may be helpful in the management of PCOS, each person has to be addressed individually according to their unique symptom picture. There is no one treatment fit for all and each individual should be given a tailored management plan to support them on their journey to better health.