Managing PCOS Through Nutrition and Lifestyle
Updated: Jan 18, 2021
What is PCOS? PCOS, short for polycystic ovarian syndrome is a common condition that effects the functionality of a woman’s ovaries. It is thought that 5-10% of women of child baring age have this condition, making it the most common hormonal reproductive issue seen in woman, of childbearing age.
Causes? The exact cause is still unknown, women with PCOS frequently have a sister or mother with PCOS, however there is not yet enough evidence to suggest that there is a genetic link. PCOS has also been shown to have a strong correlation with insulin resistance with compensatory hyperinsulinemia effecting about 65-70% of women with PCOS. The symptoms experienced by those with PCOS are a result of the hormonal imbalances associated with the condition.
Diagnosis PCOS is diagnosed in women who have at least two of the following
1. High levels of androgens, also known as the ‘male hormones’ 2. Irregular or lack of a menstrual cycle 3. Small cysts (fluid filled sacks) presenting on their ovaries – though not everyone with PCOS will experience this.
Managing PCOS There is no known cure for PCOS, it is therefore important for a woman with PCOS to be able to manage her symptoms throughout her life. Symptoms of PCOS can be modulated through diet and lifestyle. With insulin resistance being one of the most impactful physiologies associated with PCOS, managing blood insulin levels and improving insulin sensitivity through diet and lifestyle can have many beneficial effects. Managing insulin resistance and other methods of managing the condition are discussed below; Insulin resistance: Can be reduced by consuming foods of a lower GI (glycemic index), avoiding saturated fats (instead consuming monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, in moderation) and ensuring adequate intake of protein - protein improves the bodies response to glucose load, helping to balance blood sugar levels. Eat lots of fruit and veg: Boring to hear but oh so important! This promotes satiety, provides fibre and maintains the micronutrient content of the diet. Fibre is also important for eliminating broken-down hormone products found in stool, avoiding re-absorption which can lead to further hormonal imbalances. Check vitamin D levels: Low serum vitamin D has been positively associated with PCOS related symptoms, addressing vitamin D deficiency could improve hormone regulation and insulin resistance. Identifying gut dysbiosis: Research shows that there are links between gut dysbiosis and PCOS, such that modulation of the gut microbiome (gut bacteria) may be a potential treatment option for women with PCOS. Eliminating endocrine disruptors: These are chemicals that can interfere with hormonal systems, examples include but are not limited to plastics, pesticides and household chemicals. Micronutrients, supplementation and managing stress are also important factors in managing PCOS. With a personalised nutrition plan, which addresses the underlying causes of PCOS, women with PCOS can lose weight, gain menstrual regularity, get pregnant and more! Remember, everyone is different so individualised care is key!
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