PCOS & Basic Nutrition to Help You Thrive Against It
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is characterized by an unbalance of hormones in the body of women. It normally affects women of childbearing age and causes menstrual irregularities, infertility, hirsutism, acne, and weight gain and insulin resistance.
Hormones that play a greater havoc are the androgens- the male hormones and insulin. Women with PCOS have more than normal levels of androgens in their body and interfere with the ovulation making it difficult to get pregnant. There is an overproduction of insulin in women with PCOS that makes cell resistant to insulin and affects carbohydrate metabolism leading to weight gain and type 2 diabetes.
With PCOS it is difficult to tell if weight gain leads to hormonal imbalance or hormonal imbalance lead to weight gain. Therefore lifestyle changes in terms of diet and physical activity play a significant role in the treatment of PCOS and managing the symptoms.
BASICS TO KEEP IN MIND
The first goal in managing PCOS is to improve body’s response to insulin and lose weight. Making the following changes in your diet will surely help meet both your goals.
- Go low carbohydrate
The best diet plan for PCOS is one which is low in carbohydrates. In addition, the small amount of carbohydrate you eat should be low in glycemic index. Glycemic index is the rate at which the food you eat raises your blood sugar level. Therefore, opt for whole grain cereal, vegetables, and nuts and avoid processed and refined carbohydrates and sugars.
- Fill up with fiber
The fiber in your diet will help you in multiple ways. Fiber helps lower glycemic index of the food you eat, promotes satiety (the feeling of fullness), helps lose weight and increases estrogen metabolism. As the production of estrogen in the body increases the male hormone androgen levels begin to fall. Thus, the symptoms of PCOS begin to minimize. A daily intake of 21-30gm of fiber is recommended. Pysillium husk, oats, bran, legumes, nuts, seeds a few fiber foods you can add to your PCOS diet.
- Pick up on the proteins
Once you go low with carbohydrates make it up with increasing the protein. Go for lean and organic varieties of protein like tofu, chicken, fish, egg whites, dried beans, lentils, peas, hummus, soy products, milk, and yogurts. Proteins like fiber help promote the feeling of fullness and aid in weight loss. Make sure to add some protein in every meal and snack you take.
- Get the good fats
Generally when we are talking about weight loss- going low fat seems sensible. However as now we know all fat is not bad, the good fat like the MUFA and the omega should be a part of your diet. Fat in your diet helps lower the release of glucose which ensures that your blood sugar levels remain stable. The essential fatty acid (EFA) like omega 3 helps regulate hormones and their effects on the body, aid in weight loss and improve general health.
IMPORTANT NUTRIENTS TO LOOK OUT FOR
Women with PCOS need to focus more on certain nutrients. If need be supplementing them is effective for faster and increased results. These important nutrients include-
Increase in insulin levels results in decreased plasma chromium levels. Chromium helps women with PCOS by increasing insulin sensitivity and controlling blood sugar levels. Dietary sources of chromium include – brewer’s yeast, liver, mushrooms, wheat germ, certain cheese, beets, chicken breast etc. Use of chromium supplement after consulting your doctor or a nutritionist is advised.
- Vitamin D
Deficiency of this ‘sunshine nutrient’ is quite common in women with PCOS. Vitamin D is believed to exacerbate symptoms of insulin resistance, menstrual irregularities, and the lower chance of pregnancy, obesity, and hirsutism. Vitamin D supplementation and food sources should essentially be the part of your diet.
Inositol is a group of nutrients and its one particular form i.e. myoinositol is of importance to women with PCOS as it helps improve symptoms of PCOS.
A well balanced PCOS diet will provide you all the essential nutrients you need to manage your symptoms and fight PCOS. In addition to a healthy diet, working on your physical activity and exercise regime also helps improve your chance of overcoming all the hurdles that PCOS brings with it and help you lose weight, manage your sugar levels, balance your hormones and most importantly help you get pregnant.
Dietary changes and lifestyle modification form an essential part of treatment along with medication and nutritional supplementation. It increases your chances of improving your condition as well as boost medical management.