Whether you have been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or are in the process of being diagnosed – diet as a therapy for PCOS can be a useful tool for the PCOS patient. Diet can not only reduce symptoms, but it can optimize fertility and reduce the chances of health concerns related to PCOS in the future. For example, over 70% of women with PCOS develop insulin resistance and over 50% develop type 2 diabetes by the time they are 40 years old.
What is Insulin Resistance?
The pancreas secretes insulin so that the sugar in our blood can be stored in cells. When cells stop responding (or become resistant) to the increased insulin, they need even more insulin to be secreted before they will adequately respond and take in the sugar. This ultimately leads to high insulin levels and high blood sugar. This is thought to be the root cause behind many of the common symptoms of PCOS like: weight gain, skin tags, and darkening skin where skin folds.
One of the best ways to support yourself through your PCOS journey is to make sure your diet is as optimal for this health condition as possible. Research shows that there are some general recommendations that many PCOS patients would benefit from incorporating into their lifestyle.
Using Diet As A Therapy For PCOS
Reduce your daily intake of simple sugars
Simple sugars (like white sugar, brown sugar, and corn syrup) increase blood sugar rapidly and lead to more inflammation – another root cause of the symptoms seen in PCOS. By reducing simple sugar intake, the body is able to better balance its blood sugar and the insulin receptors are less overwhelmed with work. This can sensitize those receptors to be more receptive to slight sugar changes in the blood later. Helping you in the moment and in the future.
Select foods that have a lower glycemic load
Similar to above, choosing foods that have a lower glycemic load ensure the body isn’t overloaded with blood sugar spikes during the day. Some foods that have a lower glycemic load include: Apples, carrots, cashews, chickpeas, grapes, lentils, kidney and pinto beans, peanuts, pears, and strawberries. High glycemic load foods include: pasta, rice, potatoes, and white bread.
Increase your intake of fiber
Fiber helps balance your body by reducing spikes in blood sugar. It also helps promote good bowel movements and makes you feel satisfied and full for longer – reducing the urge to snack later. All these factors are very helpful for controlling PCOS, which is why diet as a therapy for PCOS is so effective. I often mention flax as an ideal fiber for PCOS patients because it also benefits women’s hormones specifically.
Increase nuts like walnuts/almonds
Walnuts and almonds are foods that help the PCOS patient from a hormonal perspective. In one study, walnuts increased sex hormone-binding globulin – allowing testosterone to be bound more frequently and reducing high testosterone symptoms in patients. Almonds helped to reduce the free androgen index – also reducing high androgen symptoms in patients like hair growth and acne.
Incorporate more flax
Flax seeds are a go to for PCOS patients because they are high in fiber, but they also have been found to reduce ovarian volume and the number of immature follicles (cysts) in the ovaries. In one study, PCOS patients taking flax found their menstrual cycles very much improved.
Avoid saturated and trans fats
Having a high intake of saturated fats has been found to be associated with increasing insulin resistance and developing type 2 diabetes – both things we want to avoid in PCOS patients. So, reducing the daily intake of saturated or trans fats can be beneficial in preventing any health issues further down the line.
Try spearmint tea
Studies have found that drinking spearmint tea can reduce the hair growth seen in patients with PCOS. That’s because spearmint has significant anti-androgenic effects leading to the reduction of hair growth along the jaw, chin, and upper lip in many patients.
PCOS is a health condition that affects many women, and the symptoms can take a toll mentally and physically, but diet is an easy way to manage these symptoms and feel empowered in your healthcare.
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