PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome, affects about 1 in 10 women of child-bearing age. If you’re one of many affected, there are diet and lifestyle changes you can make to reduce or overcome your symptoms.
What is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)?
PCOS is characterized by hormonal imbalances, it involves not only the reproductive hormones, but also hormones that regulate blood sugar, appetite and fat storage. The symptoms of PCOS include painful or irregular periods, acne, abnormal hair growth, increased appetite, weight gain and difficulty losing weight.
Women who have PCOS often develop metabolic syndrome, which increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes. PCOS has been linked to obesity, and as obesity levels have risen globally, PCOS has also become a common diagnosis. However, weight is not the only factor linked to PCOS diagnosis. Almost all women who suffer from PCOS have a degree of insulin resistance, also known as pre-diabetes. The first line of defense against PCOS is diet and lifestyle changes. The primary goal is to improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin.
Ways to improve insulin sensitivity through your diet
(Please consult your doctor before making any drastic changes to your lifestyle)
- Lose weight
Weight loss helps improve insulin sensitivity, and you won’t need to reach a goal weight to
benefit. Even a small amount of weight loss will help with symptoms of PCOS. For example, if
you have a goal to lose 50 pounds, and lose 10, then this will still make a big difference in
PCOS symptoms. You will want to aim to lose weight at a pace that can be maintained for a
long time. Crash diets that cause fast results will be followed by rebound weight and can do
much more harm than good.
- Be more active
Exercise is another great way you can improve insulin sensitivity. It also helps rebalance
reproductive hormones. Doing a combination of aerobic exercise (anything that can get your
heart rate up for 30 minutes per day) and strength training is the best option.
- Eat regularly, but not too frequently
Many claim that eating every 2 or 3 hours is best, however spacing out your meals can help
improve insulin sensitivity. Instead of snacking or having smaller meals throughout the day, try
getting used to eating more substantial meals and waiting 4 to 5 hours before eating again.