Diet and PCOS
The symptoms of PCOS include -
- having fluid-filled sacs surrounding the eggs in the ovaries
- irregular or absent periods
- high or more active levels of a group of hormones known as androgens (male type hormones such as testosterone)
Symptoms of PCOS are related to high hormone levels of androgens and insulin. Insulin is released by our body when we eat however, those with PCOS have higher levels which can cause insulin resistance. Insulin resistance also increases testosterone – whilst all women have testosterone, in those with PCOS these levels are higher and can upset the balance of hormones leading to acne, excess hair and irregular periods.
Those with PCOS may also have difficulties conceiving as the hormonal imbalances interferes with the growth and release of the eggs from the ovaries, otherwise known as ovulation. However, having PCOS doesn‘t mean you can’t get pregnant. Modifying your diet can have beneficial impacts in those with PCOS to help manage symptoms and also, assist in fertility.
Eating with PCOS
- Eat regular meals – sticking to regular mealtimes can help control blood sugar levels and keep them stable. This is important to help reduce insulin resistance
- Choose low GI foods and wholegrains – glycaemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly our blood sugar levels rise after eating carbohydrates. High GI foods mean that our blood sugar raises rapidly after eating, this causes our body to release a large amount of insulin that can further aggravate insulin resistance. Low GI foods means our blood sugar raises slowly over a period of time, improving insulin levels and resistance.
- When choosing low GI foods aim for high fibre foods and wholegrains. Sources include oats, muesli, wholegrain bread and pasta, brown rice
- Include healthy fats and protein, alongside low GI carbohydrates. This can further reduce the impact of blood sugar levels, this is known as glycaemic load (GL). A low GL can also help you feel fuller for longer and reduce cravings.
- Healthy fats including lean meat, eggs, dairy, beans and pulses, tofu, nuts and seeds
- Healthy fats including olive oil, nuts and seeds, rapeseed oil and avocados
- Include omega-3 fats which can help reduce inflammation, commonly seen in those with PCOS.
- Aim for 2 portions of oily fish per week (salmon, anchovies, mackerel, sardines and herring)
- Plant based sources include seaweed, algae, chia, flaxseeds and walnuts
For some people with PCOS supplementation may be beneficial. To learn more about supplements for PCOS click here.
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