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Managing symptoms of PCOS

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Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common disorder affecting female hormones and impacts how the ovaries work. The symptoms of PCOS can vary between individuals however common symptoms include acne, excessive hair particularly on the face, chest or stomach, obesity, irregular menstrual cycles and fertility problems. The symptoms of PCOS are related to high levels of androgens (male hormones) and insulin. 

There is no cure for PCOS however, several dietary and lifestyle changes, as well as medication and supplements, can help ease symptoms and improve fertility.

Diet 


One of the features of PCOS is high levels of insulin which can lead to insulin resistance. Eating low glycemic index (GI) foods, which cause blood sugar levels to rise slowly, can prevent insulin spikes and ease symptoms. Choose wholegrain and high fibre carbohydrates and pair foods with good quality protein and healthy fats to reduce the glycemic load of the meal. 

Those with PCOS have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and obesity due to high levels of insulin. Regular exercise and a balanced diet can help weight management. In women with excess weight, losing weight can have a positive effect on their symptoms. Studies have shown that reducing body weight by only 2-5% has been shown to restore periods and increase insulin sensitivity.

Bloating is a common symptom experienced by those with PCOS. Whilst some bloating after a meal is common, those with PCOS are more likely to experience bloating and it can be very uncomfortable. The bloating can be caused by a number of factors due to hormonal changes and differences in their gut microbiome. Keeping a food and symptom diary to understand what foods can trigger this bloating and removing/limiting them from the diet can help manage bloating.

Medication


If you are trying for a baby you may be recommended metformin to help you start ovulating again and regulate your periods.

For those looking to regulate their cycles outside of fertility, oral contraceptives can stop your ovaries from producing too much testosterone. This can help improve acne, improve period regularity and reduce hair growth.

In women with irregular cycles, progesterone such as Duphaston can help induce periods. The oral contraceptive pill is also effective.

Supplements


Myo-inositol - Inositol is active in cell-to-cell communication, transmitting nerve impulses. Cells need inositol to regulate various functions mediated by hormones and it is an important component in the development and maturation of eggs.

Although inositol occurs naturally in cereals, fruits and nuts, many women with PCOS suffer from an inositol deficiency. Supplementing with myo-inositol can therefore assist in maintaining levels of this important nutrient. 

Myo-inositol can be taken by both women trying for a baby and those looking to manage their symptoms.

Before starting any medication or supplements, we recommend consulting your GP. 

Further reading

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