Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, also known as PCOS is one of the most common hormonal disorders in women. It affects about 1 in every 10 women of childbearing age. On top of just being emotionally heavy, PCOS has a wide range of symptoms that can cause things like excessive weight gain, hair growth, acne and mood swings.
Although we are hearing more about PCOS, it is still widely underdiagnosed and many suffer for a long amount of time before getting their answers. The good news is there are many natural ways to treat PCOS symptoms and it starts with doing everything you can to balance hormones naturally especially when it comes to your diet.
What Is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)?
PCOS can develop for a number of different reasons, and symptoms can vary a lot from woman to woman, but insulin resistance is suspected to be the leading cause. So to understand PCOS, we first have to understand insulin resistance.
If you’re insulin resistant, your cells don’t react properly to the insulin hormone your pancreas makes and because of this you are not absorbing glucose (i.e. sugar from food). This means that your pancreas has to pump out extra insulin. But if that’s still not enough to help your cells properly absorb glucose, these higher blood sugar levels can lead to prediabetes, which then raises your risk of type 2 diabetes along with causing your ovaries to make too many androgens, resulting in PCOS.
So to get your body back on track and to tackle PCOS, you need to focus on balancing your blood sugar levels and focusing on a diet and lifestyle that helps to heal insulin resistance.
There are many different signs of PCOS. The first to be noticed is an irregular or missing menstrual cycle but other signs include cystic follicles in the ovaries, higher levels of testosterone, excess body hair, insulin resistance and sometimes weight gain. The possible long-term health consequences of not addressing PCOS include infertility, miscarriage, pregnancy complications, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and depression.
Currently, there is no known “cure” for polycystic ovary syndrome, although the underlying hormonal causes are believed to be mostly reversible. PCOS symptoms can come and go depending on fluctuations in someone’s lifestyle and diet, which is why those suffering from PCOS need to be mindful and intentional in their daily routines and dietary intake.
G(u)ttin’ Down on the connection between diet, insulin resistance, and PCOS
PCOS is said to have no cure, but symptoms are treated with medications and changes in diet and exercise. At Healing to Happy, we’re all about the natural approach so today we’re going to be covering the different ways your foods can influence your PCOS.
What we’re learning in the health and wellness world right now is that every person is knowing which foods you are intolerant to can make such a difference for anyone, especially those with PCOS. So, it’s important that if you have PCOS that you avoid certain foods (under advisement from your doctor or registered dietitian) to help make you feel better overall even if it doesn’t directly impact your PCOS symptoms.
That being said, insulin plays a significant role in PCOS, so managing insulin levels with a PCOS diet is one of the best steps people can take to manage their condition. There is a wealth of evidence showing that a whole, real foods diet that is rich in plants may help to improve PCOS symptoms by reducing insulin resistance.
In all things health and wellness, we’re looking to aim for balance over anything else - no crazy restrictions that will lead to nutrient deficiencies
An anti-inflammatory, balanced diet helps to manage PCOS because it incorporates more foods low on the glycemic index (GI). Low GI foods take longer to digest and absorb, raising your blood sugar levels at a slower rate while also combating inflammation.
Naturally anti-inflammatory foods include vegetables, fruits, grass-fed/pasture-raised meats, wild-caught fish (like salmon), nuts/seeds (like chia, flax, hemp, almonds and walnuts) and unrefined oils/fats (including coconut oil, olive oil and avocado). This type of diet seems to reduce some of the metabolic symptoms of PCOS.
The key to any successful health journey is to approach it with balance. Anything that is too restrictive and cuts out all of your favorite foods can make it hard to have a healthy relationship with food.
While it might seem complicated, the best options for moving forward for women with different types of polycystic ovarian syndrome is to keep in simple in the categories of health and wellness by eating a balanced diet, maintaining appropriate body weight, and eliminating as much physical and psychological stress as possible.