The bad news? Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) affects as many as 1 in 10 women of child-bearing age. The good news is that this PCOS diet and lifestyle changes can help you overcome this condition. Nutrition Diva has 4 tips that will make you feel a lot better.
Nutrition Diva listener Angie writes:
“I was recently diagnosed with PCOS and I've been trying to learn about it. There seems to be a lot of confusing advice out there and a few sources suggest that a healthy diet for someone with PCOS is different than a healthy diet for someone without this condition. Is this true?"
What Is PCOS?
Unfortunately, Angie, you've got plenty of company. Polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, is a condition that affects up to 1 in 10 women of child-bearing age. Our own House Call Doctor recently did an episode on PCOS, which includes a thorough explanation of the medical aspects of this syndrome. In a nutshell, PCOS is characterized by hormonal imbalances, involving not just the reproductive hormones, like estrogen and testosterone, but also hormones that regulate blood sugar, fat storage, and appetite.
Symptoms of PCOS may include painful or irregular periods, acne, abnormal hair growth, increased appetite, weight gain, or difficulty losing weight. Women with PCOS often develop metabolic syndrome, which increases your risk for heart disease and diabetes. And the reverse is also true: Women with metabolic syndrome are more likely to develop PCOS. PCOS is also a leading cause of infertility.
PCOS is strongly linked with obesity—and as obesity levels have risen, PCOS has become a more common diagnosis. But there are also lean women who suffer from PCOS. Almost all women with PCOS, however, have some degree of insulin resistance, which is also known as “pre-diabetes.”
See also: What is High Glucose?
With PCOS, it's a little hard to tell the chicken from the egg: Does weight gain lead to hormonal imbalance or does hormonal imbalance lead to weight gain? Either way, it quickly becomes a vicious cycle.
The first-line therapy for PCOS is a diet and lifestyle makeover—with the primary goal of improving the body’s sensitivity to insulin. With any luck, this can interrupt the vicious cycle and start a virtuous cycle instead.
Here are 4 ways to start on a virtuous path: