Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common health condition experienced by one out of ten women of childbearing age. PCOS is a condition that adversely impacts a woman's hormone levels, wherein they produce higher than normal amounts of male hormones during her reproductive age. This hormone imbalance results in irregular menstrual cycles and makes it harder for them to get pregnant. Though the exact cause of PCOS remains unclear, medical practitioners and experts believe that factors such as excess insulin, low grade inflammation, heredity, and excess androgen contribute to it. This can be rectified with the help of the right treatment coupled with a proper diet and exercise regimen.
Diet impacts PCOS in two main ways – it helps in weight management and insulin production and resistance. The overall goal must be to reduce current calorie intake by 500 to 1,000 calories per day if one is overweight. It is advisable to make total fat less than thirty percent of one’s total source of calories for the day. Also, saturated fats, like high fat beef, butter, cheese, and full fat dairy products, should represent less than ten percent of your total calorie intake and trans fat must be avoided at all costs. The main aim must be to opt for foods with low glycemic index-made (such as whole wheat, wheat flour, whole grains, brown rice, poha and wheat pasta).
Great options for high-fibre foods include foods with colours of traffic light such as cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts; greens, including red leaf lettuce and arugula; green and red peppers; beans and lentils; almonds; berries; sweet potatoes, winter squash, pumpkin. One must incorporate an additional five to ten grams of fibre in your diet per day. The advantage is that fibre helps one stay full after a meal, and may consequently improve weight loss in women with PCOS.
Foods such as tomatoes, kale, spinach, almonds and walnuts, olive oil, fruits, such as blueberries and strawberries, oranges, fatty fish high in Omega 3, such as salmon and sardines, that help reduce inflammation may also be beneficial. It is best to have each meal contain servings of lean proteins, such as skinless chicken, fish or tofu. This is because protein helps stabilise blood sugar and increases feelings of fullness after a meal. These also aid weight loss by reducing cravings, helps one burn more calories, and manage his or her hunger hormones.
One can also have herbs like methi dana, flax seeds and cinnamon to keep one’s hormones in control. Flax Seeds and sesame seeds can do wonders for PCOS patients, however, one must not consume more than 20 grams per day. Studies suggest that women with PCOS may have fewer healthy gut bacteria than women without this condition. Therefore, having probiotics such as yogurt, kefir, idli, paneer, fermented soybean etc. will help improve the gut flora.
An ideal breakfast is a combination of fresh fruit or a sandwich of multigrain bread with some tomato and cucumber. Bran roti is a better option than a regular roti. Breakfast must be the biggest meal of the day and dinner the smallest. A detailed study found that women following this kind of diet ovulated thirty percent more than the women following a plan to the contrary.
Doctors often recommend the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet to help manage PCOS symptoms. This kind of diet discourages highly saturated, oily food and promotes foods such as fish, poultry, fruits, vegetables, whole grain, and low-fat dairy produce.
One must avoid having processed meats such as sausages, salami, etc and must have very measured quantities of red meat such as mutton, pork, etc, if need be. Refined, highly processed, simple carbohydrates cause inflammation, exacerbate insulin resistance, and should be avoided. These items are white bread, muffins, breakfast pastries, sugary desserts, and any other food item made using white flour. Caffeine in general affects fertility in women and must not be consumed by those suffering from PCOD and starchy vegetables like potatoes, corn, and peas must be consumed in very limited quantities.
Limiting oneself when it comes to processed, sugary foods can be a difficult task, which is why it is important to practice mindful eating. Mindful eating promotes an increased awareness of bodily cues, such as hunger and fullness and will help one avoid binge eating and emotional eating. Research shows that women with PCOS experience larger spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels after consuming the same amount of sugar as women without this condition and hence, mindful eating becomes indispensable.
PCOS patients might also experience water retention and the simplest, yet most effective way, is to avoid that by having adequate water and eating small, frequent meals. Consuming lots of fluid and low calorie (Chana, fruits, sprouts) snacking on the whole day is advisable.
Exercise with an accompanying weight loss of at least five percent of a woman’s body weight might improve the regularity of one’s cycles and restore it back to normal. Combining diet and exercise efforts is more effective than diet alone in managing PCOS and infertility. Set your goals in a manner that you should be active most days of the week. It is important to monitor and track the progress of your diet and exercise regimen to understand the improvements in your health. Stick to the diet plan with patience; consult or visit a doctor regularly. For more information you can always talk to a doctor online on DocsApp.