Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the leading causes of infertility in women of reproductive age. In this article, we will share the best diet for PCOS, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.
What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Anyone would say that, to have this diagnosis, a woman would have to have multiple cysts on her ovaries. But this is not true in most cases. And this name is so confusing that it even leads to underdiagnosis by health professionals.
Having PCOS increases your risk of developing diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease. And while cysts require an ultrasound to detect them, the other more common symptoms of PCOS are much more noticeable for women: weight gain, acne, irregular periods, and male pattern hair growth.
The good news about PCOS is that it is treatable and even reversible through simple steps like diet.
Once diagnosed with PCOS, initial treatment options often include hormonal contraceptives, metformin, and perhaps spironolactone. While all of these may be beneficial for some women, they are often not enough to manage the symptoms of PCOS and that is where a holistic and natural approach can do the job much better.
The best diet for PCOS – Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Two things to consider as a woman with PCOS is that, one, there is no cure for PCOS, but you can put your symptoms into remission.
And two, it’s important to recognize that PCOS can present differently and behave differently for each woman.
That said, there are some commonalities in dieting that are universally true for everyone.
Poor insulin production one of the factors of PCOS
PCOS has a metabolic component and is not just about sex hormones. While testosterone is elevated, it is important to understand that this is often due to insulin stimulating the ovaries. High insulin levels cause the ovaries of people with PCOS to produce more testosterone.
What’s even more confusing is that your fasting glucose and hemoglobin A1C, both markers of blood sugar control, can be normal, but you can have spikes (albeit transient) in insulin that cause hormonal problems.
This is the reason why many diets for polycystic ovary syndrome they focus on blood sugar regulation and insulin control.
In addition, there is also an inflammatory aspect of PCOS that can lead to worsening of metabolic problems and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
This is why it is recommended to focus on a diet for PCOS that promotes lower levels of inflammation in the body.
The best foods for PCOS
- Meat from grass-fed animals and grass-raised poultry
- cold water fish
- healthy fats
- seeds and nuts
Meat from grass-fed animals and grass-raised poultry
Commercially raised meats and poultry have a higher omega-6 to omega-3 ratio than grass-fed or grass-fed meats and poultry.
Since omega-6 fatty acids can be inflammatory in excess, eating conventionally raised meat can cause inflammation, which can exacerbate the symptoms of PCOS.
If you are going to eat meat, try to select the highest quality as often as possible. You may not have access to this easily, which may mean you want to focus on more plants in your diet.
Water fish for PCOS diet
Cold-water fish like salmon are a great source of omega-3s. They are also a great source of vitamin D (which many of us lack) and protein. Salmon is probably the best known fatty fish, but others include mackerel, tuna, anchovies, sardines, and trout (to name just a few).
Omega-3 fatty acids provide anti-inflammatory benefits and may aid in insulin sensitivity.
Healthy Fats for PCOS Diet
Fat has been demonized for several years, but human beings need healthy fats. The fat you want to avoid at all costs is trans fat.
Fat helps stabilize blood sugar, keep you feeling full longer, and can even help you lose weight.
In a small study comparing low-fat to high-fat diets in women with PCOS, it was found that after 8 weeks, the high-fat diet resulted in large weight loss.
Some examples of healthy fats include:
- fatty fish
- grass fed meat
- Avocados and avocado oil (cold-pressed, unrefined)
- Coconut oil (cold pressed, unrefined)
- Olive oil (cold pressed, unrefined)
Contrary to popular belief, fruit is not bad for PCOS. Fruits contain various vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, and fiber, all of which support better health. For women with PCOS who are working to optimize insulin levels, it may be better to opt for fruits with less sugar, such as berries. But trust that an occasional banana won’t destroy your hormones.
Filling your plate with plenty of vegetables is a great way to take care of your gut and support estrogen metabolism. An ideal goal is six to nine servings of vegetables a day.
Vegetables are vital sources of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Fiber is essential for intestinal and hormonal health. The ideal goal is to aim for 25 grams per day, which is about double what the average person gets.
seeds and nuts
Nuts and seeds contain healthy fats, protein, and minerals, which are great for an overall healthy diet. Nuts like cashews, sunflower seeds, and Brazil nuts provide zinc, which supports balanced testosterone levels.
Foods that can worsen polycystic ovary syndrome
There are foods that can aggravate the symptoms of PCOS and make the condition more difficult to control. That doesn’t mean these foods are “bad” (some are), it just means they may not work for you.
Consider limiting the foods on the list below (or cutting out if you absolutely need to), but it’s recommended that you focus more on the foods you should be eating that are good for your health and less on what you’re cutting out.
Foods that can worsen PCOS symptoms include:
- Dairy products
- refined oils
It may seem obvious that if you have problems with blood sugar dysregulation and insulin resistance, it’s wise to limit sugar. But for some women with PCOS, sugar may be to blame for acne, a common symptom of PCOS.
For women with PCOS, gluten or other grains can be problematic for skin and metabolic health. Eliminate them for about 21 days and bring them back to see how it can be very revealing to you.
While grains can provide nutrients like B vitamins and are an important source of fiber, they may not work for you, or at least not for everyone. Again, it’s about what’s true for you.
Dairy products can increase insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1). This, in turn, leads to high insulin levels, which can stimulate the ovaries to produce more androgens.
Those androgens can cause symptoms such as cystic acne, oily skin, hair loss on the head, and hair growth on the chin or abdomen. It can also cause anovulatory cycles (lack of ovulation).
If you want to better support your hormones, limiting your alcohol intake is a great step. Alcohol can affect our hormones and menstrual cycle, which is problematic enough without adding PCOS to the mix.
Refined oils (such as vegetable oil, soybean oil, and canola oil) offer a disproportionate amount of omega-6 fatty acids compared to omega-3. Since most of us don’t get enough omega-3s, adding even more omega-6s is problematic.
When omega-6s are in excess, they can cause inflammation. Aim for unrefined, cold-pressed oils like coconut, olive, and avocado oil. Keep in mind that some oils work better at high temperatures than others.