Diet for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Polycystic ovarian syndrome is often associated with obesity, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and even infertility. Nowadays, doctors recommend weight loss as a part of the treatment, and this can be achieved through exercises and a change in the diet.

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a condition caused by imbalance of hormones in females. The symptoms of the disease include obesity, irregular menstruation or amenorrhea, insulin resistance, depression, hair loss, excess of male hormones characterized by increase in facial and body hair, and enlarged ovaries with many small cysts. PCOS may also lead to type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, stroke, high blood cholesterol, miscarriage, and endometrial cancer. The symptoms and the associated medical conditions vary from one woman to another.

The treatment for this condition is tailored to fit individual problems, like abnormal growth of body hair and infertility; but the most important part is controlling or managing the long-term risks. Long term risks include diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and high blood pressure. As all these conditions are directly or indirectly related to obesity, doctors suggest weight loss as a part of the overall treatment plan. It is believed that, maintaining a healthy body weight can be beneficial in reducing and controlling the symptoms and conditions associated with PCOS.

Obesity and PCOS

Studies show that about 50 to 60 percent of the women affected with PCOS are obese. Such obesity is linked to the levels of insulin. Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas to break down carbohydrates, and to carry sugar from the blood to the muscles and cells. These cells convert the sugar into energy or store it as fat. It is said that 80 percent of the women affected by PCOS are insulin resistant.

In women with PCOS, cells are resistant to insulin, which affects the process of transporting sugar from the blood to the cells. This leads to an increase in production of insulin, causing hyperinsulinemia (high levels of insulin in blood), which in turn could lead to many other problems, like obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and polycystic ovaries. Hence, it is suggested that, the underlying cause of PCOS is insulin resistance; and so, apart from the conventional medication, weight loss and lifestyle changes are also necessary for tackling this disease. It would be beneficial to adopt a diet for PCOS.

Carbohydrate Intake

A diet, which is low in fats, but high in carbohydrates may not be beneficial for women with PCOS. High levels of carbohydrates can trigger overproduction of insulin, which will have a negative effect. Hence, a diet which is low in carbohydrates, is considered ideal; but avoid refined food, like breads, pastas, cookies, and ice creams. You can include more complex carbohydrates, like whole-grain breads and cereals, whole-wheat pasta, barley, brown rice, and beans. Prefer low glycemic foods, which take more time to turn into blood sugar. They have higher fiber content than the high glycemic foods (foods that break down quickly during digestion and release glucose rapidly into the bloodstream).

The daily consumption of carbohydrates should not be less than 40 grams. A lower intake of carbohydrates can cause ketosis. Maintain proper intervals in between meals. If you consume the whole recommended level of carbohydrate in a single meal, it can cause a rapid rise in the blood sugar and insulin level. Try to drink more water and liquids, but avoid caffeinated beverages. A diet for polycystic ovarian syndrome does not contain foods with saturated and trans fats. Such foods include red meat, whole dairy products, butter, margarine, and fried and spicy foods. Foods high in monounsaturated fats and omega-3-fatty acids are good for the health of the heart.

According to some studies, dietary changes and regular exercise are found to be beneficial in restoring regular menstrual cycle and ovulation. It is also helpful in controlling health problems associated with PCOS. Above all, a healthy diet and exercise are good for the overall well-being of any human being.