Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is the most common endocrine disorder or hormonal imbalance for women and I see it in clinic a lot! The main hormone disruption is caused from higher than normal androgens or ‘male’ hormones like testosterone and DHEA. This is where you may see male like characteristics such as hair on the chin or upper lip, thinning hair on the head and acne. Other symptoms typical of PCOS are weight resistance and infertility.
PCOS causes are multifactorial which can involve; genetic predisposition, diet, lifestyle and environment which can all affect how PCOS manifests. The underlying causes are blood sugar dysregulation and insulin resistance and the result of all these factors are missing or infrequent periods due to the hormonal imbalances.
Research show that PCOS is managed and controlled extremely well through nutrition and lifestyle, even more so than medication.
How to treat PCOS through nutrition?
- Regulate blood sugar
Through a low or moderate carbohydrate diet. We want to control any major blood sugar spikes to avoid insulin surges which will help control insulin resistance. We don’t want to go too long without eating causing a blood sugar drop, spiking cortisol and creating a stress response. Eating 3 quality meals with the right ratio of macronutrients will maintain good blood sugar regulation.
- Having protein with every meal
With every meal to manage blood sugar spikes. Particularly starting the day with a protein biased breakfast is important. Protein sources can be fish, grassfed organic meats, organic poultry, organic eggs and whole grains.
- Getting your good fats
The right type of fats help helps cells to become insulin sensitive. These fats include omega 3 fats and the long chain plant version of these fats found in walnuts, pumpkin seeds, olives, olive oil, fatty fish and grass-fed, organic butter.
- A low GI diet
Consuming vegetables and salad vegetables alongside protein sources.
It’s ideal to load up your plate with low carb vegetables and salad vegetables to increase antioxidants, minerals and vitamins. Use wholegrains rather than refined, processed grains and foods.
- Anti-inflammatory diet
Many women with PCOS have chronic inflammation so a diet including anti-inflammatory foods will help. Include from the list below.
- dark leafy greens, including kale and spinach
- blueberries, blackberries, and cherries
- dark red grapes
- nutrition-dense vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower
- beans and lentils
- green tea
- avocado and coconut
- extra virgin olive oil
- walnuts, pistachios, pine nuts, and almonds
- cold water fish, including salmon and sardines
- turmeric and cinnamon
- dark chocolate
- spices and herb including cinnamon and turmeric
- spearmint tea
What foods should I avoid?
- Dairy foods
Can contribute to insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome both of which we are trying to control in PCOS. Many cows are also given antibiotics which can contribute to poor health. There are great options now to replace dairy such as almond or coconut milks and coconut yoghurts.
- Processed Soy
Women with PCOS should also avoid soy products such as soy milk. Soy beans are high in goitrogens which can down regulate thyroid function contributing to hormonal chaos.
- Highly processed foods and sugar
Are empty calories and exert a high blood sugar response, enabling insulin resistance which contributes to higher androgens.
- Gluten free
Research shows that gluten contributes to leaky gut even if you don’t have celiac’s disease. Leaky gut causes chronic inflammation and leads on to hormonal disruption. Gluten products are normally highly processed too which gives an insulin spike having a knock-on effect to testosterone.
What supplements should I take to treat PCOS?
Inositol is vital in treating PCOS, it has numerous actions such as; restoring ovulatory activity. Lowers free testosterone, lowers total testosterone, lowers LH (Luteinising Hormone), lowers insulin resistance, lowers DHEA-S, increase peak progesterone.
Helps manage insulin, supports thyroid function and immune health. It can also help with blood sugar control, improved ovulation and reducing androgens and testosterone levels.
Enhances weight loss and improves blood sugar control
- NAC (N-acetyl-cysteine)
Has been shown to help with infertility, insulin resistance and lowering testosterone.
- Vitamin D
80% of women with PCOS have been found to be deficient in vitamin D. Low Vitamin D can contribute to insulin resistance, hyperandrogenism, obesity and lower pregnancy success.
- Omega 3’s
Omega 3’s have shown to help manage many of the PCOS mechanisms such as; improved lipid profile, increase frequency of periods, lower testosterone levels, manage hair growth and improve acne.
To help metabolise testosterone out of the body
At Ministry of Skin we can compound a specific supplement for you using many of the above ingredients. The best way to manage PCOS is to find the underlying cause and then treat and control that. The symptoms will disappear, and a regular cycle should resume. We treat people on an individual basis so everyone’s treatment plan will have variations.