PCOS is short for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, and at least 10% of genetically female people have it! Diagnosis criteria is having 2 out of 3: irregular periods, high male hormones and cystic ovaries. Symptoms include thinning hair, weight gain, skin breakouts, fatigue, hair growth on face and body, depression and dark spots on skin. Plus, it increases your chances of infertility, diabetes, heart disease and a bunch of other “fun” stuff. One of the most annoying parts of PCOS is it often comes with insulin resistance, which means your body can’t manage blood sugar as well as others (through no fault of your own, by the way). See my previous post to learn more about balancing blood sugar.
PCOS takes an average of 2 doctors and 3 years to get diagnosed with PCOS. I know how it is to go to your doc with hormone-related issues and be told to go on the pill or just lose 10 lbs (yup, I was told to do both those things). BUT, the good news is, that even large health organizations recognize that diet and lifestyle are the first lines of defense for PCOS! Here are my top tips for taking control of your PCOS:
- Add protein to every meal and snack – Yup, protein is your friend if you have PCOS – you need it to balance blood sugar and help manage your PCOS.
- Make friends with healthy fats – Eating mono and polyunsaturated fat can be really beneficial for inflammation, also help with blood sugar balance.
- Favor whole grains above refined grains – Sense a theme here? Whole grains have protein, fiber and fat built in, helping to slow digestion and absorption and balance blood sugar.
- Include some phytoestrogens in your diet – it has been shown that the estrogen-like compounds in tofu can help nudge hormones in the right direction for those with high androgens and PCOS. Flax also is a good source of these and may be useful here as well.
- Find time for fitness – Moving your body is also really important for blood sugar balance. Getting a combination of cardio and strength training can help lower your risk of the complications of PCOS.
- Swap in some plant-protein – If you don’t already, swap some beans, tofu, tempeh, seitan and meat substitutes in for some of your meat dishes to lower inflammation and risk for heart disease.
- Incorporate anti-inflammatory foods – Constant low-grade inflammation is associated with a bunch of chronic diseases and is a common part of PCOS. Combat this with anti-inflammatory foods like ginger, turmeric, garlic, mushrooms and salmon.
- Find the right supplements to tackle your symptoms – Several supplements have decent evidence for helping PCOS symptoms like myo-inositol, coenzyme Q10, turmeric and others. Work with an RD to find the right balance for your symptoms.
- Limit exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) – this is especially important if you have PCOS, because your hormones are already out of balance! EDCs mimic and end up blocking estrogen, so they’re no good for folks with hormonal imbalance. Learn more in my previous post on endocrine disrupting chemicals.
- Learn how to take your nutrition skills on the go – none of this means you need to give up going out or enjoying date night with a glass of wine with your partner! Instead, learn strategic ways to incorporate all this nutrition know-how into your nights out and travel plans.
That’s it! You don’t have to give up dairy or gluten or soy like some people might tell you! Instead, you just need to know the nutrients your body needs and how to balance out the foods that might exacerbate your symptoms. If you want a more personalized approach to managing your PCOS, so you can enjoy your food, accept your body and love every moment, go ahead and book a Free 15 Minute Nutrition Chat to make a game plan.