Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) affects up to 20% of women who are of reproductive age. The hormonal imbalances which occur can lead to side effects including irregular or absent periods, excess hair growth, hair loss, acne, weight gain and difficulty falling pregnant.
If this is affecting you, making changes to your diet and lifestyle is the first-line of treatment. Studies have shown that small sustainable changes to diet and lifestyle can help to improve symptoms of PCOS, improved ovulation and increased fertility.
Here are my top three tips to help reduce PCOS related symptoms and increase your chances of falling pregnant.
1. Choose Low-GI carbohydrates:
Carbohydrates are used as fuel for our cells, however when we consume high amounts of quickly digestible or High-GI carbohydrates this can lead to a spike in our sugar levels and the hormone insulin. Insulin resistance is more common in women with PCOS and occurs when the hormone insulin is not being used as efficiently as it should be and your body is producing higher levels of this hormone to regulate the sugar from your blood to your cells. Eating mainly low-GI carbohydrates, or the type that are more slowly released, will help to prevent these sugar spikes and keep insulin levels stable. Start by choosing whole grains, avoiding highly processed and refined foods and include a variety of vegetable with lunch and dinner.
2. Don’t leave home without breakfast:
Eating regular meals has been shown to help maintain a healthy weight and reduce sugar cravings later in the afternoon. By eating regular meals, including starting the day with a Low-GI breakfast, will help to maintain stable blood sugar levels and energy levels throughout the day. Try starting each morning with some yogurt and untoasted muesli or a poached egg on multigrain toast for a balance of protein and Low GI carbohydrates to keep you going throughout the morning. If you have more time on the weekend, why not add 2-3 different varieties of vegetables to your morning meal such as mushroom, spinach and tomato.
3. Be active every day
Being active on a daily basis is important especially for women with PCOS. Studies have shown improvements in ovulation, increased insulin sensitivity and reduction in inflammatory markers in women who exercised on a regular basis. This is important as chronic inflammation and insulin resistance is higher in women with PCOS. Start with a small goal, such as taking the stairs at work each day, or reaching 10,000 steps daily and work up to 30 minutes of physical activity each day. This might include going for a brisk walk with friends, doing a spin class at the gym and dancing. If you have previous injuries be sure to seek out some advice from a qualified exercise physiologist before tackling a new exercise regime.
In summary, there may not be a cure for PCOS but that doesn’t mean you cannot manage its symptoms through small sustainable changes in your diet and lifestyle. If you are struggling to fall pregnant, start with these three changes today. Remember everybody is different, for tailored nutritional guidance and strategies to assist you in manage your PCOS book in an appointment with one of our Dietitians today.