How to Improve PCOS Through Nutrition

Polycystic ovarian syndrome, PCOS, affects up to 1 in 6 women and is the number one reason women seek fertility help from their doctor. (1)
The cause of PCOS is unknown but in general it is thought to be a condition of insulin resistance and hormone imbalance. Some, but not all, women diagnosed with PCOS also suffer from ovarian cysts. (2)

Symptoms of PCOS may include a few or many of the following.

  • Weight gain or inability to lose weight
  • Fatigue
  • Hirsutism (unwanted hair growth to face)
  • Alopecia or male pattern hair loss
  • Menstrual irregularities and Infertility
  • Recurrent Miscarriages
  • Acne
  • Mood changes including depression and anxiety

PCOS symptoms severity correlates with the degree of your hormone imbalance. The exciting news is that your symptoms will lessen as you bring your hormones back into balance! The even better news is that you can balance your hormones naturally through your food choices. (3)

How nutrition can improve your PCOS symptoms

Regardless of the symptoms you have, the way to reduce their impact is the same: Follow a PCOS friendly diet, increase your physical activity, and care for your overall well-being.

Hormone imbalance and insulin resistance create a vicious cycle playing off each other to worsen the symptoms further. Although prescriptions can lessen symptoms and infertility to a degree, they don’t address the underlying issues and are accompanied by many side effects. Research shows that nutrition plays a very important role in managing and even reversing the severity of the condition. (1)

My Story

Five years ago, while struggling with infertility for over a year, I went to see my ob-gyn physician. I was diagnosed with PCOS, told it would be a struggle at best to have children and was referred to a fertility specialist. I was devastated and discouraged to say the least. The 3 month wait to see the specialist didn’t help. I began to research; although there are not many dietary recommendations, I realized a diabetic diet approach made sense based on the insulin resistance component of the disorder. As a Physician Assistant, I was familiar with the lifestyle options to improve diabetes and how they have been shown to reverse insulin resistance. It made sense that it could also help my PCOS.

4 months later, the night before my fertility specialist was set to start me on Clomid, I found out I was finally pregnant! Fast-forward 5 years, I have 2 healthy daughters and a third baby due in a few months. All conceived naturally, without medical intervention and after only a few tweaks to my diet.

Although this has helped me and many other women, there is, unfortunately, no set formula to reduce PCOS symptoms or help with pregnancy. The recommendations I will make below are, however, a great place to start to rebalance your hormones and improve your PCOS symptoms.

Three dietary changes:

  1. Reduce refined sugar and focus on a whole food based diet
  2. Limit (or eliminate) dairy
  3. Go gluten-free

Tips: add healthy fats and proteins like chia seeds, hemp protein and coconut to your help lessen cravings and keep you from feeling hungry between meals. These foods are also packed with nutrients that support good hormone function.

Making any change is difficult at first but gets easier with time! My favorite way and what I recommend to the PCOS ladies I support is to do a cleanse or detox. This creates a break between old and new habits and also reduces the craving roller coaster of refined carbohydrates; this makes changing your nutritional habits much easier! I hope my story helps you on your journey!

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