Do you have polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS? It affects 1 in 10 women of childbearing age. As a hormonal imbalance, PCOS is a problem with reproductive hormones.
This is a bad news for the ovaries. Each month, an egg doesn’t develop like usual. Other times, it isn’t released at all. The result? Missed or irregular periods.
It can snowball into infertility or ovarian cysts. Additional symptoms include acne, thin hair, weight gain, skin tags, and darkening of the skin. Extra hair might even grow on the face, chin, or chest.
There isn’t a cure for PCOS.1 Yet, it’s possible to manage through the power of food. Here’s how to do it.
What To Eat If You Have PCOS
1. Fruits And Vegetables
If you have PCOS, high cholesterol is likely. It can raise “bad” LDL cholesterol while decreasing “good” HDL cholesterol. In turn, you’ll have a higher risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.2
To avoid these problems, eat fruits and veggies. Of course, this is a must for everyone. But it’s even more important if you have PCOS. Whole fruits and vegetables contain fiber – a nutrient that keeps cholesterol in check.
It works by trapping bile – a digestive liquid that contains cholesterol. When you excrete stool, fiber and bile go along with it. Your body compensates by breaking down LDL cholesterol to make more bile.3
The recommended daily intake of fiber is 20 to 30 grams. But most Americans only get 15! To boost your fiber intake, fuel up on whole fruits and veggies. It’ll also promote healthy bowel movements.4
Dealing with PCOS is already stressful. However, the actual condition can lead to depression and anxiety.5 It’s enough to drive a woman crazy.
Instead of taking anti-depressants, focus on “good bacteria” called probiotics. It’ll maintain a healthy balance in your intestinal system. After all, your gut is connected to your brain through the microbiota-gut-brain axis. A healthy gut equals a healthy mind.6
Excellent sources of probiotics include yogurt, kimchi, and miso. You can also take probiotic supplements.
3. Whole Grains
PCOS has a strong link with diabetes. In fact, more than 50 percent of women with PCOS will have diabetes or pre-diabetes before they turn 40.7 But eating right can keep it at bay.
To prevent diabetes, opt for whole grains. This includes foods like brown rice, whole grain bread, and oatmeal. The high-fiber content won’t cause a spike in blood sugar – a major factor of diabetes. Instead, the fiber will be digested slowly, causing little to no changes.
In women, eating whole grains two to three times a day can reduce diabetes risk by 30 percent.8 It’s certainly worth noting if you have PCOS.
What To Avoid If You Have PCOS
1. Processed Carbohydrates
Diabetes protection is a two-part plan. While you’re fueling up on whole grains, ditch the processed carbs. This includes foods like white bread, doughnuts, bagels, and sugary breakfast cereals.
Even white rice is a no-no. Five or more servings a week will increase your diabetes risk by 17 percent!9 Remember, PCOS already raises your chances, so it’s important to avoid.
2. Convenience Meals
PCOS can also lead to high blood pressure – the leading cause of heart disease. It’s also linked to stroke and heart attack. The chances are higher if you’re overweight.10
Like depression and diabetes, there are drugs to lower blood pressure. But why not fight it with food? To start, avoid boxed meals and frozen foods, which are rich in salt and sodium.
By limiting your intake, you can keep your blood pressure in check. Aim for no more than 2,400 mg of sodium a day.11
3. Saturated Fat
Remember, PCOS messes with your cholesterol.12 High levels will clog up your arteries and make it hard for blood to pass. It’s the perfect set-up for heart disease – the number one killer in the United States.13
Stay away from foods high in saturated fat. In America, pizza and cheese are the biggest sources. Foods like burgers, sausages, and fries are also full of it.14
Eat fresh whenever possible. Opt for foods that are fat-free or low in saturated fat. If you’re buying packaged food, double check the label.15
As you can see, eating for PCOS is eating for general health. Everyone should follow these guidelines. But with PCOS, eating well is even more vital.
Your doctor might prescribe medication. These drugs are designed to reduce your risk for the problems linked to PCOS. But with a healthy lifestyle, you can limit the need for drugs.
|↑1, ↑2, ↑5, ↑7, ↑10, ↑12||Polycystic ovary syndrome. Women’s Health.|
|↑3||Lambeau, Kellen V., and Johnson W. McRorie. “Fiber supplements and clinically proven health benefits: How to recognize and recommend an effective fiber therapy.” Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (2017).|
|↑4||Fiber. Harvard T.H. Chan, School of Public Health.|
|↑6||Slyepchenko, Anastasiya, Andre F Carvalho, Danielle S Cha, Siegfried Kasper, and Roger S McIntyre. “Gut emotions-mechanisms of action of probiotics as novel therapeutic targets for depression and anxiety disorders.” CNS & Neurological Disorders-Drug Targets (Formerly Current Drug Targets-CNS & Neurological Disorders) 13, no. 10 (2014): 1770-1786.|
|↑8, ↑9||Simple Steps to Preventing Diabetes. Harvard T.H. Chan, School of Public Health.|
|↑11||Description of High Blood Pressure. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.|
|↑13, ↑15||High Blood Cholesterol. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑14||Top Sources of Saturated Fat in the U.S. Harvard T.H. Chan, School of Public Health.|