How to Manage Your PCOS Through Your Diet

A PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome) diet plan plays a key role in the management of PCOS as it helps to reduce the symptoms and effects of this condition. Women with PCOS often have severe carb cravings as well as mood swings and anxiety. These symptoms can be traced to insulin resistance which causes cravings, obesity, and weight gain. A woman with PCOS is also likely to have higher triglycerides and cholesterol levels which increases her risk of heart disease. This is why a PCOS diet aims to induce weight loss, control food cravings, and control cholesterol levels.

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A lady came to me recently and told me that she had been on an all-fruit diet for the last 2 months. While she did manage to lose some amount of weight, her immune system was severely compromised and she had started to get recurrent ear infections. This type of a diet may offer weight loss but it will cause thickening of the waistline, increase inflammation, and it will absolutely ruin your skin! The maximum amount of healthy PCOS weight loss is between ½ to 1 kg per week.

PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome) Weight loss

A slow and steady weight loss plan is the only way to maintain healthy PCOS weight loss. If you are overweight, you will need to decrease your daily calorie intake by 200 calories. Don’t eliminate your healthy foods but instead, eliminate junk foods and high calorie unhealthy snacks such as bread and butter/jam.

People who are obese, at 90-120 kgs, may need to have a more severe restriction. They may need to have a 500 to 1000 calorie deficit as this will allow them to lose ½ kg to 1 kg per week. However, their diet must be balanced and should meet their nutritional requirements.

Avoid all fad diets like the plague! Fad diets have long term health implications and while they are unhealthy for regular people, they pose a serious health risk for women with PCOS. Among the fad diets, a low-fat high-carb diet is the worst diet for PCOS. This is because it can cause fatty liver, acidosis and it even increases insulin resistance which in turn aggravates PCOS symptoms.

Have 5 to 6 small meals throughout your day as this will prevent insulin and sugar peaks.

Eat frequently so that there is no more than a 3-4 hour gap between your meals.

 How to Manage PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome) with Carbohydrates?

50 % of your daily calorie intake should come from carbs. However not all carbs are the same – there are healthy carbs and unhealthy carbs and each one has a different effect on blood sugar levels. Foods like cold drinks, hard drinks, breads, sweets, watermelon, and rice are called high glycemic carbs. These foods cause spikes in insulin and glucose levels and so you need to drastically reduce or even eliminate these foods from your diet.

Instead, increase your intake of low glycemic carbs – these are unrefined cereals, oats, jowar bajra, nachni whole wheat atta, bran, and brown rice. These foods are good sources of complex carbs and since they are absorbed by your body at a slower rate, they supply a slow and steady stream of energy. These foods also control mood swings and since they increase muscle glycogen levels, there is a lower risk of extra glucose being converted and stored as fat.

How to Manage PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome) with Fats?

30 % of your daily calorie intake should come from fats – this would be approximately 50 grams of fats. Fats can be divided into visible and invisible fats – where cooking oil, butter, nuts, and seeds are visible fats and flesh foods such as mutton and chicken, milk, dals, and eggs are sources of invisible fats.

Trans fats are unhealthy oils that raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels while lowering your HDL (good) cholesterol levels. Fried foods, junk foods, cakes, biscuits, microwave popcorn, and doughnuts are generally very high in trans fats and so you need to cut them out of your daily diet.

Increase your intake of healthy monounsaturated fats. Nuts such as almond, groundnut, channa, black gram are good sources of this type of fat. Alpha-linolenic fatty acids are also healthy fats that are present in flaxseed, walnuts, and sardines. Monounsaturated fats and Alpha-linolenic fatty acids are an important part of a PCOS diet as they control obesity and insulin resistance.

When cooking, avoid sunflower oil, safflower oils, and palm oils as they contain fats that are particularly unhealthy for women with PCOS as they increase the risk of infertility. Instead, use cooking oils such as rice bran oil, til (sesame) oil, and olive oil.

Instead of using just one type of oil, you can use a variety of cooking oils. Buy 1 liter of each type of oil and use different oils each day while cooking. This will ensure that you get a variety of healthy oils from your diet. The recommended amount of oil is ½ a kg of oil per month, but most Indians consume 3-4 kgs per month!

How to Manage PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome) with Protiens?

20 % of your daily calorie intake should come from proteins. Most Indian breakfasts like sabudana khichidi, upma, and poha are rich in carbs and fats but contain little to no protein. Include paneer, eggs, sprouts, or minced chicken with roti as a breakfast roll to ensure that your breakfast contains protein. Proteins are a very important part of a diet plan for PCOS as they increases satiety which reduces sugar and carb cravings. A PCOS diet plan should include protein in every meal and every snack as protein helps to reduce insulin spikes and regulate blood sugar levels. Your protein intake will also protect lean muscle mass and increase the muscle response to exercise.

PCOS is closely linked to obesity and as the obesity rates in India have climbed, so has the PCOS rate. I have had little girls who are as young as 10 and 12 years come in to my office with PCOS symptoms! The only way to deal with this problem is to educate the parents and the child to improve lifestyle and diet to improve health. This will balance the child’s hormonal levels which in turn improves all other PCOS symptoms.

What Supplements To Have While Suffering From PCOS?

There are several supplements for the management of PCOS and symptoms of PCOS. Supplements for PCOS include myo-inositol and D-chiro inositol as these reduce insulin resistance and androgen (male hormone) levels. This improves ovulation and fertility levels.

However, supplements should be taken only under the supervision of a gynaecologist or a clinical nutritionist. N Acetylcysteine is an antioxidant and an amino acid that reduces risk of heart disease and decreases insulin resistance. COQ 10 is a vitamin-like compound and antioxidant that may be recommended in order to improve ovulation and pregnancy in PCOS women.

Green Tea can also be used to treat PCOS as some evidence points to green tea lowering high androgen levels. However, it should be consumed a minimum of 1 hour before or after a meal as some of the compounds in tea can reduce the body’s absorption of other nutrients.

Exercise is an important component of any PCOS management plan.HIT, such as spinning, running, jogging, stair climbing is a good exercise option for women with PCOS as it improves insulin signaling and increases muscle mass. Exercise is especially important if you have a sedentary job; in fact there is research to show that the longer you sit, the sooner you will die!

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