PCOS is a condition where the ovaries produce too much of the male sex hormones. While women do have these same hormones in very small amounts, too much can cause misery. The symptoms may include:
- Missed periods, irregular periods, or very light periods
- Ovaries that are large or have many cysts
- Excess body hair, including the chest, stomach, and back (hirsutism)
- Weight gain, especially around the belly (abdomen)
- Acne or oily skin
- Male-pattern baldness or thinning hair
- Small pieces of excess skin on the neck or armpits (skin tags)
- Dark or thick skin patches on the back of the neck, in the armpits, and under the breasts (1)
While the specific cause is unclear, PCOS often accompanies insulin resistance. As the inability to use insulin efficiently increases, even higher androgen levels occur. Obesity and poor nutrition can add to the problem and the patient’s condition continues to get worse. This tendency seems to run in families but like other disorders of the body, these tendencies can be affected negatively or positively by our habits. Nutrition is a key influence in PCOS. Insulin resistance and obesity increase your risk of developing this painful syndrome. By being pro-active to fight PCOS, you may avoid diabetes.
One of the key components of treatment is a change in diet and activity. By following a healthy diet and increasing your level of activity, you can lose weight and that will reduce your symptoms. You will use insulin more efficiently and lower your blood sugar levels which will help to restore a more normal ovulation cycle, which is missing in PCOS. There are medications which your doctor can prescribe that can help but he can’t make the lifestyle changes needed to improve this condition. Only you can do that. A good doctor is a Blessing from Heaven but he can only do so much. Unless we are willing to take personal responsibility for our health, most of the time, his hands are tied. So far, I have not found a doctor with a magic wand that he could wave over me and fix my problems. I have to do my part.
I have known women who thought that living with PCOS was easier than taking personal responsibility to try to change it. I don’t agree with that. There are life-threatening complications associated with PCOS including Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and uterine cancer. PCOS can also make it very hard to get pregnant. If you are at all concerned about having a baby, you need to get this under control. I once knew a 13 year old girl with this condition who was morbidly obese. Unfortunately, her mother who was also morbidly obese, refused to accept the cold hard truth that obesity was contributing to the girl’s problem and she never addressed the weight. As an adult now, her daughter has been unable to have children, which was really all that this young woman ever wanted in life. She also has the excess facial and body hair and acne that is so often a part of this crippling malady. The medications have helped some but her doctors continue to try to steer her to lose weight to no avail.
A healthy eating plan for women with PCOS includes:
- Four to five meals or snacks every day, including breakfast. Don’t skip meals.
- A variety of foods from all the MyPlate food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy. Moderate portions of healthy fats, such as olive and canola oils, walnuts, almonds and avocados.
- Protein in all meals and snacks. Try nut butters, lean meats, fish, tofu, beans, lentils and low-fat dairy products with all meals and snacks.
- Healthy beverages such as water, low-fat or fat-free milk or soy beverage or 100 percent fruit juice (2)
Fill Up On The Good Stuff!
Notice the abundance of food that you need to eat to help combat PCOS. I promise you, if you concentrate on eating all of the nutritious, whole foods listed here, you won’t have room for very many empty calories. We strongly advise you to avoid added sugars and processed foods while you are fighting PCOS. They will only make weight management harder and cause additional inflammation in your body. If you have cravings for sweet foods, go to our Menu and select Recipes and Cakes and Brownies, Sugar-Free Pies and Misc. or Sugar-Free Cookies. You can find a healthy recipe for almost any food that you may desire. Here’s a link to a wonderful Low-Carb Breakfast Lemon-Blueberry Bread that’s made from almond flour. If you have a specific recipe that you would like to have, you can leave it in the comments or at our Contact Button and we will either create or find one for you.
Regular exercise can help you shed the pounds and feel better while doing it. Always get your doctor’s approval before beginning any exercise program. The general guideline for PCOS is to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. David discusses the different levels of exercise in this article Out Exercise a Bad Diet? You’re Funny! Strength training at whatever level that your doctor approves will build lean muscle mass and give you faster and better results.
So much of our health is based on our decisions. Make good ones and have a rich, long, healthy life.