Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common hormonal disorders in women. It is estimated that polycystic ovarian syndrome affects about 8-10% of women of reproductive age. Women who have PCOS do not release an egg (ovulate) regularly and have ovaries that contain many small cystic structures. They also have high levels of male hormones.
Many women battle PCOS symptoms that impact their self-confidence including:
- Weight gain
- Hair loss
Many treatments out there involve even more side effects and more hormonal fluctuation, such as the contraceptive pill.
Women with PCOS usually have difficulty getting pregnant and usually require treatment to improve their chances. The good news is that, if you have polycystic ovarian syndrome, the chance of getting pregnant is very good if you use fertility treatments. There are various treatments that your doctor may recommend, including medication and IVF.
Even after you have successfully had children, you will also want to learn how to manage your PCOS symptoms after birth – looking after babies and children is hard work, let alone battling PCOS symptoms at the same time.
PCOS symptoms and infertility can often be managed and improved through diet and exercise. This can go hand in hand with any medical treatment or can offer a side-effect free alternative. A lifestyle change for the better will help you now and in the future.
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Add natural supplements to your diet
Even if you follow a healthy diet and exercise plan, there are gaps here and there to fill. The dilemma is how to choose the right supplements to manage PCOS.
Supplements can help your body to balance hormones build its immune system, improve energy levels and promote healthy blood flow.
Some popular supplements include:
- Inofolic – which combines myo-inositol (a naturally occurring substance found in all living cells) and folic acid. The University of Perugia found that if folic acid was given along with inositol, the combination of the two worked better to improve PCOS symptoms
- Vitamin D – The Yale PCOS Program states that vitamin D is given as part of their lifestyle management program to treat PCOS, because many of the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency also affect women with PCOS
- Inositol or vitamin B-8, inositol reduced insulin resistance and improved symptoms in women with PCOS in a study conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University
Exercise – but don’t become obsessed with the number on the scales
The more muscle mass you have, the better you can metabolize glucose and handle carbs. You can help to build muscle with gentle weight training. Over-exercising is not good for your hormonal balance so don’t over-do it.
Make sure that the exercise you do is something that you find enjoyable as this will encourage you to keep it up, make it part of your routine and it helps lift your mood. Try taking up an active hobby that is sociable too like yoga or a team sport.
It is common for women to overdo the cardio along with prolonged low calorie and low-fat diets in a bid to become as slim as they can. Not only unhealthy, this will also not help your PCOS symptoms.
Your diet is a chance to really change things
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is your body’s way of saying you can’t handle high sugar levels. Change your diet in a reflection of this and it will also help you in your later life, during perimenopause and before and during pregnancy.
By keeping your weight stable, your pregnancies are likely to be more straightforward health wise. Avoid fad diets and eat with a focus on fuelling your body, managing stress and balancing your hormones.
Fill your diet with anti-inflammatory foods such as:
Then add whole foods and sources of protein like:
- White meat poultry
Flaxseed oil contains omega-6 fatty acids and is packed with lignans – substances that are said to balance hormones. You can take two tablespoons of flaxseed oil per day on salads, stirred into porridge or in smoothies.
Alternatively, you can grind your own flaxseed at home, and store in the freezer, adding it to food in the same way. The hormonal effects of flaxseed make it prudent to avoid consuming it while you are pregnant or nursing.
Eat healthy fats in moderation
Healthy fats are foods like nuts, olive oil and avocado, plus oily fish such as tuna and salmon. Don’t avoid healthy fats because you don’t want to put on weight, rather aim to eat them in moderation.
Increasing healthy fats in your diet is a great way to keep you satisfied and can help your body absorb vitamins, thereby helping with healthy female hormone levels.
Reduce foods in your diet that cause spikes in blood sugar
Choose whole grain sources of carbohydrates and reduce your consumption of white pasta, white rice and processed meats. Make sure whatever you’re eating stabilises your blood sugar by including protein and fats as well as low GI carbs.
Avoid stress and lack of sleep
Stress and lack of sleep can cause hormonal imbalances – the last thing you need when battling the symptoms of PCOS. Avoid tea and coffee in the afternoon and swap it for chamomile, mint or green tea. High caffeine intake can affect the quality of your sleep, but also because coffee removes magnesium from the body – and magnesium helps the body metabolize carbs.
One of the hardest things about PCOS is that the symptoms can result in a lack of confidence and anxiety and you can feel out of control. By making changes to your diet and exercise routine you can increase your general feeling of well being and you can take back that control.