September is PCOS awareness month. Do you know what PCOS is?
PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, the name can be confusing as women may or may not have cysts on their ovaries. PCOS is an endocrine disease which impacts womens’ reproductive system. PCOS is unfortunately under diagnosed and many women are left untreated and confused. This blog is to give you a quick synopsis of the disease, how to diagnosis it, and of course, how nutrition can help.
PCOS affects women of childbearing age by 4%-18% and is the leading cause of infertility.
The cause of PCOS is unknown. It is believed that environment exposures and genetics play a role on the onset of the disease.
Signs of PCOS
Common signs of PCOS are:
1) Excess androgens (male hormones) which can cause excessive facial and body hair, acne, and hair thinning or balding.
2) Abnormal menstrual cycle where your periods are infrequent or prolonged.
3) Polycystic ovaries is another symptom where the ovaries are enlarged and have follicles around the eggs causing them to potentially not perform properly.
Insulin resistance, weight gain, darkening of the skin flaps are additional signs.
PCOS increases the risk of gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high triglycerides, miscarriages, depression, eating disorders, and endometrial cancer.
As mentioned previously PCOS is under diagnosed so its up to you as the patient to pay close attention to your body and advocate for yourself. The diagnosis criteria for PCOS 2 out of the 3 symptoms of amenorrhea, excessive androgens, or polycystic. Your doctor can perform blood tests ( glucose, insulin, testosterone, and fasting cholesterol), a pelvic exam, and/or a transvaginal ultrasound,
Nutrition and PCOS
PCOS has no cure but is can be managed with medication, supplements, and lifestyle changes, with nutrition being a major treatment component in managing and preventing the aforementioned complications. As a dietitian let’s get into the juicy part and focus on some nutrients to make sure to include in your diet with PCOS.
Antioxidant rich foods
Antioxidants are substances found in food that block or slow down the damage to cells. Increasings foods like fruits, veggies, legumes, cold water fish, avocados, and whole grains that contain antioxidants can help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation which both increase with PCOS.
Probiotic rich foods
Probiotics are living micro-organisms and found naturally in food sources like like yogurt, kimchi, kombucha, and kefir are foods to consider to add. Someone living with PCOS could benefit from probiotic supplements as research has shown improvements in nutrient absorption, immunity, metabolic levels, and a reduction in weight.
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that does not breakdown in the body. It is low glycemic, meaning it does not have a significant impact on your sugar levels. Fiber can help improve insulin sensitivity, inflammation, reduce body fat, as well as gut health. It’s recommended to consume 25 grams/day for women. Fiber rich foods similarly to those antioxidant rich foods are fruit, veggies, ,whole grains, bean, lentils, nuts and seeds.
Traditional medical treatment for PCOS is oral contraceptive and metformin. Always discuss with your endocrinologist and/or gynecologist the best treatment for you.
Other things to consider regular movement and keep stress levels low - find a self care routine if you don't have one already.
To get a personalized diet approach for your PCOS reach out to a dietitian experienced working with PCOS. Message me with any of your PCOS questions related to nutrition via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on IG @mindfuleatingdietitian .
Escott-Stump, S. Nutrition Diagnosis-Related Care. 8th ed. Wolters Kluwer. 2015