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PCOS is one of the most common hormonal disorders in the developed world.
In fact, it’s thought to affect almost 7% of pre-menopausal women in the US.
But there is surprisingly limited information on how to treat it naturally.
That’s the topic of this video.
What Is The Best Diet for PCOS?
PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome) is a condition characterised by hormonal imbalances in women. Specifically, an imbalance in male hormones (or androgens) produced by the ovaries.
Unfortunately there is no known cure yet, and the cause is unknown. However, genetic predisposition coupled with inadequate diet is thought to be a major driver.
Research shows the most effective eating pattern for PCOS is one that promotes weight loss and reduces levels of the hormone insulin.
This is because PCOS coupled with weight gain drives insulin resistance. That’s why PCOS dramatically increases risk of type 2 diabetes and other metabolic health conditions.
Additionally, studies show high insulin levels appear to upset regulation of the sex hormones. This worsens PCOS in a viscous cycle.
Whichever diet or eating pattern helps you to successfully lose weight and lower insulin will have the best possible outcomes.
Assuming you have been unsuccessful following a low-fat diet (which can work), the best alternative is a low carb diet.
A low carb diet is an eating pattern where carbs make up roughly 30% or less of your energy intake. By comparison, the average American diet is around 60% carbs.
Reducing carbs tends to equal a higher protein intake, shown to keep you feeling full for longer and reduce total calories consumed through the day.
That’s why low carb diets can work well for weight loss when not counting calories.
A ketogenic diet, which is an extremely low carb diet, has also shown to be promising, but it’s incredibly hard to stick to long-term, so mch so that I don’t typically recommend it.
Aside from overall eating patterns, there are some common food concerns of PCOS patients that should be clarified. One of the main issues is dairy consumption.
Some observational studies have linked low-fat dairy intake with increased risk of PCOS, while others suggest full-fat dairy has a protective effect.
It’s really unclear at this stage, but we cannot draw any firm conclusions from observational studies.
If low-fat dairy is indeed bad for PCOS, and full fat dairy is not, it’s likely because low-fat dairy and other “diet” products tend to have significantly more sugar.
In any case, dairy-free is certainly worth a try if other changes have not helped. With a wholesome diet, dairy is not essential.
There have also been some concerns with soy and PCOS, but again there isn’t much evidence to go by. It seems moderate soy consumption is likely safe, but at the same time it seems an unnecessary risk to eat a lot or increase your intake.
Several studies indicate those with PCOS tend to have high levels of a compound in the blood called homocysteine. High levels are thought to be an independent risk factor for heart disease and stroke
The most efficient way to reduce homocysteine is by increasing folate or folic acid intake, which are forms of vitamin b9. Folate comes from whole foods, while folic acid is the synthetic version.
The top folate sources per 100-gram serve are beans and lentils, raw spinach, asparagus, and romaine (cos) lettuce.
Lastly, you must Limit Junk Food and Added Sugars, which are a nightmare for treating PCOS. They’re typically high in calories and added sugars, which can raise insulin levels and disrupt other hormones.
Know that treating PCOS also involves reducing chronic stress, increasing physical activity levels and getting adequate sleep.
All these factors greatly influence our hormones, and in the end PCOS is a hormonal problem.
Dietitian: Joe Leech (MSc Nutrition)