Managing polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 10, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:55 AM, September 10, 2019

A note on nutrition

Managing polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

Few women in our society realise that while PCOS is a serious health issue, simple adjustments in their diet can aide in the treatment and desired recovery. Polycystic ovary syndrome is caused by an imbalance of female sex hormones, which may lead to irregular menstrual cycles, acne, increased hair growth on the face and body, cysts in the ovaries, and problems related to pregnancy, among others.

High levels of insulin play a significant role in the development of PCOS, and therefore, managing the blood sugar level is important. Many patients who have developed PCOS may eventually become resistant to insulin. In fact, research shows, more than 50 percent of those with PCOS develop diabetes, or are already diabetic by the time they reach 40.

Apart from insulin, PCOS is linked with another hormone — androgen. Many are unaware that although androgen is a ‘male hormone,’ it is also present in the female body in trace amounts. If one has PCOS, the body makes too much androgen, which can lead to weight gain, especially around the belly area. 

Losing weight is perhaps the first measure one should undertake as even a 10 percent reduction in body weight decreases insulin resistance. Balancing the intake of carbohydrate on a day to day basis is important. It is equally essential that one does not miss meals. Dieticians suggest that one should not pass four to five hours between meals/snacks. This is an essential part of maintaining optimal blood sugar level.

Other suggestions include gradually increasing the intake of carbohydrate rich in fibres; incorporating protein in most meals, and snacks.

Avoid food containing trans-fats. Introduce anti-inflammatory foods and spices, such as turmeric and tomatoes in your everyday meal.

Include two to three servings of low-fat dairy foods per day, such as skim or 1 percent milk, yoghurt, light cheese, etc.

Some phyto-nutrients might improve insulin resistance. They are abundantly found in cinnamon, nuts especially walnuts; orange and leafy green vegetables such as spinach; carrots, yams, and sweet potatoes.

Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with insulin resistance and reduced pancreatic beta cell function. Supplementation with Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) may also be beneficial.

And finally, lifestyle changes are essential for PCOS treatment. Reducing stress through self-care practices, such as getting enough sleep, avoiding stress, and making time to relax can help. Try to exercise for at least two-and-a-half hours every week.

Start with 10 minutes of activity and work up to longer times as your body adjusts.

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