PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) is usually treated by the contraceptive pill and other hormonal treatments but diet can also be a contributing factor in overcoming the symptoms. Marilyn Glenville, nutritionist, women’s health specialist and author of bestselling book Natural Solutions to PCOS, tells Healthista how diet can help
1. Switch To Unrefined Carbohydrates (eaten with protein)
I believe this to be the most important dietary chance any PCOS sufferer can make, as it constitutes the foundation of all healthy eating. Furthermore, you should never go for more than three waking hours without food to keep your blood-sugar levels balanced. Examples of unrefined carbohydrates include:
- Brown Rice
- Wholemeal flour
2. Eat oily fish and foods rich in Omega 3 fats
Forget switching to a tasteless, low-fat diet. If you really want to clear your PCOS you need to boost your intake of the sorts of healthy fats you find in oily fish such as salmon and nuts and seeds. This encourages your body to become more sensitive to insulin, and helps it overcome insulin resistance.
3. Cut out all dairy products for three months
Milk, cheese and butter contain a substance called insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), which is similar in structure to insulin. Its insulin-like properties mean it can stimulate the storage of glucose in fat cells. Cutting out dairy has also been show to have a beneficial effect on controlling the production on male hormones that can make PCOS so distressing.
4. Eat more vegetables and pulses
This helps to increase levels of the protein SHBG (sex-hormone-binding globulin) which helps to control those male hormones. Research has shown that SHGB levels are up to 23% lower in women who heat a lot of meet and starchy foods, but much higher in those whose diets are rich in vegetables and pulses such as soya, chickpeas and lentils.
5. Cut right back on or cut out alcohol for 12 weeks
Your liver plays a significant part in the balance of blood sugar and in detoxifying and eliminating hormones. If you really do want to control your PCOS, you need to give your liver a break from the rigours of trying to metabolise alcohol, so it can concentrate more fully on helping sort out your PCOS symptoms.
6. Cut down on caffeine
If you are serious about getting to the bottom of your PCOS symptoms, you really need to try to keep your adrenal glands as happy as possible – the key to this is to cut right back on caffeine. Anything containing caffeine acts as a stimulant that will make your body release more of the stress hormones and cause blood-sugar levels to fluctuate. Women with PCOS have increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, so it’s vital to help reduce this in order to help insulin levels.
7. Cut down on saturated fats and completely eliminate unhealthy trans-fats
It’s a really good idea for PCOS sufferers to try to reduce their intake of the saturated fats found in meat & dairy products. High intakes of saturated fats makes it more difficult for your body to absorb the Omega 3 fats efficiently, which, in turn, leads to an increase of inflammation in your body. Trans fats have no nutritional benefits at all and should be avoided at all costs. Trans fats will cause you to put on more weight around the middle of the body, even if you are sticking to a low-calorie diet and they block the absorption of essential fatty acids needed to overcome insulin resistance.
Find out more here
Read our special report on Natural Solutions to PCOS and one woman’s story of curing her PCOS symptoms with a raw diet