Simple changes to improve symptoms of PCOS

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition affecting more than 1 in 10 women of childbearing age.  In fact 1 in 4 women show some characteristics of the syndrome.

Recently there has been much debate as to whether the name PCOS should be changed as many women suffering from PCOS do not in fact have any recognisable cysts on their ovaries.

But whether the name changes or not, is probably irrelevant for suffers.  The symptoms remain the same.

Symptoms of PCOS can be wide and varied and you don’t need to display all the symptoms to be diagnosed with the syndrome.  Symptoms all stem from a hormonal imbalance and largely affect the reproductive and nervous system.

Suffers can experience

  • irregular, infrequent or sometime heavy periods
  • erratic ovulation or inability to ovulate
  • difficulty falling pregnant
  • multiple cysts on the ovaries
  • difficulty losing weight
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • mood swings
  • acne or darkened skin patches
  • hair loss
  • excess face or body hair

The exact cause is still largely unknown but is believed to have a genetic component being often found among female family members.

Some suffers experience very few symptoms, whilst others can suffer significant discomfort.  Due to the very broad diagnostic criteria, many women often go undiagnosed.  Often until they try to fall pregnant.  PCOS suffers commonly have difficulty falling pregnant largely due to the hormonal and ovulatory issues associated with PCOS.

There is no ‘cure’ for PCOS and medical treatment option are limited.  Fortunately there are many simple diet and lifestyle changes that can greatly improve symptoms and fertility outcomes.

Go low GI

Unstable blood sugar levels, is a common element of PCOS.  Eating a low glycemic index (GI) diet helps to reduce the insulin demand and support the maintenance of healthy stable blood sugar levels.

Low GI foods are more slowly metabolised and released into the system, eliminating the dramatic spike and subsequent drop in blood sugar that occurs after eating high GI foods such as refined carbohydrates and sugars.

This was confirmed by the Medical Journal of Metabolism who concluded that a low GI, low carbohydrate, higher protein diet improved insulin resistance and blood sugar balance whereas a high carbohydrate, low protein diet had the opposite effect.

Consuming a low GI diet also helps to support healthy weight and can aid weight loss in those who are overweight.


Boost fibre intake

High fibre content serves to lower the GI of your food as well as supporting healthy estrogen metabolism and clearance.  It also helps you feel fuller for longer, helping to curb cravings and reduce over eating.  Fibre is found in the outer husk of most grains, which are often removed during processing and packaging.  Opt for wholegrain options where possible.


Essential fatty acids

Essential fatty acids also lower the GI level of food as well as supporting cellular health and hormonal balance.  These can be found in foods including nuts and seeds, fish, olives, flaxseeds and olive oil.


Eat organic

Eating organic as much as possible helps to reduce the toxic load on and already overworked hormonal system.  Especially look for free range and organic meats where possible to avoid artificial hormones.


Small frequent meals

PCOS sufferers can also benefit from 5 smaller meals throughout the day, rather than the standard 3 large meals.  This helps to stabilise blood sugar, reduce cravings and help support healthy weight control.  Ideally all meals and snacks should incorporate wholegrains as well as a healthy protein source, nuts, seeds and good oils where possible.