According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as many as 1 in 10 woman of childbearing age suffer from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. This endocrine disorder affects the production of sex hormones and is the leading cause of infertility in the modern world.
What is PCOS?
The bodies of women with PCOS produce much more male hormones than normal. Often times this results in irregularities, or even a complete halt, in ovulation. Ovarian follicles that would normally mature into eggs often become benign cysts instead.
Additional symptoms include: increased body hair, severe acne, obesity, male-patterned baldness, menstrual irregularities, anxiety, and depression. While the exact cause is still unknown, research suggests a genetic predisposition to insulin resistance.
PCOS and Insulin Resistance
Those who suffer from PCOS appear to have a problem using insulin. Insulin is a chemical responsible for initiating the conversion of food to glucose, a sugar that is the main energy source for your cells. When you are insulin resistant it means that your pancreas has to produce more insulin than normal to keep your blood sugar at a reasonable level.
A sub role of insulin is regulating testosterone, which is why researchers believe it could be the source of the disorder. Treating women with PCOS just as those with diabetes has also shown positive results in controlling and reversing the negative symptoms.
The Best PCOS Diet Plan
Since treating PCOS like diabetes works, the best diets are those that are low-GI or low in carbohydrates. The less carbohydrates you eat, the less insulin your body has to secrete to break down your food. This will get your hormone levels back on track, making weight loss easier and reducing or eradicating your other symptoms.
The American Academy of Environmental Medicine voiced their concerns about genetically modified foods after various animals studies showed their connection to a long list of health problems, including infertility and trouble regulating insulin. That's why we also suggest picking up a book like The Natural PCOS Diet by Jenny Blondel and removing as many processed or genetically modified foods from your diet as possible.
Losing Weight with PCOS
While women with PCOS have an extra focus on blood sugar, all other requirements for successful weight loss are what you would expect from any other diet plan. You have to change your relationship with food, exercise regularly, burn more calories than you eat, and build a support system to help you stick with it.
Most people don't like math but knowing your basal metabolic rate and monitoring your calorie intake is very important, especially at the beginning of your weight loss journey. It's very common for women with PCOS to be emotional over-eaters, so realizing how many calories you've been eating and learning what you actually need to keep your body running is an integral step in changing your lifestyle.
Don't Forget to See a Doctor
You should always speak to a doctor before changing your diet, but consulting a medical professional is critical for those with PCOS. The way this disorder presents itself can vary from woman to woman and so can the treatment. Often times it will take a combination of dietary changes, medications, and procedures to achieve the full results that you desire.
1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) fact sheet. Womenshealth.gov. July 16, 2012. https://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/polycystic-ovary-syndrome.html
2. Dean, Amy and Armstrong, Jennifer. Genetically Modified Foods. American Academy of Environmental Medicine. May 8, 2009. http://www.aaemonline.org/gmopost.html