PCOS is a hormone related disorder affecting up to 1 in 5 women in the UK (1).
At least two of the following are usually present for a diagnosis to be made: High levels of androgens (typically known as ‘male hormones’ although they are naturally present in females), Irregular or absent ovulation/periods, and polycystic appearance of ovaries (often seen on ultrasound scan).
Those with PCOS often suffer with acne, excess hair growth (typically on face, chest or back), irregular or absent periods, weight gain and fertility issues. As if this isn’t enough to deal with PCOS can also bring with it an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Understandably depression and anxiety is commonly associated with the condition.
Insulin resistance is thought to be present in 50-80% of those with PCOS (2) meaning your body may not deal with sugars well.
If you’ve been diagnosed with PCOS there are plenty of diet and lifestyle changes you can make to support your hormones, health and fertility going forward.
Some initial and important key aims are to ensure blood sugar is stabilised and that intake of fibre and omega-3 are optimal. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to PCOS and poor blood sugar control (3). Supplementing with 10mcg (400IU)/day vitamin D3 is advisable for adults and children over 1y/o in the UK in autumn and winter months. However, an easy vitamin D test may reveal whether you are in need of higher levels.
Exercise- particularly strength training can improve insulin sensitivity, help balance sex hormone levels and reduce depression (4,5). And lastly -avoid any extreme diets…put your energy into gently supporting your body towards health and not on depriving yourself or dieting.
Nutrition and supplement advice should be tailored to your personal health concerns and situation. Testing hormone and nutrient levels can often help guide on this.
I’d love to hear from you if you would like more personalised in-depth advice on nutrition support for PCOS- visit the contact page and drop me a message.
- Sirmans, S.M. and Pate, K.A. Epidemiology, diagnosis, and management of polycystic ovary syndrome, Clinical Epidemiology, 2014.
- Venkatesan, A.M. et al (2001). Insulin resistance in polycystic ovary syndrome: progress and paradoxes, Recent Progress in Hormone Research. 56 (1).
- He, C. et al. (2015) ‘Serum Vitamin D Levels and Polycystic Ovary syndrome: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis’, Nutrients, 7.
- Harrison, C.L. et al. (2011) ‘Exercise therapy in polycystic ovary syndrome: a systematic review’, Human Reproduction Update, 17 (2).
- Haqq, L. et al. (2014) ‘Effect of lifestyle intervention on the reproductive endocrine profile in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis’, Endocrine Connections, 3 (1).