5 Healthy Foods to Control Your PCOS
As one of the most common hormonal imbalances affecting women, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) has been recognized and diagnosed for more than 75 years. It is considered the leading form of endocrine disruption in women of reproductive age. However, there is still a lot to learn about how this hormonal imbalance occurs and how its symptoms can most effectively be reversed.
Alarmingly, estimates show that PCOS affects one out of every 10 women of childbearing age. The symptoms result from the excess production of androgens, or male hormones, such as testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone, and androstenedione. Increased levels of these hormones can lead to a number of health problems, yet less than 50 percent of women are properly diagnosed.
This means millions of women have no idea what’s causing their underlying symptoms. They’re also unaware of their significantly higher risks of developing other issues like diabetes, cardio-metabolic syndrome, endometrial cancer, and more. Therefore, it’s important to understand the common symptoms of PCOS and how everyday things like your diet can either alleviate or exacerbate them.
The Causes of PCOS
The exact causes of PCOS can vary, but one of its major biochemical features is the combination of insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia (elevated insulin levels). This combination is most often brought on by a diet that is too high in carbohydrates and a sedentary lifestyle.
The problem is that when one hormone is either too high or too low, it causes a cascading effect with other hormones. If you become insulin resistant, your muscle cells will not easily accept insulin or sugar, leaving you with elevated levels of both. Eventually, even your fat cells can become resistant.
But ovarian cells tend to remain insulin-sensitive, so they become saturated by the all of the extra insulin. In response, your ovaries over-produce testosterone and androstene, which can lead to acne, “male” hair issues, and other familiar symptoms of PCOS.
Genetics are another common factor. If your mother and grandmother experienced hormone imbalance, your odds of PCOS are higher. Genes can be turned on and off, though, so your lifestyle plays an important role in their significance. For instance, you can manage genetic risks by eating healthier and exercising more than others.
The Symptoms of PCOS
PCOS commonly goes unnoticed because its symptoms overlap with so many other health concerns. Many women and their doctors end up treating its symptoms, such as acne or infertility, as separate problems without realizing a much larger underlying issue exists. If you exhibit a combination of any of the following symptoms, they may be the result of PCOS:
- Infertility: The name, polycystic ovary syndrome, describes multiple cysts on the ovaries, which can disrupt or prevent ovulation and lead to infertility.
- Weight gain: Weight gain and trouble with weight loss are common for women with PCOS. As scientists from the University of Pennsylvania found, women with PCOS are also more likely to suffer from eating disorders.
- Body hair growth: The increased levels of androgens present in women with PCOS mean that many of them experience the excessive growth of “male” hair, including facial hair.
- Acne: Skin irritations and irregularities, including acne and darkening of the skin, can result from prolonged hormonal imbalance. The emotional toll of dealing with other PCOS symptoms can further exacerbate acne.
- Fatigue: A discrepancy in your hormone levels can also result in an underactive thyroid, low nutrient levels, diminished sleep quality, and other factors that contribute to fatigue.
Defeating PCOS with a Healthier Diet
Your diet and body weight highly correlate with your hormonal health. According to the PCOS Foundation, a whopping 40 percent of all women ages 20 to 50 with diabetes and/or glucose intolerance also have PCOS. Being overweight seems to complicate hormonal issues and PCOS symptoms, while weight loss improves the endocrine profile and increases the likelihood of ovulation and pregnancy.
Virtually every study ever done on insulin sensitivity has shown that reducing carbs is the best approach. Eliminating sugar and foods that significantly raise your blood sugar is a must, and be sure to limit foods that are known to increase inflammation, including highly processed foods, hydrogenated oils, gluten, and alcohol.
You’ll want to eat foods with a high nutritional density to make sure your body receives the vitamins, minerals, and enzymes it needs. Your body can better balance hormones, detoxify, and repair your immune system if you eat enough nutrient-rich foods, including:
Proteins help increase insulin sensitivity and detoxification, which further improves your hormonal balance. Animals raised on their natural diet also have an abundance of omega-3 fats, which have an anti-inflammatory effect.
Vegetables such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower are very good estrogen detoxifiers and will help reduce the glycemic load of any meal you pair them with.
Apple cider vinegar
Taking just a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with a meal has been shown to drop blood sugar by up to 34 percent after eating!
Much like apple cider vinegar, cinnamon’s best-known health benefit may be its ability to reduce blood sugar. Over time, its use can drop your blood sugar by up to 25 percent.
Coconut oil contains a unique type of fat called medium chain triglycerides (MCT). Your body quickly uses MCT as energy, much like a carbohydrate, but without any rise in blood sugar. MCTs are also helpful in burning fat, which has a positive effect on the endocrine system.
Nutrition plays a huge role in preventing PCOS or reducing its symptoms. Taking care of your diet is the first step toward a better quality of life.