Due to the insulin resistance, hormonal imbalances, and inflammation that are symptomatic of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), women living with the condition often find it difficult to lose weight.
However, with a little understanding of the fundamentals of a PCOS diet, what foods to add, and which ones to avoid, weight gain and weight loss become much easier to manage. For more information on the do’s and dont’s of a PCOS diet, keep reading.
What Is PCOS?
While the exact cause of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) remains unknown, it is medically defined as an endocrine disorder and known to be closely associated with hormones, particularly an excess of a hormone called androgen.
Many women with PCOS do not menstruate very often, while others experience much longer periods than normal. Additional symptoms include the growth of little sacs of fluid on the ovaries called cysts, weight gain, acne, baldness on the head, and excess facial or body hair.
Although there is no cure for PCOS, early diagnosis, along with the proper treatment and weight management, will lower the risk of long-term and more serious conditions like diabetes, endometrial cancer, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
Why PCOS Makes It Difficult to Lose Weight
As an endocrine disorder, PCOS affects all the organs that produce hormones, as well as the chemicals that regulate growth, moods, metabolism, and reproduction. In addition to hormonal imbalances, women with PCOS also experience insulin resistance, meaning blood sugar levels and energy storage are not managed in the usual way.
Notably, stress levels are also impacted by unbalanced hormones, typically causing elevated cortisol levels, which increases cravings for sweet, fatty, and salty foods.
In short, a combination of hormonal imbalances, high insulin levels, and increased cravings for unhealthy foods are what lead to weight gain with PCOS.
That said, encouraging feedback is emerging from studies into PCOS, concluding that as little as 5% weight loss in PCOS patients can have a positive impact on insulin resistance and hormone imbalances.
This means that even small and steady amounts of weight loss can relieve PCOS symptoms and like a never-ending circle, a little weight loss leads to further weight loss.
PCOS Diet: Foods to Include and Foods To Avoid
Weight gain and PCOS are indeed interconnected, and while the condition can make it frustrating to lose weight, nutritionists and female health experts encourage women living with the condition to first and foremost manage their diet.
Due to the impact of hormonal imbalances, insulin resistance, and elevated cortisol intensifying cravings, what women eat and don’t eat plays a substantial role in managing not only weight loss or weight gain, but also additional PCOS symptoms.
As well as weight management and reducing the intensity of additional symptoms, women with PCOS can also reduce the risk of future medical complications by making positive changes in their diet.
Foods to Eat
Do increase the number of high-fiber foods in your diet if you have PCOS, such as almonds, beans, berries, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, lentils, pumpkin, red & green peppers, and sweet potatoes. High-fiber foods help to reduce abrupt changes in blood sugar levels and manage insulin resistance. They also help to slow down the digestive process which encourages weight loss.
Do eat more lean proteins like chicken, egg whites, fish, and tofu if you suffer from PCOS. While they might not provide much fiber, lean proteins are filling foods that help to keep cravings at bay and regulate blood sugar levels, so you won’t overeat.
Do eat foods with anti-inflammatory properties, such as almonds, blueberries, kale, olive oil, spinach, salmon, sardines, tomatoes, turmeric, and walnuts. Because inflammation associated with PCOS is known to contribute to long-term cardiovascular risks, foods that reduce inflammation are considered hugely beneficial in managing the long-term effects of the condition, as well as helping with weight loss.
Foods You Shouldn't Eat
Don’t eat sugar, sugary snacks, or any food that includes fructose, dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, or sucrose on the label (these as just other names for sugar). Sugary drinks like sodas and processed fruit juices should also be avoided, as well as processed meats and breakfast cereals.
Even though hormone imbalances and insulin resistance associated with PCOS can cause intense sugar cravings, minimizing sugar intake will lower insulin levels and androgens, ease symptoms, and help you to lose weight.
Don’t include refined carbohydrates in your PCOS diet. Refined carbs include anything made with white flour including cakes, muffins, pasta, pastries, and white bread, as well as white potatoes. These types of carbs will only intensify insulin resistance, increase inflammation, and exacerbate weight gain in PCOS sufferers.
Don’t eat inflammatory foods like bacon, lunch meats, processed meats, or red meat, and it’s also best to avoid chips, cookies, crackers, fast food, fried foods, and margarine.
These types of foods contain added sugars, saturated fats, and trans fats that intensify PCOS symptoms, add weight and increase the risk of long-term health complications. Alcohol is also known to cause inflammation and weight gain and should be largely avoided by women with PCOS.
Helpful Natural Supplements For PCOS
Two natural supplements have proven to be particularly helpful for women with PCOS, namely probiotics and a supplement containing a combination of Myo and D-Chiro Inositol. For more information on each, read on.
It is well-known today that healthy gut bacteria called lactobacilli play a crucial role in metabolism and weight loss. Interestingly, however, recent studies have shown that women with PCOS have significantly fewer healthy gut bacteria than women without PCOS.
It is for this reason that healthcare specialists recommend women with PCOS take a daily probiotic, like Flora Bloom Probiotics for Women, to relieve the intensity of symptoms and help with weight loss.
Alternatively, a daily intake of foods rich in probiotics like natural yogurt, kombucha, and other fermented foods, can also increase healthy gut bacteria.
Myo & D-Chiro Inositol Supplements
Several studies over the last two decades have found that a combination of Myo and D-Chiro Inositol can have a positive influence on insulin resistance in women suffering from PCOS.
The powerful combination is also helpful in regulating brain hormones like serotonin and dopamine, reducing testosterone, and improving ovarian health – all of which make it easier for women with PCOS to manage their weight.
The added ashwagandha and vitamin D in the Myo and D Chiro Inositol Supplement here at Intimate Rose also help to reduce additional symptoms of PCOS like stress and mood swings.
Lifestyle Changes That Help PCOS
- Take your time losing weight. With PCOS, weight management is a life-long process, so slow and steady wins the race as far as long-term health goes.
- Do regular exercise at your own pace by finding an activity that you enjoy and will find easy to maintain a few times a week.
- Stick to a routine by exercising at the same time a few times a week and stick to avoiding foods that you know will intensify your PCOS symptoms.
- Set a goal to distract yourself with some healthy habits (like doing crunches, meditating, or taking a walk) when food cravings hit.
- Don’t overdo it with exercise or dieting. Managing PCOS is a way of life and overdoing it with exercise or limiting your calorie intake will only cause you to give up or lead to other health problems.
Weight gain, high blood sugar, mood swings, ovarian cysts, and infertility are just some of the ways PCOS can affect the female body, not to mention the long-term risks. But there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Maintaining a PCOS diet, together with a few healthy lifestyle changes and some powerful natural supplements can not only help with weight management but significantly reduce additional PCOS symptoms and reduce the risk of long-term complications.
If you think you have PCOS, try our PCOS diet do’s and don’ts above, and if you are considering taking one of our recommended natural supplements, speak with your doctor to ensure it fits with any medication you are currently taking.
Endocrine Society – Polycystic Ovary Syndrome - https://www.endocrine.org/patient-engagement/endocrine-library/pcos
National Center or Biotechnology Information - Focus on metabolic and nutritional correlates of polycystic ovary syndrome and update on nutritional management of these critical phenomena - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25200687/
Web MD – Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and Weight Gain - https://www.webmd.com/women/polycystic-ovary-syndrome-pcos-and-weight-gain
National Center for Biotechnology Information - Dietary intake, body composition and metabolic parameters in women with polycystic ovary syndrome - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30449604/
National Center for Biotechnology InformationThe Role of Chronic Inflammation in Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7962967/
National Center for Biotechnology Information - The Role of Probiotics on the Microbiota: Effect on Obesity - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26869611/
National Center for Biotechnology Information - Effects of Inositol(s) in Women with PCOS: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5097808/