In honor of September being National PCOS Awareness Month, Shady Grove Fertility’s Wellness Center nutritionist, Meghan Sylvester RDN, LDN, hosted a webinar specifically about nutrition for PCOS. Meghan provided key information about managing PCOS through healthy lifestyle habits.
What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common ovulatory disorder; it represents 85 percent of all diagnosed ovulatory disorders. PCOS is caused by hormonal imbalances that change a woman’s ovulation, which is essential in order for a woman to conceive. Women with PCOS have hindered production of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH), which results in limited egg development and an increase in testosterone and other typically male hormones (androgens). The cause of this condition is unknown; however, there is a genetic basis to the condition. PCOS accounts for almost 40 percent of all infertility cases, affecting 5 to 10 percent of women.
Diet Recommendations for PCOS
During the webinar, Meghan discussed the nutritional goals that are vital to managing PCOS. She discussed the importance of regulating blood sugar and insulin levels, correcting nutrient deficiencies, decreasing inflammation through following an anti-inflammatory diet, and achieving a healthy weight. Meghan shared that even a 5 percent loss in weight can be beneficial. Nutrient-dense foods have high vitamin and mineral contents. Some of these food types include kale, fish, eggs, and nuts. She recommended avoiding foods such as candy and chips, as well as soda and other sugary substances.
Insulin resistance is also crucial to avoid. Insulin becomes less effective at getting sugar into the cells of the body, causing glucose to linger in the blood longer, causing the pancreas to compensate by pumping out more insulin in order to regulate blood sugar levels. This higher insulin level can make PCOS symptoms worse, leading to increased testosterone, excess hair growth, acne, and even hair loss.
Meghan also suggests eating a low glycemic diet. She advises limiting processed carbohydrates such as white breads, pastas, and sweetened beverages. Aim for higher fiber and non-processed carbohydrates such as legumes, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables. It is best to always pair protein with carbohydrates to help keep blood sugar steady.
To increase protein intake, try to consume protein with each meal and snack. Aim to eat up to 12 oz. of low mercury fish per week. Substitute beans for starch; a good example of a meal would be chicken with cannellini beans and kale.
Tips to regulate blood sugar:
- Include a high-protein source at all meals and snacks, such as meat, fish, eggs, and nuts.
- Limit your intake of sugary desserts, especially on an empty stomach.
- Avoid sweetened beverages such as sodas and juices.
- Eat small meals and snacks throughout the day.
Overweight and PCOS
Being overweight with PCOS can aggravate the insulin resistance and inflammation that is associated with PCOS. Women with a higher body mass index (BMI) have statistically lower live birth rates, as well as high miscarriage rates. Being underweight negatively affects estrogen production, which is critical to support ovulation and pregnancy.
To strive for an anti-inflammatory diet, the following healthy fats are recommended: fish, chia seeds, walnuts, olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, nuts and seeds, low mercury fish, and fruits and vegetables. These are all Omega-3 fatty acids. You should strive to avoid Omega-6 rich oils such as corn, soybean, and cottonseed oils. Also, going along with a healthy lifestyle plan, keep your alcohol intake in moderation.
Supplements for PCOS
There are various supplements for PCOS. Try to have at least 800-1000 mcg folic acid in your prenatal vitamins. Fish oils are also recommended, with a proper dosage amount of 1000-1500 mg EPA+DHA. DHA is important for the baby’s brain function and vision when pregnant. EPA is anti-inflammatory and may be especially helpful for PCOS. Vitamin D deficiency is common with PCOS. In a study of women with PCOS, vitamin D supplementation improved menstrual cycle frequency and decreased fasting and non-fasting blood sugar. A dosage of 2000 IU is recommended. Myo-inositol is involved in egg maturation. Having a dosage of 2,000 mg twice a day may help prevent hyperstimulation during in vitro fertilization (IVF) and improve pregnancy rates with poor responders.
Shady Grove Fertility recommends Theralogix, a line of evidence-based, independently tested and certified fertility products for men and women. All Theralogix products are NSF-tested for content accuracy, purity, freedom from contaminants, and proper disintegration.
The Wellness Center at Shady Grove Fertility provides holistic therapy services such as acupuncture, massage therapy, yoga, and nutrition assistance that are designed to treat the “whole patient.” Many people have found these services can help reduce stress and keep you healthy: mentally, physically, and spiritually before and during treatment.
To learn more about nutrition for PCOS or to schedule an appointment with one of our 41 physicians, please call 1-877-971-7755 or complete this brief online form.