Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal condition that happens during a woman’s reproductive years. Women with PCOS can have metabolism problems that affect overall health and appearance. To manage this painful condition, certain lifestyle modifications can help. A registered dietician (RD) can suggest dietary changes that help control PCOS symptoms.
What is PCOS?
Approximately 7-10% of women of childbearing age have a diagnosis of polycystic ovarian syndrome. Women with PCOS can have irregular periods or no period at all, ovarian cysts, acne, too much hair, and weight gain. Infertility is also common among women with PCOS. The health condition can cause insulin resistance, which means the body makes insulin but can’t use the hormone efficiently. As a result, women with PCOS can develop serious health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure (BP), sleep apnea, and stroke.
The role of an RD
To best manage PCOS, a registered dietician is a great healthcare provider to have on the team. RDs are food and nutrition experts with a degree from a dietetics program authorized to treat specific health conditions by recommending certain foods to clients. Certain RDs may specialize in PCOS and can offer even more helpful information.
The first appointment
Once a woman with PCOS decides to meet with an RD, the first appointment will be scheduled. During this visit, the dietician will obtain a body mass index (BMI), review all current health conditions, assess the patient’s eating pattern, and review exercise habits. The RD can then make a specialized plan that includes recommending certain food groups, cutting calories if necessary, encouraging exercise, and helping manage feelings about the new diet. Depending on the patient’s goals, follow-up visits will likely be required to check on progress.
Dietary changes for PCOS
Plain and simple, a healthy diet and physical activity can help women with PCOS lose weight, use insulin more effectively, lower glucose levels, and reduce symptoms. High-fiber foods like cruciferous vegetables, beans, and almonds can slow down digestion. Foods that reduce inflammation, such as tomatoes, kale, and blueberries, can also help. An RD will likely recommend avoiding refined carbohydrates, like white bread, and limiting sugar as much as possible. Daily exercise, up to 150 minutes weekly, is also recommended for most women.
Get a handle on PCOS
Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome should consult an RD to understand how to incorporate lifestyle changes. With the right combination of dietary changes and exercise, PCOS symptoms can improve. For women with infertility, an improvement in diet alone may be enough to improve the chances of conception. An RD can help women get a handle on PCOS, improving daily life and reducing the risk of serious health conditions in the future.