How can diet and lifestyle affect PCOS symptoms?

 

PCOS

PCOS is extremely common, affecting approximately 20% of women who are at a child bearing age, with many believing the real number could be significantly higher than that. A key feature of PCOS is insulin resistance – this disorder is present in 70% of sufferers.  High insulin levels lead to an excess secretion of testosterone which then contributes towards the main symptoms of PCOS: irregular periods, irregular or absent ovulation, affecting fertility, as well as acne and unwanted hair growth. PCOS is actually one of the most common causes of fertility around the world. 

We recently teamed up with FNUK to help sponsor a webinar based around the importance of lifestyle and nutrition choices when tackling PCOS and learnt so much, which we want to share with you.

You probably already know that one of the most effective ways to counteract PCOS is to try to lose weight; losing 10 pounds can result in a huge improvement in symptoms. However, focusing too much on weight loss with PCOS can lead to making bad dietary decisions based on short term goals, which can have a negative effect on your PCOS symptoms and your overall health. 

The main objective you should focus on is to eat a balanced diet and get regular exercise. If you stick to this principle some weight loss will be inevitable. However, what constitutes a ‘balanced diet’ for PCOS patients is actually more complicated than you’d think.  

Insulin Resistance Diet

If you have been diagnosed with PCOS it is important to eat in a way which prevents blood glucose levels rising too high, in this way you are helping your body combat its insulin resistance. Having stable and low blood glucose levels prevents your body from producing too much insulin which in turn helps to promote a good hormone balance.  

Carbohydrates and their importance in blood glucose levels 

Carbs are broken down into glucose and released straight into the bloodstream – raising blood glucose levels. Low calorie/high carb diets, which tend to be promoted by clubs such as Slimming World and Weight Watchers, often lead to intense blood glucose imbalances. If you have been diagnosed with PCOS you should look to avoid this type of diet. 

On the other hand, we do not recommend completely omitting carbs from your diet. Instead, you should make sure your diet consists of ‘slow carb’ not low carb. Carbs that release energy more slowly are called low GI carbs, these include green vegetables, most fruits, raw carrots, kidney beans, chickpeas and lentils. 

Slower release of energy  🡪  stable blood glucose levels 🡪 normal insulin production 

Slow carb not low carb 

  • Eat fibre – this helps to slow digestion resulting in a more steady energy release. Eat potatoes with skin and choose brown rice  
  • Eat protein – we recommend you’d have some protein with every meal and snack to reduce blood sugar levels as it takes a long time to digest. Also makes us feel fuller for longer and has a role in weight loss. 
  • Eat some good fat – incorporate good fats such as nuts, olive oil, seeds and avocado in to your diet 
  • Eat fruit in its natural form – avoid fruit juice and dried fruit 
  • Eat it cold – pasta and potatoes release starch when cold which in turn results in a smaller blood glucose response. Having them cold is a good option.

PCOS and Gut Bacteria

Recently we have begun to understand that it is not simply the food we eat but also our gut bacteria that can affect our blood glucose and insulin levels. In fact, the nature of our gut bacteria is a better indicator after a meal than the carb content of that meal.

How to feed your gut bacteria 

  • Eat plenty of fibre 
  • Eat a variety of vegetables 
  • Avoid high protein diets such as paleo 
  • Eat olive oil – 1tbsp daily 
  • Eat fermented foods/dairy products – e.g. sauerkraut 
  • Avoid tap water – chlorine kills off gut bacteria 

Recent research suggests that supporting and improving levels of gut flora will support an improvement in PCOS – as effectively as the drug metformin. Women with PCOS have been found to have a reduced number and diversity of gut bacteria. As a result, probiotic treatment has been shown to be extremely effective in treating women with PCOS. 

Inofolic Alpha contains alpha-lactalbumin which promotes gut bacteria health and is one of the ways it helps to treat PCOS. 

Lifestyle changes to help with PCOS  

  • Get some sleep

Too little sleep makes you even more insulin resistant and promotes cravings for sweets and carbohydrate based food. Even one night of bad sleep can worsen insulin sensitivity

  • Reduce stress

The stress hormone cortisol actually makes our cells even more insulin resistant. Find activities that work for you and help you to feel relaxed. Skipping meals and exercising very intensely can cause stress, so try to avoid these. 

  • Exercise!  

Exercising, particularly with weights, makes our muscles and cells more responsive to insulin and therefore helps promote a good hormone balance. Make sure you aren’t doing just cardio and keep experimenting until you enjoy your exercise – this way you’re much more likely to stick at it. 

Inofolic Alpha is a PCOS supplement which contains myo-inositol, alpha-lactalbumin (whey milk protein) and folic acid.

The unique Inofolic Alpha 3-way combination helps control:

  • Insulin resistance, which affects 65-80% of PCOS women. This is the primary cause of increased male hormones, which negatively impact fertility.
  • Microbes in the gut. Women with PCOS have a different balance of gut bacteria that can reduce the absorption of nutrients, including myo-inositol. Improved absorption of myo-inositol can help better control insulin levels and hormone balance.
  • Chronic inflammation, which is a key contributor to the development of PCOS. If you have high inflammation markers it is likely that you will have higher testosterone levels.

You can learn more about Inofolic Alpha and how it can be used to help treat PCOS here.