Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

pcos Sep 08, 2020

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition, affecting around 20% of pre-menopausal women.

PCOS describes an imbalance of sex hormones, particularly of male sex hormones like testosterone. It leads to many cysts forming on the ovaries, that rarely produce fertilisable eggs. The exact cause of PCOS is unknown; however, family history, genetics, hormones, and lifestyle are thought to play a part.  

Although not curable, PCOS can be managed effectively. However, it does require support from a range of health professionals, including dietitians.


Common side effects

There are five significant impacts PCOS can have on your health. These include:

  1. Being at an increased risk of diabetes.
  2. Being infertile or struggling to fall pregnant.
  3. Weight gain.
  4. Having irregular menstrual cycles or having no period.
  5. Having excessive facial hair, body hair or acne.


Diabetes risk

PCOS is regarded as an insulin-resistant condition, affecting 80% of women. Insulin resistance describes the bodies inability to effectively absorb blood glucose into the body’s cells. Over time, this can lead to an increased risk of diabetes, which is a condition we want to avoid. Those who are overweight or obese are at an even higher risk of diabetes development.

A low carbohydrate diet may be appropriate to better control the risk of diabetes. Our bodies are better able to cope with a smaller amount of carbohydrate when insulin is impaired. It is also beneficial to partake in regular resistant training (e.g. strength training) and cardio.


What else can be done to manage PCOS?

  1. Lose weight. For those who are overweight or obese, it is beneficial to lose weight, even if it’s just 10%. Studies have shown improvements in:
    • Cardiovascular disease risk.
    • Cholesterol levels.
    • Mood.
    • Hormonal production.
    • Lesser body hair and acne.

  2. Supplement with Inositol. Evidence demonstrates that this supplement has improvements in insulin resistance and fertility. This drug is more potent in the supplement form; however, the active component is found naturally in whole grains and citrus foods.

  3. Supplement with Vitamin D. Recent studies have documented the benefits of vitamin D supplementation. This includes improvements in blood glucose control, lipid metabolism, fertility and testosterone levels.

  4. Medical management. GPs and specialists are most qualified to discuss appropriate treatment options with you. This may include the oral contraceptive pill, medication to block testosterone, insulin sensitising drugs and psychological counselling.  

PCOS is a very complex condition, with severe consequences if not managed effectively. People with PCOS or who are suspicious of PCOS diagnosis must seek medical attention immediately. Management of PCOS involves support from an interdisciplinary team to ensure a holistic approach to maximise health. If you’re looking for the most appropriate diet to support PCOS, contact the qualified dietitians at CQ Nutrition.

Written by Annabel Johnston, 


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