September is PCOS Awareness Month. If you have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), you likely know just how frustrating the symptoms can be - from acne, facial hair, and stubborn weight gain, to fatigue, brain fog, and anxiety.
Many women with PCOS also experience absent or irregular periods due to a lack of ovulation, which can make getting pregnant harder. PCOS is one of the most common causes of infertility in women, and in fact, the condition impacts about 1 in 10 women. For those who do ovulate with PCOS, lengthy cycles mean that ovulation occurs later in a cycle. OvuCore helps you know exactly what is going on with your cycle and take back control of your fertility. If you're working with a specialist or you plan to, the OvuSense Pro subscription can also help screen for common fertility issues and monitor any medication or treatment you receive.
When it comes to managing your PCOS symptoms, simple dietary and lifestyle changes can make a big improvement and is the first line treatment in managing PCOS. All of the information out there can be confusing, but this blog will outline some of the sustainable and natural long-term strategies that Registered Nutritionist Kirsten Oddy recommends implementing into your daily lifestyle.
Blood Sugar Balance
With an estimated 50-90% of women with PCOS manifesting insulin resistance, focusing on balancing your blood sugar levels through your diet is key.
This is a foundational step that I take each of my clients through and these principles alone can be transformative. Most women notice increased energy levels, reduced cravings, and even weight loss, just from focusing on blood sugar balance.
Here are my two top tips for blood sugar balance to get you started:
- Never skip breakfast and make sure you’re eating within 30-60 minutes of waking
- Eat a breakfast rich in proteins, fats, and fiber - something savory like eggs and vegetables is a winner
Focus on Anti-Inflammatory Foods
There’s almost always an element of inflammation driving PCOS, and this can worsen a lot of those annoying symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, acne, and more. Overeating sugar and processed foods and drinking too much alcohol can contribute to poor health and inflammation within the body.
However, instead of focusing too much of our attention on exclusion, I prefer to focus on inclusion. Once you’re increasing your abundance of these delicious, nourishing foods, there won’t be space for too many processed foods - plus when you notice how great you feel, you won’t want them either.
Here are 3 anti-inflammatory foods that can be introduced into your diet straight away:
- A variety of colorful vegetables and fruits at every meal
- Good quality healthy fats such as olive oil and avocados
- Omega 3 from oily fish like salmon or mackerel
If you’re interested in checking out a resource, my FREE 5 Day PCOS Meal Plan incorporates the above and is a great resource to get you started on your PCOS health journey:
Look After Your Gut
The gut plays a crucial role in PCOS and therefore ensuring it is functioning optimally is an important step in any PCOS program. It’s also important to note that you don’t need to have gut health symptoms to have sub-optimal gut function.
The gut has many functions, but some of the ways it is important for PCOS include:
- The facilitation of the digestion and absorption of nutrients from food
- Its contribution to the regulation of oestrogen
- Specific bacterias that link to insulin resistance, inflammation, and more
When it comes to your gut, it can get complicated, and even a simple probiotic can flare symptoms for some. The number one thing that everyone can benefit from though, is mindful eating.
Mindful eating is the practice of eating your food slowly and with intention. Sit down at a table with no distractions, and put your knife and fork down between each mouthful to ensure you chew your food slowly and thoroughly.
Opt for Low-Impact and Strength-Based Exercises
Low-impact exercise is a great way to get the body moving without leaving you feeling drained. This could be yoga, cycling, swimming, dancing, or brisk walking.
When it comes to strength-based exercises, studies show that just 2-3 strength training sessions per week can reduce insulin resistance.
If you’re new to exercising or have any other pre-existing health conditions then make sure you always consult with your doctor and work with a trained fitness professional.
It’s safe to say we all know that we should get between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. However, getting adequate sleep is so much more important for women with PCOS. Here are two reasons why:
- Sleep deprivation can lead to a spike in ghrelin – our hunger hormone – and could contribute to increased hunger and cravings the next day. Sleep deprivation can also mess with the hormone Leptin, which regulates appetite. This could worsen something that women with PCOS already struggle with.
- Poor sleep is enough to put you into an insulin-resistant state the next day, which means your blood sugars are going to be much more reactive to the food you’re eating.
I always recommend that my clients aim for a minimum of 8-9 hours of sleep per night. Try it and you will be sure to notice the difference!
Work with a PCOS Nutritionist
Lastly, it’s important to remember that there isn’t a one-size fits all approach when it comes to managing your PCOS - every woman is different and will present with a different set of symptoms.
If you’ve been struggling with your symptoms for some time, or need some guidance and support on your journey, then working with a PCOS specialist nutritionist is worthwhile and can help you reach your goals effectively.
If this is something you’d like to explore then you can read more about how I can help you as a PCOS Nutritionist. I offer a complimentary discovery call where we can get to know each other and I can answer any questions you may have.
About Kirsten Oddy