Navigating a PCOS diagnosis already comes with a heavy toll, making its traditional weight-centric, dieting focus to manage symptoms even more stressful to one’s emotional and physical health. Here’s what can be done instead.
Diets are damaging to all bodies, but this can ring especially true for women with PCOS due to the underlying metabolic changes, hormone levels, and inflammation associated with the condition. For any woman who is struggling to wrap her mind around her PCOS diagnosis, please know this:
You are not alone, and your body is not broken.
The good news is that there’s plenty you can do to support your PCOS with food without feeling crazy. It may need some extra TLC, and you may have to learn more and ask for help from dietitians, doctors, therapists, friends – but know that help is available and healing is possible.
The bad news – much of the traditional emphasis around PCOS management is on dieting and weight, but that approach is ineffective and frustrating. Let’s break it down:
Insulin resistance is a common feature of PCOS. Since insulin is the key that “unlocks” cells so that glucose can enter and be used for energy, lack of energy is a common symptom. Insulin resistance can also contribute to cravings and, because insulin is a growth hormone, this may explain the underlying mechanism behind the common PCOS symptom of weight gain or difficult weight management.
We know that diets fail in up to 97% of dieters, but this can be especially true for women with PCOS.
Because of underlying insulin resistance and other metabolic changes seen in PCOS, weight loss is not only less likely, but can be more damaging and slow their metabolism more.
Not only that, but since weight is merely linked to PCOS with no causal relationship established, a recommendation of weight loss is likely ineffective and unethical. It speaks towards one symptom of PCOS rather than truly helping support hormones and insulin resistance. It’s also important to note that women with PCOS are at increased risk of developing eating disorders. Therefore, it’s critical to help women with PCOS from a whole well-being standpoint, rather than simply focusing on their diet and weight. Here are three gentle nutrition tips for PCOS that don’t involve weight loss or dieting.
1. Choose complex and lower glycemic index carbs.
Women with PCOS may have a hard time managing blood sugar due to their insulin resistance, so choosing complex and lower glycemic index carbs can help slow a fast blood sugar rise and make it easier for your body to process food for energy. These include whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and other carb sources with fiber.
2. Choose protein with meals and snacks.
Protein can help manage blood sugar, stimulate insulin release, and provide satiation – so having it throughout the day with meals and snacks (as well as eating enough fats) can provide physiological benefits and satisfaction.
3. Ask your doctor about evidence-based supplements.
Two supplements that have shown to be helpful with PCOS are inositol and Omega-3’s. Inositol is a vitamin-like compound naturally made in the body. Supplementation of inositol has been shown to help anovulation, insulin resistance, and other features of PCOS. Specifically, there are two stereoisomers, or “shapes”, of inositol that are proven to be most helpful to PCOS in a 40:1 ratio of myo-inositol:D-chiro-inositol.
Omega-3’s, found through supplementation of fish oil, can also help regulate hormones (such as high testosterone, a hallmark of PCOS) and calm the underlying inflammation related to PCOS. It’s important to ask your doctor or dietitian about dosage and recommended brands, and to look for “USP” or “third-party verified” on the label.
Remember, healing your body and dieting for weight loss are not one and the same. Focus on your whole well-being,
And know that there is absolutely hope to still live your best life.
Adapted from the original article.
Amy Hanneke, RDN, LD is an Idaho-based Registered Dietitian and owner of Satisfy Nutrition. Through an anti-diet approach in her nutrition coaching practice, Amy firmly believes in helping individuals live a life without restrictions, full of joy, self care, and delicious food. Learn more about Amy at Satisfy Nutrition.