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Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Contributors: Sarah Klemm, RDN, CD, LDN

Published: August 10, 2021

Reviewed: March 16, 2023

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome PCOS
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During their reproductive years, approximately 10% of women develop a hormonal disorder called polycystic ovarian syndrome. Women with PCOS often have insulin resistance (the body does not use insulin well), resulting in too much insulin in the body. Increased production of androgens, or male hormones, also is a hallmark of PCOS. These hormonal abnormalities can cause metabolic and reproductive disruptions.

Symptoms of PCOS

PCOS tends to run in families, but the exact cause is not known. Symptoms may include:

  • Infrequent menstrual periods, no menstrual periods and/or irregular bleeding
  • Infertility due to lack of ovulation
  • Increased hair growth on the face, chest, stomach, back, thumbs or toes
  • Acne, oily skin and dandruff
  • Weight gain, especially around the mid-section
  • Thinning hair on head
  • Pelvic pain

If you are having symptoms you believe are related to PCOS, see your physician. Individuals with PCOS are at increased risk for Type 2 diabetes, increased blood pressure and cholesterol, depression, anxiety and endometrial cancer.

Diet and PCOS

Research has shown healthy eating habits and regular physical activity help to manage PCOS.
Focusing on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein foods and low-fat or fat-free dairy can help manage both your weight and blood sugar.

A healthy eating plan for women with PCOS may include:

  • Four to five meals or snacks daily, including breakfast. Avoid skipping meals.
  • A variety of foods from all food groups represented in MyPlate: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods and dairy. When choosing sources of fat, focus on healthful choices such as olive and canola oils, walnuts, almonds and avocados.
  • Protein at all meals and snacks. Good choices include nut butters, lean meats, fish, tofu, beans, lentils and low-fat dairy products.
  • Beverages such as water, low-fat or fat-free milk or a fortified soy beverage.

Physical Activity and PCOS

Regular physical activity can help alleviate symptoms of PCOS. Get moving with at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity most days of the week. Increase muscle mass with strength-training activities at least two times per week.

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