Approximately 10% of young women have 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.
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 to be related to PCOS, see your physician. Individuals with PCOS are also at increased risk for insulin resistance or 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 helps to manage PCOS.
Focusing on whole-grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein foods and low-fat or fat-free milk, cheese or yogurt can help you to manage both your weight and your blood sugar.
A healthy eating plan for women with PCOS includes:
- Four to five meals or snacks daily, including breakfast. Don’t skip meals.
- A variety of foods from all the MyPlate food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods and dairy. When choosing sources of fat, focus on healthful choices like olive and canola oils, walnuts, almonds and avocados.
- Protein at all meals and snacks. Try nut butters, lean meats, fish, tofu, beans, lentils and low-fat dairy products.
- Healthy 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 exercises at least two times a week.