The following post was written by intern, Clare Viglione, a dietetics superstar at Brooklyn College. Thanks to Clare for this informative post on an important topic!
What is PCOS?
PCOS or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome affects nearly one in ten women of childbearing age. It is likely that many women who suffer from infrequent periods have a form of the disease as well.
The term “syndrome” refers to a cluster of symptoms rather than any cause or abnormality. PCOS is characterized by hormonal imbalances leading to irregular periods, facial acne, prolonged menstruation, hirsutism (i.e. excessive body hair), and visible ovarian cysts. These cysts are fluid-filled sacs and appear like a “string of pearls” under ultrasound. Thankfully these cysts are generally not cause for concern. But PCOS can impact your long-term fertility; increasing the time to conceive.
Although there is no cure for PCOS, lifestyle modification can attenuate symptoms and greatly increase chance of conception.
5 key lifestyle modifications to control PCOS:
#1 BALANCED EATING: Eat a nutrient-rich diet with lots of variety for optimal hormonal balance. Aim to a strike a balance, rather than focusing on one particular food. Try incorporating lots of colorful vegetables, complex carbohydrates, moderate amounts of fruits like blueberries and raspberries, mono and polyunsaturated fat (olive oil, salmon and avocado), and lean protein.
#2 FIBER: Boost fiber consumption. Fiber minimizes the spikes in blood sugar linked to irregular menstruation and PCOS. Try incorporating a few servings of legumes, dark-green vegetables or whole grains every day.
#3 HEALTHY FATS: Those with PCOS need to consume plenty of protein and healthy fats to produce key female sex hormones. Think avocados, walnuts, peanuts, olive oil and canola oil. Other ideas include egg yolks, red meat, walnuts, and anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric, oregano, and thyme. Magnesium, zinc, and vitamin B-6 have also been linked to production of sex hormones and could ease symptoms.
#4 MOVEMENT: Incorporating regular exercise can help alleviate PCOS symptoms. Ideas to easily be more physically active: walk to do your errands, meet friends for a stroll, take the stairs instead of the elevator, or even turn on music to dance while you do your cooking!
#5 STRESS: Reducing and/or managing daily stress is essential to mitigating PCOS. Stress can greatly impact menstrual regularity and your fertility. A few stress-management ideas include: mindfully drinking tea in the morning, meditating during a work break, or listening to relaxing music. Even something as simple as slowing down and focusing on your breath can work wonders.
For more tips and resources on PCOS management, check out http://www.pcosnutrition.com.
Clare Viglione received her Masters in Public Health from Columbia. She studies nutrition and dietetics at Brooklyn College, and is passionate about women's health, public health, and mindfulness.