The Role Of Food In Managing PCOS According To Experts

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common causes of female infertility. It affects 6% to 12% of US women of reproductive age.

The condition results in struggles with hormonal imbalances and metabolism problems. These often lead to insulin resistance, higher levels of androgens, irregular periods, acne, thinning scalp hair, and excess hair growth on the face and body.

Unfortunately, while PCOS is a relatively common condition, it is often misunderstood. Sufferers are regularly told to simply “lose weight” or “go carb-free.”

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Has this ever happened to you? πŸ‘‡πŸ½πŸ‘‡πŸΏ Leave me a comment and let me know.β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € SO many of my clients have lived this experience and I know you may have, too. It can make you feel hopeless and defeated with PCOS πŸ’”β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € I shifted my practice to be weight-neutral when I started specializing in PCOS. I noticed my clients weren't getting the care and education they needed because the focus was primarily just on weight loss. It made me so sad to see client after client on a never-ending diet rollercoaster while also feeling like crap, constantly hungry and seeing some of their labs worsen in the process.β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € You can get off of this diet rollercoaster and improve your PCOS without restriction. ❀️ I focus on helping you balance hormones by treating the underling causes of your PCOS: insulin resistance and inflammation. These can be improved through nutrition, movement, sleep, stress management and the incorporation of supplements. πŸŽ‰β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € Shifting the conversation from weight to actual behaviors allows you to get to know your body and understand what can improve your PCOS symptoms so that can feel better in the here and now πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ more energy, less carb cravings, better sleep and improvements in cycles and other PCOS symptoms.β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € Apply to my group coaching program using the link in my profile ☝🏽☝🏿 if you're tired of the focus being on weight and want to learn how to feel great and have peace with food now βœ¨β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € #pcos #pcosdiet #pcosawareness #pcosfighter #pcoslife #pcossucks #pcosnutrition #pcosjourney #pcosweightloss #cyster #cysters #pcoswarrior #clt #cltnc #charlottenc #haes #bodyacceptance #bodyrespect #bodyneautrality #foodfreedom #intuitiveeating #intuitiveeatingjourney #emotionaleating #nofoodrules #antidiet #screwthescale #bingeeatingrecovery #selfcompassion #nomorediets #healthateverysize

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Are There Different Types Of PCOS?

To gain a better understanding of the condition and how food affects it, we sat down with a registered nutritional therapist, Sandra Greenbank who specializes in fertility and women’s health. Sandra explains that there are different types of PCOS and thus they should be treated differently.

“Some people have lean PCOS and don’t struggle to lose weight. For some people, it’s driven by other factors like a gut infection. However, the general type of PCOS is caused by hormonal imbalance.”

explains Sandra.

Is There A Correlation Between Eating Disorders & Women With PCOS

Since the causes and underlying issues vary, the approach to treatment should vary too. A 2016 study showed that more women with PCOS suffered from eating disorders like Bulimia than healthy women.

This is usually because many PCOS sufferers try crash diets or restrictive diets which results in binge eating. Since eating disorders have a negative influence on the outcome of the treatment of PCOS, their relationship with food continues to deteriorate while their desperation to lose weight and “cure” their PCOS increases.

Why Do Medical Professionals Stress Weight Loss?


It is important to note that medically, one’s diet does affect one’s PCOS symptoms. Thus weight management and insulin production and resistance play a large role in treatment.

It is often stressed upon as more than 50 percent of PCOS sufferers develop diabetes or pre-diabetes before the age of 40. Thus it is important to follow a healthy diet that meets all your nutritional needs while helping you maintain your weight, and promoting good insulin levels.

An Alternative Approach

With this in mind, it is strongly advised to create healthier eating habits. However, Sandra stresses that this does not mean you need to join the latest trendy diet or overly restrict yourself.

Her peers seem to agree with her approach. Sam Abbott, a registered dietician who shares her thoughts on Instagram and Twitter, also warns against crash dieting and encourages a more rounded approach to eat.

Avoid Cutting Out Certain Food Groups

Both Sandra and Sam advise avoiding any restrictive diets or lifestyle changes you cannot maintain. Sandra explains that in order for your body to function normally, you need a variety of nutrients including the now-demonized carbohydrates.

“I always focus on ovulation. And for ovulation, you do need some carbohydrates. For women who have cut out all carbohydrates with the Keto diet, for example, I don’t think that’s particularly helpful,”

reasons Sandra.
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Have you ever felt like this? πŸ‘‡πŸ½πŸ‘‡πŸΏLeave me a comment and let me know!β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € If you've ever felt like you "fell off of the wagon" then please know this isn't your fault. Our bodies are not meant to diet and they will let us know when they're not getting what they need. There literally is no wagon to fall off of.β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € Dieting is associated with worsening insulin resistance, higher A1c, increased inflammation and an increase in anxiety and depression πŸ˜³β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € I know it can feel scary to let go of all of the idea that you need to follow a diet to improve your PCOS. I would encourage you to evaluate how dieting has improved your PCOS long-term. πŸ€”β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € The approach I use with clients is called gentle nutrition. 🍎 This means incorporating nutrition principles that are relevant to YOU and your specific PCOS and adjusting them based off of how your body responds. This includes pairing carbs with fats and proteins and decreasing for insulin resistance and making sure you're getting enough fiber in your diet. When nutrition changes feel good to you and you're still eating the foods you enjoy, you don't have to worry about falling off the wagon or feeling ashamed.β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € I know having PCOS is confusing 😭 I can help you improve hormone balance and insulin resistance without dieting so that you can feel amazing each day! πŸŽ‰ Apply to my group coaching program using the link in my profile.β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € #pcos #pcosdiet #pcosawareness #pcosfighter #pcoslife #pcossucks #pcosnutrition #pcosjourney #pcosweightloss #cyster #cysters #pcoswarrior #clt #cltnc #charlottenc #haes #bodyacceptance #bodyrespect #bodyneautrality #foodfreedom #intuitiveeating #intuitiveeatingjourney #emotionaleating #nofoodrules #antidiet #screwthescale #bingeeatingrecovery #selfcompassion #nomorediets #healthateverysize

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“If you’ve been on these diets for a long period of time, it can potentially cause knock-on problems. The trouble is there isn’t one right way to eat so giving blanket recommendations can be very harmful. Everybody is an individual,”

adds Sandra.

Instead, she encourages people to take a more holistic approach to their PCOS treatment. She advises combining exercise and good sleep with a healthy diet as a good place to start.

Can You Eat Anything With PCOS?

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Do you like pasta? 🍝 Leave me a comment and let me know! πŸ‘‡πŸ½πŸ‘‡πŸΏβ €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € I know the conversation around carbohydrates can be confusing. 🀯 If you have insulin resistance like many with PCOS then maybe you've been told not to eat pasta anymore πŸ€¦πŸ½β€β™€οΈβ €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € Some great ways to promote hormone balance with PCOS are to add veggies and protein to your pasta. Choosing a pasta higher in fiber can be helpful, too. πŸ™ŒπŸ½ HOWEVER, if you have a favorite pasta dish that doesn't follow these suggestions then you can also just enjoy that dish and move on with your day πŸ™‚ πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈβ €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € Many of my clients are focused so much on restricting foods, esp carbs, that it leaves them feeling stressed and anxious…. they usually end up in a carb binge as a result of this. 😭 They feel frustrated for their "lack of willpower".β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € So we work on neutralizing food choices, understanding insulin resistance and listening to their bodies, and then they enjoy all types of foods and improve their PCOS symptoms at the same time πŸŽ‰β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € My group coaching program teaches you how to do this. πŸ₯° It can take you from feeling confused and alone to feeling confident and empowered. ☝🏽☝🏿Apply using the link in my profile if you're ready to improve your hormone balance and enjoy food again πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € #pcos #pcosdiet #pcosawareness #pcosfighter #pcoslife #pcossucks #pcosnutrition #pcosjourney #pcosweightloss #cyster #cysters #pcoswarrior #clt #cltnc #charlottenc #haes #bodyacceptance #bodyrespect #bodyneautrality #foodfreedom #intuitiveeating #intuitiveeatingjourney #emotionaleating #nofoodrules #antidiet #screwthescale #bingeeatingrecovery #selfcompassion #nomorediets #healthateverysize

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Sandra explains that most people with PCOS suffer from carbohydrate intolerance. This is because the cells do not respond correctly to insulin which is released in response to carbohydrates.

Since your cells don’t respond, your brain advises your body to keep releasing more insulin. However, this does not mean you need to cut out all carbs.

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What's your favorite way to move your body? πŸ’ƒπŸ½ leave me a comment and let me know πŸ‘‡πŸ½πŸ‘‡πŸΏβ €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € Many of my clients avoid movement because they're worried it won't "count" unless they're burning XX amount of calories. This couldn't be further from the truth. Yoga and strength training are especially beneficial for PCOS, and studies show even walking can improve insulin sensitivity. πŸŽ‰ The most important thing is that you're doing something that will make you feel great. πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈβ €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € If you're avoiding movement because you're exhausted and fatigued then I see you. Give yourself permission to address this first – typically working on overcoming sleep issues, correcting any nutrient deficiencies and improving insulin resistance will help here. I help clients with this!β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € These are the types of things we discuss in my group coaching program. Many of my clients have told me that they've established a regular movement routine for the first time in their lives once they gave themselves permission to focus on what feels good to them – they report better energy, improved sleep and more regular periods. πŸ™ŒπŸ½β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € You can experience this, too! πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰ Apply to my group coaching program using the link in my profile. β˜πŸ½β˜πŸΏβ €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € #pcos #pcosdiet #pcosawareness #pcosfighter #pcoslife #pcossucks #pcosnutrition #pcosjourney #pcosweightloss #cyster #cysters #pcoswarrior #clt #cltnc #charlottenc #haes #bodyacceptance #bodyrespect #bodyneautrality #foodfreedom #intuitiveeating #intuitiveeatingjourney #emotionaleating #nofoodrules #antidiet #screwthescale #bingeeatingrecovery #selfcompassion #nomorediets #healthateverysize

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Sandra instead advises using strategies like reducing certain carbohydrates and opting for healthier options. Instead of eating white rice, white pasta, and white bread, opt for the whole grain versions which are “already helpful.” You can also pair carbs with healthy fats and lots of vegetables.

“You can still have rice and pasta. Just watch the portion. Have a small handful of rice instead of half a plate of rice. So learn to watch the portions but don’t cut out whole food groups from your diet.”

says Sandra.

Are Certain Foods Better For PCOS Than Others?

While Sandra does not advise cutting any food out, she does note that some are better than others. She advises avoiding tropical fruits that are high in sugar and opting instead for things like apples, pears, or berries.

However, she cautions that these should be paired with healthy fats like nuts and seeds. She also recommends exploring things like plant-based proteins and fish over red meat.

Besides Diet, What Else Can Help?

She actually believes that exercise is the true key to helping cells respond to insulin better. Both Sandra and Sam recommend weight-bearing or strength training exercises like squats and weights.

Low-intensity exercises to build muscle appears to be really effective in controlling insulin resistance. Another strategy Sandra swears by is to go for a brisk ten or fifteen-minute walk after a meal.


Sandra also recommended looking into the teachings of Dr Felice Gersh. The double certified OBGYN discusses the effects of daily rhythm on one’s cycle and how maintaining a good rhythm can improve your PCOS symptoms.

“PCOS, at its core, is a rhythm problem. Our hormones don’t rise and fall properly with the 24 hour day, and they don’t cycle with the months of the year. The female body depends on these rhythms, and when we don’t have them, we get sick,”

explains Dr Felice Gersh in her book, “PCOS: SOS.

The Benefits Of A Healthy Food Relationship

With all the different factors taken into consideration, it’s easy to see why more and more healthcare professionals are now advising women with PCOS to avoid restrictive dieting. Instead, they recommend focusing on a holistic approach.

By doing so you are able to develop a healthy relationship with food. This reduces the chances of developing eating disorders which also leads to mental health issues like depression and mood disorders.

Written By:
Ra'eesah ManackRa’eesah Manack

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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