By: Helen Agresti, RDN
The most common forms of treatment for PCOS are diet, lifestyle changes, and medications.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common endocrine disorders affecting women of childbearing age. Women with PCOS are diagnosed based on at least 2 of the 3 following criteria: irregular or missing menstrual periods, multiple follicles in the ovaries that don’t mature (polycystic ovaries), or high androgen levels (excessive hair growth). Obesity, acne, and infertility may also be seen in women with PCOS. Patients can often be overwhelmed with deciding which of their healthcare providers is best suited to help navigate them through the right treatment plan. As dietitians, we can help decrease inflammatory responses among patients through nutrition education and recommending lifestyle changes.
Causes of PCOS are not fully understood. Contributing factors, however, may include adrenal disorders, genetics, hyperinsulinemia due to insulin resistance, and possibly environmental influences. More than half of women with PCOS and who are overweight have greater risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and sleep apnea. Depression and anxiety have also been associated with PCOS but more research is needed to understand their connection.
While there is no cure for PCOS, symptoms can be managed. The most common forms of treatment for PCOS are diet, lifestyle changes, and medications. A healthy balanced diet and increased physical activity promote weight loss, lowering blood glucose, and increasing insulin sensitivity. Birth control can help regulate menstrual cycles, decrease androgen levels, and clear up acne in some women. Metformin is often prescribed to help stabilize blood sugar levels.
Benefits of Anti-Inflammatory Foods
A study in the North American Journal of Medical Sciences showed promising results in overweight and obese PCOS participants who followed a Mediterranean low glycemic anti-inflammatory diet. The composition of the diet was 25% protein, 25% fat, and 50% complex carbohydrates. This resulted in moderate weight loss and significant improvements in menstrual cycles and other biological markers among some of the participants.
Encouraging patients to consume more servings of fish and vegetables can help reduce inflammation and symptoms. According to the study, decreasing servings of inflammatory foods like red meat, refined grains, and foods high in added sugar may improve weight, insulin sensitivity, and androgen levels.
Creating a meal plan that will allow your patient to comply with ease and confidence is the key to their success. Below is a 1-day sample menu that incorporates Mediterranean low glycemic anti-inflammatory diet friendly foods.
1-day Sample Menu
Breakfast: 2 eggs (scrambled), 2 slices whole grain toast, ¼ avocado mashed, and ½ c diced tomato
Lunch: 4-oz cooked chicken, 2 cups dark leafy greens, ½ c diced cucumber, ¼ c feta cheese, ½ c pitted olives, and 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Snack: 1½ oz cheese and 1 c grapes
Dinner: 4-oz baked salmon filet, ½ c each roasted broccoli and carrots, and 1 c cooked quinoa
Helen Agresti is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist in private practice and the founder of Professional Nutrition Consulting. Helen provides personal nutrition coaching & counseling. She specializes in weight loss, food sensitivities, and eating disorders. Helen lives in Erie, PA with her husband and their 5 children. Connect with Helen on Instagram @pronutritionconsulting.