Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), also known as polycystic ovarian disease (PCOD), is one of the most common hormone conditions among women and young girls and it is believed that 1 out of 10 are affected by this disorder. According to medical experts, however, most of the clinical manifestations of PCOS can be managed simply by maintaining a healthy body weight and right diet. This hormonal disorder is characterized by an increased level of male hormone (gonadotropin), irregular menstruation cycles, infertility, obesity, and often diabetes.
A study published in the Lancet in 2017 showed that weight loss can improve all the features of PCOS, and therefore, along with lifestyle changes, weight management is recommended as the first line treatment for it.
Shikha Mahajan, a Delhi-based senior nutritionist and head of Diet Podium, said, “Most of the girls keep struggling with the consequences of the PCOS without knowing that solutions to most of these problems lie in maintaining healthy body weight.”
According to Swapna Chaturvedi, a dietician from AIIMS, diet plays a crucial role in controlling PCOS and maintaining correct body weight is also important. She said, “A high fiber diet, low fat diet with Mufa (monounsaturated fatty acids) rich and Omega 3 source of fats, and antioxidants in the form of fruits and vegetables should be included. On the other hand, refined carbohydrate like maida, sooji, and sugars should be avoided. Physical activity and a healthy lifestyle are also important.”
Manjari Chandra, consultant and functional nutritionist at Max Healthcare explained that PCOS is essentially a hormonal imbalance that is caused due to insulin insufficiency. Controlling or reducing the consumption of carbohydrates and sugar and increasing the intake of fibre and antioxidants in diet, can significantly help in handling the disorder.
But that does not mean that the women with PCOS should always follow a weight loss diet. “Since a high level of insulin can cause ovaries to produce male hormone, therefore, it is the effective control of insulin hormone which is most crucial in PCOS management,” Shikha Mahajan told.
Thus, the diet that helps in PCOS treatment is the one that aids in insulin production and resistance. Such a diet, which also helps in weight management, is actually quite simple to follow.
Although experts recommend weight management to control PCOS, they also have a word of caution, especially for young girls who may be deceived by trendy diets.
Lifestyle modifications, which primarily include diet and physical activity, go a long way in managing PCOS. Dietary modification, however, in this case does not mean following diets like paleo, keto, etc which are often deficient in nutrition and impractical to follow in the long run, experts say.
Dr Mala Srivastava, a senior consultant at Dept of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, said “In fact, the best way to tackle PCOS with diet is to create a simple food list that can be easily followed.”
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