Written by Kim Hofmann and Anè Smith
What is PCOS?
PCOS is a hormonal disorder where a woman’s body produces too much of the male hormone, androgen. This results in abnormal ovulation (the release of the egg from the ovary), as well as irregular or absent periods.
Unfortunately, the cause of PCOS is unknown and the disease has no cure. Treatment therefore focuses on symptom management. Weight management is often a necessary therapy to help control the symptom of PCOS.
Symptoms of PCOS include:
- Excess body or facial hair
- Poor blood sugar control
- High blood pressure
- High blood cholesterol
- High triglycerides
- Weight gain (particularly in stomach area), and this contributes to the worsening of these symptoms
Women who have PCOS therefore have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, as well as sleep apnea.
Some myths which tend to be associated with PCOS (these are absolutely NOT true!):
- If you lose weight, your PCOS will disappear.
- PCOS only affects women that are overweight.
- You did something wrong to cause PCOS.
And some myths surrounding the treatment and diet which should be followed if you have PCOS include (again, please note that these are NOT good points to follow):
- Reduce your carb intake
- No red meat
- No processed foods
- No foods which contain sugar
- Avoid soya
- No fats
- Avoid dairy products like milk, yogurt and cheese
- No gluten (wheat, barley, rye etc.)
- No alcohol
- No coffee (!!)
So… what is there even left to eat? Basically, ice. You can have ice.
All jokes aside, it can be very overwhelming when you read different articles or social media pages about advice on what to eat when you have PCOS. So let us help you make it easier!
Here are a few tips which could be implemented into your daily life to help manage symptoms and create healthier lifestyle patterns:
- Eat a well-balanced diet with lots of veggies, fruit, whole grains and protein. Getting your portion sizes for meals right is important here: ¼ plate protein (legumes, fish, lean meat, chicken, tofu, tempeh, eggs etc.) ¼ plate starch (quinoa, whole grain bread, brown rice, pasta, potato, butternut, pumpkin, sweet potato etc.) and ½ the plate veggies (tomato, eggplant, lettuce, spinach, cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower etc.)
- Eat regularly during the day to ensure that your blood sugar levels are well controlled. This could be between 3 to 6 times per day, but remember that women do better with smaller gaps between meals and snacks, so 4 to 5 meals is probably the best. Remember to include breakfast, as this is normally the first meal that gets skipped especially when weight loss becomes the focus! Meals should be balanced as in point 1 and the snacks in between should be smaller but still well-balanced – make sure you have some carbohydrate (fruit, yoghurt, crackers, bread, popcorn etc.) with some protein or fat to help stabilize the blood sugar and keep you satiated until your next meal.
- Chose plant fats to ensure the risk of heart disease and diabetes is lowered. This includes fatty fish (salmon, sardines, pilchards, herring, mackerel), healthy oils (canola, sunflower, olive oil), avocado, and nuts and seeds; and chose healthier preparation methods for food (bake, braai, broil, steam or even stir-fry instead of frying or deep frying).
- Chose foods that are high in fiber. This will protect you against heart disease and helps to stabilize blood sugar. The best source of fiber is from veggies, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. A variety of fiber is best for the gut bacteria.
- If you do need to lose weight, you may need to decrease portions somewhat, but the most important thing to focus on is to eat more in the daytime and less at night. Make sure that breakfast is early and substantial, and that this meal as well as the snack and lunch make up most of your calorie intake for the day. Eating a small dinner early is also a very beneficial habit as the body does not digest and utilize energy as well in the evening as it does in the day.
- Practice mindfulness around food. The best way to apply mindful eating is to slow down the speed at which you eat. It also includes being in a peaceful eating environment, without distraction, and letting all your senses get involved in the process.
- Make sure that you exercise regularly. Aim for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate activity.
- Focus on your mental health. This is one of the most important steps. If you are stressed, anxious, depressed, or unsure of how to cope, rather speak to your healthcare provider to make sure you’re getting the right support for your needs!
If you have any questions, or would like help with your diet, please feel free to contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or WhatsApp us on 072 944 8352. We love teaching and supporting clients and walking the journey to health with them – Kim and Anè