Diet and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Polycystic ovary syndrome comprises various symptoms and affects approximately 6% of women. However, it varies according to ethnicity, being 3.4% in dark-skinned women, 22% in Caucasian women, and 52% in Asian Indian women.
What defines this syndrome is the presence of ovarian cysts from immature or afunctional follicles. As we mentioned above, it’s manifested by metabolic, endocrine and psychological alterations. The most common are:
- Hyperandrogenism. As a consequence, hirsutism (presence of facial hair, alopecia and acne) appears
- Insulin resistance, which may lead to the development of diabetes in the long term
- Accumulation of abdominal fat, which increases the risk of excess weight or obesity
- Irregular menstruation (short cycles or absence) or dysmenorrhea (pain during menstruation)
- Difficulty in getting pregnant due to lack of ovulation
- Thyroid dysfunction (hypothyroidism, which is usually subclinical)
- Spots around the nape of the neck (acanthosis nigricans)
- Mood swings, irritability, anxiety or depression
It’s important for you to know that diagnosis consists of a clinical assessment and a blood test including a hormonal profile. Next, we’re going to explain the treatments, placing special importance on diet.
Interdisciplinary treatment for polycystic ovary syndrome
There are 3 types of treatment for polycystic ovary syndrome: pharmacological, cognitive and lifestyle. First, medications are aimed at improving insulin sensitivity and regulating the hormones of the menstrual cycle. And, in the case of hypothyroidism, getting thyroid to function properly.
So far, very good results have been obtained with metformin, an oral antidiabetic. On the other hand, the use of contraceptives is controversial, since tolerance is individual based and the composition is different. In addition, although they allow for menstrual bleeding, ovulation doesn’t occur.
Regarding mood, seeing a psychologist can be of great help. In this way, you’ll learn to better manage your emotions. In addition, the professional can prescribe a serotonin reuptake inhibitor to boost your mood. You can even consume certain foods, as you’ll see below.
Finally, it’s essential to mention lifestyle, meaning diet and physical exercise. Their main objectives are to lose weight and improve body composition. Consequently, insulin sensitivity and blood cholesterol will increase.
In terms of exercise, prioritize strength training over cardiovascular exercise. You should do this at least 3 days a week, combined with walking, climbing stairs, cycling or taking public transport to go from one place to another.
You should base your diet on plant-based foods combined with quality protein foods. In addition, it can be supplemented with whole grains and heart-healthy fats. By doing so, you’ll reduce the markers of inflammation.
If we look at the evidence, diets with a low glycemic index or that are low in trans and saturated fats are beneficial, as is the Mediterranean diet. The point is that they produce a caloric deficit of 500-700 kcal per day. Also, we know that eliminating dairy products reduces the appearance of acne. The current dietary advice is as follows:
- Consume 1 serving of greens and vegetables (200-250 g) at main meals. Remember to alternate different types of vegetables and cooking techniques.
- Include a protein source in all meals, such as fish (especially oily fish), eggs, white meat, and cooked legumes.
- Complement at least one meal with nuts, avocado, olives, or a tablespoon of seeds.
- Prioritize whole grain rice, pasta and bread.
- Eat at least 2 whole fruits daily to assimilate fiber, vitamins, and antioxidant minerals.
- Use virgin olive oil for cooking and seasoning dishes.
- Drink water and herbal teas.
- Avoid cookies, pastries, soft drinks, juices, sweets and any product with added sugars.
- Limit the amount of sugar added to coffee, tea and infusions.
In conclusion, polycystic ovary syndrome is a very complex condition. Therefore, the combined approaches of an endocrinologist, a gynecologist, a nutritionist, and a psychologist (depending on the case) is essential to improving the health of these women. Not only will they feel better, but they’ll also increase their quality of life.