My fellow ladies, it’s National Women’s Health Week! So, let’s touch on a health topic that is unique to us women. Unfortunately, it’s one that we don’t love to talk about: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS. This condition is characterized by an imbalance of hormones, leading to enlarged ovaries, and fertility concerns. In addition, women affected by PCOS often struggle with weight, and are at higher risk for health conditions like diabetes and heart disease. PCOS is quite common, affecting roughly 10% of women in their childbearing years, though many women understand very little about it. Let’s review some of the top diet and lifestyle tips to better manage PCOS.
Here is a bitter reality: most of us eat way too many carbs, especially the less healthy kinds. This can be problematic for women dealing with PCOS. One of the primary characteristics of this condition is elevated levels of insulin, a hormone that helps our body use the glucose in our blood for energy. Over time, persistently elevated insulin can lessen how well it works, leading to insulin resistance and an imbalance of other important hormones.
Because one of the things that triggers higher insulin levels is higher blood glucose, one of the ways to keep insulin in check is to keep blood sugar steady. The digestion of carbohydrates from the diet is one of the primary sources of blood glucose. When we consume a meal high in carbohydrates, our blood glucose goes up.
Here’s what you can do: While it isn’t necessary to avoid carbohydrates entirely, the amounts and types do matter. Limiting your intake to a few servings a day, eaten alongside a good protein source like chicken, fish, eggs, or low-fat dairy, can help prevent blood glucose from rising rapidly. Choosing higher fiber options like quinoa, whole grain/wheat breads, and starchy vegetables like sweet potato also helps. The carbs that are most important to avoid? Easily digested refined starches like white rice, pasta, and white breads, and foods with a high sugar content like jellies and syrups, sweetened cereal, and sugar-sweetened yogurts.
In addition to promoting general well-being, reducing stress, and improving sleep, regular exercise also helps with managing PCOS. Additionally, it can support weight loss goals, which is another important tool in reducing insulin resistance. New to exercise? Start by taking a short walk after meals, which can help with keeping blood glucose (and insulin) in check.
The adrenal glands are heavy-hitters when it comes to hormone production, so taking good care of them can also help combat the hormonal imbalance that is common with PCOS. How can you do that? Get between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Also find ways to manage stress, like gentle yoga, meditation, reading, or engaging in social activities.
We know that there are plenty of ways that womanhood can be challenging. Good medical care, along with smart diet choices and lifestyle practices, can help you take control and say ‘sayonara!’ to PCOS ruling your life. You go, girl!