Life is a balancing act. We constantly are balancing our jobs, our families, our health, to name a few things. With our approach to food, there needs to be a wholesome balance- an approach to eating that understands that when we eat nutritious foods we are fueling and nourishing our bodies; an approach that allows satisfaction when we eat something we enjoy; an approach that is not consumed with calorie counting or unbarred overeating; an approach that encourages balance. Removing the joy and love associated with eating is not the goal, but rather increasing knowledge and capability around what we put into our bodies and how it makes a difference!
In women with PCOS, hormones can be out of balance and many times insulin resistance can make the balancing act more difficult to negotiate. Understanding how certain types of foods affect blood sugar and thereby insulin is an important step in the process.
Consider this chart:
The food we eat is broken down to our main source of energy, glucose. Insulin is the hormone that clears glucose from the bloodstream by “unlocking” the cells and allowing glucose to enter and provide energy. If insulin resistance is a contributing factor, the body requires more insulin to do the job. If insulin is not doing its job properly, less glucose will be burned for energy and more of it will be converted into fat. Not everyone who has PCOS has insulin resistance, but it is often the driver of many symptoms that women with PCOS have including hunger cravings for sugar and carbohydrate rich foods, increased abdominal obesity, and skin darkening in the creases of the neck and arms (acanthosis nigricans). It also perpetuates problems that women with PCOS may experience as a result of higher than normal testosterone levels- hair loss on head, excess unwanted hair growth in other areas of the body, and acne.
Women with PCOS benefit most from an individualized approach depending on their metabolic state. However, healthy eating for PCOS (and healthy eating for life) involves some basic, important principles:
- Reduce processed food intake
- Eat “slow” carbs (i.e. whole grains, vegetables) NOT no carbs
- Increase whole foods in diet
- Replace saturated fat and trans-fats with unsaturated fats
- Eliminate sugary beverages
- Move your body every day!
The healthy eating plate is a terrific resource.
Continue learning about PCOS from Dr. John Park and consider a list of resources that can help your manage your symptoms, whether you are pursuing fertility treatments right now, or not: