Is there a link between PCOS and diet?

What causes PCOS?

While the sole cause of PCOS is unknown, we know that it is a hormone-based disorder. This means it is caused and affected by an unbalance, reaction, or overproduction of particular hormones. However, what we don’t know is what causes this unbalance of hormones. There could be an array of factors affecting our hormones, including genetics, lifestyle choices and external environmental factors.

Often when first looking to help with PCOS, one of the main things you may be told to do is to change your diet. More times than not, this suggests cutting out whole food groups, i.e. carbs, and going on a super restrictive diet that you don’t enjoy. This raises the question of whether what you eat is linked to your PCOS.

PCOS and diet

In many ways, what you eat does influence how your PCOS reacts. However, it does not determine your PCOS symptoms entirely because each person is different and not everyone will react the same if they eat the exact same thing. What works for one person may not work for another. However, there are certain foods that can affect your PCOS more than others.

PCOS and fats

Fats in the diet can positively affect PCOS symptoms. Omega-3 fatty acid can aid in reducing inflammation and acts as an antioxidant in the body. In particular, DHA (also known as docosahexaenoic acid) is known for helping levels of inflammation. In knowing this, it may be worth including more portions of oily fish in your diet. As well as this, having an adequate level of protein with fat is known to lower the overall effect of the glycaemic load of a whole meal.

PCOS and carbohydrates

The word ‘carb’ may fill some people with dread but there is really no reason to fear carbohydrates. They are often villainized, but they can be very beneficial when a variety of different carbohydrates are consumed. When carbohydrates are completely cut out of the diet, it can often end in disaster, with intense cravings.

A better alternative is to focus on including foods high in fibre, such as wholegrains. High fibre content can slow down the absorption and breakdown of glucose in the blood. This then does not cause a sudden rise in insulin levels that trigger insulin resistance reactions. High fibre content is also super beneficial for gut health.

Main takeaways for PCOS and diet

While your diet may not be the cause of cure for PCOS, it can have a big influence on managing your symptoms. Introducing foods high in omega-3 to help aid inflammation, and foods high in fibre can be beneficial as outlined above.

Additionally, gentle nutrition can be a helpful approach to adopt, by focusing on listening to your own hunger and fullness cues.

Overall your diet and approach to eating can be beneficial in managing your PCOS symptoms.

Written by Michala Rooney. Reviewed and edited by Annabel Sparrow (Associate Registered Nutritionist).

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