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Unlocking the Secrets: Reversing PCOS Naturally with Diet for PCOS

Updated: May 2

If you have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), lifestyle measures like changing your diet and starting an exercise routine may help you reach and maintain a moderate weight.

Incase you directly landed here, its a good idea for you to read a short article on Understanding PCOS, Its causes and symptoms . Also, if you are trying to conceive, here is something you must read Pregnancy and PCOS.

Here's my journey depicted in pictures, spanning over a decade apart. As a young mother, my focus was solely on my son, inadvertently neglecting my health due to poor eating habits and a lack of exercise. With the arrival of my second son came sleepless nights and added stress, leading to a myriad of health issues including PCOS, borderline diabetes, and obesity.

One evening, while trying to keep up with my three-year-old son learning to ride his bike, I realized the toll these lifestyle disorders had taken on me. Unable to run even 20 meters without gasping for breath, tears welled up in my eyes.

As someone who once cherished outdoor adventures like camping and trekking, I knew I needed to make a change. Fast forward two decades later, my eldest son is now 22 years old, and I can proudly say that I can outrun him! 🏃‍♀️💪

In this blog, I've compiled the connection between diet, lifestyle, and PCOS, along with practical and straightforward tips for shedding weight while managing PCOS symptoms.

Deepa Bhat
Freedom From PCOS

Diet and lifestyle tips to treat PCOS

Treatment for PCOS usually starts with lifestyle changes like weight loss, diet, and exercise.

Losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can help regulate your menstrual cycle and improve PCOS symptoms. Weight loss can also:

  • improve cholesterol levels

  • lower insulin

  • reduce heart disease and diabetes risks

How does diet affect PCOS?

Women diagnosed with PCOS often exhibit elevated insulin levels. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, facilitates the conversion of sugar (glucose) into energy within the body's cells.

Insufficient insulin production or insulin resistance, where the body fails to effectively utilize insulin, can lead to elevated blood sugar levels. In response, the body may increase insulin production, potentially resulting in heightened androgen levels such as testosterone from the ovaries.

Factors such as a higher body mass index can contribute to insulin resistance. This resistance can impede weight loss efforts, a common challenge faced by individuals with PCOS.

Diets rich in refined carbohydrates, including starchy and sugary foods, can exacerbate insulin resistance and complicate weight management for individuals with PCOS.

Which foods should I limit or avoid with PCOS?

Refined carbohydrates cause inflammation, exacerbate insulin resistance, and should be avoided or limited significantly. These include highly processed foods like:

  • white bread

  • muffins

  • breakfast pastries

  • sugary desserts

  • anything made with white flour

Pasta noodles that list semolina, durum flour, or durum wheat flour as their first ingredient are high in carbohydrates and low in fiber. Pasta made from bean or lentil flour instead of wheat flour is a nutritious alternative.

Sugar is a carbohydrate and should be limited on a PCOS diet. When reading food labels, be sure to look for sugar’s various names, including:

  • sucrose

  • high fructose corn syrup

  • dextrose

On a PCOS diet, you may want to reduce consumption of beverages like soda and juice, which can be high in sugar, as well as inflammation-causing foods, like fries, margarine, and red or processed meats.

However, before removing a number of foods from your diet, it’s best to speak with a doctor and a dietician. They can recommend an eating plan that is right for you and your individual needs.

Here are helpful tips for losing weight with PCOS.

1. Reduce your carb intake

Cutting down on carbs might help with PCOS by affecting insulin levels.

Insulin resistance happens when your cells don't respond well to insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. It affects 35–80% of people with PCOS.

Insulin is vital for managing blood sugar and storing energy. High insulin levels are tied to more body fat and weight gain in both the general population and those with PCOS.

2. Get plenty of fiber

As fiber helps you stay full after a meal, a high fiber diet may promote weight loss in people with PCOS. High fiber foods can help combat insulin resistance by slowing down digestion and reducing the effect of sugar on the blood.

Here are some examples of high fiber foods:

  • cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts

  • greens, including red leaf lettuce and arugula

  • green and red peppers

  • beans and lentils

  • almonds

  • berries

  • sweet potatoes

  • winter squash

  • pumpkin

3. Eat enough protein

Protein helps stabilize blood sugar and increases feelings of fullness after a meal.

It may also aid weight loss by reducing cravings, helping you burn more calories, and regulating hunger hormones.

Lean protein sources like tofu, chicken, and fish don’t provide fiber but are a very filling and nutritious dietary option for people with PCOS.

Foods that help reduce inflammation are beneficial. These foods include:

  • tomatoes

  • kale

  • spinach

  • almonds and walnuts

  • olive oil

  • fruits, like blueberries and strawberries

  • fatty fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon and sardines

4. Eat healthy fats

Having plenty of healthy fats in your diet may help you feel more satisfied after meals and tackle weight loss and other symptoms of PCOS.

Avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, and nut butter are some foods that contain healthy fats. Combining healthy fat with a protein source can further increase the filling effects of meals and snacks.

5. Eat fermented foods

Having a healthy balance of gut bacteria could influence metabolism and weight regulation, which is particularly relevant for women with PCOS, who may have lower levels of beneficial gut bacteria compared to those without the condition.

Incorporating probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, buttermilk, pickled vegetables, and fermented foods into your diet may help boost the population of beneficial bacteria in your gut, potentially supporting weight loss efforts.

6. Limit processed foods and added sugars

Reducing the consumption of processed foods and added sugars can be another effective strategy for weight management in individuals with PCOS.

Processed foods and added sugars have been associated with elevated blood sugar levels and a higher risk of insulin resistance, a condition linked to obesity.

Women with PCOS may metabolize sugar differently than those without the condition, experiencing more pronounced spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels after consuming the same amount of sugar.

By limiting the intake of added sugars and refined carbohydrates, individuals with PCOS can potentially better manage symptoms and maintain a healthier body weight.

PCOS diets
Healthy meals for PCOS

7. Exercise regularly

Exercise is a well-known strategy for increasing weight loss. Choose a sport of your choice, team or individual that you love is a great start. Add a few weight training sessions each week. Move more often, set goals for step count.

A minimum of at least 150 minutes per week of exercise is ideal.

8. Get enough sleep

Getting enough sleep is crucial for good health, especially if you have PCOS.

Sleep issues like feeling sleepy during the day, sleep apnea, and trouble sleeping at night are common with PCOS.

Not getting enough sleep can make you feel hungrier and eat more, as it affects hormones like ghrelin and cortisol, which control hunger.

Studies show that not sleeping enough increases the chances of being overweight or obese.

Get at least 7 hours of sleep per night for optimal health.

PCOS and Sleep
Sleep Well

9. Manage your stress

Stress can be a risk factor for weight gain. This means reducing stress levels may help you manage your weight.

Stress increases levels of cortisol, a hormone that your adrenal glands produce. Chronically high cortisol levels are linked to insulin resistance and weight gain.

Chronic stress also increases your risk of gaining belly fat. In turn, belly fat increases inflammation, which triggers your body to make more cortisol, creating a vicious cycle.

To lower your cortisol levels, consider incorporating stress management techniques into your day-to-day life, such as:

  • practicing yoga

  • spending time in nature

  • practicing meditation

  • spending more time doing things you enjoy

As a health and wellness coach, while working with my female trainees battling PCOS/PCOD, I am frequently asked similar questions.

  • Is it difficult to lose weight with PCOS?

Women with PCOS might struggle with weight loss due to hormonal imbalances resulting from the condition. Though this can pose challenges in achieving and sustaining a healthy weight, adopting lifestyle modifications such as dietary adjustments, regular exercise, and adequate sleep can be beneficial.

  • What does PCOS belly look like?

PCOS belly can look different from typical weight gain. It commonly resembles a protruding stomach, Apple shaped and you may find that most of your weight gain accumulates in this area.

  • What foods to avoid while on a PCOS diet?

If you have PCOS, it can be helpful to avoid or limit processed foods and those that are high in sugar. This includes foods such as cakes, cookies, candy, and fast food.

Summarising The tips for losing weight with PCOS include reducing carb intake to manage insulin levels, incorporating high-fiber foods like vegetables and berries, consuming enough protein for satiety, and incorporating healthy fats such as avocado and olive oil. Fermented foods like yogurt can promote gut health, while limiting processed foods and added sugars aids in weight management. Regular exercise, sufficient sleep, and stress management are also crucial for achieving weight loss goals in individuals with PCOS.

Patience and positive mindset while keeping consistent with the efforts is most important.

All the best!



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