Lifestyle management of PCOS - your personalized PCOS diet and exercise plan

  • 2 Minutes Read
Brenda Braslow
Brenda Braslow, MS, RDN, LDN, CDCES - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES)

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a complex metabolic condition that is thought to affect 5-10% of women. Learn about this condition and guidelines for lifestyle management of PCOS.

Management of PCOS

Management of PCOS doesn't have to be hard work. Here's how diet and lifestyle affect PCOS.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a complex metabolic condition that is thought to affect 1 in 10 women of childbearing age. Men, while this does not apply to you, it may impact someone you know. Symptoms of PCOS can vary from woman to woman. Common symptoms may include infertility, irregular periods, unexplained weight gain, acne, oily skin, skin tags, increased hair growth on the face, chest, stomach, and back, cysts on the ovaries, pelvic pain, and male-pattern baldness.

The medical world has made progress in recognizing that PCOS can involve more than just the reproductive system, while often including insulin resistance (IR). IR is the reduced ability of insulin to carry glucose (sugar) from the blood into the body cells. This means the pancreas produces more insulin, and guess what? Excess insulin production leads to an increase in stored body fat. In PCOS, IR also appears to increase male hormone production, like testosterone. The good news is that women with PCOS can positively impact their condition with a PCOS diet and exercise plan.

The PCOS diet and exercise plan is targeted at treating IR by tempering the cascade of reactions that interplay between the reproductive and endocrine systems. Think of it as nurturing rather than aggravating the insulin response.

Your PCOS diet and exercise plan

PCOS guidelines to help manage the condition and reduce your symptoms:

  1. Eat smaller amounts of food throughout the day, trying not to go longer than 4 hours without food. Skipping meals does not work well for PCOS.
  2. Carbohydrate intake has the most power over the insulin response. Learn which foods have carbs. Spread carb foods throughout the day, and balance them with lean proteins and healthy fats. Severely limiting carb intake is not the answer. Aim for 40-45% carb intake. This is usually about 30 grams of carbs at main meals and 10-20 grams of carbs at snacks.
  3. Choose high fiber foods and healthy carbohydrates. Include whole fruits instead of juices. Include whole grains, beans, peas, lentils, and plenty of veggies.
  4. Go Mediterranean. Focus on healthy fats, like olive oil, and vegetable fat sources, like nuts, seeds, avocadoes, olives, and fatty fish.
  5. Select lean and low-fat meats and dairy in order to limit saturated fat, and lay off foods like butter, bacon, cheese, hot dogs, and rich desserts. Avoid trans fat as much as possible.
  6. Get sweaty! Include both cardio and resistance exercise, and aim for 60 minutes most days of the week. Exercise gets the insulin moving. If you move, the insulin will move.
  7. Losing just 10 pounds can greatly improve insulin resistance, lessen PCOS symptoms, and in many women, improve fertility.

Personalize your PCOS diet and exercise plan

A registered dietitian nutritionist familiar with PCOS can help you create a personalized, PCOS diet and exercise plan. If you can identify with the PCOS symptoms above, seek advice from a medical specialist who is trained in endocrinology or women's health. There are medical treatments that can treat PCOS along with a healthy lifestyle plan. You may also find the following resources useful to learn more about PCOS.

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Other Health Issues->PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome)
Jun 3, 2022

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