PCOD or Polycystic Ovarian Disorder (same as PCOS – Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) is a condition where the hormones in a woman’s body aren’t well balanced. This is a common disorder and it is estimated that PCOD is the primary cause in 30% of the women having fertility issues. The disorder causes weight gain, irregular menstrual cycles, fertility problems, excessive bodily and facial hair and could lead to serious health concerns if not treated. PCOD results from a condition called insulin resistance wherein the body doesn’t use the insulin produced by the pancreas effectively. Without treatment, PCOD could lead to obesity, diabetes, infertility and increase your risk for endometrial cancer and uterine hyperplasia.
Doctors typically recommend dietary changes, weight loss and lifestyle changes for PCOD in most cases. In some cases, metformin may be prescribed to help with insulin resistance and in others, oral contraceptives and hormone therapies may be advised. However, even with meds, it is important to reduce weight and make certain dietary changes to combat your PCOD and reverse insulin resistance (or at least regulate your blood sugar levels). Read on to learn about the golden dietary changes to be made for PCOD.
What to eat?
Choose a low carb diet
Carbohydrates are what most of us consume as part of our routine meals. They are made of up glucose, break easily in the bloodstream and release energy. However, with PCOS, your body isn’t utilizing all the glucose effectively and when this happens, it causes a series of problems that impact the ovaries, skin, hair, and ultimately results in the conversion of glucose into fat. This is why PCOS causes weight gain. Eating a high carb diet thus only serves to worsen your symptoms and triggers a cascade of issues. It is important to switch to a low carb diet when suffering from PCOS.
Opt for foods with a low glycemic index
Glycemic Index relates to the levels of blood glucose that the food can produce when consumed. Sugar, carbohydrates, processed foods, starchy foods, carbonated drinks, white rice, pasta, and soda are high on the GI quotient and this it is better to avoid them altogether. Whole grains, legumes, vegetables without starch, etc. have a lower glycemic index and including them in the diet can help with PCOD symptoms.
Try non-fat dairy products
Studies suggest that women with PCOS often suffer from chronic low-grade inflammation (which happens to worsen the symptoms of PCOS). Avoiding dairy products can help with PCOS symptoms. In most cases, women may not be lactose intolerant. But, lactose and whey in dairy could make the PCOS symptoms to worsen. While not everyone with PCOS is lactose intolerant, some might be and it is better to include it minimally in the diet (like say non-fat varieties) and see if there are any positive changes.
Fruits & veggies should be your go-to snack
Opting for leafy green vegetables and fruits with high fiber content instead of sugar content are recommended. Substitute fruits for your favorite snack and add more leafy vegetables in your diet. Green veggies have a lot of nutrients in every calorie. Also, vitamin B is very important for people with PCOS as it helps control blood sugar levels in the body.
Include whole-grain cereals
Brown rice, millets such as ragi, jowar, bajra, etc. have a lower glycemic index and thus are ideal for people suffering from PCOD. Including them in the diet in the place of white rice can lead to weight loss and improvement in the PCOD symptoms.
What not to eat?
Foods with a lot of carbohydrates and high glycemic index are a strict no. Here is a list of other things to avoid when you are combating PCOD:
Meats, junk food, chips, sauces, and most processed food items contain a lot of trans fat, salt, sugar, dairy and nitrate compounds. These only worsen your PCOS.
If you can’t avoid fried foods altogether, try limiting them with a well-regulated diet plan. These foods are usually salt and trans fats and they aren’t good for your PCOD. Prepare a diet chart and allow yourself a cheat meal once in a while. However, it is important to recognize that your dietary habits could be worsening your PCOD.
Though there is research that proves that soy is great for fertility, it affects your body’s hormone balance and can affect thyroid function and ovulation. Given that there are contradicting views when it comes to PCOD and soy, it is better to avoid it altogether at least until your condition is in control.
Refined flour & sugary beverages
Refined flour is typically found in white pasta, white bread, sugary cereals, and baked store-bought items. It is very common for women suffering from PCOS to be intolerant to such products, though they may not know it. Avoiding rye, barley, potato, energy bars, etc. can help, other than these, avoiding coffee, alcohol and carbonated beverages are advised.
Substitute dairy products
For some of us, it isn’t easy to live without dairy, rice or wheat. We can, however, substitute these with other cereals or other products. For instance, if you can’t do without rice, you could try millets. Similarly, oat milk is a great substitute for actual milk and arrowroot, brown rice or oat flour are good substitutes for wheat flour. Lean proteins such as fish, eggs, etc. are better for your condition when compared to red meats.
Natural treasure trove for your PCOD woes
You can try the following natural remedies for your PCOD; they are thought to have a great effect on improving the symptoms.
- Aloe juice
- Mint tea
- Apple cider vinegar
- Coconut oil
Exercise: Your best option when teamed with the right diet
While diet can work wonders for your PCOD, the results are exponentially better when teamed with exercise. In most people, insulin resistance is often triggered because of sedentary habits which lead to obesity. Doctors recommend losing 10% of the bodyweight to see changes in PCOD patients. When left untreated, PCOD leads to infertility due to ovulation issues. Losing 10% of the weight can help in restoring ovulation without medical intervention. In fact, unless the patient is anxious to conceive or has a low ovarian reserve, doctors recommend diet, exercise, and certain meds to help the patient lose weight and gain control over their body’s hormones. Make up an exercise schedule, follow it diligently along with your diet chart and you are sure to experience positive changes.
Outlook for women with PCOD
Lifestyle changes are the key to fight PCOD. Regular exercise, a low GI diet and active management help in ensuring that you ovulate on time and your hormones are well in check. While there is no cure as such for the condition presently, it can be managed with these changes along with ensuring that PCOD doesn’t cause further health complications.