Suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)? Do you know that your diet can make a huge difference? Read on to know about the 10 foods you must avoid.
By Luke Coutinho
Do you often miss your menstrual cycle? Are you finding it difficult to conceive? Is unwanted hair growth on your face and body troubling you of late? If you are facing all these and more, you may have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and may not even know about it.
It can be frustrating to live with PCOS. For women who have it, apart from missing periods and experiencing unwanted hair growth, this condition can give rise to more complicated problems like infertility.
However, the good news is that PCOS is closely linked to lifestyle and diet. A few tweaks in the diet and regular exercise will minimise the symptoms and help keep the situation under control. But before we get into diet, it is important to know about PCOS.
PCOS is a health problem common among women of reproductive age. It is a hormonal disorder which causes problems in the ovaries, which in turn lead to irregularities in the menstrual cycle.
Having a well-balanced diet helps a lot. Ensure you follow one that is rich in nutrients. Load your diet with whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes and lentils, whole grains, fish and unsaturated fats.
If you suffer from PCOS, you should follow a strict diet and avoid certain foods. The list is long; so, I suggest you note down these foods patiently and stay as far as possible from them.
If you are overweight and have PCOS, eat less sugar to lose weight. It would also lower your risk of diabetes. Avoid drinking sweetened juice, soda and syrup. Also, avoid eating sugar-based cereals, cakes, etc. If you have a sugar craving, look for alternate options. Plant-based sweeteners like stevia could be an option. However, don't go overboard with them.
Staples in many households, bread, cereals, muffins, cookies and fried items like samosas and kachoris are all made of white flour. Those with PCOS should avoid eating products made with white flour.
Are you fond of ready-to-eat soups, sauces, chips and salted nuts? All these foods contain high amounts of salt. Ideally, your daily sodium intake should be about 2,300mg per day.
Minimise your daily intake of milk, as it can be detrimental for those diagnosed with PCOS. Regular cow's milk may contain antibiotics, estrogen and bovine growth hormones that are injected into the cow for better milk production. These can cause hormonal problems, insulin resistance and other health issues. Milk also contains a protein, which causes testosterone levels to rise, thereby worsening PCOS. So, in order to heal your PCOS, you could cut down on dairy as much as possible — it also carries the risk of hormonal imbalance.
Do you like your chicken fried and crispy? For ardent meat lovers, giving it up totally might be difficult. These days, livestock are injected with growth hormones; they are fed corn and soy to beef up. All these could be a trigger for PCOS. Minimise your consumption of meat and go for organic and lean meats; hormone-free meats, skinless poultry and free-range eggs.
If you are trying to conceive and suffer from PCOS, avoid soy-based foods completely as they can affect your ovulation.
Refined oils, hydrogenated fats and trans fats can aggravate PCOS. These fats can lead to inflammation, acidity and excess fat accumulation in the belly area. Excess fat in the abdomen area increases the risk of developing insulin resistance and PCOS. Avoid food items with trans fats.
Try to limit your caffeine intake. There is a strong correlation between excess caffeine intake and infertility — which makes infertility caused in PCOS worse. Also, caffeine is a diuretic, so it tends to wipe out all essential minerals including magnesium, which is such an important micronutrient for hormonal health.
Love your weekend drink? Try to limit or stop it altogether. Alcohol intake may interfere with the metabolism of estrogen and worsen PCOS.
Did you know artificial sweeteners have extra estrogen and testosterone? Most diet products would use artificial sweeteners instead of sugar. However, these are not healthy options. Instead, use natural sweeteners like jaggery and honey.
PCOS is not a life-threatening disease but can be extremely painful and difficult to manage. Consult your doctor or nutritionist for a personalised meal plan for PCOS. With the right foods and exercise, you can control your PCOS.
The author is an expert in integrative and lifestyle medicine, holistic nutrition, exercise physiologist and Founder, Pure Nutrition.