Learn the best ways to manage PCOS - polycystic ovarian syndrome.

Getting the scoop on polycystic ovarian syndrome

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently released a report mentioning that approximately 5-10 percent of women who are in reproductive age have polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS. Since these women experience elevated insulin levels from stress on the beta cells of the pancreas, up to 50 percent of these women will develop diabetes or pre-diabetes before the age of 40. This disorder affects how the ovaries of a woman work.

There are three primary ways to manage PCOS:

  1. Healthy foods choices with a moderate amount of carbohydrates 
  2. Exercise – daily is the preference 
  3. Medication, if prescribed; often metformin is the preferred drug    

It can be helpful to minimize symptoms by eating primarily foods that slowly turn into glucose. Have caution with foods that have a high glycemic index since they may quickly turn into glucose. They include - among many others - white bread, white rice, white potatoes and fruit juices.

Focus on menu planning built around foods with a lower glycemic index: oats and barley, sweet potatoes, dried beans and peas, pasta and many fresh fruits including cherries and berries.

Women with PCOS often have higher levels of male hormones, so they can experience binge eating and food cravings. Cravings are usually for refined carbohydrate foods such as cookies, ice cream and pastries. It can be difficult, but is best to try to avoid these glucose-spiking foods.

Additional treatment for PCOS includes a daily walk or some form of physical activity and attention to the waistline, keeping it as trim as possible.

Menu planning can include oatmeal or mueslix with berries for breakfast, a bowl of bean soup at lunchtime and then a shrimp/pasta/veggie combo for dinner. And of course, reasonable portions of everything for slow, gradual blood glucose rises after eating.

Recipes to Try:


About the Author

Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years and currently works at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.