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PCOS Treatment


QUESTION:

I was recently diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and, consequently, I am probably insulin resistant.  What kind of change in my diet do you suggest?

ANSWER:

It is estimated that approximately one-third of women diagnosed with PCOS have impaired glucose tolerance and that 7 – 16 % will develop type II diabetes.  Consequently, taking measures to prevent or minimize insulin resistance is imperative for you.  Having your blood glucose checked regularly to assess the onset, improvement or worsening severity of insulin resistance will allow you to monitor your condition.

You are right to consider your diet as an important treatment and prevention component, as it can highly impact your ability to cope with this syndrome and affect your future health and overall quality of life.

In general, increasing the percentage of healthy fats and protein in the diet and decreasing refined carbohydrates (sugar, sweets, white bread / baked goods, white rice and pasta, soda, etc.) will aid in glucose control.  In addition, eating protein and healthy fats in the same meal with healthy carbohydrates (whole grain bread/cereals/rice/pasta, vegetables, etc.) will improve overall blood glucose control by slowing the release of glucose into the blood.  Oftentimes, insulin-sensitizing medications can greatly improve the symptoms of PCOS, so be sure to explore this option with your health care provider.

Having given the above general guidelines, I’d like to note that it is important that you seek the advice of a nutrition professional who is familiar with PCOS as part of your treatment team.  Such an individual will be able to address the specific nuances of PCOS and work with you one-on-one, individualizing and modifying your diet to suit your personal needs.

In addition, it’s important to remember that exercise, both aerobic and strength training, can significantly improve insulin sensitivity and glucose control.  Exercise does this by increasing the number of glucose transport proteins on the cell membranes of the exercised muscle.  This response occurs immediately during and following the exercise bout.  Increasing your total muscle mass further improves this response, which is an added benefit of strength training.  So don’t overlook quality exercise as a highly effective intervention, as it can often have a larger positive impact on insulin resistance than even the dietary component.  Integrate aerobic exercise and strength training at least twice per week into your schedule.

Group support, stress reduction and lifestyle modifications will also be important components of your treatment plan that will help you cope and improve your quality of life.  Becoming an active member of MyFoodDiary.com is a great step in the right direction.

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Our expert, Dr. Sharon E. Griffin, holds a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in the areas of exercise science/physiology.  She also holds a second M.S. degree in Nutrition and is a licensed nutritionist and an ACSM certified health and fitness instructor.

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