Living with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is interesting, to say the least. No two days are ever the same and you can never be complacent in your efforts to stay on top of this condition.
With PCOS, there are no days off…
After being diagnosed with a severe case of PCOS in 2002, I learned, through trial and error, how to properly take care of my body, mind and spirit. I continue to have good and not so good days…it’s a constant battle, yet one well worth the fight. Trust me.
My PCOS Journey – Then and Now
Having said that, I want to share with you three key lifestyle adjustments that will dramatically improve your overall health, well-being and PCOS symptoms.
Consuming healthy, nutrient-dense foods is paramount for women with PCOS. Our bodies need the extra nutrition to support healthy hormone function and improve insulin resistance. Eating a mostly plant-based diet is ideal. It’s also critical that you consume a high quality protein source with each meal to slow the rate of digestion, helping to stabilize blood sugar and allows a steady release of nutrients over time.
My meals include large quantities of fruit and vegetables; especially berries and dark green leafy veg high in antioxidants, minerals and vitamins; healthy fats, such as avocados and nuts, which support healthy hormone function; and high quality protein, including organic, free-range eggs and chicken, and wild caught fish. I also eat between 5-7 meals a day to keep my blood sugar levels stable.
What I don’t eat are foods that, in my experience, cause inflammation, spike blood sugar or overload my adrenal glands, causing hormone disruption. Topping that list is dairy. Studies show it’s high levels of galactose, a sugar released by the digestion of lactose, is damaging to ovaries and causes food sensitivities and inflammation in most people. Eliminate table sugar and products made with high fructose corn syrup, both are void of any nutritional value (empty calories) and raise blood sugar levels, contributing to insulin resistance. Avoid high carbohydrate, high starch foods like bread, rice, pasta, corn and potatoes. Say no to alcohol – a calorie-dense, sugar-spiking mess for your hormones. And, lastly, skip processed foods that contain any additives or preservatives, known hormone disruptors.
Physical activity is a critical dynamic in the fight against PCOS. It helps your body metabolize food better, improves insulin resistance and gives you that well-needed feel good factor. Yet when it comes to Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, not all exercise is equally beneficial.
Exercise that incorporates endurance and strength is key to reducing unhealthy body fat levels. Cardio alone is not sufficient for women with PCOS. Our bodies need muscle to efficiently metabolize our food, hence improve our insulin resistance, which underpins most, if not all, PCOS-related symptoms. Reducing visceral fat and increasing lean muscle mass will vastly improve and, in some cases, eliminate several of your PCOS symptoms.
Recent studies show that High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is most effective for women with PCOS. HIIT workouts that includes weight-bearing exercises, like push-ups and plyometrics, is known to significantly reduce body fat by increasing your resting metabolic rate for 24 hours. Adding 1-3 HIIT sessions into your weekly exercise regimen will significantly improve your BMI and overall fitness.
Stress is a silent culprit fueling many of our most dreaded PCOS symptoms – hirsutism, weight gain, depressive moods…you name it. It releases cortisol, which under normal circumstances, is great for temporary periods of stress. However, over time, especially in terms of women with PCOS, cortisol directly undermines proper hormone function, exacerbating an already compromised endocrine system.
As a type-A personality, I truly understand how hard it is to just relax and unwind. And, truth be told, everyone is busy these days, so finding 10-20 minutes to yourself is not easy. But you must – for your health’s sake. Daily physical activity, especially exercise, helps counteract stress by releasing serotonin and other neurotransmitters that boost your mood. Sleep is another critical component to health. Women with PCOS must get ample rest and studies show sleep deprivation causes weight gain. Do something you truly enjoy without any distractions or noise – read in the park, have coffee with a friend, watch a movie, stroll along the lake…keep it simple and low-key.
PCOS is not a death sentence…it’s a wake-up call to permanently change your life, your health and overall well-being for the better. Why not start now…
In the coming months, I will to publish more PCOS-specific articles that detail my healthy eating, exercise program and lifestyle regimen. My hope is that my experience and knowledge will help other PCOS sufferers to take control of their health and lives.