Written by: Kelsey Schaffstall Young MS, RDN, CDN, LDN

What is PCOS?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS, is one of the most common endocrine disorders affecting 5-10% of women of reproductive age.1,2 PCOS is diagnosed when at least two of the following criteria are met: chronic irregular menstruation, hyperandrogenism (or physical signs thereof), and polycystic ovaries seen on ultrasound.1,3 It is also important to note that PCOS is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning that other causes of the symptoms must be ruled out before an official diagnosis can be made.

Symptoms of PCOS

When left untreated, the combination of these factors can result in infertility due to the production of immature egg cells and infrequent or missing periods and ovulation. Patients also often experience symptoms such as acne, excess hair growth, weight gain, and metabolic syndrome as a result of high androgen levels and systemic inflammation.1,3 Insulin resistance is also extremely common in PCOS, affecting approximately 75-95% of patients3 which results in a 4x higher risk of diabetes4 as well as an increased risk of cardiovascular disease compared to those without the condition.1
Some of the most common symptoms of PCOS like acne, high androgen levels and excess hair growth can be managed with medications. However, diet and lifestyle changes may be necessary to address the root causes of PCOS and prevent long term complications like Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease.

 

Lifestyle changes to manage PCOS

A healthy lifestyle to manage PCOS includes an anti-inflammatory diet rich in protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, and antioxidants. Regular movement, adequate sleep, and stress management are also an important part of decreasing the systemic inflammation that is often detected in PCOS patients.2
Two particular supplements have also been shown by research to benefit PCOS patients. According to a recent systemic review, Myo-inositol (MI), either alone or in combination with D-chiro-inositol (DCI) in a 40:1 ratio, has been shown to restore ovulation and improve egg quality.1 Randomized Controlled Trials on MI supplementation have also shown cardiovascular benefits such as decreased blood pressure, total cholesterol, and triglycerides and increased HDL.1 Research has also highlighted Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation as an effective way to decrease inflammation and improve insulin sensitivity, total cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides in PCOS patients.2
If you are affected by a PCOS diagnosis or symptoms, consider reaching out to a Registered Dietitian who can help you implement these changes in a sustainable way to support fertility and prevent complications.

1. Unfer V, Nestler JE, Kamenov ZA, Prapas N, Facchinetti F. Effects of Inositol(s) in Women with PCOS: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. Int J Endocrinol. 2016;2016:1849162-1849162.
2. Yang K, Zeng L, Bao T, Ge J. Effectiveness of Omega-3 fatty acid for polycystic ovary syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2018;16(1):27.
3. University M. International evidence-based guideline for the assessment and management of polycystic ovary syndrome 2018. 2018:1-199.
4. Joham AE, Ranasinha S, Zoungas S, Moran L, Teede HJ. Gestational Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes in Reproductive-Aged Women With Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2014;99(3):E447-E452.

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