Managing PCOS: How Nutritional Therapy Can Help

nutritional therapy for pcos

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common endocrine disorder affecting around one in ten women of reproductive age in the UK. Characterised by a range of symptoms including irregular periods, excessive hair growth, weight gain, and acne, PCOS can have a significant impact on a woman’s physical and emotional well-being. While there is no cure for PCOS, nutritional therapy has emerged as a powerful tool in managing its symptoms and improving the quality of life for many sufferers.

Understanding PCOS and Its Symptoms

PCOS is a complex condition caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. It is marked by hormonal imbalances, particularly an excess of androgens (male hormones) and insulin resistance. This imbalance can disrupt the menstrual cycle, leading to difficulties with ovulation and fertility. Common symptoms include:

  • Irregular or absent periods
  • Weight gain, particularly around the abdomen
  • Hirsutism (excessive hair growth on the face and body)
  • Acne and oily skin
  • Thinning hair on the scalp
  • Mood swings and depression

These symptoms can vary widely among individuals, making PCOS a particularly challenging condition to manage. However, nutritional therapy offers a personalised approach to alleviating these symptoms and improving overall health.

The Role of Nutritional Therapy

Nutritional therapy uses food and lifestyle changes to support the body’s natural functions. For PCOS sufferers, this approach can help manage symptoms by addressing the root causes of hormonal imbalance and insulin resistance. Here are some key ways nutritional therapy can benefit those with PCOS:

1. Balancing Blood Sugar Levels

Insulin resistance is a common feature of PCOS, leading to elevated blood sugar levels and increased production of insulin. This can exacerbate symptoms and increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Nutritional therapy aims to stabilise blood sugar levels through a diet rich in low glycemic index (GI) foods. These include lean proteins, whole grains, legumes and vegetables. By avoiding high-GI foods such as sugary snacks and refined carbohydrates, women with PCOS can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the severity of their symptoms.

2. Promoting Weight Management

Weight gain, particularly around the abdomen, is a frequent issue for women with PCOS. Excess weight can further disrupt hormonal balance and exacerbate symptoms. Nutritional therapy promotes a balanced diet that supports healthy weight loss and maintenance. This includes incorporating plenty of fibre, healthy fats, and lean proteins into meals while reducing the intake of processed foods and sugars. Regular physical activity is also encouraged to complement dietary changes and support overall well-being.

3. Reducing Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is believed to play a role in the development and progression of PCOS. Nutritional therapy can help reduce inflammation by focusing on anti-inflammatory foods such as fatty fish (rich in omega-3 fatty acids), nuts, seeds, and colourful fruit and vegetables. Avoiding inflammatory foods, such as trans fats and excessive amounts of red meat, can also contribute to symptom relief.

4. Supporting Hormonal Balance

A diet rich in specific nutrients can help support hormonal balance and alleviate symptoms of PCOS. For example, foods high in zinc, magnesium, and vitamin D have been shown to benefit hormonal health. Including a variety of nutrient-dense foods such as leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and oily fish can help ensure the body gets the necessary vitamins and minerals to function optimally.

5. Improving Gut Health

Emerging research suggests that gut health plays a significant role in managing PCOS. A healthy gut microbiome can improve insulin sensitivity, reduce inflammation, and support overall hormonal balance. Nutritional therapy can promote gut health by identifying what might be driving symptoms and addressing root causes. It can be highly individual for each person. 

Personalised Nutritional Plans

A strength of nutritional therapy is its personalised and targeted approach. Each woman’s experience with PCOS is unique, and a one-size-fits-all diet is unlikely to be effective. A nutritional therapist can work with PCOS sufferers to develop a tailored plan that addresses their specific symptoms, lifestyle, and dietary preferences. This personalised approach can lead to more sustainable and effective symptom management.

How Nutritional Therapist Rebecca Can Help

Rebecca, a nutritional therapist at Longtail Nutrition in Bristol, specialises in helping individuals manage chronic conditions like PCOS  through personalised nutrition and lifestyle interventions. 

Comprehensive Assessment

Rebecca begins with a comprehensive assessment of your health, dietary habits, lifestyle, and medical history. This helps identify factors that may be driving your condition and specific areas to focus on and prioritise. 

Personalised Nutrition Plan

Based on the assessment, Rebecca develops a targeted nutrition plan tailored to your specific needs. The plan may focus on:

Balancing Blood Sugar Levels: Incorporating low glycemic foods to prevent sharp spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels.

High-Quality Proteins: Including lean meats, fish, eggs, and plant-based proteins to support hormone balance and metabolism.

Healthy Fats: Adding sources of healthy fats like avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil to improve insulin sensitivity.

Increased Fibre Intake: Consuming more whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables to support gut health and hormone balance.

Micronutrient Support: Ensuring adequate intake of essential vitamins and minerals like magnesium, chromium, and B vitamins, which are crucial for glucose metabolism and overall health.

Example Weekday Lunch Recipe for PCOS

Asian-Inspired Summer Salad

2 servings

Ingredients

50g roasted peanuts

300g (a combo of) lightly steamed broccoli, finely sliced raw carrot, red pepper & cucumber, finely shredded cabbage

1 spring onion chopped

About 8 basil leaves and small bunch of mint leaves, finely chopped

200g of cooked chicken (or tofu)

Dressing

2 tablespoons sesame oil

2 tablespoons lime juice

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2.5cm ginger, grated

1/2 red chilli, finely chopped

20g fresh coriander, finely chopped

Method

Whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl

Lightly steam the broccoli

Lightly bash the peanuts

Chop the vegetables and herbs

Toss the veg and herbs together with the chicken/tofu, peanuts & dressing

Benefits: High protein, healthy fats, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, detoxifying, super tasty

Example Weekend Breakfast

pcos meal

Smoked Salmon & Avocado Toast

1 Serving 

Ingredients

½ Avocado

1 Slice of Wholegrain Bread (toasted)

50g smoked salmon or trout cut into bite-sized pieces

A couple of slices onion, thinly sliced (or yellow pepper)

½ tsp capers

1.5 tsp chopped dill (or parsley)

Method

Squeeze of lemon juice

Mash the avocado on the toast, layer the smoked salmon on top, add the onion, capers, herbs and lemon juice

Benefits: High in protein, healthy fats & fibre, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory.

Lifestyle Recommendations

In addition to nutritional changes, Rebecca provides lifestyle recommendations to support your health:

Stress Management: Techniques such as mindfulness, yoga, and deep breathing exercises to reduce cortisol levels and improve insulin sensitivity.

Regular Physical Activity: Encouraging a mix of aerobic exercises and strength training to help manage weight and blood sugar levels.

Reducing Toxins: Minimising exposure to environmental toxins that can disrupt hormonal balance by using natural products and avoiding plastics.

Ongoing Support and Monitoring

Rebecca offers ongoing support and monitoring to help you stay on track with your nutrition and lifestyle plan. Regular check-ins and progress assessments allow for adjustments as needed, ensuring you progress towards your health goals.

Longtail Nutrition Success Stories

A 44-year-old woman, diagnosed with PCOS many years ago, sought Rebecca’s help to improve her dysregulated blood sugar levels. Her blood tests indicated pre-diabetes and high cholesterol. She experienced fluctuating energy levels, brain fog, food cravings, and frequent colds. Her goals were to lose weight and balance her blood sugar levels.

After 6 weeks of working with Longtail Nutrition:

– She has lost nearly a stone, steadily shedding weight.

– She feels fantastic and no longer catches all the bugs her children bring home.

– She feels motivated to continue with her plan long-term.

Nutritional Therapy for PCOS

Managing PCOS can be challenging, but with the right approach, it is possible to improve your symptoms and overall health. Rebecca offers personalised nutrition and lifestyle interventions to help you manage insulin resistance and achieve better health outcomes.

If you’re struggling with PCOS, don’t wait to take control of your health. Contact Rebecca at Longtail Nutrition today to book a consultation and start your journey towards balanced hormones and regulated blood sugar levels.