Can Diet & Fitness Relieve Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?

Can Diet & Fitness Relieve Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?

Oct 03, 2017
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September brings awareness to a health and reproductive condition that affects 5 to 10 percent of women of childbearing age. On average 30 percent of women have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or PCOS. This hormonal condition affects 200,000 women annually. PCOS is brought on by a spike in androgens, a male hormone that when elevated cause cysts to form on the ovaries.

PCOS Symptoms

General symptoms include excessive facial hair or hair growth in other areas like on the chest, stomach, and thighs. Other symptoms are acne, weight gain, pelvic pain, and irregular periods (menstrual cycles). Why one woman might suffer from PCOS in a completely different way than another woman is a medical mystery. However, some research indicates that the condition might be hereditary[1] or environmental[2].

“No one knows exactly what causes PCOS, although evidence suggests a definite genetic link to the disorder. Many women with PCOS will have polycystic ovaries, but it is possible to be diagnosed with the syndrome without this sign, and not all women with polycystic-appearing ovaries will have PCOS.”

Environmental Causes Of PCOS

Can Diet & Fitness Relieve Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?Most of the environmental factors include lifestyle habits, and choices of food PCOS suffers consume.

  1. Eating plastic-packaged food
  2. Drinking alcohol
  3. Consuming fruit with pericarp[3]
  4. Contact with pesticides
  5. Smoking

The research concludes that while more research is needed to prove the hypothesis, how we treat our body and what we consume might reduce chances in developing PCOS:

“The existence of an association between EDs and PCOS was proved. Plastic-packaged food, fruit with pericarp and drinking alcohol should be avoided as possible as we can. However, the causal relationships among these factors and PCOS should be proved by further research.”

How Clean Eating Can Help PCOS

What is clear from research is that processed foods exacerbate PCOS. Usually, PCOS sufferers have higher insulin levels. Essentially, consuming processed foods means you are eating “simple” carbohydrates that lead to a spike in insulin.

So, consuming food in its most natural state is the healthiest approach. Also, avoid refined sugars and packaged foods that contain less than 5 natural ingredients. For the most part, consuming lean meat and complex carbs is recommended. Alcohol beverages equally exacerbate PCOS and should be limited to an occasional indulgence.

Clean Eating: When In Doubt, Organic Is the Way To Go

Can Diet & Fitness Relieve Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?

Eating complex carbohydrates are preferred over consuming simple and refined carbohydrates because refined carbs increase inflammation. So, removing inflammation-causing foods and eating clean can significantly reduce PCOS symptoms. Some foods that cause inflammation are fried foods as well as too much processed meat. However, some rumors that red meat[4] might cause inflammation are not fully substantiated. In general, red meat especially from grass-fed animals offers marketable nutritional value.

“Two different controlled trials have measured inflammation markers in response to increased red meat intake, and both have found that red meat does not elevate these markers. The first study concludes that increasing red meat consumption by replacing carbohydrates in the diet of non-anemic individuals actually reduces markers of inflammation.”

Eating organic meats, fish, and produce is a healthy direction to take when making dietary choices. Reducing the chances of PCOS symptoms flaring up can be accomplished by simply making better food choices. Eating clean also means limiting gluten in your diet and eating food in its most natural state, meaning, not packaged, canned, or preserved. Finally, drinking plenty of water is always a great way to keep your body hydrated while limiting chances of inflammation.

Can Diet & Fitness Relieve Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?Reducing PCOS By Exercise

Further evidence that exercise benefits PCOS was published in Hormone and Metabolic Research[5]:

“We report for the first time that exercise is associated with improvements in AMH in overweight women with PCOS without associated structured energy restriction. This suggests the mechanisms associated with ovarian dysfunction can be improved by exercise independent of weight loss in PCOS.”

Exercise limits the rate of PCOS by reducing insulin resistance especially united with a healthy high protein, complex carb diet. Staying mobile also helps with blood and oxygen circulation, provides more energy, and prevents weight gain. You can begin with something as simple as 15 minutes of exercise and increase from there. If you are running low on time, you can also try doing 20 minutes of high-intensity training otherwise known as TABATA. There are also plenty of creative ways to stay fit if you have kids. Even if you are a busy mother and or have a toddler, you can also lose weight doing some “Mommy and me” toddler exercises.

PCOS & Your Period

PCOS can affect menstruation and fertility by preventing successful ovulation or the release of an egg. This term is called anovulation, which is what causes ovarian cysts because the egg is not released. Therefore, irregular periods can occur. Aside from anovulation, absent periods (amenorrhea) or less frequent menstruation approximating 6 to 8 periods a year (oligomenorrhea) can occur. PCOS can also cause painful periods (dysmenorrhea) and longer than normal menstrual cycles (menorrhagia.) Exercising on your period can actually help reduce pain, bloating and give you a burst of energy. So, don’t shy away from the gym when it’s that time of the month. Even if you go for a simple walk and track your miles, it’s better than nothing.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, how you treat your body plays a big role in the rate of polycystic ovary syndrome flare-ups. While there isn’t a set cure, eating a clean and balanced diet in addition to staying fit benefits PCOS sufferers. Most importantly, consult with your doctor and schedule regular check-ups with your OB/GYN. This is especially true if you have ongoing PCOS issues. While there are plenty of things you can do to holistically treat PCOS or reduce symptoms, make sure you are also consulting with your doctor.

Can Diet & Fitness Relieve Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?







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  1. My best friend has PCOS and she struggles daily. While I truly believe that food affects everything in our body and mind, I know that through her process she has tried EVERYTHING and she is still struggling. I think all bodies are different and we should all be mindful of the food we are eating.

  2. PCOS affects so many women and spreading awareness is so wonderful. I think that trying to regulate and heal the body by diet and exercise first for most problems is a great idea. There is a time and place for medication, but I’d symptoms improve with easy lifestyle changes that is simply awesome!

  3. I know a few ladies who have tried clean eating due to this disorder. I have never heard if it truly helped or not, but I know that they have stuck with it. Clean eating can never be a bad thing, though!

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this post. I am 21 and was diagnosed with PCOS back in March and decided I needed to make some changes as well. I switched to a plant based diet back in May and I’ve seen tremendous changes. It has helped with a lot of the symptoms associated with PCOS, but the biggest change was with my cycle. We often don’t realize how big of a role our diets play in our health. Great post!

    • Gemille, thank you so much for your personal story and testimony on PCOS. It seems physical fitness in combination with diet is the key to overcoming or at least improving symptoms.

  5. This makes a lot of sense. Most people probably don’t treat their bodies well, so they will most likely have health issues. I’ve never known anyone with PCOS but it sounds like a nightmare. It’s good that diet and exercise can help ease some of the symptoms.

  6. I don’t know about every disease and issue but from my experience what we put into our body definitely has a large impact on our overall health, It is kind of like a car. If you put sand in it, it will not go, it needs the proper fuel! This is a great thing to know and I appreciate you sharing!

    • Melissa, I love your input and your analogy. If we put the wrong things in our body and treat our body poorly, then we end up with poor health. Thanks for reading and for commenting!

  7. Not having PCOS myself, I wasn’t aware how many were affected by it. But it seems like once we started talking about it, more and more of my friends shared their struggles. I had no idea how closely tied it was to health and fitness.

  8. I think good diet and exercise can help any disease. At least it’s a good start. I had no idea what PCOS even was but it’s definitely something to pay attention to! Thank you for this.

    • Karlyn, I totally agree that good exercise and eating well is a recipe for better health regardless of what you are going through. Even if you have never experienced PCOS or suffered with it….eating well and exercising is key for a healthier life.

  9. I have polycystic ovary syndrome. Unfortunately, while I’ve known about it for more than a decade, I have continued to neglect my body’s needs. However, I have started making better decisions and hope to combat this pcos on a daily basis.

    • Tami, thank you for sharing your personal story. The most important aspect of your story is that you are aware of your PCOS diagnosis and that hopefully you are seeing a doctor for it. It is great that you are seeking a healthier lifestyle.


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