Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) affects as many as 5 million US women according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). PCOS often takes several years to reach a conclusive diagnosis. This is primarily due to the significant fluctuation in symptoms and also the different ways in which PCOS presents.
One of the foremost reasons underlying PCOS is often investigated is infertility. PCOS disrupts normal ovulatory cycles, which manifests as irregular menstrual cycles. PCOS is responsible for 80% of infertility cases where the primary cause is limited ovulation.
In addition to limited ovulation, women with PCOS experience a persistent rise in testosterone levels. This is often the main cause of symptoms such as weight gain, acne, and facial hair which you may have observed along with irregular menstrual cycles.
To tackle the troublesome effects of PCOS, women are keen to explore more natural ways to manage their PCOS. A key aspect of this is understanding your daily nutrition and lifestyle which could be hampering your ovulation every cycle.
Impact Of Nutrition on PCOS
Diabetes, obesity, and PCOS are often categorized as lifestyle diseases. They are also associated with insulin insensitivity. This means that the cells in your body are unable to respond to the insulin release, leading to excess circulating insulin. Having PCOS predisposes to both obesity and diabetes. Which can further worsen insulin sensitivity.
Research has indicated that increased circulating insulin contributes to increased ovarian androgen production. It also reduces the production of sex binding proteins, elevating the free circulating testosterone. This often leads to worsening symptoms of PCOS over time. Additionally, elevated insulin levels favor premature differentiation of granulosa cells within the ovary, which does not allow for sufficient time for your eggs to mature. Which then leads to cycles without ovulation.
Mediating this insulin increase through dietary modification becomes a foremost method in naturally managing PCOS. Diets high in refined sugars, which have minimal nutritional value, often are the key promoters to elevations in insulin levels. PCOS already increases the chances of developing other health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension, a poor diet only worsens these outcomes.
Studies have indicated that women with suboptimal nutrition and diets negatively impact their ability to ovulate with each cycle. Lower fertility rates are often observed among women whose diets are high in saturated fats, simple sugars, trans fats, and animal protein.
How Can I Ovulate Naturally with PCOS?
The good news for women with PCOS is that simple lifestyle changes can enable you to naturally restart ovulatory cycles, with minimal to no assistance required from medications. The main medications prescribed for PCOS are the insulin mediator metformin and oral contraceptive pills. Controlled trials have shown, with any approach to managing PCOS, the ones having lifestyle interventions included in them showcased the greatest benefits.
Dietary Changes To Consider
High fiber diets may help to improve your PCOS symptoms and kick-starting ovulation. Foods that are high in fiber include fruits, veggies, and legumes. Fibrous foods take longer to digest, reducing the total amount of sugar released into the blood. This enables a more effective release of insulin, limiting periods of excess circulating insulin within your body.
Increasing omega-3 fatty acid consumption has also shown to have a positive correlation to improving fertility and pregnancy rates. Walnuts, fish, olive oil, and avocado are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Another important dimension to consider is the addition of anti-inflammatory foods and antioxidants to your diet. The foods mentioned such as nuts, fatty fish, fruits (especially berries), green leafy veggies, garlic, and turmeric are just a few among a long list. Adding these, especially fruits and veggies which have vital nutrients to your diet help to increase your egg quality and also encourages timely ovulation.
When considering a change in diet, it is also important to limit certain varieties of food such as animal protein, excess caffeine or alcohol intake, and untimely meals. Simple sugars found in white bread, muffins, and processed flour can also facilitate an increase in insulin levels.
Optimal nutrition, regulating meals, opting for more appropriate portion sizes, and remaining hydrated are the basic cornerstones to improving your fertility.
Following An Exercise Regime
Several studies have indicated that a modest reduction in just 5% of your current BMI, for those who are overweight, can significantly improve fertility rates among those with PCOS.
Bringing your weight closer to a normal range assists with regulating insulin use within your body. Additionally, testosterone levels experience a notable decrease among those who have worked towards managing their body weight. Best results have been observed among those who incorporated both cardio and weight training into their exercise regimes.
Consistency will be important in improving your chances of success. You will not see results overnight. For women with PCOS, it might take a while to notice a difference. Additionally, exercise has to be coupled with the right nutrition and diet plan to make a notable and sustained change in your hormonal health. Those who resort back to unhealthy diets or sedentary lifestyles often note the return of irregular cycles and quickly pile on lost weight. This means changes in routines should be sustained lifelong over time.
Can Supplements Help With Ovulation?
Lots of research has been conducted on the benefits of supplementation for women with PCOS. A few vital supplements to consider include:
- Inositols: These are naturally present in fruits and beans. They favor the regulation of hormones such as insulin and FSH. Inositols help to improve ovary function and reduce testosterone production in PCOS.
- Vitamin D: This vitamin is often associated only with bone health. However, vitamin D is known to assist in neurological function, hormonal health, and supporting immune health. Having sufficient vitamin D also improves both fertility rates and pregnancy outcomes.
- Folic Acid: Women who take folic acid when actively attempting to conceive naturally are observed to have increased chances of getting pregnant. Folic acid also fosters improved fetal development.
It takes a while to achieve ovulation naturally with PCOS. Changes do not occur overnight. The best results are often obtained from consistent maintenance of your appropriate nutrition, diet, and lifestyle plan which assists in fostering healthy hormonal balance and improving chances of fertility.
In addition to a nutritionally adequate diet and exercise, managing stress also becomes vital if you have PCOS. Stress not only impacts menstrual cycles but also fosters a constant state of inflammation which reduces the chances of ovulation.
It is important to note that everyone is different and the right prescription for one person may not be the same for the other person’s circumstances. Speak with a professional who specializes in the management of PCOS. Keeping these crucial points in mind can assist you with restoring ovulation as you manage your PCOS symptoms naturally.
How Can Holness Nutrition Help Me?
Nicole Holness is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who is experienced in helping women with their hormone health, reproductive health (fertility, pregnancy, postpartum), gut health, and overall wellness. Adhering to the ideal nutrition and diet plan can have a huge impact on your fertility health, especially if you have PCOS. If you are looking for the best way to optimize your diet to help you get in control and become the master of your PCOS, book a free PCOS strategy call. We are here to help you create a personalized nutrition, diet, and lifestyle plan based on your unique needs to help you live comfortably without your PCOS symptoms holding you back.
1 https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/pcos.html PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) and Diabetes
2 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4642490/ Treatment of infertility in women with PCOS
3 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3018970/ Insulin resistance and fertility in PCOS
4 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5904600/ Insulin resistance/hyperinsulinemia
5 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6568019/ Nutrition and female fertility
6 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4702450/ RCT of Preconception Interventions
7 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4728624/ Altered Preconception Fatty Acid Intake
8 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12923151/ Overweight and Obese Anovulatory Patients
9 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5040057/ The inositols and polycystic ovarian syndrome
10 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6210343/ The role of Vitamin D in Fertility