Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

The Syndrome That Women Aren’t Talking About

Today we’re talking about Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, which is often referred to as “PCOS.” It’s estimated that 1.4 million Canadian women are living with PCOS, one of the most common female hormone disorders (1). However, many women are unaware that they have PCOS, or are too shy to speak up due to the stigma that surrounds it.

Symptoms of PCOS can include the following: ovarian cysts, excessive androgen hormones, insulin resistance, irregular periods, abnormal facial/body hair growth, thinning scalp hair, weight gain (or difficulty losing weight), acne, darkening of the skin, and skin tags (2,3). However, some women have no symptoms at all, and are only diagnosed when ovarian cysts are identified during an ultrasound (2). Blood tests can also be used to check hormone levels.  

Did you know? PCOS is one of the most common causes of infertility in women.

The presence of ovarian cysts may prevent a woman from getting pregnant, because they can prevent a woman’s eggs from being released properly. If you believe you may have PCOS and would like to start a family, I strongly encourage you to speak with your family doctor.

 What nutrition and lifestyle changes can help manage my PCOS?

  • Supplementation with myo-inositol (4).

  • Eat 5-6 small frequent meals, to spread carbohydrate intake evenly throughout the day (5).

  • Resist the urge to do any “diets” in an effort to lose weight. Like managing weight without PCOS, these damaging restrictive ways of eating are not helpful.

  • Engage in regular physical activity that you actually enjoy. If you don’t like going to the gym or running, don’t force yourself! Find an activity that fits for you (5).

 

Unfortunately, there is not enough research to tell if vitamin & mineral supplementation can help manage PCOS symptoms (5). However, from a “do no harm” standpoint, the following supplements are safe to take in normal doses:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids (read the label to make sure it contains EPA and DHA)

  • Calcium

  • Vitamin D

  • Magnesium

 

 

 

References:

  1. Lujan M, Chizen D, Pierson R. Diagnostic Criteria for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Pitfalls and Controversies. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada. 2008;30(8):671-679.

  2. Polycystic ovary syndrome [Internet]. womenshealth.gov. 2019 [cited 11 April 2019]. Available from: https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/polycystic-ovary-syndrome

  3. Williams T, Mortada R, Porter S. Diagnosis and Treatment of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Americal Family Physician. 2016;94(2):106-113.

  4. Unfer V, Facchinetti F, Orrù B, Giordani B, Nestler J. Myo-inositol effects in women with PCOS: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Endocrine Connections. 2017;6(8):647-658.

  5. Papavasiliou K, Papakonstantinou E. Nutritional support and dietary interventions for women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Nutrition and Dietary Supplements. 2017;9:63-85.