Polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, is a hormonal and metabolic disorder. This condition affects around 7-10% of individuals with ovaries in premenopausal years. Unfortunately, the cause of this syndrome is unknown. However, research suggests that development is likely due to both genetic and environmental factors.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome can be associated with a cluster of symptoms. It is important to note that symptoms can differ from person to person. Ultimately, when two of the three following criteria are met, a PCOS diagnosis is made:
1) Hyperandrogenism (elevated levels of androgen hormones).
2) Ovulatory dysfunction (which may result in an irregular menstrual cycle).
3) Polycystic ovaries (assessed via a pelvic ultrasound).
Additionally, facial and body hair growth, acne, thinning scalp hair, insulin resistance, weight gain, and fertility issues can also be associated with PCOS.
As of now, there is no cure for PCOS. Thus, managing a person’s signs and symptoms is the focus of treatment.
There is a strong association between weight gain, insulin resistance, and PCOS. As a result, dieting, weight loss, and carb restriction are common recommendations. However, these recommendations may cause more harm than good.
Dieting is a significant risk factor in the development of all eating disorders. The recommendations for management of polycystic ovarian syndrome are the main factor connecting this syndrome to eating disorders and disordered eating. Cutting carbohydrates specifically can make individuals more prone to binge eating. As a result, the restrict and binge cycle that is related to several eating disorders may occur.
Additionally, research has linked this syndrome to higher rates of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and poor body image. A crucial factor in the development of Anorexia and Bulimia is dissatisfaction with one’s body.
Unsurprisingly, the prevalence of eating disorders in folks with a PCOS diagnosis is significantly higher than in those without.
Managing this condition does not need to require harmful diets. Thus, medical guidance around management should focus on the individual’s symptoms and their goals.
For example, optimizing blood sugar levels can help to manage insulin resistance. Blood sugar levels can be kept stable by eating meals and snacks consistently throughout the day. In addition, including all three macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates) at meals and at least two macronutrients at snacks can be beneficial as well.
Beyond nutrition, incorporating enjoyable forms of movement into daily life can be beneficial for hormone balance. Working with dietitians who use non-diet approaches may also be helpful in reducing the risk of developing a disordered relationship with food and body after a PCOS diagnosis.
If you’re sick of obsessing over food, checking the scale non-stop, or food ruling your life, we can help you heal your relationship with food and your body. If you’re struggling, please don’t hesitate to schedule a free consult with us. You deserve to be free from constant food thoughts and have a healthy relationship with food ❤️