Does consuming the right diet help women with PCOS in getting pregnant?
Author: Dr. Sai Manasa Darla, Consultant, Fertility Specialist & Laparoscopic Surgeon
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a prevalent cause of female infertility and is a metabolic disorder that affects about 6% to 12% of women of reproductive age.
PCOS manifestations are not just limited to ovaries and periods. Along with irregular periods and ovarian cysts, PCOS also causes obesity, insulin resistance, reproductive hormone imbalance, and Hirsutism (abnormal hair growth).
Along with medical treatment, dietary interventions help in alleviating PCOS symptoms and increasing the chances of pregnancy. Several studies have indicated the significance of diet in improving the fertility of women with PCOS and reducing its impact on the quality of life.
Diet tips to manage PCOS and improve fertility:
1.Prioritise Whole Foods
Opt for a meal that has whole foods such as whole grains (wheat, brown rice, etc.), fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats like avocado and nuts, lean meat, and plant-based protein (lentils and beans).
2. Watch your Carbs
Limit your carbohydrate intake. Carbohydrates impact insulin levels, leading to increased sugar levels and weight gain. Stay away from refined carbohydrates like refined flour, white bread and pasta, instant foods, sugar, pizza, breakfast cereals, and fried foods.
3. Increase Fiber Intake
Women with PCOS might develop insulin resistance and this might lead to blood sugar spikes. Fiber intake helps in controlling insulin levels and lowers blood sugar levels. Fiber also helps in regulating digestion, and cholesterol levels. Include adequate fiber-rich foods in your diet.
4. Add Proteins
Along with repairing and building muscles in the body, protein helps in regulating insulin levels and reducing inflammation. Opt for plant-based options such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, sprouts, and legumes which are rich in nutrients and antioxidants. Choose lean proteins like fish, eggs, chicken, paneer, and tofu. Avoid red meat.
5. Added Sugars? Stay away
Steer clear of any sugary beverages, processed foods, and desserts. Added sugars lead to weight gain, inflammation, and obesity. This causes difficulty in conception. Use alternative sweeteners such as honey and maple syrup.
6. Consume more Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids decrease inflammation. A few sources of Omega-3 fatty acids are walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, olive oil, and fish like tuna and salmon.
7. Opt for Plant-Based Foods
Plant-based foods can help better insulin sensitivity and regulate menstrual cycles in women with PCOS.
8. Stay Hydrated
How essential water is for overall health cannot be stressed enough. Try to have 8-10 glasses of water every day. Avoid sugary drinks.
9. Consider taking supplements
Despite having a healthy balanced meal, sometimes taking supplements may be more beneficial. Before taking any supplements, talk to your doctor to avoid medicine interactions and side effects.
10. Avoid caffeine and alcohol
If having coffee is important to start your day then consume moderate amounts of coffee. Stick to 1-2 cups of coffee per day. Prefer de-caffeinated beverages. Avoid coffee in the evenings before bedtime.
Abstain from alcohol if you are planning a pregnancy, as it causes hormonal imbalance and affects fertility.
Although there is no cure for PCOS, a healthy balanced diet plan can help in the management of PCOS and support your fertility goals. What we eat is always a choice. Make a healthy choice and not a restrictive one. You can occasionally indulge yourself in a treat.