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Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

PCOS is a complex hormonal disturbance that affects the entire body and has numerous implications for general health and well-being. It is the most common cause of infertility and, if left untreated, can lead to increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Three key features characterize PCOS:
(1) The presence of hyperandrogenism (excess male hormones),
(2) Chronic anovulation (infrequent or absent menstrual periods), and
(3) Exclusion of other etiologies that can mimic the syndrome (i.e., congenital or non-classical adrenal hyperplasia).


PCOS is not a disease but rather a syndrome. A syndrome is defined as a group of symptoms and physical findings. The 3 most common symptoms of PCOS are irregular periods, hirsutism (excess body and facial hair), and obesity. Other symptoms include alopecia (thinning hair) and acne. In addition to the hormonal and clinical changes associated with this condition, vaginal ultrasound may show enlarged or normal sized ovaries with multiple small cysts (polycystic appearing ovaries [PAO]).

Weight loss has been the major recommendation by physicians for women with PCOS. Lifestyle modifications including stress reduction, exercise, and group support, along with a decrease in total energy intake, have had positive results. Women with PCOS can lower their risk of developing diabetes and heart disease by exercising and eating a healthy diet. Even if you exercise and don't lose weight, you are still reaping very important health benefits.

DIETARY MODIFICATIONS IN PCOS

Sticking to a special diet is a very important aspect of PCOS care. Some women with PCOS find success by reducing their total intake of carbohydrates (cereals, breads, pastas) and choosing to eat different types of carbohydrates that are less processed (whole wheat, brown rice, beans). Replacing manufactured carbohydrate products with whole grains, fruits and vegetables can help to reduce your insulin response. The diet also should include enough protein to control the amount of sugar in the blood.

A woman with PCOS who is insulin resistant should substitute unsaturated fat for saturated and Trans fats and avoid very low-fat/high-carbohydrate diets.

Diet should be low in simple carbohydrates and saturated fats but high on complex carbohydrate, essential fatty acids, protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber and water content.

 
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