PCOS is a very common health problem among women. The data from CDC (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) indicates that 6% to 12% of women of reproductive age in the USA are affected by PCOS. This percentage equates to about 5 million women! Globally speaking, PCOS occurs in at least 5% of the population. (1)
What’s more important is that the effects of PCOS continue even after the child-bearing years, as it doesn’t only affect the reproductive system.
Before digging in to see if PCOS and intermittent fasting get along well with each other, let’s define what PCOS is, what the symptoms are, and then we’ll get to know the connection between nutrition and polycystic ovary syndrome.
What are the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome?
The most common symptoms of PCOS are:
- Having irregular periods or no periods at all
- Fertility problems
- Excessive hair growth (on the face, back, chest, abdominal area, buttocks)
- Male-pattern baldness
- Gaining weight and having difficulty losing it
Symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome vary from woman to woman. Only a medical professional can diagnose whether or not you have PCOS.
How is PCOS diagnosed?
Gynecologists use three indicators to diagnose PCOS. If any two of the indicators below are present, you might have polycystic ovary syndrome, and you should consult your doctor.
- Irregular periods: Having more than 35 days between periods; not having a regular menstrual cycle.
- Excess androgen hormones: Increased levels of male hormones may result in physical signs like excess facial and body hair (hirsutism), severe acne, and loss of hair from the head. A blood test is required to check your androgen and other hormone levels such as blood glucose, cholesterol, and triglycerides.
- Polycystic ovaries: Your ovaries might be enlarged and contain follicles that surround the eggs. As a result, the ovaries might fail to function normally. An ultrasound test is required to look at the size of the ovaries and see if they have cysts.
What is the treatment for PCOS?
The most interesting thing about this condition is that most women with PCOS have insulin resistance, and more than half of women with PCOS develop type 2 diabetes by age 40. So it gives us a hint that this syndrome can be improved by dietary changes.
Adopting an intermittent fasting plan is one of the dietary changes that you can make. Fasting has been gaining popularity for its effects on hormonal health, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels in addition to its benefits for weight loss. It can also help with PCOS.
Another dietary change option to help treat PCOS is switching to a vegan diet. Although discussion is ongoing in this area, some experts claim that animal products contain hormones that can negatively affect female sex hormones. By switching to a plant-based diet, the effects of these hormones should therefore disappear and may help with treating PCOS, and PCOS-related weight loss problems. (2) Bear in mind that scientific studies in this area are still insufficient.
How does intermittent fasting help treat PCOS?
Normally, when we eat something, our body produces insulin to balance the blood sugar level. But people with PCOS are resistant to insulin, which means their body can’t use the insulin properly and as a result, the pancreas will secrete more insulin than needed to diminish the blood sugar levels. A high level of insulin in the body triggers abnormal production of the male hormones and thus ovulation is impaired.
As your body gets used to intermittent fasting, the insulin level in your body falls and PCOS-related insulin resistance disappears. When the insulin level is normalized, the reproductive hormones are balanced and the fertility problems are likely to diminish.
Women who are diagnosed with PCOS often have difficulty with weight loss too. Typical diet plans and working out don’t help them with their weight problems. Intermittent fasting may also be a lifesaver here, as fasting switches the body from storage mode into a fat-burning state where it uses up the stored sugar and fat. The body’s metabolism improves with normal levels of insulin and glucose. As a natural result of this, it becomes easier to lose weight.
Pro tip: When intermittent fasting is combined with regular exercise, you can get better results on the way to treating PCOS. Fitness Kompanion offers you a customized and scheduled workout plan that you can follow easily without needing any sports equipment.
Ideal intermittent fasting plan for women with PCOS
A study (3) shows us that an intermittent fasting plan with an 8-hour-time-restricted eating (16/8 intermittent fasting) improves endocrine and metabolic profiles in women with anovulatory polycystic ovary syndrome.
Fasting Kompanion helps you choose a fasting plan and gives you a real companion on your intermittent fasting journey.
But you should still consult a doctor if you have PCOS and are considering starting fasting. Your doctor may recommend you a fasting plan with a narrower fasting period, as in the 14/10 or 12/12 plans.
Those who are considering switching to a vegan diet should also consult a doctor and have their blood values checked.
To sum up
Even in cases where medication is required, the importance of nutrition cannot be underestimated. It is therefore important for women with PCOS to regulate their diet alongside their treatment, and to get support from medical professionals.
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