I’ve seen a few of you kind-lifers struggling with PCOS–Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. It’s a serious condition that can cause a host of issues so, I asked expert Dr. Neal Barnard to weigh in on this syndrome and how a vegan diet can help. Read his insight below…
Plant-Based Diets for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
By Neal Barnard, M.D.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a disorder involving excessive hormone production by the ovaries and the adrenal glands. It affects approximately 5 percent of women in the United States and usually begins during puberty. Although PCOS has no specific cure, weight loss, medical treatment, and dietary changes such as a implementing a low-fat plant-based diet can usually control most symptoms.
Common PCOS symptoms include obesity, hirsutism (growth of thick hair in areas where hair is normally minimal or absent, such as the face, chest, and breasts), and absence of menstrual periods. Affected women generally have multiple ovarian cysts and may be infertile. They often have diabetes, male-pattern baldness, and acne.
The cause of PCOS is unknown. But it appears to be, in part, related to diet and lifestyle factors, particularly those that influence body weight and insulin. Although weight loss is an accepted treatment, even relatively lean women may develop PCOS, and diet changes may affect the outcome of this disorder even in the absence of weight change.
A diet that addresses cardiovascular risk factors is appropriate for women with PCOS. Roughly half of women with PCOS are obese, and losing as little as 5 to 10 percent of weight results in a resumption of menstrual periods and a decrease in androgen hormones.
A plant-based diet is the best option for women with PCOS. The majority of women with PCOS also suffer from insulin resistance. If insulin isn’t working properly then hormones get out of kilter, among other mishaps. Fiber helps tremendously with hormone issues, and of course fiber is only found in plants!
There are several additional reasons why a diet low in fat and high in fiber and whole grains (aka a vegan diet) is superior to other weight-loss treatments. Such a diet helps reverse diabetes, which affects 50 to 70 percent of women with PCOS. Low–fat, high–fiber diets also reduce body weight and effectively address unhealthy cholesterol levels.