If you know that you have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), then you’re already a lot further along in your health journey than other women. Even though polycystic ovary syndrome, also known as polycystic ovarian syndrome, affects 5 to 10 percent of women around the world, less than 50% of women with PCOS have been diagnosed. There is no one symptom or set of symptoms that are definitive for PCOS, which can make it difficult to diagnose.
Many women with PCOS may not have any symptoms at all. When symptoms are present, they differ from woman to woman. The most common symptoms include irregular periods, excess male hormone (androgen) levels, and polycystic ovaries.
While living with PCOS can be a challenge, it’s not hopeless. If you want to be successful in managing your PCOS, you need to change your mindset. You need to set aside time and resources to focus on your health, both physically and emotionally. Sometimes you can do this on your own, but other times, you will need outside support.
One of the best people to guide you through this health journey is a PCOS nutritionist. In this article, we will discuss all of the ways that you can benefit from working with the best PCOS nutritionist for you.
The Bottom Line:
- What is a PCOS nutritionist? – A PCOS nutritionist is a health professional who specializes in helping women with polycystic ovary syndrome manage their condition through diet and lifestyle changes.
- What are the benefits of working with a PCOS nutritionist? – A PCOS nutritionist can help women with PCOS conceive, treat unwanted hair growth and acne, prevent chronic conditions such as type II diabetes, and help with eating disorders
- How to get started with a PCOS nutritionist? – To get started with a PCOS nutritionist, all you need to do is head over to Thrive’s online portal
A PCOS Nutritionist Does More than Count Calories
One of the primary symptoms of PCOS is weight gain. Between 40 and 80% of people with this condition are reportedly overweight and obese women. While a registered dietitian nutritionist can help with weight management, this is not their only goal. There are many other benefits of working with a PCOS nutritionist, some of which are discussed below.
Excessive facial and body hair is one of the more distressing and visible symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome. This abnormal condition, which is known as hirsutism, is triggered by the overproduction of androgens, a class of hormones responsible for male characteristics.
Between 70% and 80% of women with PCOS are affected by this condition. People with hirsutism most commonly experience excess hair growth on their face, neck, chest, back, and toes. Excessive androgen levels can also have the opposite effect on the scalp, leading to female baldness in every 1 and 5 women with PCOS.
While many women with hirsutism rely on shaving, waxing, and laser hair removal to treat hirsutism, a PCOS nutritionist can help you correct the hormonal imbalance caused by PCOS and reduce the amount of circulating androgens in the bloodstream. For instance, birth control pills can help by increasing the level of female hormones while also stemming the production of androgens.
High androgen levels in the body can also lead to acne. Unlike other forms of acne, PCOS-induced acne tends to have lesions that are larger and deeper. PCOS-induced acne also takes a lot longer to go away. Another way to distinguish between PCOS-induced acne and regular acne is to look at where it appears on the body. PCOS acne can usually be found on the jawline, chin, and upper neck.
Unfortunately, PCOS acne typically doesn’t disappear on its own. You typically need to address hormonal imbalances and take other courses of action to remedy this issue. A PCOS nutritionist can help set up a treatment plan that specifically addresses PCOS. A typical treatment plan will include oral contraceptive pills, anti-androgens, as well as acne medications, such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and retinoids.
High body fat can also often make PCOS symptoms worse. Living a healthier lifestyle and losing 5% of your weight can often alleviate issues such as insulin resistance and high levels of androgens in people with PCOS.
PCOS is a common cause of infertility. In women with PCOS, the hormonal imbalance prevents the ovaries from releasing eggs. If there are no eggs to be fertilized, then there is no possibility of pregnancy. Because infertility is such a common symptom of PCOS, many women are first diagnosed with this health condition when they are trying to conceive.
With that said, having PCOS does not make it impossible to have kids. You might just need a little extra help during your conception journey. Many women find that losing between 5 and 10 percent of their body weight can help improve hormone regulation and ovulation. As you try to conceive, a PCOS nutritionist can help you lose weight healthily by creating an eating and exercise plan for you to follow.
Type II Diabetes
More than 50% of women with PCOS are diagnosed with type II diabetes by the age of 40. Women with PCOS are more likely to have insulin resistance, which is a risk factor for type II diabetes. Women with PCOS are also more likely to develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy.
A PCOS nutritionist can help prevent the onset of type II diabetes by performing regular diabetes screenings and monitoring your health. This healthcare professional can also inform you of warning signs to look out for, including fatigue, blurry vision, a frequent need to urinate, increased thirst, increased hunger, patches of dark skin, and numbness in the hands and feet.
If you are already living with type II diabetes, a PCOS nutritionist can also help you live a healthy lifestyle by ensuring you are eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly.
There is evidence to suggest that there is a correlation between PCOS and eating disorders. One study found that the frequency of disordered eating in people with PCOS was over four times higher than the rate of disordered eating behaviors among women without PCOS. Because PCOS is often associated with higher weights and a predisposition to gain weight, it can be easy for women with PCOS to spiral into unhealthy eating patterns and habits.
Rather than frame your weight loss journey around dieting and diet culture, a PCOS nutritionist can instead help women with PCOS develop healthy eating behaviors. A PCOS nutritionist can help you develop a meal plan that incorporates a range of enjoyable foods and an exercise plan that allows you to engage in moderate physical activity for the sake of health rather than weight loss.
How a PCOS Nutritionist Helps You Make Healthy Choices
If you're looking to improve your overall health, a PCOS nutritionist can help in several different ways.
Eating a healthy and well-balanced diet is one of the most important ways that a PCOS nutritionist will improve your quality of life. A PCOS nutritionist will collaborate with you to create an eating plan that targets inflammation. An anti-inflammatory diet will most likely consist of lots of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, moderate amounts of high-fiber grains, and foods that possess omega-3 fats, such as fish, nuts, seeds, and avocados. It is also essential for people with PCOS to evenly distribute the carbohydrates they consume throughout the day. This will help maintain balanced blood sugar levels and reduce spikes in insulin secretion.
Women with PCOS need to supplement a healthy diet with regular exercise. Because one of the distinctive features of PCOS is insulin resistance, your body finds it harder to metabolize glucose and use it as energy, which means your body ends up producing more insulin, and your blood sugar levels increase.
A PCOS nutritionist can help you develop a healthy exercise plan, which will most likely include a combination of cardiovascular exercise, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and strength training. Each type of exercise has different benefits for women with PCOS. Cardio can help maintain heart health, HIIT can do wonders for insulin resistance, and strength training can help reduce testosterone (a type of androgen) levels in the body.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Not getting enough sleep every night can also exacerbate PCOS symptoms. Lack of sleep can contribute to greater insulin resistance, increased difficulties in losing weight, and greater consumption of carbohydrates.
If you have PCOS, there may be another reason why you struggle to get sufficient sleep on a nightly basis. Studies have shown that women with PCOS are more likely to suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Both high testosterone levels and excess weight are risk factors for OSA. If you have OSA, then the quality of sleep you get every night is much lower than it should be, which can cause fatigue throughout the day.
Thankfully, a nutritionist can help you treat this sleep disorder. One form of treatment is utilizing a CPAP machine, which can result in you having more energy throughout the day and an easier time losing weight.
Want to learn more about how a PCOS nutritionist can help you? Read more here.
Stress has a greater impact on PCOS symptoms than you might think. Whether stress is being caused by a high-pressure job or a toxic relationship, long-term stress can cause health issues such as high blood pressure and an increase in cortisol and insulin levels. All of these issues can contribute to weight gain.
A PCOS nutritionist can help you incorporate stress relief techniques into your day-to-day life. Some of these activities may include taking frequent walks, meditating, and doing yoga. All of these mindfulness exercises can reduce cortisol and insulin levels for people with PCOS.
Connect with Others
Even though approximately 5 million women live with PCOS in the United States, this health condition can still be extremely isolating. While it can be difficult and scary to open up about your PCOS, remember that what you are experiencing is not “weird” or “abnormal.” There are millions of women in the world who are going through the same struggles as you are.
Many women with PCOS find it therapeutic to connect with others who are also living with the same health condition. A PCOS nutritionist can help link you with other women in the PCOS community, as well as provide you with other resources to help manage your PCOS. There are various websites and podcasts available that provide exercise guidance, nutritional and supplemental advice, and emotional support.
What Are the Benefits of Working with an Online PCOS Nutritionist or Dietitian vs. Going at it Alone?
A quick search of “PCOS treatments” on the internet can yield hundreds of thousands of results. So why hire a dietitian or nutritionist when you can treat yourself with advice and recommendations found on the web? Here are some of the ways that working with a PCOS nutritionist can be more beneficial than tackling your health condition solo.
A Cohesive Approach
Is the PCOS treatment advice from the web not working for you? Well, there’s a good reason for that. The main reason that health books and articles can be a swing and a miss is that they are not tailored to your circumstances. Every woman with PCOS has a different age, medical history, lifestyle, genetics, and personal goals. When you work with a nutritionist, your nutritionist takes all of that personal information into account when creating your customized treatment plan. Your personal plan will meet your specific nutritional needs and be tailored to your current lifestyle. Oftentimes, your nutritionist will also modify this plan over time as your symptoms continue to change and improve. Having a health plan like this helps women with PCOS reach their goals in a way that’s sustainable and healthy.
Support and Encouragement
Having a health professional by your side during your health journey sets you up for success. Try as they might, many people in your personal life may not understand the ins and outs of your health condition as much as you and other women with PCOS. Having an expert support you through PCOS can make a big difference. No matter what you are going through, you always know you have someone to turn to for advice and support.
Even if you are an intrinsically motivated person, it can be difficult to stick to certain goals day after day. Everyone goes through challenging times when they feel like throwing in the towel. A PCOS nutritionist is there to help you stay motivated, even when you feel incredibly close to giving up.
If the plan that you and your nutritionist have come up with is too difficult, you can also share this with your nutritionist. Following a slightly easier exercise plan or a more flexible meal plan can make all the difference when you are living with PCOS.
What to Ask During a Free Consultation
If you are on the hunt for a nutritionist near me, every client that works with Thrive is offered a free consultation with a PCOS nutritionist. To make the most of your complimentary session, here are some of the questions you should ask your nutritionist.
Do I need to take birth control pills?
Hormonal birth control is frequently prescribed to help treat many PCOS symptoms, including undesired hair growth and acne. If you are uncomfortable with taking birth control, this is something you should discuss with your nutritionist. Your nutritionist can then prescribe you alternate forms of medication.
Do I need to lose weight?
Weight loss is a key component of many treatment plans for women with PCOS. Losing weight helps reduce insulin and androgen levels and can even increase ovulation. Once you begin talking about weight loss with your nutritionist, the two of you can begin to create a diet and exercise plan that factors into your health goals and priorities.
Am I currently at risk of future health complications?
If certain PCOS symptoms are not addressed, these symptoms can ultimately lead to chronic conditions and serious diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, endometrial cancer, and metabolic syndrome. Your nutritionist can perform a general health assessment and tests to give you both an idea of how at-risk you are for these conditions.
How will PCOS affect my fertility?
Up to 80% of women with PCOS have trouble getting pregnant. If you are currently trying to conceive, or want to have kids soon, bring this up with your nutritionist. This will allow your nutritionist to cater your diet and exercise plan towards your goal of starting a family.
Am I insulin resistant?
Insulin resistance occurs when the body is unable to use insulin to lower blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance is a common issue for people with PCOS. Ask your nutritionist to conduct a test for insulin resistance as part of your workup for PCOS. If you are diagnosed with insulin resistance, your nutritionist can begin to prescribe you the proper pharmacological treatment.