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What Is a PCOS Nutritionist?

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If you are living with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), you are not alone. PCOS is a fairly common condition that can affect women of childbearing age. That said, despite how common PCOS is, it’s not always easy dealing with a diagnosis, especially if you are confused or unsure about what it means for your health or your future. While PCOS does not have a cure, there are several ways to treat and cope with the various symptoms. 

While there are many ways to treat PCOS symptoms, a healthy lifestyle can also reduce the effects of PCOS and reduce your risk of complications. Some important lifestyle changes include eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and treatments such as medication to treat insulin resistance and hormonal birth control. 

If you are struggling to manage your PCOS, one of the best solutions is to seek out a PCOS nutritionist. This PCOS expert can help you find the best routines and strategies to suit your needs. 

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At a Glance:

  • What role does a PCOS nutritionist take on? – A PCOS nutritionist helps women create healthy eating plans and lifestyle changes to help manage polycystic ovarian syndrome.
  • What does a PCOS nutritionist do? – A registered dietitian nutritionist will teach you the basics about your health condition, help you develop a customized meal plan based on your taste preferences and goals, and discuss dietary supplements that you could take to help improve your PCOS symptoms.
  • What are the credentials of a PCOS nutritionist? – A PCOS CNS will have a master’s in Science, 1,000 hours of supervised experience, and have passed the Certifications Examinations for Nutrition Specialists
  • What are the benefits of working with a PCOS nutritionist? – From helping you with managing weight to getting pregnant, there are many benefits of working with a PCOS nutritionist

Ready to work with a PCOS nutritionist? Get started today!

How Can a PCOS Nutritionist Help?

First things first: what is PCOS? According to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health, at least 1 in 10 women have PCOS. This common condition is caused by an imbalance of the hormones that regulate ovulation and can lead to irregular periods, excess hair growth, weight gain, and infertility. If an individual’s PCOS is not consistently monitored or managed, it can also lead to type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases. 

Thankfully, PCOS is a very treatable condition. One of the best ways to treat this condition is through diet and lifestyle changes. It can be challenging for a woman with PCOS to rely on available resources on the internet. But due to the many symptoms of PCOS, these resources often provide confusing and contradictory nutritional advice. 

If you are struggling with PCOS, the safest way to manage your condition is to seek out a PCOS nutritionist. Whether you are trying to lose weight or trying to get pregnant, or simply trying to live the healthiest lifestyle possible, a PCOS nutritionist can help you develop an eating and lifestyle plan specifically catered to you and your health goals. There are many different health hurdles that a registered PCOS nutritionist can help you overcome. A PCOS can assist you with the following:

  • Weight loss and maintaining your desired weight
  • Helping you and your partner conceive
  • Preventing the onset of type 2 diabetes and other chronic conditions
  • Putting a stop to binge eating, purging, and other eating disorders
  • Body positivity
  • Finding ways to boost your energy levels 
  • Developing a manageable exercise plan
  • Helping you through a pregnancy
  • Reducing the risk of you developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy
  • Maintaining healthy insulin and blood sugar levels
  • Lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the body
  • Learning more about PCOS and insulin resistance
  • Creating customized meal plans catered to your food preferences
  • Learning how to read food levels
  • Cooking, meal prep, and shopping tips

What Does a PCOS Nutritionist Do?

If you decide to work with a PCOS nutritionist near you, there are a few things that you can expect from a regular session. Your first session will mainly be an introduction to your medical history and nutrition education. A PCOS nutritionist will also want to learn about your current eating and exercise habits to help create a realistic starting point for you both. After that, your nutritionist will start to teach you the basics about your health condition, help you develop a customized meal plan based on your taste preferences and goals, and discuss dietary supplements that you could take to help improve your condition. 

Once you complete your first session, you and your nutritionist can decide how many follow-up sessions are essential for your health and well-being. The number of follow-up sessions you commit to may also depend on your medical needs, goals, and budget. 

Still not sure? Read more about what a PCOS nutritionist does here

What Is the Difference between a PCOS Nutritionist and a PCOS Dietitian?

If you are currently searching for a PCOS nutritionist, it’s important to understand the difference between the different healthcare professionals in this field. PCOS nutritionists and PCOS dietitians offer very similar services and professional medical advice. A nutritionist is a person who specializes in the study of food and nutrition and its effects on human health, whereas a dietician is a person who provides dietary advice and plans meals for people, taking into account their individual needs.

The main distinction between registered nutritionists and dietitians lies in the credentials for these two roles. In order to gain a certification, a registered dietitian must have a bachelor’s degree with coursework approved by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Accreditation for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics, as well as supervised experience at an accredited healthcare facility, community agency, or food service corporation. All registered dietitians must also have passed a national exam given by the Commission on Dietetic Registration. 

The accreditation process for dietitians is far more streamlined than it is for nutritionists. While some nutritionists are experts in their field, others have received little to no training. Some states do not require certification, so it is possible for anyone in those states to offer nutrition advice. 

Nutritionists are also vastly different in their areas of focus. For instance, some nutritionists may pursue advanced degrees in specific areas, such as sports nutrition or digestive disorders, while others may offer more general advice on weight loss or healthy eating. 

What Are the Credentials of a PCOS Nutritionist?

It’s important to remember that not all nutritionists have the same level of education or amount of professional experience. In the United States, anyone who practices giving general nutrition advice can call themselves a nutritionist. If you are working with a highly qualified PCOS nutritionist, here are the different credentials your certified nutrition specialist (CNS) has received.

Master’s Degree in Nutrition

A Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) is the most advanced certification for personalized nutrition practitioners. While anyone can become a nutritionist, in order to become a CNS, an individual must hold a Master of Science or a doctoral degree in nutrition or a related field. That said, it’s not enough for a PCOS CNS to have simply received a master’s in nutrition. The individual must also have completed at least 35 hours of coursework related to the practice of personalized nutrition.

Supervised Experience

After completing the educational component of the PCOS nutritionist journey, a nutritionist in training must also have initial experience before becoming a CNS. At least 1,000 hours of supervised experience must be completed before an individual is allowed to sit down for their final exam. This experience is typically completed at an accredited healthcare facility, such as a PCOS nutrition center, a community agency, or a food service corporation. In most cases, if an individual does not complete the necessary hours before sitting for the exam, this individual will not receive a passing score on the test. 

Exam

Lastly, an individual must pass the Certifications Examinations for Nutrition Specialists. This exam is held twice every year. Only after passing this exam, as well as completing the first two steps, will an individual be able to add the letters CNS to their official title. 

A CNS’s credentials often do not end with the final exams. Most nutritionists will continue pursuing professional education requirements to main board certifications and stay up to date on the latest science and information in their field. 

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What Are the Benefits of Working with a PCOS Nutritionist?

From helping you lose excess weight to improving your stress levels, there are many benefits of working with a PCOS nutritionist. Here are some of the ways that a PCOS nutritionist can help you live a healthy lifestyle.

Weight Loss

PCOS affects people of all weights, but if you are overweight or obese, losing weight can help reduce symptoms. Weight loss can help someone with PCOS balance hormone levels and improve ovulation

There are several ways that a nutritionist can help someone with PCOS manage their weight. Firstly, a nutritionist can create a customized diet plan based on your individual needs, which may include incorporating foods that are low in sugar and high in protein and reducing your consumption of “quick” carbohydrates. 

A PCOS nutritionist can also help you make lifestyle changes such as increasing physical activity levels and reducing stress. Rather than doing high-intensity workouts, which are cardio-based, a PCOS nutritionist will likely encourage you to focus on resistance training to build muscle. Muscle sucks up blood glucose, so your body doesn’t have to produce as much insulin. 

Pregnancy

If you are trying to start a family, a PCOS nutritionist can help you get pregnant. A PCOS nutritionist can help you conceive by teaching you about the best foods to eat to promote fertility and by helping you create a healthy and balanced diet. 

Once you are pregnant, a PCOS nutritionist can help you stay healthy throughout your pregnancy. Within the first trimester, a PCOS nutritionist can work with you to help you regulate your blood sugar levels. This is particularly important for women who have PCOS and are at risk for developing gestational diabetes. 

A PCOS nutritionist can also help you make sure you are  getting enough of the nutrients you need, such as folic acid, iron, and calcium. They can also help to create a diet plan that will minimize the symptoms of PCOS, such as fatigue, weight gain, and mood swings.

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Am I a Good Candidate to Work with a PCOS Nutritionist?

Most women with PCOS can benefit from working and collaborating with a PCOS nutritionist. However, if you are experiencing one of the symptoms described below, you should strongly consider connecting with a PCOS CNS. 

Resistance to Exercise

If you are not a huge fan of working out, a PCOS nutritionist can help you develop a manageable exercise plan catered to your health condition. For instance, cardiovascular exercises, such as running, jumping rope, and cycling, are not as beneficial for women with PCOS. Rather, strength training, such as lifting weights or bodyweight-focused exercise, can help improve various PCOS symptoms, including insulin resistance and slow metabolism. 

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and yoga are also beneficial exercises for women with PCOS. HIIT-style workouts can improve body composition and lower BMI, among other things, whereas yoga plays an important role in stress management. 

While regular exercise is important for people with PCOS, you must be careful not to overdo it. Too much exercise can throw your hormones off balance, which can cause weight gain and even more irregular periods. The focus should be on sticking to a sustainable exercise and eating plan. 

Binge Eating

According to new research, women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are six times more likely to suffer from eating disorders than the general population. These disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. As many as one-third of women with PCOS suffer from binge eating disorder.

If you're struggling with binge eating, consulting with a nutritionist can be very beneficial. Working with a nutritionist can help you develop a healthier relationship with food and help you make necessary changes to your eating habits. One of the most important ways a nutritionist can help with binge eating disorder is by creating a meal plan for you. 

If you struggle with sporadic eating, a meal plan will help structure your daily routine and provide you with a framework for choosing and selecting foods. A registered dietitian can also work through food myths and misconceptions that you might have believed about food, weight, and intake, as well as help you learn about any emotional connections that you might have related to food intake. 

Overweight and Pregnant

Women with PCOS have a greater risk of developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy. That said, a PCOS nutritionist can help prevent the onset of gestational diabetes with various strategies. A nutritionist will frequently check your blood sugar levels and recommend certain courses of action depending on how much your blood sugar levels deviate from the norm. 

Common pregnancy symptoms such as morning sickness, cravings, and food aversions can make it difficult to eat a nutritious diet when expecting. A nutritionist can help you manage these symptoms and ensure that you gain a healthy weight during each stage of your pregnancy. 

Some food recommendations may include eating lean proteins, healthy fats, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, non-starchy vegetables, and fruits. Some foods to avoid may include fried or fatty foods, processed food, and sugary beverages such as coffee drinks, energy drinks, juices, and sodas. A nutritionist will work with you to ensure that all of the foods included in your meal plan are foods you enjoy eating while pregnant. 

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About the author

Mariel Miranda
Mariel is a writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she lends her talents to creating valuable content that enriches communities, strengthens cultures, and moves people to change. With over ten years of writing experience and as an advocate for physiological well-being, her breadth of work extends from parenting podcasts to health and wellness pieces.

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