Cheat Sheet

Managing PCOS For Dummies (UK Edition)

With the right approach, you can minimise the effects of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome on your day-to-day life and wellbeing. This Cheat Sheet gives you tips and information to help you manage PCOS and live life to the full.

How to Recognise PCOS Symptoms

Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is described as a syndrome rather than a disease because it shows up as a group of signs and symptoms that can occur in any combination. Here are some of the symptoms:

  • Period disruption. Periods can be heavier, lighter, irregular or absent altogether.

  • Weight gain. This is mostly due to high levels of insulin circulating in the blood.

  • Acne and oily skin. Women with PCOS tend to have higher levels of testosterone.

  • Different hair growth patterns. Your body may get hairier in certain places but hair may thin on your head.

  • Sleep problems and fatigue/exhaustion. This can be due to fluctuating hormone levels and also increased anxiety.

  • Depression, anxiety, irritability and mood swings. These symptoms are probably due to disrupted hormone levels.

  • Fertility problems. PCOS can disrupt ovulation.

  • Metabolic Syndrome: This is a cluster of symptoms which includes insulin resistance (where insulin produced by the body does not work efficiently), high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. It can lead to diabetes and heart disease.

Tips for PCOS Sufferers

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome isn’t a nice condition but the good news is that you can keep the symptoms more or less completely at bay. Here are some tips to help you:

  • Lose weight if you’re overweight by cutting your intake to 1,500 calories per day.

  • Eat regular meals (but don’t pile your plate), and have a couple of small snacks during the day. Don’t let yourself get hungry.

  • Follow a low-GI (Glycaemic Index) diet by substituting low-GI carbs for the high-GI ones (see the following section).

  • Keep the fat level down in your diet, and cut down particularly on saturated and trans fats (including fatty meat, butter, cakes, pastry and biscuits).

  • Use as little salt as possible and look at the labels of processed food to try to keep below 6 grams of salt a day.

  • Eat at least five helpings of fruit and veg every day.

  • Get some physical activity every day. Half an hour is great, but an hour is even better to help keep your weight under control.

  • Enjoy a variety of food, but keep it healthy.

  • Enjoy your true friends and family, and keep them close to you!

How to Handle PCOS Symptoms through Low-Carb Substitutions

The cornerstone to controlling PCOS symptoms is eating the low-GI (Glycaemic Index) way, where carbs break down slowly into your bloodstream so your blood sugar levels remain stable. Try these simple swaps and see if you feel better for them.

Meal Instead of: Have:
Breakfast Cornflakes Muesli
Instant porridge oats Unprocessed oats made into porridge
White toast Granary toast
Lunch Jacket potato with filling Baked sweet potato with filling
White baguette Pitta bread
Brown bread sandwiches Wholegrain bread sandwiches
Dinner Curry with white rice Curry with basmati rice
Shepherd’s pie Spaghetti bolognese
Stir-fry with instant rice Stir-fry with noodles
Desserts Bread and butter pudding made with white bread Bread and butter pudding made with fruit loaf
Fruit crumble made with white flour Fruit crumble made with oat topping
Snacks Muffins/cakes/biscuits Cakes, biscuits, or muffins made with fruit, oats, and wholegrains
White bread and jam Fruit loaf with ricotta
White crackers and cheese Wholegrain crispbread with avocado or hummus dip
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