PCOS Myths | Demystifying Three Common Patient Misconceptions on PCOS
September is PCOS month and as it continues, we (Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut- RMACT) are remembering anew that there is so much to say about this topic than we have room or time for in one thirty day period.
So we will be continuing through the first two weeks in October with dedicated Polycistic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) articles (as well as the rest of the year). Needless to say, but I’m saying it anyway, PCOS symptoms don’t turn off on October 1. Wouldn’t that be amazing? If we only had to have PCOS for the month of September and the other eleven months, no PCOS?
Amazing, but unfortunately not happening anytime soon.
Look for Dr. Joshua Hurwitz’s second PCOS video this coming Monday, September 28. It’s the second out of three videos. Last week, September 14, was the first PCOS video. RMACT's Dr. Hurwitz is a fervent supporter of women with PCOS and shares information from the most updated scientific and medical point of view.
Today, we are pleased to share with you the three things that Carolyn Gundell, MS, RMACT Nutritionist wants you to know are NOT TRUE. PCOS is challenging. No one wants to have more challenges because of efforts that do not help. Thank you Carolyn, for clearing these three important pieces of PCOS folklore up.
Here are three PCOS myths debunked.
Top 3 PCOS Myths Debunked
September is PCOS Awareness Month. RMACT evaluates all adolescents and women ages 14 and older for PCOS. We offer a comprehensive PCOS program for both GYN and fertility patients that educates parents and patients on the benefits of life-long clinical and lifestyle management of PCOS and its co-morbidities. We also welcome women to come back between pregnancies for ongoing care. Thank you to all outside providers for your PCOS referrals. We appreciate your ongoing trust and support in our PCOS program.
Myth #1 – PCOS Diet & Balanced Eating
Myth: “If I do not eat ANY carbs, my PCOS symptoms will get better.”
Truth: PCOS meal planning is not about restriction and chronic dieting, but instead about balanced eating with a variety of nutrient dense foods. Carbohydrates are our primary source of energy, and they should total 40-45% of calories consumed throughout the day for PCOS patients looking to achieve weight loss or maintenance. Many women with PCOS experience great difficulty losing weight, often due to high insulin levels promoting fat storage.
What is a carbohydrate? Many individuals consider carbs to be only rice, bread, and pasta, however, carbs are so much more than that! Some foods that do contain carbohydrates and have a lower glycemic index response include legumes, winter squash, whole grains, milk, yogurt, vegetables and fresh fruit. Many low glycemic carbohydrates are packed with nutrients such as fiber, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, protein and energy—all important for ovulatory balance, weight loss and improved cardio-metabolic profile.
We recommend choosing no more than ½ cup of cooked or one slice of whole grain/starchy servings of a lower glycemic index food at each meal. Here are a few examples: quinoa, black bean or lentil pasta, wild, black, or brown rice, bulgur, barley, lentils and all beans, sweet potatoes, wheat berries, oats, wheat germ, whole grain-low sugar cereals, and sprouted breads. Making sure to include protein at every meal and snack with also help to maintain glucose control and reduce hunger and cravings.
Several popular very low carbohydrate weight loss diets are high in saturated fat and are not recommended by RMACT because they increase the likelihood of irregular ovulation and dyslipidemia thus decreasing fertility.
Myth #2 – PCOS Weight Loss
Myth: “I will improve my fertility ONLY if I lose weight.”
Truth: We observe improved ovulation, lowered glucose, insulin and lipid levels, and improved insulin sensitivity in our PCOS patients who participate in regular, consistent physical activity combined with a healthy meal plan, even without significant weight loss. Physical activity improves the way our muscles respond to insulin. Increased insulin sensitivity results in overall less insulin which helps to reduce androgen production--which stimulates FSH--and in turn improves ovulation.
Women with PCOS are more likely to have upper body fat distribution, even in the absence of obesity and independent of BMI levels. Exercise also helps to preserve and increase lean body mass and reduce fat mass. More inches around the waist can be lost with movement. Greater visceral adiposity is associated with greater insulin resistance, increased risk for diabetes, and worsened dyslipidemic profile with higher triglycerides and lower HDL cholesterol levels. In summary, consistent activity will not only lower stress and cardio-metabolic risk, but also helps to regulate menstrual cycles and improve fertility.
Myth #3 – Diet Plan for PCOS
Myth: “Meal skipping is the only way that I can control my weight.”
Truth: Meal skipping is a very common behavior seen in PCOS patients. Very low caloric intake causes a PCOS metabolism to shift into storage mode. Weight gain or no weight loss often results. Once a balanced eating routine is restored, starting with an early breakfast rich in protein and fiber, weight loss continues. As soon as meal skipping starts again weight loss stops.
Recent studies support the benefits of a balanced breakfast to increase metabolic rate, keep glucose and insulin stable, and regulate appetite in both lean and overweight PCOS adolescents and women.
About Lisa Rosenthal
Lisa has over thirty years of experience in the fertility field. After her personal infertility journey, she felt dissatisfied with the lack of comprehensive services available to support her. She was determined to help others undergoing fertility treatment. Lisa has been with RMACT for eleven years and serves as Patient Advocate and the Strategic Content Lead.
Lisa is the teacher and founder of Fertile Yoga, a program designed to support men and women on their quest for their families through gentle movement and meditation.
Lisa’s true passion is supporting patients getting into treatment, being able to stay in treatment and staying whole and complete throughout the process. Lisa is also a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, which is helpful in her work with fertility patients.
Her experience also includes working with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association and The American Fertility Association (now Path2Parenthood), where she was Educational Coordinator, Conference Director and Assistant Executive Director.