Medically reviewed by Sophia Yen, MD, MPH – Written by Varuska Patni. Updated on OCtober 4, 2022
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal health condition that impacts 1 in 10 women of reproductive age. PCOS is characterized by hormonal imbalances of reproductive hormones (like estrogen and testosterone) and hormones that regulate other bodily functions (blood sugar, fat storage, and appetite).
Diet and lifestyle changes can help lessen or alleviate symptoms of PCOS.
In this blog, we’ll cover what PCOS is and how simple changes to your diet through delicious recipes (including PCOS dinner recipes and gluten-free and dairy-free recipes!) can help you feel better and alleviate some of your PCOS symptoms!
What Is PCOS?
PCOS is often a hormonal imbalance of insulin and progesterone and affects how a woman’s ovaries work. While there are no known causes of PCOS, there are recognizable symptoms such as irregular or no periods, excess androgen (acne, hair loss, hairiness) weight gain, infertility, and pelvic pain.
Birth Control for PCOS
The first-line medical treatment for PCOS is hormonal birth control (typically the pill, patch, ring, or the IUD with progesterone). PCOS is also treated with metformin and diet. PCOS can cause heavy, irregular, or painful periods, which is where birth control can help! The pill, ring, and patch not only decrease the number of future cysts on your ovary by blocking ovulation but they can also be used to help you skip your period, thereby eliminating/decreasing any pain or unexpected surprises from Aunt Flo.
Ready to stop your monthly bloody cycle? Check out Pandia’s #PeriodsOptional campaign!
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Metformin for PCOS
Metformin is another treatment for PCOS. It’s a medication that helps treat insulin resistance in women with PCOS by improving insulin sensitivity, which can decrease the metabolic (obesity, diabetes) and cardiac risks of PCOS in the body.
What Is the Best Diet for PCOS?
Because PCOS is often linked to weight gain in women, a change in diet and activity may be needed to reduce your PCOS symptoms. A diet focused on whole, minimally processed foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and dairy can help you manage your PCOS symptoms by helping you manage your weight and regulate blood sugar levels.
As more research has been done on PCOS, more scientific evidence supports PCOS-friendly foods as part of a balanced diet.
The basic guidance is to incorporate more high-fiber vegetables, lean protein, and anti-inflammatory foods and spices. This means more baked sweet potatoes (I mean … have you tried sweet potato fries?) and cauliflower (try subbing cauliflower rice for white rice in your next stir fry!).
22 PCOS-Friendly Recipes (not reviewed by Dr. Yen)
Everybody is different, and depending on your diet and your PCOS symptoms, you may want to avoid refined sugar to heal your body and naturally relieve/prevent PCOS symptoms.
For your anti-inflammatory, PCOS-friendly diet, it’s important that every meal have the following: lean protein, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, fruits, and veggies.
Need help coming up with healthy, creative, and tasty recipes for you or someone you know living with PCOS? Check out the dishes below!
- Grab ‘n’ Go Egg Muffins
- Spicy Chicken Breakfast Bake
- Supercharged Green Smoothie
- Banana Muffins
- Lemon Blueberry Baked Oatmeal
- Oat Flour Pancakes (have your “cake” and eat it too!)
- Shrimp Fried Rice
- Baked Falafel on Salad Greens
- Asian Chicken Slaw
- Guacamole Chicken Salad
- Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese (vegan friendly!)
Snacks like popcorn, apples & peanut butter, and hard-boiled eggs are also great options!
Dr. Yen’s tip on peanut butter: check the label. You only want peanuts. No oil, salt, and definitely not sugar (anything with the last 3 letters -ose such as maltose, dextrose, fructose).
- Creamy Carrot Ginger Soup
- Weeknight Baked Salmon and Veggies
- Tomato and Egg Shakshuka (yum!)
- Cherry Tomato Bruschetta Salad
- Sheet Pan Greek Chicken
We know, we said you should be avoiding refined sugar as part of your PCOS diet … but that doesn’t mean you don’t get to have dessert!
- Peanut Butter Cups – if you can’t do nuts or peanuts, sunflower seed butter is another delicious option!
- Fruit & Nut Crunch Chocolate Bars
- Chocolate Brownies
Remember: A balanced diet only goes so far! Incorporating daily activity while lowering your sugar intake and eating a low-inflammatory diet can help manage your PCOS symptoms and help you lose weight!
Plus, you know what you should always take with food? — besides cute Insta photos, of course. Birth control! Pandia offers many versions of the pill just for your choosing, so be sure to sign up today to get that #PandiaPeaceofMind!
While the exact cause of PCOS is unknown and may differ in each person, how to take control of your PCOS symptoms isn’t.
A balanced diet that limits refined sugars, refined carbohydrates, and processed foods can help you lose weight and reduce your PCOS symptoms. Look for foods with anti-inflammatory properties, like tomatoes, kale, spinach, almonds and walnuts, olive oil, salmon, and fruits.
PCOS can be frustrating. But remember, a PCOS-free life is possible with birth control (for some people)! #Skipthetrip to the pharmacy by switching to Pandia, the most trusted provider of birth control delivery.
Pandia Health is here to offer you telehealth birth control options that work with your insurance and your schedule. (No insurance? No problem. We have pills starting at $7/pack.) On top of the added benefits of birth control, you can experience the benefits of getting your birth control online and delivered to your door through Pandia!
With just one $25 payment a year, you can get access to our expert doctors (available in these states) for 364 days with unlimited follow-up questions about birth control To change your birth control or get started on the best birth control pill for you, get in touch today.
Disclaimer: The above information is for general informational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor/primary care provider before starting or changing treatment.
What causes PCOS?
There is a lot of ongoing research about PCOS. It is thought to be caused by a mix of genetic factors related to insulin
How is PCOS diagnosed?
Currently, there is no definitive test for diagnosing PCOS. However 2 criteria are required: oligomenorrhea (fewer than 4 periods per year) and hyperandrogenism (either by lab test or physical exam). During an appointment with a physician, they will discuss your medical history and check for common PCOS symptoms and signs such as irregular periods and hyperandrogenism, which are indicated by higher testosterone levels and more acne. The physician often performs blood tests to check thyroid, hormones, and other areas to make sure it’s not something other than PCOS. Check out our Youtube Channel for more information or Dr. Yen’s talk she gave for Stanford!
What are symptoms of PCOS?
Common symptoms of PCOS include acne; excessive hair growth or hair loss (caused by excess androgen); irregula or infrequent, menstrual cycles; difficulty getting pregnant; and weight gain.
Can you get pregnant with PCOS?
Yes, you can get pregnant with PCOS. Women who have PCOS have a hormonal imbalance that interferes with ovulation. Your ob/gyn can discuss ways to help you ovulate and increase your chances of getting pregnant.
How to lose weight with PCOS?
According to Mayo Clinic, a low-calorie diet and moderate exercise can help with weight loss and increase the effectiveness of medications. Exercising regularly is important for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. Meeting with a dietitian can help as well. Some people may require medications such as metformin or GLP1 agonists to lose weight.
How to cure PCOS permanently?
Currently, there is no cure for PCOS. Although the symptoms experienced are usually lifelong, lifestyle modification and medication (ex: birth control) help with management of PCOS symptoms.
What does metformin do for PCOS?
Metformin helps decrease the elevated insulin levels, which then affects the ovaries allowing them to resume their normal function and make less androgens.
What are the first signs of PCOS?
According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of PCOS develop around the time of the first menstrual period during puberty. It can sometimes develop later as well. A PCOS diagnosis is made when at least 2 signs are experienced. Some of the signs are irregular periods, excess testosterone, and polycystic ovaries.
Is PCOS genetic?
Current research suggests that PCOS occurs due to environmental and genetic factors. Reviewing your medical history (especially family history) can help determine the genetic aspects of PCOS, and a physician will do this with you if you think you have this disorder.
How to treat PCOS?
Currently, there is no cure for PCOS, so the symptoms are often lifelong. However, medication such as hormonal birth control helps treat PCOS symptoms