Can dietitian help my PCOS?

May 2, 2024

Written by Maeve Ginsberg

Medically reviewed by Rita Faycurry, RD

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Key Points

  • PCOS is a common endocrine disorder affecting menstruation, fertility, weight, and more.
  • Diet can play a significant role in managing PCOS symptoms.
  • Registered dietitians are the most qualified nutrition professionals to help with PCOS diets. 

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common endocrine disorders affecting women of reproductive age. While it is still not fully understood, it is widely known that dietary adjustments and lifestyle changes play a significant role in PCOS treatment.

Let's talk about the symptoms of PCOS, what a good PCOS diet can be, what foods to avoid, and how a dietitian can help with treatment.

Understanding polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a complicated hormone issue that is still being studied. It is typically categorized by highly abnormal periods and the presence of ovarian cysts. Common symptoms of PCOS include:

  • Abnormal periods or none at all
  • Difficulties with ovulation
  • Obesity or weight difficulties
  • Infertility
  • Hyperandrogenism (high levels of the hormone androgen) which can lead to hirsutism (excess facial and body hair), alopecia (air loss) , acne, and acanthosis nigricans (dark skin with unusual texture, typically in body folds like the armpits, groin, and neck)
  • Insulin resistance

PCOS can make it difficult to lose weight, feel energetic, get pregnant, and much more. Because PCOS symptoms have so many implications for further health issues – like insulin resistance increasing risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, high LDL-cholesterol and low HDL-cholesterol, and sleep apnea – it is crucial to get treatment from a qualified professional. 70-80% of women with PCOS struggle with fertility, so if you are looking to get pregnant, you will likely need medical intervention.

Women with PCOS often experience struggles with mental health as well. Research found that they experience states of anxiety and depression much more frequently and often have sleep disorders too. Poor sleep is correlated with weight gain and type 2 diabetes, making these conditions even riskier given the existing risks from insulin resistance.

There's good news though: lifestyle changes can make a huge difference in symptom management. A meta-review of PCOS clinical treatments found that dietary interventions played a positive role in symptoms, as well as weight management and fasting insulin. This means that finding the right PCOS diet for you can significantly help with symptom management.

How does diet impact PCOS?

When it comes to hormone issues and insulin resistance, eating a balanced diet is crucial. Why? Because when too much blood sugar enters the bloodstream and cells stop responding to the excess insulin, the pancreas keeps making insulin and blood sugar keeps rising. As such, it is vital to keep your blood sugar levels in check to avoid making the situation worse.

Insulin resistance may also stem from the gut microbiome. Microbiota in the gut may play a role in the origin of insulin resistance, hyperandrogenism, metabolic syndrome, and chronic inflammation.  These microbiota probably play a significant role in metabolizing glucose and lipids, which means it is important to balance bacteria in the gut when treating PCOS.

If you ignore your diet and continue to eat inflammatory foods that spike your insulin, your condition is only likely to get worse and your health could continue to deteriorate. Without medical intervention, you could face significant difficulty conceiving, losing weight, and otherwise living a healthy life.

Role of a PCOS dietitian

PCOS requires medical treatment. You will likely use both medication and lifestyle changes to treatment your PCOS symptoms. One of the best providers you can work with to do this is a registered dietitian.

RDs and RDNs are board-certified nutrition professionals who are qualified to offer medical nutrition therapy. This means they can prescribe diets designed to treat specific medical conditions, including PCOS and diabetes.

When you work with a dietitian for a PCOS diet, the RD will help:

  • Manage weight and achieve weight loss as needed
  • Work with other members of your care team to ensure a holistic approach
  • Improve fertility
  • Understand insulin resistance
  • Decrease your cholesterol
  • Create a personalized meal plan
  • Learn how to read food labels
  • Offer meal planning, cooking, and shopping advice

With the help of a PCOS dietitian, you can keep inflammation low and improve symptoms. This will include avoiding fried foods, saturated fats, processed foods, high sugar foods, sugary beverages, alcohol, and refined flour. Your provider will help find what balance of carbohydrates works for you and your blood sugar.

When you work with a registered dietitian, they take the time to get a holistic understanding of your current health status, diet, and health goals. Since 50 to 75% of women with PCOS are unaware that they even have this syndrome, RDs are well-equipped to educate clients on the condition, how insulin resistance impacts your diet and lifestyle, what the best PCOS diet is for you, and how to treat your symptoms.

If you're not sure to find a registered dietitian who can help treat your PCOS, start with Fay Nutrition. Fay matches you with an RD who specializes in your area of concern who is also covered by your health insurance. This means you can get specialized care by a board-certified dietitian for as little as  $0 per session. Click here to get started.

What to eat for polycystic ovarian syndrome

For women with PCOS, low glycemic foods are typically the best approach. These foods help keep insulin spikes to a minimum but still provide the nutrients you need to stay nourished and healthy. A good PCOS diet includes:

  • Fruits and vegetables with a low glycemic index, including leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables
  • Low-fat dairy in small quantities
  • Fish high in fatty acids
  • Lean meat and poultry
  • Fatty acids from olive oil, olives, fish oils, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and almonds
  • Legumes
  • Whole grains

High-sugar foods are high on the list to avoid. They can trigger inflammation, insulin resistance, microbiota imbalance, and high androgen production. Thats why it's important to prioritize non-starchy vegetables, for example – they help keep insulin spikes to a minimum.

Gut microbiota dysbiosis can cause insulin resistance, which is, of course, linked to PCOS. This means that probiotics and fecal transplants may help women with PCOS, but more research is needed. Your RD will be able to provide guidance on whether probiotics are right for you.

Vitamin supplementation may also help. Vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin D, and vitamin E all have potentially positive impacts for those suffering from PCOS. However, you should seek the guidance of your dietitian and doctor before starting any supplements.

Find a PCOS dietitian covered by your insurance

When it comes to PCOS treatment, it's important to remember that a multidirectional approach is necessary. A lifestyle change alone isn't enough, but it can make a marked difference and set you on the path to a healthier life by improving your androgen levels, insulin resistance, ovulation, and more.

Start working with a dietitian who specializes in polycystic ovarian syndrome by joining Fay Nutrition. Join forces with an experienced RD who can help you take control of your health, improve your PCOS symptoms, and live a healthier life. Click here to start with Fay.

The views expressed by authors and contributors of such content are not endorsed or approved by Fay and are intended for informational purposes only. The content is reviewed by Fay only to confirm educational value and audience interest. You are encouraged to discuss any questions that you may have about your health with a healthcare provider.

  • Maedica - Dietary Patterns and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: a Systematic Review
  • Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics - Effects of Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension diet on androgens, antioxidant status and body composition in overweight and obese women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomised controlled trial
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Insulin Resistance and Diabetes
  • Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology - Gut microbiota dysbiosis in polycystic ovary syndrome: Mechanisms of progression and clinical applications
  • Healthcare - Future Implications of Using Registered Dietitians in Multidisciplinary Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Treatment
  • Nutrients - Nutrition Strategy and Life Style in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome—Narrative Review

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Maeve Ginsberg

Written by Maeve Ginsberg

Maeve Ginsberg is a health and wellness writer with a personal passion for fitness. As an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and former powerlifter, she loves combining her interests in health with her writing. Maeve has a Bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University. 

Rita Faycurry, RD

Medically Reviewed by Rita Faycurry, RD

Rita Faycurry, RD is a board-certified Registered Dietitian Nutritionist specializing in clinical nutrition for chronic conditions. Her approach to health is centered around the idea that the mind and body are intimately connected, and that true healing requires an evidence-based and integrative approach that addresses the root cause of disease. In her books and articles, Rita offers practical tips and insights on how to care for your body, mind, and spirit to achieve optimal health and wellness.