I’ve recently had a number of questions from women with lean PCOS, asking whether diet plays as big a role in managing their symptoms as it does in women who are overweight and insulin resistant. The answer to that is “YES, diet plays a huge role.” A Lean PCOS diet is still vital in managing your PCOS symptoms. Let’s look at why.
PCOS is a highly complex, individual disorder that impacts women’s hormonal (endocrine) and metabolic systems in a profound way. Many women with PCOS have insulin resistance and struggle with weight gain and huge difficulty losing weight.
But what if you are not insulin resistant or overweight? What if you could even do with putting on a few pounds but you still have the classic symptoms of PCOS – you have excess hair growth and irregular cycles, not to mention those ovarian cysts?
PCOS and Insulin
There seems to be some conflicting information on the role of insulin in Lean PCOS. Not all women with lean PCOS are insulin resistant but some are. So, where does that leave YOU?
Although you may not have insulin resistance, impaired processing of glucose and dysfunction of the Insulin-producing cells is well-documented in PCOS. Even if you are overweight and manage to lose weight, the dysfunction of those cells does not change.
Insulin is also closely linked to increased male hormone levels in women with PCOS. One study found that “normal” insulin levels resulted in women with PCOS producing more androgens (male hormones) than women without PCOS.
So, you can see that management of insulin levels is vital in PCOS, whether you are lean or not.
Managing Insulin Levels - Vital to any PCOS Diet
That leads to the next question: How do we manage insulin levels using diet? You may well be tempted to try a high protein, low carb diet such as the Atkins Diet or Power Protein Diet. The problem with these diets is they often recommend a high intake of fats, most of which are saturated fats. Women with PCOS already have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and this can make the problem even worse.
Also, a diet that is very low in carbs can induce ketosis, a by-product of the body using it’s fat stores for energy as there is not sufficient glucose to provide the energy it needs. This remains controversial as many clinicians feel that it is unhealthy and dangerous.
However, research has shown that increasing your protein intake and slightly lowering your carbs has a significant impact on blood sugar and insulin levels. Make sure that you are getting your protein from lean, healthy proteins like fish, skinless chicken, lean red meat, nuts and legumes.
The recommendation is that you get 40% of your total caloric intake through carbs, and the rest from protein and healthy fats. Also, make sure that the carbs you are eating are unrefined and unprocessed as they will have less of an impact on your blood sugar and insulin levels.
Whether you are lean or overweight, your diet is vital to the management of your PCOS
It’s really important that you get a variety of nutrients, minerals and vitamins in your diet so make sure that you’re having plenty of vegetables and some fruit. Also, as you don’t need to lose weight, you don’t need to restrict your caloric intake. Rather manage your carb intake.
Whether you are lean or overweight, your diet is vital to the management of your PCOS. I’d love to hear your stories about what you have tried and what has worked for you. Just leave me a comment and let me know!