One of the most common hormonal disorders is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). It affects about 6% of premenopausal women and is characterized by acne, increased facial hair, irregular periods and infertility. Women with this condition typically have higher levels of male hormones and lower levels of estrogen and very little progesterone. The lack of a normal monthly cycle of female hormones prevents the release of eggs from the ovaries. These partially developed, unreleased eggs develop into a cyst on the ovaries. In the long run women with PCOS are at high risk for developing Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and endometrial cancer.
Research suggests that women with PCOS have insulin resistance and higher than normal insulin levels. A genetic defect, frequently inherited from a father with early male pattern baldness is believed to make their ovaries produce large amounts of male hormones when abnormally high insulin levels are present. Reducing insulin resistance which lowers circulating insulin levels will lower the production of male hormones and reverse most abnormalities associated with PCOS.1
The safest and most effective way to reduce insulin resistance and lower excessive insulin levels is weight loss. Regular exercise markedly lowers insulin resistance even before significant weight is lost but much of the beneficial effect of an exercise bout on insulin resistance wears off in a day or so. This means exercising daily is ideal. A diet composed largely of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nonfat dairy and a little seafood will enable most people to lose weight and reduce insulin resistance without the chronic hunger associated with calorie counting and portion control. In most cases regular exercise coupled with a healthier diet and the loss of excess body fat will reverse most of the health problems associated with PCOS. There are drugs such as metformin, oral contraceptives, spirolactone, clomiphene citrate, etc. that may reverse some of the medical complications seen in women with PCOS, but these drugs have risks as well as benefits and people with PCOS should be strongly encouraged to adopt a diet and lifestyle that in the long run will likely leave them far healthier than relying on pharmaceutical agents.
1. Harvard Women’s Health Watch. November 1996
Judy’s passion for cooking began with helping her grandmother make raisin oatmeal for breakfast. From there she earned her first food service job at 15, was accepted to the world famous Culinary Institute of America at 18 (where she graduated second in her class), and went on to the Fachschule Richemont in Switzerland where she focused on pastry arts and baking. But after learning that the quality of a croissant directly varies with how much butter it has, Judy sought to challenge herself by coming up with recipes that were as healthy as they were tasty.
Judy received The Culinary Institute of America’s Pro Chef II certification, the American Culinary Federation Bronze Medal, Gold Medal, and ACF Chef of the Year. Her enthusiasm for eating nutritiously and deliciously leads her to constantly innovate and use the latest in nutritional science to guide her creativity, from putting new twists on fajitas to adapting Italian brownies to include ingredients like toasted nuts and cooked honey. Judy’s publishing company, Food and Health Communications, is dedicated to her vision that everyone can make food that tastes as good as it is for you.