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PCOS and IBS: How to cope when you have both

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11 August 2022|4 min read

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) affects 10 percent of women during their reproductive years and of these almost half will have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, according to a 2010 study.

What is PCOS? Here is a quick run down.

PCOS is a complex condition with hormonal, metabolic and emotional implications. Research published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that it can take up to two years for women to be diagnosed, with around 70% of sufferers still not aware they have PCOS. To be diagnosed you must present with the following symptoms of PCOS:

  1. Hyperandrogenism (high levels of male hormones)
    • Acne, male-pattern hair growth, abdominal obesity, alopecia
  2. Menstrual Problems
    • Lack of period or irregular periods
  3. Polycystic ovaries on pelvic ultrasound
    • 12 or more follicles on each ovary

PCOS and IBS – same but different.

Many women with PCOS report similar symptoms to those with IBS including bloating, constipation/diarrhoea, stomach and pelvic pain. PCOS does present some other issues however including poor blood sugar control, difficulty losing weight, reduced fertility and poor body image. The good news is diet can play a huge role in helping to manage the symptoms of PCOS and IBS.

Control your PCOS and IBS with what you eat! 

If you are overweight, a 5-10% weight loss can reduce male hormone levels, regulate your period and improve fertility.

GOAL: Maintain a healthy weight and manage gut symptoms.

HOW?

  • Low GI, high fibre foods: these keep you feeling fuller for longer and help to control blood sugar levels
  • Base meals around vegetables, plant proteins and fruit: these are low in energy and full of nutrients
  • Avoid processed foods and those high in added sugars and fats: these are high in energy and low in nutrients

BUT…. to manage IBS symptoms try putting a low FODMAP spin on these types of foods.

HOW?

  • Low GI, high fibre: Sourdough bread, quinoa, 1/2 a cup of rolled oats or low FODMAP natural muesli
  • Vegetables, wholegrain and fruit: Eggplant, beans, boy choy, tofu, grapes, orange, strawberries
  • Healthy snacks: Dark chocolate or macadamias

Everyone’s symptoms are very individual so while these tips may help some people, the best thing you can do is see an IBS trained dietitian who can provide tailored advice. You can also sign up to the FODMAP Challenge to get some great meal plans, recipes, guidance and support from specialist dietitians and a community of members who have tried it.

Don’t let PCOS and IBS symptoms rule your life – choosing the right foods can make a world of difference.

Need help with the low FODMAP diet? Our FREE dietitian developed program will guide you through it, step-by-step. Includes a low FODMAP food guide. Sign up now.

If you are experiencing gut symptoms and have not been recommended a low FODMAP diet by a health professional, get started with the manage your gut symptoms program.

Reviewed by the healthylife Advisory Board March 2022

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This article is for informational purposes only and does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. If you have any concerns or questions about your health you should consult with a health professional.