PCOS is a challenging condition affecting millions of women in the United States. Aside from the often heart-wrenching side affect of infertility, many women with PCOS struggle with weight management. This struggle is often attributed to insulin resistance or glucose intolerance. Many researchers and doctors are still searching for the best ways to treat this syndrome and associated symptoms. To date, there is no standard treatment plan for PCOS, and only as recently as 2003 has the criteria for diagnosis even been established. Such vague treatment standards has lead to a plethora of unscientific information and recommendations for treatment of this condition.
According to an October 1998 article in "Molecular & Cellular Endcrinology," a "unique" resistance to insulin is largely to blame for the weight management challenges facing women suffering from PCOS 2. This symptom is termed "unique" in PCOS patients because it is an inconsistent symptom, only affecting approximately 40 percent of women with PCOS. This inconsistency makes it difficult for doctors and researchers to prescribe appropriate medications and treatments.
Fasting for PCOS
The lack of standard treatment options leaves much room for speculation. There is a great deal of literature on websites, in books and in magazines that recommend fasting as a worthy tactic for weight management in PCOS patients. Many sources recommend water fasting or juice fasts, and even enemas and colonics. These sources primarily take a holistic standpoint and are not backed by scientific research. In fact, according to the December 1998 issue of the "American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology," studies have shown that weight management for PCOS is best treated through healthy lifestyle modifications and pharmaceutical treatments.
Impact of Fasting
While fasting may be promoted by some as one of the best ways to detox the body, it is certainly not a healthy step toward weight management. Fasting significantly impacts the metabolic functions of even a healthy individual, resulting in a sluggish metabolism and crashing blood glucose levels. Women with PCOS are already struggling with a slower metabolism and glucose intolerance. Therefore, fasting would exacerbate weight management issues and may result in excess fat storage when the fast ends, much like the impact of "yo-yo" dieting.
Healthy Weight Management for PCOS
Patients with PCOS should work closely with their doctors to create a healthy diet and exercise plan along with the use of carefully selected medications and pharmaceutical treatments to treat the variety of symptoms associated with PCOS. Generally, a carefully portioned diet low in processed foods and high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats can aid in weight management. Following a consistent eating pattern throughout the day can also have an impact on managing blood glucose levels and weight.
- "Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology"; PCOS: Polycystic ovary syndrome: Current and future treatment paradigms; RS Legro; December 1998
- "Molecular & Cellular Endcrinology"; Insulin resistance in polycystic ovary syndrome: treating a phenotype without a genotype; RS Legro; October 1998
- "Human Reproduction"; Revised 2003 consensus on diagnostic criteria and long-term health risks related to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS); Rotterdam ESHRE/ASRM-Sponsored PCOS consensus workshop group; January 2004
- Womenshealth.gov: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
- DAJ/amana images/Getty Images