Infertility :: GI diet offers infertility hope

Until recently, apart from those affected with the condition, few people had heard of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This is remarkable, given that it is the most common female hormonal disorder – affecting at least three to four million women in the UK.

Many women have heard of ovarian cysts – where a cyst develops within the ovary – but the cysts in PCOS develop outside of the ovary, and are often described as having the appearance of a “string of pearls”.

PCOS is usually diagnosed by ultrasound of the ovaries. Other tests include measurement of certain hormones; for example, the male hormone “testosterone” is commonly elevated in PCOS.

Its symptoms, which are devastating – irregular periods, facial and body hair, acne, infertility and obesity – directly impact on the physical and mental health of the patient. As well as the obvious anguish of infertility, there is the additional mental stress from the adverse effects on body image: obesity, which is resistant to conventional dieting, male facial hair, and intractable acne.

However, recent advances have shown that a balanced, low GI (Glycaemic Index) diet may have a very significant, beneficial effect on many of the symptoms. At least 75 per cent of obese patients with PCOS have a condition known as “insulin resistance”, in which levels of insulin are elevated. Insulin is the hormone that controls the storage of fat in our bodies, so it is virtually impossible for patients who have a high level to diet successfully by conventional methods.

Of course, a low GI diet may not be effective in every patient with PCOS, as not all patients are obese. In some, in addition to a low GI diet, medication to lower insulin levels is necessary.

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