Diet for treating acne caused by PCOS

All Woman

DEAR DONOVAN,

I struggle with adult acne and can't seem to get it under control with prescribed ointments and pills. I did not have this problem as a teen. In my adult years I developed polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and adult acne came with it. My doctor suggested changing my diet. On average for breakfast I will have fruits and tea. I drink a lot of coconut water and snack mainly on peanuts. Lunch consists of either a sandwich, Chinese food or whatever the canteen has — mostly rice and meats like pork, fried chicken and fried fish. Dinner is usually a sandwich or a fruit and before bed I usually drink tea or another form of beverage. Can you suggest some changes that may improve this acne?

It is a common belief that acne is just for teens; however, many people have it as adults. There are many reasons why you can have acne as an adult. These include stress or changes in your hormone levels as occurs with menopause, or switching or stopping birth control. PCOS can also cause adult acne.

It should be noted that five to 10 per cent of women of childbearing age suffer from PCOS. Acne in adults is usually triggered by an imbalance of hormones and this is usually the main underlying factor of PCOS. For women with PCOS, there is usually a higher than normal level of male sex hormones, and this is capable of triggering excess oil production in the sebaceous glands. This creates the prefect conditions for acne and skin infections.

PCOS acne is usually treated with over-the-counter substances, prescription medications, antibiotics and oral contraceptives. In your situation these medications are not working for you. So I would suggest that you try to deal with the possible underlying problem — the PCOS.

Most experts on PCOS believe that insulin may play a very important role. Insulin is normally released in response to eating foods, especially those containing carbohydrates. Insulin usually facilitates the transport of sugar out of the blood and into the muscles, fat and liver cells where it is converted to energy or fat and stored. Many women with PCOS have insulin resistance. This means that the process of getting sugar out of the blood is defective. The cells are therefore said to be insulin resistant. As a result of this the pancreas will be forced to produce high levels of insulin which can cause health issues. These include weight gain.

If you are overweight, it has been found that losing five per cent of your weight can improve your skin tone, regularise your menses and decrease insulin resistance.

I believe your PCOS is best treated by diet, exercise and weight loss. The best diet for acne and PCOS is a balanced, low glycaemic index diet. This is a diet that includes foods or combinations of foods that will not cause a rapid rise in sugar after eating. These usually include complex carbohydrates, protein, fruits, vegetables and vegetable juices.

It is very important to reduce or eliminate refined and processed foods — white bread, pasta and flour should also be eliminated. In your situation I would want you to make adjustments to your diet. You seem to eat a lot of sandwiches and I hope this is with whole wheat bread. For breakfast you could add yoghurt or green juice as options. In addition, at lunch time you could try to reduce your intake of rice and bread. A light soup, a small meal replacement shake, or even a salad are better options. These options could also be used for dinner.

It is important to reduce you calories as well as keep your sugar levels in the normal range. You should also try and get in some exercise. This will help with weight loss. Try to reduce your sugar intake from juices and teas and try not to eat too late at night and also eat on time.

Good luck!

We will answer your weight-related questions

Are you struggling to lose weight or just need some advice on living a healthier life? Tell us about your health issues and we'll have nutritionist and wellness coach Donovan Grant answer them for you. Grant has over 12 years' experience in the fitness industry and is the owner of DG's Nutrition and Wellness Centre, 39 Lady Musgrave Road. Call him at 876-286-1363. E-mail questions to clarkep@jamaicaobserver.com.

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