A Teen with PCOS

murray_webQ: I have a 16-year-old daughter who for a year now has been experiencing problems with ovarian cysts that cause her a tremendous amount of pain. Her OB/Gyn wants her to go on the pill. I am wondering if you know of a product that has proven to be effective with this problem.

A: Most teens with ovarian cysts don’t need a pill or product, they need a change in diet, and more exercise. Here’s how diet can affect a woman’s hormones: a steady diet of sugar and refined carbohydrates creates ongoing high levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood. In response the pancreas pumps out insulin to try to handle the excess sugar. The insulin stimulates the ovaries to produce testosterone, which causes the cysts. The high testosterone, which is a male hormone, also tends to cause acne, and excess hair growth in places a woman doesn’t want it, such as the face and arms.

Once insulin levels are reduced with a good diet and exercise, the cysts usually go away on their own within a few months—sometimes even within a few weeks! Other beneficial side effects of this approach to treating ovarian cysts are weight loss, increased energy, better mood, and reduced acne.

The simplest way to create a diet plan that reduces blood sugar and creates hormone balance is to avoid processed foods and sugar. Examples of processed foods are all sweetened drinks (even with artificial sweeteners), fruit juice, cookies, crackers, chips, candy, most cereals, white bread, pasta and white rice. Examples of unprocessed foods include vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grain breads and pastas, oatmeal, whole grain rice, eggs, fish, meat and dairy products. Frozen dinners and potatoes should be avoided.

Sugar is often hidden in seemingly healthy foods. For example, a small container of yogurt will often contain 28 grams of sugar, which is about 9 teaspoons, so it’s important to read labels. Get plain yogurt and add a teaspoon of all fruit jam (no sugar) to it. Avoid artificial sweeteners, which can stimulate insulin production just through their intensely sweet taste. Whole, fresh fruit is good in moderation, but it contains natural sugars so don’t overdo it.

Regular exercise can dramatically improve hormone balance, speed up weight loss, increase energy and in teens, greatly improve self-esteem and self-confidence.