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Achieving Optimal Hormone Balance: The Most Effective Diet and Exercise Regimen for PCOS

picture of a woman with PCOS looking in her mirror to check her skin for acne and checking for hair loss and hirsutism

PCOS, Diet, and Exercise

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that affects many women worldwide. One of the critical factors in managing PCOS is achieving optimal hormone balance. While medication and lifestyle changes play essential roles, diet and exercise are powerful tools that can significantly impact hormone regulation in individuals with PCOS. This article will explore the most effective diet and exercise regimen to promote optimal hormone balance, backed by scientific research and professional recommendations.

The Role of Diet in PCOS Management

Low Glycemic Index (GI) Foods

Consuming foods with a low glycemic index (<55) can help stabilize blood sugar levels, reduce insulin resistance, and regulate hormone production. Include legumes like lentils, non-starchy vegetables, and lean proteins while minimizing processed foods, carbohydrates, and sugary snacks.

Balanced Macronutrient Intake

A well-balanced diet with adequate protein, healthy fats, and minimal or no complex carbohydrates will support hormone balance. Incorporate sources of lean protein (e.g., poultry, fish, legumes), healthy fats (e.g., avocado, olive oil, nuts), and little or no complex carbohydrates (e.g., quinoa, lentils) into your meals.

Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Chronic inflammation is a hallmark of PCOS and can exacerbate hormonal imbalances. Incorporating anti-inflammatory foods such as fatty fish (salmon, sardines), leafy green vegetables, berries, turmeric, and ginger can help reduce inflammation and promote hormone balance.

The Importance of Regular Exercise for PCOS

Aerobic Exercise

Regular aerobic exercises, such as brisk walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming, can positively affect hormone regulation. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week.

Strength Training

Incorporating strength training exercises into your routine can help build lean muscle mass, improve insulin sensitivity, and support hormone balance. Include activities like weightlifting, resistance band exercises, or bodyweight workouts two to three times per week. In some people with PCOS, strength training can increase testosterone and dihydrotestosterone levels and worsen hormone imbalance. Listen to your body. If you notice any worsening of symptoms like acne after strength training, choose cardio instead.

Stress-Reducing Activities

Chronic stress can disrupt hormone balance. People with PCOS tend to have slightly higher than average cortisol levels. Research on diabetics engaging in meditative movements, like qi gong, has shown decreases in blood sugar and insulin levels. Stress-reducing activities like yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises, or mindfulness help lower cortisol levels and promote hormonal equilibrium.

The Power of Lifestyle Modifications for People with PCOS

Are You Getting Sufficient Sleep?

Inadequate sleep can affect hormone levels and exacerbate PCOS symptoms. Aim for seven to eight hours of quality sleep each night to support optimal hormone balance.

Managing Your Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight or achieving weight loss (if overweight) can significantly improve hormone balance in individuals with PCOS. Consult with a naturopathic doctor like me to create a personalized meal plan.

Mindful Eating

Practicing mindful eating involves paying attention to hunger and fullness cues, slowing down while eating, and savouring each bite. This approach can help regulate insulin levels, help you register when you are full so you don’t overeat, and support hormone balance.


Achieving optimal hormone balance is crucial for individuals with PCOS. By following a well-rounded diet that includes low glycemic index foods, balanced macronutrients, and anti-inflammatory ingredients, while engaging in regular aerobic exercises, strength training, and stress-reducing activities, individuals with PCOS can enhance hormone regulation and manage their symptoms effectively. Remember to consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for personalized guidance based on your specific needs. Embrace these lifestyle changes to take control of your health and promote hormonal balance in your journey with PCOS.

Diet and Exercise for PCOS References:

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  2. Marsh KA, Steinbeck KS, Atkinson FS, Petocz P, Brand-Miller JC. Effect of a low glycemic index compared with a conventional healthy diet on polycystic ovary syndrome. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;92(1):83-92. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2010.29368
  3. Douglas CC, Norris LE, Oster RA, et al. Differences in dietary intake between women with polycystic ovary syndrome and healthy controls. J Am Diet Assoc. 2006;106(11):1845-1853. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2006.08.003
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  8. Moran LJ, Ko H, Misso M, Marsh K, Noakes M, Talbot M, Frearson M, Thondan M, Stepto N, Teede HJ. Dietary composition in the treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome: a systematic review to inform evidence-based guidelines. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2013;113(4):520-545. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2012.11.018
  9. Mohebbi Dehnavi Z, Jafarnejad F, Sadeghi Mojarad A, Rezvanfar MR, Dehghani Firouzabadi R. Effects of yoga on metabolic indices, inflammation, and hormonal status in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomized controlled trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2020;26(4):314-321. doi:10.1089/acm.2019.0361
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