Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is an endocrine system disorder that affects a woman’s hormone level. This means women with PCOS produce more-than-normal levels of male hormones, which causes a hormonal imbalance that leads to several health issues.
PCOS affects women more particularly during their child-bearing age. This hormonal imbalance causes women to miss menstrual periods, making it difficult to conceive. It can also lead to long-term health issues like diabetes and heart disease.
Postmenopausal women with PCOS, especially those with diabetes, are at a high risk of developing a clinical cardiac disease. What’s surprising is that 70 per cent of women who have PCOS are not aware of the issue until it comes out as a life-altering truth.
This article talks about the symptoms, causes and other related aspects to help females identify PCOS and take measures that can help them.
Symptoms Of PCOS
There are a number of symptoms that indicate that a woman has been affected by PCOS. Let us look at a few of them.
1. Irregular periods
Women affected by PCOS confess that they get fewer periods than normal women. Usually, females get 11 to 12 menstrual cycles a year, however, women affected by PCOS get around 8 or even less.
Some women even experience lighter bleeding during their cycles, which is because of the lack of ovulation that prevents shedding by their uterine lining.
Late periods can cause heavy bleeding. When a woman has a late period, the lining of her uterus takes longer to form and becomes thicker than in a regular period. As a result, whenever a woman with PCOS has periods, she has more bleeding and more periods than usual.
2. Hair growth
Over 70% of women affected by PCOS have continuous growth of hair on their body and their face. In fact, the growth of hair may be on their backs, bellies, and chests as well.
Due to the predominance of male hormones, those affected by PCOS have oilier skin than that normal women. This can lead to breakouts on their chest, face, and upper back.
4. Weight gain
Nearly 80 per cent of the women affected by PCOS are either overweight or worse, obese. This is because of the imbalance of insulin levels.
If you’re suffering from PCOS, your body will over-produce insulin in an attempt to maintain a normal blood sugar level, and this frequently leads to more androgen (male hormones) production and subsequent weight gain.
Women affected by PCOS lose hair due to the high levels of androgen. In fact, their baldness will be similar to that of males such as receding frontal hairline or thinning of the scalp.
6. The darkness of the skin
The high level of insulin in the blood of women suffering can sometimes cause patches of darkened skin on the back of the neck, under the arms, and in the groin region.
Are these symptoms conclusive evidence to prove that a woman has been affected by PCOS?
People cannot come to a straightforward conclusion that women with the above symptoms have been affected by PCOS. But even if the doctors have confirmed PCOS, women need not give up hope because there are very good treatments for the problem. Of course, affected women should make some changes in their lifestyle and follow the PCOS diet plan. If they consistently follow the PCOS diet and exercise meticulously, they can overcome the issue and lead a healthy life.
Causes Of PCOS
There are various factors that may cause a woman’s body to produce excess male hormone and thus cause hormonal imbalance leading to PCOS. Let’s delve into the top 3 factors that cause PCOS separately
Several studies have been conducted to prove that PCOS is a genetic disorder. The findings reveal that if the mother or grandmother has had PCOS the daughter or granddaughter is also likely to be affected by it.
However, it must be noted that it is not a single gene that can be held responsible for PCOS. A number of genes work together for this condition.
2. Insulin resistance
Studies conducted on a number of women affected by PCOS show concurrent problems of insulin resistance. Conversely put, the chances of those with the problem of insulin resistance getting affected by PCOS are high.
The reason is that the body cells of women affected by PCOS do not use insulin properly. If insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas, does not help the body use the sugar in the foods they consume, their body will always be in need of insulin. Therefore, the pancreas will over-work and secrete more amount of insulin.
Due to this extra insulin, ovaries produce higher amounts of male hormones that dominate the body, thereby causing severe symptoms and finally resulting in PCOS. Overweight or obesity is yet another factor that may cause insulin resistance.
Inflammation in women has strong links with higher levels of the male hormone androgen.In other words, higher levels of male hormones will cause inflammation, and hence, women with PCOS are likely to suffer from inflammation as well. Obesity and excess body weight can cause inflammation also.
What foods must women with PCOS add to their diet?
Women affected by PCOS should add liberal amounts of high-fibre foods to their diet. High-fibre foods will help in overcoming the problem of insulin resistance also by retarding the digestion process and reducing the negative effects of sugar on the system.
Some of the high-fibre foods they can eat in abundant quantities are cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, greens that include spinach, lettuce, green and red peppers; beans, lentils, berries, squash, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins.
Lean protein items such as chicken, tofu, and fish may not provide affected women with good amounts of fibre, but women who eat these items can feel full. Hence, these foods can be great dietary options for women affected by PCOS.
They should also opt for anti-inflammatory spices and foods such as tomatoes, turmeric, etc. A few other foods that can reduce inflammation in them are kale, almonds, walnuts, and olive oil.
Fruits like strawberries and blueberries can be beneficial and can reduce inflammation as well. Food items that can supply a good amount of omega-3 fatty acids can also be beneficial for affected women. Some examples of such foods are fish like sardines, salmon and mackerel.
Foods To Avoid on PCOS Diet
In general, people on a PCOS diet should avoid foods that are widely considered unhealthy. These are some examples:
Refined carbohydrates such as mass-produced pastries and white bread.Fried foods, including fast food.Sodas and energy drinks and other sugary beverages.Hot dogs, sausages, and luncheon meats are examples of processed meats. Margarine, shortening, and lard are examples of solid fats.Excessive consumption of red meat such as steaks, hamburgers, and pork causes inflammation.
These foods will increase insulin resistance leading to the problems mentioned above. Therefore, affected women should try to avoid or restrict eating these items to a considerable extent
Diet Plan For Women Affected By PCOS
Given below are a few tips that women affected by PCOS can follow.
Make sure to eat a nutritious breakfast excluding high carbohydrates or inflammation-causing ingredients. Remember never to skip breakfast as it would induce you to over-eat during the mid-day meal and hence cause an insulin spike.Drinking water about 30 minutes before meals can help control over-eating and help one feel full. Eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly as this would improve digestion and reduce the chances of insulin resistance and subsequent weight gain. Finish your dinner at least 2 hours before bed. Delayed dinners will lead to indigestion and cause disturbed sleep. This may bring down the ability of the body to repair itself. Its is advisable for women with PCOS to follow a set diet plan that ensures weight management. Split large meals into smaller portions and eat every two hours. This is a proven method that can help in maintaining weight.
Sample PCOS Diet Plan
Time Diet7:00 am Methi seed powder + water 8:00 am 2 small vegetable dosa/cheela and green chutney ORVegetable Omelette and 2 whole-grain toast11:00 am Fruit salad (1 katori) OR1 glass of buttermilk with 1 tsp of Flaxseed OR 1 portion of seasonal Fruit + 1 tsp of Pumpkin Seeds OR 1 yield Coconut Water + 1 Tsp of Chia Seeds1:00 – 2:00 pmMixed vegetable salad (1 katori), 1 multigrain/whole wheat/millet roti + ½ katori brown rice, and mixed vegetable sabzi ORVegetable Millet Pulao and cucumber raita 4:30 pm Puffed Rice + Roasted Chana – 1 Katori and tea/coffee with less sugar/without sugar7:30 pm1 Chapathi/millet roti and methi dal (1 katori)ORVegetable masala oats (1 katori)
Lifestyle Modifications For Women With PCOS
Give importance to physical activities. Experts suggest that women with PCOS should do at least 150 minutes of exercise or workouts every week. This means roughly 30 mins of exercise per day.
Get sufficient sleep. Sleep-deprived individuals have a tendency to overeat the following day. This gradually leads to obesity or overweight.
Learn to manage your stress levels. Stress is another factor that may increase insulin resistance and cause type 2 diabetes. Experts suggest yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises for better stress management.
Remember to never lose self-confidence. The medical world has been coming out with several mind-blowing innovations and hence, not too far away from a sure-shot treatment for PCOS. Until then, healthy dietary and lifestyle decisions are the way to go!
To summarize, women who have been affected by PCOS can combat this issue and lead a healthy and normal life by following the right diet plan meticulously and by making a few changes to their lifestyle. In short, their life should be a package of all good things.
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