What is Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)?
PCOS is prevailing condition women are diagnosed often with nowadays. PCOS is associated with weight gain. On the contrary, it entails more than that. Let us understand more about PCOS, the food that will help reverse PCOS. And the lifestyle changes & treatment provided.
PCOS is a hormonal condition that affects a big group of women of reproductive age. The exact cause of PCOS is unknown. Early recognition and diagnosis followed by lifestyle changes, reduce the risk of long-term health problems.
PCOS symptoms show around the time of the first menstrual period. On the contrary, this can develop later in life. But the symptoms and signs differ for every individual.
If you have at least two of the following symptoms, you have PCOS.
- Irregular periods – a common symptom of PCOS. The person could have fewer than nine periods per year or more than 35 days between periods, or abnormally heavy periods.
- Androgen excess – Elevated levels of male hormones can cause physical symptoms such as excess facial and body hair (hirsutism), severe acne, and male-pattern baldness.
- Ovaries with polycystic cysts – The ovaries may be enlarged and have follicles (lots of small collections of fluid)& fail to release eggs regularly.
When should you see a doctor?
Consult your doctor if you have questions about your menstrual cycle, if you’re having trouble conceiving, or if you have symptoms of excess androgens, such as worsening hirsutism, acne, or male-pattern baldness. Irregular periods for a long time is something one should be careful about.
The precise cause of PCOS is unknown. Some factors that could be a cause are:
Insulin is a hormone that allows cells to use sugar, your body’s energy source. If your cells become immune to insulin’s action; your blood sugar levels may rise, and your body may produce more insulin. Excess insulin may increase androgen production, causing ovulation problems.
This is the production of anti-infective substances by white blood cells. And this stimulates polycystic ovaries to produce androgens, which can lead to heart and blood vessel problems, according to research.
According to research, certain genes may be linked to PCOS.
Hormone levels in the ovaries are abnormally high.
What effect does diet have on PCOS?
Insulin levels in PCOS patients are frequently found to be higher than normal.
Blood sugar levels can rise if you don’t produce enough insulin. This can also occur if you have insulin resistance, which means you are unable to effectively use the insulin you do produce.
If you have insulin resistance, your body may try to produce a lot of insulin to keep your blood sugar levels stable. Insulin levels that are too high can cause your ovaries to produce more androgens, such as testosterone. A higher body mass index may also contribute to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance can make it difficult to lose weight, which is why people with PCOS frequently have this problem. A high refined carbohydrate diet (starchy and sugary foods) can make insulin resistance and weight loss more difficult.
What foods should I incorporate into my PCOS diet?
High fibre foods can aid in the fight against insulin resistance by slowing digestion and lowering the effect of sugar on the blood.
Some high fibre food examples:
- Broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts (cruciferous vegetables)
- greens such as red leaf lettuce and arugula
- green & red bell peppers
- legumes and lentils almonds and berries
- the sweet potatoes
- pumpkin (winter squash)
Although lean protein sources such as tofu, chicken, and fish do not contain fibre. But they are a filling and nutritious dietary option for people with PCOS.
Foods that aid in the reduction of inflammation is healthy. Among these foods are:
- almonds and walnuts
- oil of olives
- fruits such as blueberries and strawberries
- fatty fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and sardines
With PCOS, which foods should I limit or avoid?
Refined carbohydrates cause inflammation and worsen insulin resistance, so they should be avoided/consumed in moderation.
- White bread
- pastries for breakfast
- sweet desserts
- anything made with white flour
Sugar is a carbohydrate that should be avoided on a PCOS diet. When reading food labels, keep an eye out for sugar’s various names, which include:
- high fructose corn syrup
On a PCOS diet, you should limit your intake of sugary beverages, as well as inflammatory foods like fries, margarine, and red or processed meats. Simply put avoid fast food and foods with more carbs. It is important to note that on a PCOS diet, you may want to limit or avoid certain foods. However, in many cases, these foods have nutritious and beneficial alternatives. For example, instead of white bread for breakfast, try high fibre whole-grain bread.
PCOS complications can include
- gestational diabetes or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure.
- Miscarriage/premature birth
- Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis — liver inflammation caused by fat accumulation in the liver
- Metabolic syndrome — a group of conditions that includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol levels and increases the risk of cardiovascular disease
- Diabetes type 2 /prediabetes
- Sleep apnea,
- depression, anxiety, and eating disorders
- Abnormal uterine bleeding
- Uterine lining cancer (endometrial cancer)
Obesity is linked to PCOS and can aggravate the disorder’s complications.
There is no definitive test for PCOS. Your physician will most likely begin with a review of your medical history, including menstrual cycles and weight fluctuations. A physical examination will look for signs of excessive hair growth, insulin resistance, and acne.
Your doctor may then suggest:
- Pelvic exam – The doctor examines your reproductive organs visually and manually for masses, growths, or other abnormalities.
- Ultrasound of the cervix – Your doctor examines the appearance of your ovaries as well as the thickness of the uterine lining.
- Blood tests – Hormone levels in your blood are measured. As a result potential causes of menstrual irregularities or androgen excess that mimic PCOS are identified.
- Transvaginal ultrasound– your vagina, a wand-like device (transducer) is inserted. The transducer generates sound waves, which are then translated into images on a computer screen.
If you have PCOS, your doctor may advise you to undergo additional tests to rule out any complications. They are:
- Blood pressure, glucose tolerance, and cholesterol and triglyceride levels should be checked regularly.
- Depression and anxiety screening
- Obstructive sleep apnea screening
PCOS treatment focuses on addressing your specific issues, such as infertility, hirsutism, acne, or obesity. Specific treatment may include dietary changes & other lifestyle changes medication.
Changes in lifestyle
Your doctor may advise you to lose weight by following a low-calorie diet and engaging in moderate exercise. Even a small weight loss — for example, losing 5% of your body weight — may improve your condition. Losing weight may also improve the effectiveness of PCOS medications prescribed by your doctor and may help with infertility. Getting ample rest (6-8 hours of sleep) & staying stressed free is key to reversing PCOS.
Your doctor may advise you to take a combination of birth control pills to regulate your menstrual cycle. Estrogen and progestin-containing pills reduce androgen production and regulate oestrogen.
Hormone regulation can reduce your risk of endometrial cancer as well as correct abnormal bleeding, excess hair growth, and acne. Instead of pills, you could try a skin patch or vaginal ring containing oestrogen and progestin.
Progestin taken for 10 to 14 days every one to two months can help regulate your periods and protect you from endometrial cancer. This doesn’t affect androgen levels and will not prevent pregnancy. If you also want to avoid pregnancy, a progestin-only minipill or a progestin-containing intrauterine device is a better option.
Your doctor may advise you to do the following to help you ovulate:
- Clomiphene. This anti-estrogen medication is taken orally and is taken during the first part of your menstrual cycle.
- Letrozole (Femara). This breast cancer treatment may stimulate the ovaries
- Metformin. This type 2 diabetes oral medication improves insulin resistance and lowers insulin levels. As a result of not becoming pregnant while taking clomiphene, your doctor may advise you to take metformin. If you have prediabetes, metformin can help you lose weight and slow the progression to type 2 diabetes.
- Gonadotropins. These hormone medications are administered via injection. These pills reduce androgen production, which can lead to excessive hair growth.
Spironolactone (Aldactone). This medication inhibits androgen’s effects on the skin. This can cause birth defects, it is necessary to use effective contraception while taking this medication. It is not advised if you are pregnant or intend to become pregnant.
- eflornithine (Vaniqa). In women, this cream can help to slow the growth of facial hair.
- Electrolysis. Each hair follicle is pierced with a fine needle. You may require multiple treatments.
It’s frustrating to deal with PCOS & it’s normal. Eating a PCOS-friendly diet and making some lifestyle changes may help improve your mood and alleviate some of the symptoms associated with PCOS. It does not mean you should completely avoid carbs and go on intensive diets. A balanced diet is key. Consult a doctor if your symptoms persist. They can assist you in determining the cause and recommending the next steps. A nutritionist will provide a healthy diet plan in regard to the food which you normally eat with slight changes. PCOS is reversible and it depends on the individual.