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Lifestyle Tips for PCOS

Published by Times Now News

For many women with PCOS, losing excess weight has become a constant struggle. Making these few lifestyle changes can help prevent weight gain and relieve symptoms.

New Delhi: Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal condition among women of child-bearing age. In PCOS, estrogen and progesterone (female hormones) are out of balance and there is an increase of androgens (i.e. male hormones). This imbalance causes the growth of cysts on the ovaries. For many women with PCOS, losing excess weight has become a constant struggle. Yet, the good thing is that shedding a few pounds – as little as a 5 per cent weight loss – may help restore irregular periods and improve ovulation.

The signs and symptoms of PCOS include irregular periods or absence of menstruation, excessive hair growth (usually on the face, chest, back or buttocks), thinning of hair or hair loss, difficulty getting pregnant, weight gain, oily skin or acne, etc. You should seek medical help if you notice any of these symptoms and suspect you may have PCOS. However, it’s worth noting that not all women with the syndrome will have all of the symptoms, perhaps, each symptom can vary from mild to severe.

What causes polycystic ovary syndrome?

PCOS has many possible causes rather than one known cause, and hence, it is called a syndrome and not just a disease. Insulin resistance is one of the leading causes of PCOS. Insulin is a hormone that helps convert sugar (glucose) into energy by moving it from the blood to the cells. When our body becomes ‘insulin resistant’, cells don’t respond normally to insulin and the level of sugar in the blood rises. In addition, the level of insulin goes up as the body produces more and more of it to try to get glucose into the cells. Too much insulin signals the ovaries to release higher-than-normal levels of androgens which then worsen PCOS symptoms.

Health risks associated with polycystic ovary syndrome

Having PCOS increases your risk of developing several health problems later in life. These include:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure and high cholesterol, which may lead to heart disease and stroke
  • Sleep apnoea
  • Depression
  • Breast and endometrial cancer

Lifestyle tips to relieve PCOS symptoms and promote weight loss

While PCOS cannot be cured, its effects can be managed with proper treatment and care. In fact, there are some lifestyle changes that can help reduce the severity of PCOS symptoms and help you lead a healthier life. Dr Rachna Singh, Consultant Obstetrics and Gynaecology, CK Birla Hospital for Women, Gurugram, suggests some lifestyle tips that can help women with PCOS lose weight and manage the condition:

Make physical exercise a part of your daily routine: Regular exercise is best known to improve insulin resistance. Even if you don’t see any change in weight or body measurement, exercise helps prevent weight gain, enabling you to stay fit and healthy. The purpose of exercise should be to build muscle and lose fat. The more muscle you have in the body, the more calories you will burn and better will be your insulin resistance. Regular physical activity will help reduce androgens, increase energy level, improve overall fitness, de-stress, improve ovulation and thus fertility.

So, build an exercise regime which you can maintain. It does not have to be strenuous. Try brisk walks, gentle weight lifting or yoga. Do it for at least half an hour for five days a week.

Eat healthy: Diet plays an important role in PCOS management. Eating healthy not only helps in weight loss and maintenance but also regulates insulin levels. There is increasing reliance on processed and industrialised foods which don’t have a proper nutritious value.

Balance your intake of protein and carbohydrates as that helps maintain insulin levels. Foods made with whole grains or sprouted grains have high protein and fibre content. Processed carbohydrates such as white flour and white rice have less nutritious value and cause insulin spikes. Have home-cooked meals, focus more on whole grains, sprouted grains, and fibre-rich foods, while avoiding or limiting the intake of processed and sugar-rich foods. Also, eat small and healthy meals throughout the day to manage cravings and hunger pangs. You should eat enough to satisfy your hunger but not be overfull. Be aware that the hormonal changes with PCOS can make you accustomed to eating more food than you need.

Three diets that may help you manage your PCOS symptoms are:
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  • A low glycemic index (GI) diet: Foods in a low GI diet include whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, starchy vegetables, and other unprocessed, low-carbohydrate foods.
  • An anti-inflammatory diet: Foods such as berries, fatty fish, leafy greens, and extra virgin olive oil.
  • The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet): These include fish, poultry, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. The diet discourages foods that are high in saturated fat and sugar.

Increase intake of water and keep yourself hydrated: It is important to keep yourself hydrated as it helps to stay fit and healthy. Stay away from aerated drinks as much as possible. Drink wisely as far as alcohol intake is concerned. Drink natural juices and not processed juice. Coconut water also helps to keep your hydrated. Ensure that you only have tea and coffee in moderate quantities. You can consider green tea instead as it’s known to positively impact the immune system.

Reduce stress and learn to relax: Stress can aggravate the symptoms of PCOS. Learn to de-stress, meditate and remain calm. PCOS is a stressor both physically and mentally, which ultimately worsens the hormonal and metabolic imbalances. Relax your mind and body as it can help in maintaining hormonal balance.

Avoid a sedentary lifestyle: A sedentary lifestyle is known to create a hormonal imbalance and build insulin resistance. Not only is that the biggest cause of PCOS, but it is also known to cause obesity, thyroid disorders, etc. Avoid sitting for hours together, be it at work, while driving or relaxing in front of the TV. Stand up and walk for every two minutes every half an hour. Use the stairs instead of the elevator, walk while talking on your mobile. These can help metabolise carbohydrates and fat.

Remember, with the right attitude along with an active lifestyle and a healthy, nutritious diet, you can lose weight, manage and control PCOS.

Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purpose only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietician before starting any fitness programme or making any changes to your diet.

ALSO WATCH | Dr. Rachna Singh, Consultant – Obstetrics & Gynaecology at the CK Birla Hospital for Women explaining more about the PCOS condition, its symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment procedure.

 
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