PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) develops due to irregular and imbalanced hormones in the female body. Women with PCOS produce more androgen (the male hormone) than women without the condition. Along with this, there are a few other causes too which leads to PCOS. However, having PCOS comes with a lot of problems. One of them is weight gain. It results in insulin resistance, ultimately leading to the body storing glucose as fat and gaining weight.
As per studies, around 40 to 80% of women diagnosed with PCOS gain significant body weight. As a result, it further increases the risk of type 2 diabetes. Therefore, working on the extra added weight due to PCOS is essential. However, you can successfully control your weight during PCOS with small lifestyle changes and dietary habits.
PCOS and Weight Gain
The hormone insulin is responsible for absorbing glucose from the bloodstream and taking it to cells for releasing energy in the body. The pancreas secretes this hormone. Women suffering from PCOS develop insulin resistance, which leads to the failure of cells to respond to the hormone insulin actively. It results in the body stimulating the pancreas to produce even more insulin to maintain normal blood sugar levels. Excessive insulin production and accumulation in the cells signal the body to produce male hormone androgen, which causes symptoms like body hair, weight gain and acne.
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Insulin resistance also hampers the body’s response to glucose absorption. As a result, the body starts absorbing too much glucose as fat, causing weight gain. Insulin also stimulates the hormones responsible for our appetite. As per studies, PCOS causes the secretion of appetite-regulating hormones such as ghrelin, cholecystokinin, and leptin becomes irregular and unbalanced. Therefore, it results in severe food cravings, making you want to eat more than required. Thus, the calorie intake increases, and it causes weight gain.
6 Easy to Follow Tips for Weight Loss with PCOS
As mentioned above, you can cut down on excess weight gain and prevent it by following some dietary habits and incorporating some lifestyle changes. Below are the tips to lose weight if you’re suffering from PCOS.
1. Reduction in Carb Intake
As per research, around 70% of women with PCOS experience insulin resistance. It leads to the failure of cells acknowledging signals of the hormone insulin in the body. As a result, it increases the body weight due to increased fat levels in the body. Insulin is required to regulate blood sugar and the storing energy in the body. However, as per studies, high levels of insulin in the body causes the body to gain weight. Since carbs affect its levels, limiting your daily consumption can help you lose weight.
Women with PCOS should consume a low to moderate glycemic diet. The Glycemic Index (GI) is a metric for how rapidly food elevates blood sugar levels rapidly. Choosing low glycemic foods may help to improve blood sugar regulation and help in weight loss due to their fibre, and other macronutrients content in them. Therefore, unlike high GI food, they do not instantly spike the amount of insulin in the body. These foods include whole grains, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and other unprocessed, low-carbohydrate foods.
2. Increase Fibre Intake
Increasing your fibre intake can make you feel full for a long time while consuming fewer calories. Additionally, high fibre food does not boost blood sugar. Increased blood sugar is one of the leading factors of weight gain in PCOS. It also increases food cravings. Therefore, adding fibre rich foods to your diet can be especially useful if you have PCOS. Studies show a relationship between a high-fibre diet and lower body fat and insulin resistance in women with PCOS.
According to research, it is advised for women with PCOS to consume at least 21 to 25 grams of fibre every day. The best fibre rich foods include whole grains, green vegetables, legumes, and sweet potatoes.
3. Regulate Your Caffeine Intake
You should regulate your coffee consumption during PCOS because coffee contains a high amount of caffeine. Caffeine can result in an imbalance of hormone levels in your body. It is common to feel active and energetic after consuming caffeine as it is a natural stimulant and increases brain activity. It also boosts the adrenal functions of the body.
Consumption of coffee has shown a significant rise in estrogen hormone levels during the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle. PCOS itself leads to hormonal imbalance, so the consumption of coffee increases the risk of hormonal imbalance in patients with PCOS. Therefore, it is essential to consume caffeine in a minimal amount or completely skip it in severe cases.
4. Avoid Excessive Sugar Intake
It is vital to stay away from a high-sugar diet with PCOS. Consuming low sugar naturally leads to a reduced blood sugar level too. Due to low blood sugar levels, even insulin secretion is limited. Excessive levels also trigger the production of male hormones responsible for the symptoms of PCOS. Therefore, low insulin presence also keeps the male hormones of the body in check.
Additionally, sugar can exacerbate or contribute to PCOS via inflammation. Sugar consumption can trigger an inflammatory response in the body, and inflammation can stimulate the ovaries to produce androgens. So limiting or avoiding sugar intake helps in PCOS and weight management.
5. Eat More Fermented Foods
Those with PCOS have less healthy bacteria present in their system than women who don’t have PCOS. It is one of the reasons why they have trouble losing weight. So increasing the number of healthy bacteria in your system can be helpful.
As per studies, adding probiotics to the daily diet can significantly help these issues. Probiotics supply the gut with good bacteria that fight harmful pathogens and maintain a healthy gut microbiome. Fermented food contains good bacteria. Including one fermented food and a probiotic in your daily diet can be helpful to mitigate the symptoms of PCOS, including weight gain.
6. Regular Exercise
Insulin resistance is more common among women with PCOS than those without it. Insulin resistance refers to the condition that impairs your body’s capacity to absorb blood sugar for releasing energy.
As per studies, the absence of an active lifestyle, including physical activities, is one factor for insulin resistance. It causes excessive insulin production and irregular weight gain. The problem of weight gain is not common to every PCOS patient. Even if you have not gained weight due to PCOS, exercise can still help you improve your condition.
As per studies, any exercise can help the body to stay fit. There are no fixed criteria for any particular exercises. However, you should undertake regular physical activity under an expert’s guidance. Regular exercise will make the body use up the stored blood glucose and release energy, reducing excess body fat.
Weight Loss in PCOS: What to Avoid?
Limiting dairy and gluten from one’s diet can help with PCOS. However, it would help if you do this in a balanced way. Completely excluding daily and gluten products are also not advisable as it might cause nutritional imbalance. A PCOS diet includes consuming whole, unprocessed healthful foods. It is crucial to avoid processed sugars, white flour, and excess sugary beverages to improve vitamin absorption, nutrient consumption, and weight loss. You should avoid foods with a lot of sugar like soft drinks, syrups, sweets, candy, and fast food.
Excessive fat intake can lead to weight gain, adding to PCOS symptoms. In addition, it can raise your chances of developing heart disease too. You should avoid saturated fats like those found in processed meats, pastry, chocolate, cake, biscuits, and full-fat dairy base bakery items. These products raise blood insulin levels, which leads to increased androgen production, exacerbating PCOS symptoms like weight gain.
Health Risks of Excess Weight Gain in PCOS
1. Sleep Apnea
As per studies, weight gain due to PCOS links to increased instances of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea refers to a breathing disorder wherein a person stops breathing periodically during the night. Pauses might last anywhere between a few seconds and a minute. This can happen several times during the night.
Sleep apnea symptoms include snoring, interrupted gaps in breathing followed by a gasp for air, and irregular, disturbed sleep. Snoring itself isn’t dangerous, but snoring combined with sleep apnea can lead to significant issues. It can also give rise to other related PCOS symptoms like fatigue, unhealthy weight loss and insulin resistance.
2. Increased Cholesterol Levels
Weight gain due to PCOS may raise your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. In the case of the patient being obese and having PCOS, the amount of lipids is even higher. Few hormone levels, such as androgens like testosterone, are also elevated. The cholesterol requirement is for producing various sex hormones in your system. Therefore, increased levels worsen the hormonal imbalance of the body.
Insulin resistance is another factor for increased cholesterol levels. It refers to a condition in which your cells fail to respond to insulin as quickly as they should. As a result, it leads to increased synthesis and reduced absorption, resulting in high cholesterol levels in the body.
3. Impact on Fertility
Obesity and excess body weight have an impact on a woman’s fertility. In addition, women with PCOS have irregular and unbalanced hormone production, leading to significant weight gain. As a result, it adversely affects your fertility.
Obese women may experience irregular menstrual periods and ovulation due to their increased BMI. The ovaries and the fat cells produce the female sex hormone estrogen. Abnormal weight gain can make these fat cells grow and expand in size. As a result, they secrete more oestrogen. Excessive release of oestrogen gives the body the impression of consuming hormone-based birth control. It results in stopped ovulation and menstruation.
Unfortunately, you cannot permanently get rid of PCOS. However, some changes in your lifestyle can significantly mitigate symptoms like weight gain, weight loss, acne, stress. You can achieve this by following a proper diet and performing physical activities. In addition, these changes can help ease the difficulties faced daily by women suffering from PCOS. You could also seek advice from a dietician who has worked with patients who have PCOS. An expert’s advice always helps.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: How much weight can I lose with PCOS?
A: If you have PCOS, losing 10-15% of your weight can normalise your menstruation cycles again. It is also helpful in removing the symptoms. In addition, weight loss can enhance insulin sensitivity and avoid diabetes and heart disease complications. But one can always aim to lose excess body fats for overall health and fitness.
Q: What should be avoided in PCOS?
A: The symptoms of PCOS become worse by excessive insulin production. You should avoid food leading to an increase in insulin release such as high and refined carbs like fried food, bread, refined flour products, etc. You should also avoid processed meat like hot dogs as they contain saturated fat and nitrate, causing inflammation. It adversely affects the PCOS condition.
Q: Is coffee OK for PCOS?
A: Since coffee contains caffeine, you should consume coffee in a moderate and limited amount. Excess caffeine intake leads to hormonal irregularity and imbalance, a leading cause of PCOS. It later affects the menstruation cycle; hence it is essential to drink coffee occasionally.
Q: How do you know if you have PCOS?
A: PCOS is a health condition wherein the secretion of male sex hormones increases in women’s bodies. Symptoms include increased hair growth, hair loss, weight loss, anxiety, and sleeping disorders. However, these are just a few signs and might not necessarily result from PCOS. It is therefore essential to get examined by a medical professional.
Q: Can someone with PCOS get pregnant?
A: PCOS does not rule out the possibility of becoming pregnant. While it is one of the leading reasons for infertility among women, it is treatable to the extent that it does not affect the ability to conceive. The hormonal imbalance caused by PCOS prevents the ovaries from ovulating, leading to problems with pregnancy. However, doctors can suggest measures to increase your chances of becoming pregnant.
Q: What happens if PCOS is not treated?
A: PCOS that isn’t well-managed can negatively influence both short- and long-term health. Chronic illness developing untreated PCOS includes type 2 diabetes, infertility, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression. Early detection and treatment can lessen these risks.
Q: What happens when a PCOS cyst bursts?
A: Ovarian cysts that burst and produce pain are generally not a matter of concern. However, keep an eye out for sudden, severe abdominal discomfort, which can come with fever and nausea. Cysts that burst and are causing severe bleeding or infection may need immediate surgery.