Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) refers to an endocrine condition in women. Around 4 to 20% of women worldwide are affected by PCOS. As per studies, it leads to a hormonal imbalance with the excessive secretion of male sex hormones. Your diet and lifestyle play an important role in controlling or worsening PCOS. Adopting natural ways helps significantly in maintaining a healthy balance. However, it is best to consult your doctor regularly to check up on the condition.
PCOS: Causes and Symptoms
Several factors may lead to developing PCOS.
Excessive levels of Androgens (Male Hormones) in the body
The ovaries cannot release eggs (ovulation) due to high testosterone levels, resulting in irregular menstruation. An inconsistent ovulation results in the formation of tiny, fluid-filled sacs inside the ovaries. Acne and excessive hair growth are symptoms of high androgen levels in women.
Insulin regulates how your body absorbs glucose to release energy and how it is processed. Insulin resistance occurs when your cells do not properly respond to insulin, resulting in elevated blood sugar levels.
Insulin resistance signals the ovaries to produce and release male hormones due to elevated insulin levels (androgens). In consequence, increased male hormone suppresses ovulation and contributes to other related PCOS symptoms.
Low-grade inflammation is the synthesis of chemicals by white blood cells to fight infection. Women with PCOS develop low-grade inflammation, resulting in their polycystic ovaries creating androgens. Unfortunately, it can potentially lead to heart and blood artery problems as well.
There are different types of symptoms that may not be uniform for everyone.
Irregularities in the menstruation cycle. You will experience missed periods, irregular periods, or very light periods.Large Oovaries containing many cystsExcessive body hair in regions like the chest, stomach, and back (hirsutism)Weight gain, especially around the midsection (abdomen)You might experience oily skin or acneThinning hair or male-pattern baldnessInfertility is another common symptomYou may as well observe small pieces of excess skin in the armpits or on the neck. They are called skin tags.Dark or thick skin patches on the back of the neck, in the armpits, and under the breasts
PCOS: When to Consult a Doctor
After seeing specific symptoms associated with PCOS, like acne on your face, chest, and upper back, along with weight gain and irregular periods, it is best to consult a medical practitioner.
An ultrasound examines the size of the ovaries and determines whether they have cysts. The doctor can also examine the thickness of the uterine lining during the process (endometrium).
One should undergo blood tests to check androgen and other hormone levels in our bodies. It contains any excessive secretion of any hormone in the body that causes an imbalance. Additionally, the doctors may check the blood sugar level too. You should also check cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
PCOS: Health Risks
Women need to ovulate to become pregnant. Women who do not ovulate frequently do not produce enough eggs significantly reducing the chances of fertilisation. As per studies, PCOS is amongst the most common reasons for female infertility. The hormonal imbalance due to PCOS prevents the ovaries from producing and releasing eggs (ovulation). Therefore, it is essential to consult a doctor and find treatment depending on the individual PCOS condition.
PCOS also has a role to play in affecting your mood. The hormonal changes and symptoms such as undesired hair growth can negatively impact your mood. Hence, depression and anxiety are common side effects of PCOS. In addition, hormone imbalances can lead to the production of the excessive stress hormone cortisol which can cause depression.
PCOS leads to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance refers to a condition wherein the cells don’t respond to insulin released by the pancreas. Insulin is the hormone responsible for blood sugar absorption. Insulin resistance leads to the failure to utilise blood glucose to release energy and instead stores the unused sugar that accumulates as fat. As a result, it leads to a buildup of body weight and obesity.
PCOS leads to insulin resistance, wherein the cells don’t respond to insulin released by the pancreas. Insulin is the hormone responsible for blood sugar absorption. Insulin resistance leads to the failure to utilise blood glucose to release energy and blood sugar levels soar contributing to diabetes.
At night, this disorder produces periodic pauses in breathing, disrupting sleep. As per studies, it’s twice more likely to happen with women with PCOS than amongst women without PCOS. In addition, it gets aggravated by other issues like obesity and weight gain. PCOS is the primary cause of both of them.
The various symptoms of PCOS can be reduced with a nutritious diet. A healthy diet aids in the improvement of insulin sensitivity and regulation of blood glucose levels and menstrual cycles. The type of food you consume leaves a significant impact on how your body functions. PCOS requires a diet that helps mitigate the primary contributors to the problem, like insulin resistance and hormonal imbalance. Eating whole grains, fresh fruits and veggies, lean meat and seafood along with nuts and seeds all contribute to controlling PCOS symptoms.
You should avoid foods with refined flour like pasta and cupcakes. Refined flour increases the rate of insulin release adding to the symptoms of PCOS. You should also avoid fried foods with saturated and trans fats. These food items increase blood sugar levels and add to the insulin issue.
Regular physical activities are crucial to maintaining the proper functioning of our bodies. Exercises like cardio involving brisk walking, running, cycling, or swimming can mitigate PCOS symptoms. In addition, this form of exercise improves your body’s insulin sensitivity, lowering your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. PCOS symptoms like weight gain, anxiety, and irregular ovulation can be under control by exercising every day. Weight management, sadness and anxiety symptoms, and improving the frequency of menstrual cycles and ovulation can happen by exercising for 30 minutes or more every day.
Strength training is also suitable for controlling PCOS. Exercise like push-ups helps improve the metabolic system of the body. It results in active digestion of food and removal of toxins. Furthermore, it helps keep the digestive tract clean and symptoms like weight gain in control.
Medication can aid in suppressing the issues related to PCOS such as stimulating ovulation or increasing insulin sensitivity or controlling blood sugar levels. However, it is best to start medication only once diet and exercise don’t seem to have a significant effect on the body. Medication can result in ovarian hyperstimulation, which predominantly occurs with the excess production of hormones by the ovaries. It might cause bloating in the stomach and pain in the pelvis. Medication can only be taken under the guidance of a medical practitioner.
PCOS: Things to Avoid
Smoking and Drinking
When you have PCOS, you are more likely to develop severe and new diseases than your already compromised health. Smoking and drinking can raise your risk of contracting diabetes and heart disease, the risk of which is already high in PCOS patients. Therefore, you should avoid these activities.
As previously noted, one of the signs of PCOS is insulin resistance. If this problem is not addressed by nutrition, it can progress to diabetes or other significant complications. To prevent it, you should reduce your intake of refined and processed foods and instead switch to natural and whole foods.
Neglecting Depressive Symptoms
Women suffering from PCOS are more prone to anxiety and depression because of hormonal imbalance. A few of its symptoms include excessive sleeping and eating behaviours, extreme weight loss or gain, imbalance or trouble in sleeping and eating habits, and prolonged melancholy. If you observe any of these symptoms over an extended length of time, you should be concerned and contact your doctor immediately. Avoiding these symptoms and not addressing them can worsen your health.
PCOS can disrupt menstrual cycles, making it difficult to conceive. Additionally, symptoms such as hair growth on the face and body occur by increased amounts of male hormones. Doctors usually suggest lifestyle changes such as exercise and a healthy diet as the first step towards controlling PCOS. It often proves to be practical too. Weight loss helps with PCOS symptoms and increases your chances of becoming pregnant. In case of failure of these measures, medication may be prescribed.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: How do you know if you have PCOS?
A: PCOS exhibits different symptoms in different women. Some common symptoms include frequent acne, weight gain, irregular menstrual cycle, sleep disorders, excessive hair growth etc. If any of these are seen persistently, you should see your doctor.
Q: Can PCOS be cured with exercise?
A: Exercise can not cure PCOS but can mitigate the symptoms. Cardio exercises can improve insulin sensitivity. Cardio includes activities like running and cycling. Strength training exercises like planks also help with PCOS symptoms. They activate the metabolic system leading to better digestion and active insulin absorption.
Q: Does PCOS make you age faster?
A: No, PCOS only affects the proper functioning of the body and not the person’s age.
Q: Does PCOS shorten life span?
A: No, PCOS does not directly impact the life expectancy of women. However, it leads to severe health conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol and heart problems which can then adversely affect overall health.
Q: Can PCOS affect the eyes?
A: PCOS affects the eye’s physiological and anatomical alterations. Women having PCOS had more severe dry eyes and higher central corneal thickness assessments. You can link them to the amounts of testosterone and estradiol in the blood.
Q: Does PCOS start before birth?
A: PCOS is a condition that exists by birth. The symptoms come up after hitting the age of puberty. However, it’s common for women to experience the same in their 20s and 30s. PCOS is a genetic problem, so it is correct to assume that the person had PCOS from the beginning, even if the symptoms are not noticeable.
Q: Can I have PCOS and still have regular periods?
A: Yes, PCOS can coexist with regular periods since not all women experience the same symptoms. Periods can also be overly frequent, occurring multiple times per month or even for weeks sometimes. The majority of women, however, experience irregular periods.
Q: Does PCOS cause facial hair growth?
A: Hirsutism is a condition in which a woman’s facial or body hair grows excessively. You can associate PCOS with hirsutism and undesired facial hair. Also, hirsutism comes with coarse, black hair on the face, chest, belly, back, upper arms, and upper legs. Hirsutism is a sign of medical conditions linked to male sex (androgen) hormones.