PCOS is a condition in which women have a hormonal imbalance that interferes with normal reproductive processes. It is a common condition seen in 12-21 % of women of reproductive age. Up to 70 % of women remain undiagnosed.
What Causes PCOS?
The cause of PCOS is not well understood but may involve a combination of genetic (it has been seen to run in families) or environmental factors (PCOS more commonly seen with a high-calorie diet, sedentary lifestyle exposure to a chemical which act as endocrine disruptors).
There is a relative increase in the male hormones androgens- the eggs in the ovaries start growing but then their growth stops and they are seen as fluid-filled sacs or cysts on ultrasound. Because there is no mature egg formation so pregnancy also doesn’t happen and the menstrual cycles are also irregular.
What are the symptoms/ features of PCOS?
- Irregular menstrual cycles or no periods at all
- Decreased frequency or complete lack of egg formation resulting in difficulty in getting pregnant
- Abnormal hair growth (Hirsutism) over the upper lip, chin, upper chest, thighs, etc.
- Oily skin/Acne
- Increased tendency to develop diabetes
There is no known prevention or cure for PCOS but by properly following the below-mentioned lifestyle modifications, you can reduce the problems associated with PCOS like weight gain, irregular periods, etc so that you are relieved of them naturally or with minimal medications. You can also avoid developing some of the complications associated with PCOS like diabetes mellitus, heart problems, etc.
- Proper diet– You should take a properly balanced diet.
- It should have more fruits and green leafy vegetables.
- Avoid Mango, Cheeku, Banana, grapes.
- You can take apple, guava, Mausami.
- Avoid starchy vegetables like potato, Arbi, shalgum
- Take sprouts, salads etc.
- Instead of plain wheat use multigrain Atta for making chapatti.
- Use brown unpolished rice instead of white rice.
- Don’t stop taking milk and milk products.
- Take low fat milk and products made from it like curd, lassi, paneer etc.
- Reduce intake of butter ghee, oil, fried foods etc.
- Think before you eat anything about the sugar content.
- Don’t add sugars/ artificial sweeteners to anything.
2. Avoid processed packaged food- Avoid taking
- Potato chips
- Cold drinks
- Packed juices
- Tinned fruits
- Packed soups
- Biscuits and namkeen
- Ice cream etc.
These contain lots of sugar, salt, oils, fat, etc. which will lead to a spike in blood sugar levels and increase in weight.
3. Reduce inflammation- PCOS is a condition in which there is inflammation. To reduce this you should take foods containing Omega 3 fatty acids like
- Fish and other seafood (especially cold-water fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines)
- Nuts and seeds (such as flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts)
- Plant oils (such as flaxseed oil, soybean oil, and canola oil)
- Fortified foods (such as certain brands of eggs, yogurt, juices, milk, soy beverages
- Omega-3 dietary supplements are also available which include fish oil, krill oil, cod liver oil, and algal oil (a vegetarian source that comes from algae).
4. Exercise: You should regularly do some exercise or physical activity which will lead to
- Weight loss
- Prevention of weight regain
- Muscle strengthening
- Increased flexibility
You can pursue any type of physical activity like jogging, walking, running, swimming, hiking etc. as long as you do it for the required time.
- For preventing weight gain you need 150 min/ week of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 min/ week of vigorous intensity including muscle strengthening activities.
- For weight reduction you need 250 min/ week of moderate intensity physical activity or 150 min/ week of vigorous intensity including muscle strengthening activities.
- Reduce screen, sedentary, sitting time.
5. Maintain proper Body weight- The body weight should be maintained in the proper range for your height which is known as BMI- Body Mass Index. To achieve weight loss, you need an energy deficit of around 30% or 500-750 Kcal/day. This should be calculated after taking into account individual energy requirements, body weight and physical activity levels.
Even thin lean women with PCOS should take care that the low levels of body fat are maintained.
6. Avoid endocrine disruptors- these are chemicals which are present in plastics, deodorants, cleaning agents, washing powders, pesticides which mimic the effect of hormones like estrogens in your body and lead to further imbalance.
7. Reduce stress- With modern life today everybody is stressed out. In addition, you are worried about your problems with PCOS like weight gain, hair growth irregular periods, and difficulty in getting pregnant. Stress leads to increased production of a hormone called cortisol which increases sugars; increases insulin resistance and worsens your hormonal condition. So it is best to see what are the factors causing you stress and try to reduce them. Also practice some sort of relaxation technique like yoga, meditation, etc to help relax you further.
So these are some of the methods which can help you in preventing and treating some of the problems associated with PCOS. If still, you need medical treatment, you can consult your doctor for the same. You can read more about that in our next blog post.