How to regulate weight in PCOS
PCOS or the Polycystic ovary syndrome is a hormonal disorder among women of the reproductive age and is said to affect almost 7% of adult women. It causes small cysts to develop on one or both of the ovaries, which causes them to fail to regularly release eggs. Irregular menstrual cycles, acne, excessive hair growth and obesity are some of the characteristics for PCOS. The exact cause of PCOS is not completely understood, however it is seen to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Understanding the relation between PCOS and weight gain
Women with PCOS experience excessive weight increase due to varied reasons. With PCOS, the body develops a condition called insulin resistance, which is characterized by some cells in the body failing to respond to the insulin produced by pancreas. This in turn causes the insulin and sugar to build up in the bloodstream, leading to a reduced metabolic rate and an increase in weight.
To combat this, as the body prepares higher levels of insulin to maintain normal sugar levels, there is an increase in the production of male hormones, called androgens, which results in excessive body hair growth, acne, irregular and/or prolonged periods and weight gain. As the weight increase is triggered by the male hormones, it is typically concentrated in the abdomen area.
Risks associated with weight increase in PCOS
Weight increase and insulin resistance in women with PCOS are likely to develop additional health problems such as –
Type 2 Diabetes – Insulin resistance significantly increases the risk of type 2 diabetes in women with PCOS.
High Blood Pressure – Also known as hypertension, this can be a result of obesity, which can lead to cardiovascular diseases and even a stroke.
Infertility – Obesity is known to create problems with fertility in women. PCOS women experience an imbalance of hormones that results in weight increase, thereby affecting fertility.
Sleep Apnea – A sleep disorder that causes breathing to start and stop repeatedly due to lack of oxygen during sleep. PCOS women affected by sleep apnea may experience daytime sleepiness and high blood pressure. Lack of sleep is often also associated with insulin resistance and weight gain in PCOS.
Endometrial Cancer – PCOS is known to increase the hormone estrogen in the body, due to which there could be the risk of developing endometrial cancer or cancer of the uterine lining.
High Cholesterol – This is one of the most significant causes for the development of heart disease and stroke.
Although weight loss in PCOS can be quite a task owing to hormonal imbalances and insulin resistance, even with a small weight loss, there is a significant improvement in the symptoms of PCOS – normal functions of ovaries, a normal production of hormones and a regular menstrual cycle.
Ways to regulate and treat weight increase
A combination of dietary changes, adequate exercising and lifestyle amends is required in order to help shed those extra kilos and lead a healthy life. Here are a few ways to regulate weight increase in PCOS -
To control your blood sugar levels, you can switch to eating four to six small meals throughout the day, rather than three large meals.
Regular and sufficient exercise of at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week. Weight training and cardio workout can assist in reducing insulin sensitivity in PCOS women.
A minimum of 8-9 hours of sleep is advised for a healthy life. Sleep less than 7 hours each night can create an imbalance in the hormones that control hunger, and an increase in the amount of these hormones subsequently increases appetite, which is linked to weight gain.
Managing stress to lose weight is important, as stress is known to increases the amount of the hormone cortisol, which can increase insulin resistance, thus causing weight increase.
Work with your doctor for a regular report on your cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
One of the many ways for weight loss in PCOS is by following a low glycemic index (GI) diet. High GI foods that include simple carbohydrates like sugar and white flour, cause rapid spikes and drops in levels of blood glucose, thus increasing glucose levels and storing of excess glucose as fat.
Consume a high-fiber, low-sugar diet, loaded with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It is best to avoid processed and fatty foods to keep your blood sugar levels under control.
Reducing the intake of carbohydrates is helpful as carbs are known to impact the levels of insulin in the body. Thus, keeping low carbs is recommended for a normal insulin level.
Limit the intake of salt and sugar. You do not have to consume bland food, but can enhance the taste with herbs and spices.
Increase healthy protein such as eggs, nuts and seafood, which helps keep a check on cravings by increasing the fullness and burn more calories, help keep a check on cravings.
Fermented food is good as it is high in probiotics that help in maintaining weight and metabolism.
A fibre rich diet makes you feel full, and may help women with PCOS. As fibre helps control blood sugar levels and lower the cholesterol, opt for high nutrient carbohydrates like vegetables, beans and whole grains.
Women with PCOS are known to suffer from chronic inflammation that causes obesity. Processed food and sugar contribute to increased inflammation, hence a diet of vegetables, fruits, omega-3-rich food such as fish may help reduce inflammation.
Why is it difficult to lose weight in PCOS women?
Weight increase in PCOS women is quite common and puts them at a higher risk of health risks. Although treatment options usually are triggered at reducing insulin levels, diet alterations, medication and exercise, weight loss in PCOS can get quite difficult. Insulin acts as a hormone that increases the appetite, and that explains why PCOS women go through greater hunger pangs and frantic cravings. If left untamed, these cravings could lead to a higher calorie consumption and eventually a weight increase.
Weight loss during PCOS is never an easy task, and especially maintaining it once you have shed those kilos. However, research shows that reducing weight by 5-10% can reduce insulin resistance by about 50%, restore ovulation and thereby regulate the menstrual cycle, improve fertility and reduce risk of diabetes and heart diseases.