There was this girl I came across during my first consultation with her and she was so stressed and frustrated that she stop eating food because she was gaining weight.
She didn’t understand that her hormonal imbalance can put her at higher health risk beyond the weight gain, if not controlled.
Did you feel this, too?
The solution for her came from my pcod friendly diet and lifestyle changes.
Here is how it worked for her…
What is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) / polycystic ovarian disease (PCOD)?
Polycystic ovarian syndrome or disease (PCOS/PCOD) is a hormonal imbalance and metabolism problem that affect women in their overall health and appearance.
Women with PCOS produce higher-than-normal amounts of male hormones.
The hormonal imbalance creates problems in the ovaries. The ovaries make the egg that is released each month as part of a healthy menstrual cycle. With PCOS, the egg may not develop as it should or it may not be released during ovulation as it should be.
This hormone imbalance causes them to skip or irregular menstrual periods that can lead to:
•Infertility (inability to get pregnant). In fact, PCOS is one of the most common causes of infertility in women.
• Development of cysts (small fluid-filled sacs) in the ovaries
Symptoms of PCOS include
•Irregular menstrual cycle: Women with PCOS may miss periods or have fewer periods (fewer than eight in a year). Or, their periods may come every 21 days or more often. Some women with PCOS stop having menstrual periods.
•Heavy bleeding: The uterine lining builds up for a longer period of time, so the periods you do get can be heavier than normal.
•Hair growth: Too much hair on the face, chin, or parts of the body where men usually have hair. This is called “hirsutism.”
•Acne: Male hormones can make the skin oilier than usual and cause breakouts on areas like the face, chest, and upper back.
•Male-pattern baldness: Thinning hair or hair loss on the scalp and fall out
•Weight gain or difficulty losing weight: Up to 80 per cent of women with PCOS are overweight or obese
•Darkening of skin: Dark patches of skin particularly along neck creases, in the groin, and underneath breasts
•Skin tags, which are small excess flaps of skin in the armpits or neck area
•Headaches: Hormone changes can trigger a headache in some women.
How PCOS affects your body
Some of the possible complications of PCOS are:
•Diabetes: More than half of women with PCOS will have diabetes or prediabetes (glucose intolerance) before the age of 40. Learn more about diabetes.
•Psychological disorders: Both hormonal changes and symptoms like unwanted hair growth can negatively affect your emotions. Many with PCOS end up experiencing depression, eating disorder and anxiety.
•Endometrial cancer: During ovulation, the uterine lining sheds. If you don’t ovulate every month, the lining can build up. A thickened uterine lining can increase your risk for endometrial cancer.
•Pregnancy-induced or Gestational diabetes: Women with PCOS are twice as likely as women without the condition to deliver their baby prematurely. They’re also at greater risk for miscarriage or premature birth and gestational diabetes.
•Hypertension: Women with PCOS are at greater risk of having high blood pressure compared with women of the same age without PCOS. High blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke.
•Infertility: Women who don’t ovulate regularly don’t release as many eggs to be fertilized. PCOS is one of the leading causes of infertility in women.
•Metabolic syndrome: Both obesity and PCOS increase your risk for high blood sugar, high blood pressure, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Together, these factors are called metabolic syndrome and they increase the risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
•Sleep apnea: This condition causes repeated pauses in breathing during the night, which interrupt sleep. The risk for sleep apnea is 5 to 10 times higher in obese women with PCOS than in those without PCOS.
•Unhealthy cholesterol: Women with PCOS often have higher levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. High cholesterol raises your risk of heart disease and stroke.
What causes PCOS /PCOD
There are no certain causes of PCOS, however, the contributing factors include:
•Excess androgen: Overproduction of androgen called “male hormones,” by ovaries causes may lead to hirsutism and acne. Higher than normal androgen levels in women can prevent the ovaries from releasing an egg (ovulation) during each menstrual cycle, two signs of PCOS.
•Excess production of insulin: Insulin hormone controls the blood sugar levels in the human body. When human cells become resistant to the action of insulin, the blood sugar level increases. As a result, your insulin blood levels become higher than normal. Excessive insulin production, in turn, increases the production of androgens.
•Heredity: Certain genetic correlation may exist with PCOS in women. Studies show that PCOS runs in families. It’s likely that many genes — not just one — contribute to the condition.
•Presence of low-grade inflammation: Women with PCOS often have increased levels of inflammation in their body. Being overweight can also contribute to inflammation, that may stimulate polycystic ovaries to produce androgens.
Diet and lifestyle tips to treat PCOS
Treatment for PCOS usually starts with lifestyle changes like weight loss, diet, and exercise. Knowing the right types of foods to eat as well as the kinds of food to limit can improve the way you feel and may help you lose weight.
Eating well, staying active, and maintaining a healthy weight (or losing even a small amount of weight if you’re overweight) can improve PCOS symptoms.
FOODS YOU SHOULD EAT
In order to produce productive insulin levels, it is important to load up on fibrous foods. High fibre foods help combat insulin resistance by slowing down digestion and reducing the impact of sugar on the blood. Great options for high-fibre foods include:
• Seeds (chia, flax, sunflower seeds)
• Legumes (black beans, lentils, chickpeas)
• Berries (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries)
• Whole Grains (bulgur, quinoa, brown rice, whole oats)
Eat more lean protein as they are more likely to keep you fuller for longer and prevent you from reaching for unhealthy snacks. This way, you won’t be adding up to calories and not gain weight. When it comes to protein sources, I recommend include:
• Fish (salmon, shrimp, tuna, cod)
• Lean poultry (skinless chicken and turkey)
• Plant protein sources (beans, peas, tofu, tempeh)
Since women with PCOS have been shown to have low-grade inflammation, elevated inflammatory signals can raise insulin & creating an imbalance in the hormones contributing to worsening of PCOS symptoms. Eating antioxidant-rich foods that help reduce inflammation can minimize PCOS symptoms. Load up on:
• Fruits (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries )
• Vegetables (spinach, artichokes, kale, tomatoes)
• Whole Grains (whole oats, whole wheat, quinoa, brown rice)
• Unsaturated fats (nuts like pecans, nut butter, olive oil, avocado, almonds)
FOODS YOU SHOULD AVOID OR LIMIT
Women with PCOS do not typically process carbohydrates correctly (because of their high levels of insulin. Refined carbohydrates cause inflammation, exacerbate insulin resistance, and should be avoided or limited significantly. These include highly-processed foods, such as:
• white bread, regular pasta, pizza dough or anything made with white flour
• muffins, breakfast pastries, sweetened cereals
• White rice
Sugar is a simple carbohydrate and should be avoided wherever possible. Sugar will spike your blood sugar, a problem if you have high insulin levels, to begin with. It’s best to choose natural sugars like fruits. These are higher quality carbohydrates, and therefore are higher in fibre. Examples of sugary beverages include:
• Packed Fruit juice, cold-pressed juices
• Bottled smoothies
SUGARY, PROCESSED FOODS
Along with sugary beverages, sugary foods are not much better for the PCOS diet. All processed foods contain harmful chemicals, which not only are poor for weight loss but can also destroy the gut microbiome. Instead of packaged foods, choose whole foods. Examples of processed foods to limit on a PCOS diet include:
• Cakes, candy, cookies, and other sweets
• Yoghurts with added sugar
• Ice cream with excess added sugar or sugar substitutes
SATURATED AND TRANS FATS
Saturated fats, found in foods like overly processed meats, aren’t beneficial for weight loss or a healthy balanced diet. Additionally, these high-fat foods can also be problematic for PCOS patients. It’s much better to focus on healthy fats. Examples of fats to avoid include:
• Saturated fats (red and processed meats like fast food hamburgers)
• Trans fats (Artificial or heavily processed cheeses)
PCOS can be a stressful condition or you may feel frustrated at times.
However, taking proactive steps regarding your health can improve your mood as well as reduce your symptoms and ensure a healthy and balanced life. If your symptoms persist, make sure you consult a Nutritionist before switching to any diet plan. They can work with you to identify the cause and recommend next steps.
By Priyanshi Bhatnagar