Managing PCOS – Change in Lifestyle

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Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a complex endocrine, reproductive and metabolic disorder. It is a common health condition that affects women in their reproductive years. One of the leading causes of infertility in India, PCOS is experienced by 1 in every 10 Indian women. Across the world, PCOS affects around 27% of women, of which 80% are obese and 20% have a lean frame. It is characterised by the formation of cysts on one or both ovaries, overproduction of androgens like testosterone and hormonal imbalance.

Common symptoms include irregular periods, increased hair growth on the face and body, acne and weight gain. Women with PCOS find it extremely challenging to maintain a healthy weight due to which they experience a higher risk of fatty liver, diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. And while PCOS cannot be cured, dietary and lifestyle changes along with medical treatment can play a crucial role in hormonal balance and weight management. Only 10% decrease in weight can help in ovulation and conception.

How to Manage PCOS

Choose a Nutritious Diet

A diet rich in fibre, proteins and healthy fats can be a key factor in maintaining a healthy weight. Including foods such as fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and dairy products in the diet can reduce cravings, insulin levels, male hormone levels, cholesterol and excess fat in the body. Additionally, women suffering from PCOS should stay away from processed and junk food. A balanced diet can improve their metabolism and activate a healthy weight loss process.

Also, Read: PCOS and Exercise

Limit Salt & Added Sugars

Added sugars and salt in processed food and refined carbs can raise blood sugar and pressure and increase insulin resistance in the body, leading to weight gain. Since added sugar and salts have no nutritional value, they end up aggravating problems like obesity, water retention, high blood pressure and diabetes. By taming that sweet tooth and cutting down on sodium, women can manage PCOS symptoms and maintain a healthy weight. Women trying to manage their weight should avoid candies, cookies, cakes, dark chocolate and processed food.

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Include Physical Activity in Routine

While dietary changes can help weight management, daily exercise and physical activity can enhance insulin sensitivity which lowers the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Women with PCOS can start with 10 minutes of daily exercise and build it up from there as the body adjusts. 30 to 45 minutes of moderate exercise each day can help reduce testosterone, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, thereby promoting weight management, hormone regulation and better sleep. A regular exercise regimen enhances not only the physical health but also emotional and mental health.

Also, Read: PCOS and Pregnancy

Regulate High-Stress Levels

High-stress levels can cause weight fluctuations and insulin resistance in the body. This is because stress increases the production of a hormone called cortisol in the body that is linked to belly fat, inflammation and insulin resistance. To manage their weight, women should try to lower their stress which will, in turn, lower their cortisol levels. Stress management exercises include yoga, meditation, mindfulness and outdoor activities. Relieving stress through these techniques will reduce cortisol levels and excess fat and improve quality of life.

Try to Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Often an ignored aspect of our lives, sleep is claimed to be central to our health. Women with PCOS may experience sleep disturbances such as excessive drowsiness during the day, insomnia and sleep apnoea. Poor sleep can increase hormonal activity, drive hunger and stress and lead to weight gain and obesity. Women suffering from PCOS should try to get 6 to 8 hours of sleep every night as it can reduce body fat, promote weight loss and control PCOS symptoms.

Bottom Line

Managing a healthy and stable weight can be a constant struggle for women with PCOS. But a balanced diet along with daily physical exercise, stress management and proper sleep can aid weight loss and regulate hormones in the body. Even a minor weight loss of 5-10% can improve insulin resistance, regulate the menstrual cycle, increase fertility, manage hormonal levels and enhance the overall quality of life in women suffering from PCOS.

Also, Read: What is the Difference Between PCOD vs PCOS

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