Polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS is a hormonal condition that affects almost a quarter of women during their reproductive years. Although the syndrome is common, many women don’t even know they have it. PCOS causes disruptions to the menstrual cycle, changes to skin and hair and also causes cysts to develop on the ovaries. PCOS is a leading cause of infertility in women.
The symptoms of PCOS are caused by high levels of male hormones being produced. More specifically, women with PCOS may have:
- anxiety and/or depression
- fertility issues
- excess hair on the body
- thinning hair on the head
- weight gain
- irregular or infrequent periods
- sleep problems
- pain (headaches and/or pelvic pain)
- fatigue and low energy
- higher than normal insulin levels
While there is no cure (yet!) for PCOS, there are many things you can do to lessen or eliminate your symptoms. Your medical professional may prescribe medication to treat some of your symptoms, and there are lifestyle tweaks you can make to help.
Diet and exercise
Research done in Australia has shown that losing as little as 5% of your body weight can dramatically improve regular ovulation for women with PCOS. Aside from this, a healthy weight will also help your body to produce the proper amounts of insulin, helping you to keep a balanced blood sugar level.
The best way to begin losing weight is to make some changes to your nutrition and exercise plan. An active lifestyle will also assist in keeping your blood sugar levels stable.
An excellent place to start is with how much food you put on your plate. Even if you’re making healthy choices with what is going on your plate, most of us are guilty of portioning out way too much.
Another common practice is eating in front of the TV or with your phone in your hand. When we’re distracted like this, we can miss the signals sent from belly to brain telling us we’re full.
Getting enough sleep and stressing less
Those pesky stress hormones are as blameworthy as the extra male hormones women with PCOS have when it comes to weight gain. Make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep and also de-stressing (meditation and yoga help!) to keep them in check.
Choosing complex carbs
Processed simple carbs spike your blood sugar and can lead to weight gain so look out for low GI options likes oats, whole grains, legumes, quinoa and, of course, fresh fruits and veggies.
The right fats
Omega 3 fatty acids, found in oily fish, chia and flax seeds, are essential for so many reasons including heart health. Some research, with positive results, has also been done on the effects of omega 3s on women with PCOS.
Reducing the junk
This is a bit of a no-brainer, but less highly processed junk food is only going to mean good things for your health, including a lessening of PCOS symptoms.