PCOS – Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a condition that affects a woman’s hormonal balance and results in irregular periods. It is a common condition and is observed in 70% of women of reproductive age. It causes the ovaries to become bulky and enlarged due to the cysts. PCOS is a condition with unknown cause and no cure. It is something that a woman has to live with and can only be managed.
What happens in your body when you have PCOS?
Before we go to PCOS, let us understand how the menstrual cycle works. It is a widely known fact that the female reproductive system produces two main hormones – estrogen and progesterone, also known as the female sex hormones. A lesser-known fact is, the ovaries also produce male sex hormones in small amounts.
Every month, the ovaries release an egg, this process is called ovulation. When not fertilized, the egg passes through the uterus, which causes bleeding, which is what we call a period.
In PCOS, cysts are formed inside the ovaries which disturb the ovulation process. This in turn affects the hormonal balance and the production of male sex hormones increases more than the need. This throws your periods off track and the symptoms start showing up.
Symptoms of PCOS
The symptoms of PCOS are the front face of what goes on inside the body. They appear as the result of hormonal imbalance.
●Irregular period– This is the most common symptom. Disrupted ovulation leads to irregular periods or even amenorrhea.
●Insulin resistance– insulin is secreted but it fails to regulate the blood sugars and therefore might lead to diabetes if not managed in time.
●Hairfall and unwanted hair growth– Insulin resistance gives rise to hyperinsulinemia leading to hyperandrogenism. Meaning, excess secretion of male sex hormones. This causes male pattern baldness and hirsutism.
●Acne– Hyperandrogenism leads to increased production of sebum in the skin and scalp. This causes acne and hair thinning.
●Weight gain– Although PCOS has no known causes, most women having PCOS gain weight and find it difficult to reduce it. There is unexplained weight gain in many cases.
Since there is no cure for PCOS, managing it is crucial. There are various risks such as infertility and diabetes, but that is only if it is not taken care of. You have to live with this condition, so there are some lifestyle changes that one needs to adopt. These lifestyle changes are what PCOS management is all about.
When you say PCOS management, you want to focus on the symptoms and take efforts in order to reduce them. Insulin resistance, acne, hair fall due to PCOS, and weight gain in PCOS, all can be reduced or in some cases reversed by adopting certain lifestyle changes. Here is what you need to do
●Diet– Diet is a major part of PCOS management. Your diet affects your hormonal level. Make sure you follow these things in your diet
1.Low glycemic index foods– Insulin resistance is one of the problems that accompany PCOS. The insulin that is secreted, does not work as efficiently and results in blood sugar spikes. These blood sugar spikes can further lead to diabetes. Therefore, focus on low glycemic foods such as whole grains, whole fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, nuts and seeds, eggs, and lean meat.
2.High fiber foods– Fiber is a crucial part of your diet. Bloating is a common gastric issue that most women with PCOS face. Fiber helps resolve that and also helps to regulate blood sugar levels. It helps with the digestion of the carbohydrates thereby releasing the sugar at a slow pace in the blood preventing blood sugar spikes. It also aids in weight loss for overweight individuals. A habit of eating a salad in every meal goes a long way. Whole fruits are also sources of fiber.
3.Good fats– Omega 3 fatty acids are essential fats. They are not produced by the body so they have to be obtained externally. These fats are useful in regulating factors such as insulin sensitivity, lipid profile, hyperinsulinemia, and inflammation. These essential fats are also necessary for weight management. You can incorporate nuts and seeds, fatty fish, and eggs into your diet to meet your requirements of them. In case of deficiency, you may also start with a supplement.
4.Vitamin C– Citric acid plays an important role in improving skin texture and getting rid of blemishes and acne. Vitamin C or citric acid is also the main ingredient of many cosmetics or skincare products. It boosts collagen which is crucial for healthy skin. Include rich sources of vitamin C such as amla, lemon, oranges, sweet lime, broccoli, and capsicum in your diet.
●Lifestyle– Lifestyle is the way you choose to live every day. Your habits, your activities, all come under lifestyle management. While you are adopting a healthy lifestyle, make sure you follow the following
1.Get good sleep– Sleep is associated with hormonal imbalance. Inadequate sleep can be a reason for your hormones going haywire. A good night’s sleep is crucial and cannot be compensated with an afternoon nap. Make sure you get a good undisturbed sleep for 7-8 hours at night.
2.Physical activity– Physical activity is a must irrespective of whether an individual is overweight or underweight. The reason being, it does not just help with weight, it also helps in regulating hormonal balance and also in improving skin texture by getting rid of the toxins. It also secretes endorphins – the happy hormones and uplifts your mood.
3.Skincare and hair care routine– PCOS acne and PCOS hair fall are major issues that accompany PCOS. These are also responsible for depression or anxiety as they affect an individual’s look and thus their self-confidence. It is good to have a skin and hair care routine, using products or natural resources such as yogurt, aloe vera, etc. is up to the individual.
4.Yoga and meditation– PCOS not only affects physical health but it also takes a toll on mental health. Depression, anxiety, and mood swings are frequent visitors. Yoga helps alleviate the state of mind and certain poses also stimulate the reproductive system. This can help in better functioning over a period of time. Meditation helps in calming your mind, it channels your thoughts and brings in positivity.
These changes are beneficial for all, but when it comes to health, one size does not fit all. The approach for PCOS management changes from woman to woman. So it is best advised to consult a gynecologist and a health expert to go about it.
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