As often pointed out by experts, life can suddenly throw shocks and surprises. That is why some of us swiftly get affected by diseases like the bolts from the blues. Among the diseases, there are a few obvious ones, and there are a few others that may not be very much visible. Some of these so-called “invisible” diseases can be known only by observing their symptoms. One such disease is PCOS. Let us find out the symptoms, the causes of this disease, the details of the PCOS diet, and the lifestyle women, who have been affected by PCOS, should follow.
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What is PCOS?
PCOS or Polycystic ovarian syndrome is an endocrine system disorder that affects a woman’s hormone level. This means women with PCOS produce more-than-normal levels of male hormones, which causes a hormonal imbalance that leads to several health issues. Firstly, PCOS causes skips in menstrual periods. Secondly, it may negatively impact the process of getting pregnant. In fact, PCOS affects women more particularly during their child-bearing age. The findings of the study reveal that 70 percent of women who have this problem are not aware that they have been affected by it.
What are the symptoms that show that a woman has been affected by PCOS?
There are a few symptoms that indicate that a woman has been affected by PCOS. Let us look at a few of them.
1. Irregular periods
Women affected by PCOS confess that they get fewer periods than normal women. Usually, women get 11 to 12 menstrual cycles a year, however, women affected by PCOS get it between the range of 8 or even less. Some women even experience heavier or lighter bleeding during their cycles, which is because of the lack of ovulation that prevent shedding by their uterine lining.
2. Hair growth
Over 70% of women who have been affected by PCOS have continuous growth of hair on their body and their face. In fact, growth of hair may be on their backs, bellies, and chests as well.
Due to the predominance of male hormones, those who have been affected by PCOS have oilier skin than that of normal women. This oily skin can then lead to breakouts in their chest, face, and the upper back.
4. Weight gain
Nearly 80 per cent of the women who have been affected by PCOS are either obese or overweight. This is because women with PCOS do not produce normal insulin levels. Instead, their bodies over-produce insulin in an attempt to maintain a normal blood sugar level, and this frequently leads to more androgen (male harmones) production and weight gain.
5. Baldness is similar to that of males
Some of the women affected by PCOS lose hair due to the high levels of androgen (male hormones). In fact, their baldness will be similar to that of males such as receding frontal hairline or thinning of the scalp.
6. Darkness of the skin
Women with PCOS have higher levels of the hormone, insulin, in their blood. These high levels of insulin can sometimes cause patches of darkened skin on the back of the neck, under the arms, and in the groin region.
Are these symptoms conclusive evidence to prove that a woman has been affected by PCOS?
People cannot come to a straightforward conclusion that women with the above symptoms have been affected by PCOS. But even if the doctors have confirmed PCOS, women need not give up hope because there are very good treatments for the problem. Of course, affected women should make some changes in their lifestyle and follow the PCOS diet plan. If they consistently follow the PCOS diet and exercise meticulously, they can overcome the issue and lead a healthy life.
Factors that cause PCOS in women
Doctors are in a quandary while trying to clearly say which factor has caused PCOS problem in a woman. In fact, even experts in the medical field are not able to pinpoint the real factor that causes this problem. But they are certain that the presence of predominant levels of male hormones in women obstructs the production of female hormones by their ovaries. Therefore, their body does not make eggs as the ovaries of normal women do. In general, the factors that cause PCOS in women are insulin resistance, inflammation, and of course, genes. These factors lead to excessive production of androgen or male hormones in their body. Let us delve deeper into these factors.
Several studies have been conducted to prove that the problem of PCOS has a genetic cause. The findings of these studies reveal that if grandparents or parents have this problem, the granddaughters are also likely to be affected by it. But it is not just a single gene that may cause PCOS. A number of genes work together for causing this condition.
2. Insulin resistance
Studies conducted on a number of women who have been affected by PCOS have shown concurrent problem of insulin resistance. Conversely put, chances of those with the problem of insulin resistance getting affected by PCOS are high. The reason is that the body cells of women affected by PCOS do not use insulin properly. If insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas, does not help the body use the sugar in the foods they consume, their body will always be in need of insulin. Therefore, the pancreas will over-work and secrete more amount of insulin. Due to this extra insulin, ovaries are seen to produce more amounts of male hormones that dominates the body, thereby causing severe symptoms and finally resulting in PCOS. Obesity or overweight is yet another factor that may cause insulin resistance.
Inflammation in women has strong links with higher levels of androgen or male hormones. To put it differently, higher levels of male hormones will cause inflammation, and hence, women with PCOS are likely to suffer from inflammation as well. Obesity and excess body weight can cause inflammation also.
What foods must women with PCOS add to their diet?
Women affected by PCOS should add liberal amounts of high-fibre foods in their diet. Especially, vegetables like broccoli and foods such as fish and those that contain lean proteins will bestow immense benefits. These high-fiber foods will help in overcoming the problem of insulin resistance also by retarding the digestion process and reducing the negative effects of sugar on their system.
Some of the high-fiber foods they can eat in abundant quantities are cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, greens that include spinach, lettuce, green and red peppers; beans, and lentils, berries, squash, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins. Lean protein items such as chicken, tofu, and fish may not provide affected women with good amounts of fibre, but women who eat these items can feel “full.” Hence, these foods can be great dietary options for women affected by PCOS.
They should also opt for anti-inflammatory spices and foods such as tomatoes, turmeric, etc. A few other foods that can reduce inflammation in them and that can benefit them are kale, almonds, walnuts, olive oil, and fruits. Especially, fruits like strawberries and blueberries can be beneficial and can reduce inflammation. Food items that can supply a good amount of omega-3 fatty acids can also be beneficial for affected woman. Some examples of such foods are fish like sardines, salmon and mackerel.
Foods to avoid
Women affected with PCOS should avoid eating food items and spices that cause inflammation such as red meat, fried foods, processed foods, carbonated drinks, and sodas. They should also refrain from eating foods that contain large amounts of refined carbohydrates such as ice creams, cakes, pastries, white potatoes, sugary desserts and drinks, sugary snacks, muffins, white bread, and all items that are made of white flour. These foods will increase insulin resistance leading to problems mentioned above. Therefore, affected women should try to avoid or restrict eating these items to a considerable extent.
Diet plan for women affected by PCOS
Women affected by PCOS should make sure to follow a diet that is not only nutritious but also fibrous. Given below are a few tips that women affected by PCOS can follow.
- Women affected by PCOS should make sure to eat good nutritious breakfast and the foods chosen, should not contain bad carbohydrates or inflammation-causing ingredients. Skipping breakfast should never be an option for affected women as it would induce them to over-eat during their mid-day meal and hence cause them to become obese or over-weight.
- Secondly, drinking water about 30 minutes before meals can help control over-eating and help one feel full.
- Women affected should also make sure to eat slowly and chew their food as many times as possible as this would aid in improved digestion and will reduce the chances of insulin resistance. Hence, avoiding weight gain.
- Women affected with PCOS should make sure to finish their dinner 2 hours before they retire for bed. Delayed dinners will lead to indigestion and cause disturbed sleep. This may bring down the ability for the body to repair itself.
- Since women with PCOS should keep a check on their weight, they should make sure to follow a set diet plan. Large meals have to be split into smaller portions and one has to make sure to eat every two hours. This is a proven method that can help in maintaining their weight. Given below is a diet plan that women affected with PCOS can follow:
|7:00 am||1 tsp Methi seed powder + water|
|8:00 am||2 small vegetable dosa/cheela and green chutney |
Vegetable Omelette and 2 whole-grain toast
|11:00 am||Fruit salad (1 katori)|
|1:00 – 2:00 pm||Mixed vegetable salad (1 katori), 1 multigrain/whole wheat/millet roti + ½ katori brown rice, and mixed vegetable sabzi |
Vegetable Millet Pulao and cucumber raita
|4:30 pm||Puffed Rice + Roasted Chana – 1 Katori and tea/coffee with less sugar/without sugar|
|7:30 pm||1 Chapathi/millet roti and methi dal (1 katori) |
Vegetable masala oats (1 katori)
A few other changes women with PCOS should make in their lifestyle
1. Women with PCOS should always give importance to physical activities. Experts suggest that these women should do at least 150 minutes of exercises or work-outs every week.
2. PCOS weight loss diet should not contain unhealthy foods including junk foods, fried items, and foods that contain bad fats and bad carbohydrates.
3. They should ensure to have sufficient sleep. It has been proven that those who are sleep-deprived will have a tendency to overeat the following day. This will make them obese or overweight. Ultimately, these women may be affected by PCOS.
4. Women affected by PCOS should learn to manage their stress levels. Stress is another factor that may increase insulin resistance and cause type 2 diabetes. Experts suggest yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises for managing stress levels.
5. Most importantly, these women should never lose their self-confidence. The medical world has been coming out with several mind-blowing innovations and hence, they can get good treatment for their PCOS problem. These treatments will get them excellent results if they have confidence or faith in themselves and stick to PCOS treatment diet as advised by their doctors.
To summarize, women who have been affected by PCOS can combat this issue and lead a healthy and normal life by following the right diet plan meticulously and by making a few changes to their lifestyle. In short, their life should be a package of all good things.