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Dealing with PCOS: 8 tips on how to fight the battle with PCOS (and win!)

- 8 min read
written by Shield Connect

PCOS, a term you hear a lot but know very little about. PCOS is so common and it is estimated that in India, one in five women of the childbearing age suffer from PCOS. Yet, there are so many doubts, fears and myths about PCOS which makes it even more difficult to deal with.

Dealing with PCOS: 9 tips on how to fight the battle with PCOS (and win!)

Is PCOS just about irregular or missing periods?

Does suffering from full-blown acne point towards the direction of you battling with PCOS?

Is PCOS to be blamed for the trouble you are facing to manage your weight?

For any battle to be fought and won we need to have a strong army, to do the same for our battle with PCOS let’s gather our own soldiers of strength, knowledge and resources and start marching in the right direction.

WHAT IS PCOS?

Polycystic Ovary/Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a common health problem caused by an imbalance in the reproductive hormones. This imbalance in the hormones can disrupt the normal process of an egg being released (ovulation) every month which is a part of a healthy menstrual cycle. Reproductive hormonal imbalance that occurs in PCOS and women fail to regularly release eggs

Now to make it more clear let’s break down the term Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome,

Polycystic– Polycystic means many cysts, or numerous small collections of fluid (follicles) and fail to regularly release eggs

Ovarian– These fluid-filled follicles (cysts) grow in the Ovary/Ovaries

Syndrome– A syndrome is a group of symptoms which occur consistently together. PCOS women will have multiple symptoms due to:

  1. Irregular or missed periods
  2. High levels of male hormones (androgens)
  3. Polycystic ovaries

Having understood about PCOS let’s gear up to fight the battle with PCOS and also aim to win with these 8 Tips!  

TIP 1: KNOW THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF PCOS

PCOS has a multitude of ways of presenting itself and it can differ from person to person. Yet, an awareness of these signs and symptoms of PCOS is necessary, to understand that you need to visit your gynaecologist.

PCOS symptoms:

  • Irregular, heavy or no periods
  • Menstrual cycle longer than around 35 days (gap between the two periods >35 days)
  • Infertility (problem in conceiving) or frequent miscarriages
  • Oily skin and acne
  • Hair loss from your scalp
  • Hair growing in unexpected places like face, stomach, back, chest, fingers and/or toes
  • Gaining extra weight around the waistline
  • Headaches
  • Darkening of skin or skin tags found in armpits, neck, breasts or groin area.

TIP 2: DIAGNOSIS OF PCOS

As soon as you notice any of the above signs and symptoms of PCOS you should consider visiting your doctor. Only the doctor can help you diagnose or confirm PCOS based on tests and scans.

The following tests are performed to confirm the diagnosis of PCOS:

  • History: The doctor begins by taking a detailed history of your menstrual cycle, infertility (problem in conceiving), miscarriages etc.
  • Physical Examination: Apart from measuring your blood pressure, BMI (Body Mass Index) and waist size the doctor shall check for unusual hair growth/loss, acne, oily skin, darkening of skin and/or skin tags.
  • Pelvic Examination: A doctor can perform this step to check for any unusual enlargements or swellings in and around the vagina, uterus (womb) and ovaries.
  • Pelvic Ultrasound: This is performed to check the ovaries for the presence of any cysts, increase in the size of ovaries (due to the presence of multiple cysts) and to check the lining of the uterus.
  • Blood Tests: The blood tests help to check for the levels of male hormones (androgens) and to check a few other hormones like Thyroid hormone, Prolactin, blood sugar levels to rule out other common health problems that can be mistaken for PCOS.

A timely diagnosis of PCOS is remarkably important. Following the diagnosis of PCOS, you and your doctor work as a team to be able to treat the symptoms of PCOS. As PCOS is a syndrome it cannot be cured but the symptoms can be managed.

TIP 3: CHANGING YOUR LIFESTYLE TO TREAT PCOS

The first step is to change the lifestyle that focuses on weight loss with PCOS. Losing even 5-10% weight helps you cope with the symptoms of PCOS better hence they are considered to play a key role in the treatment of PCOS. Losing weight makes your menstrual cycle more regular, helps medication work better, improves your chances of getting pregnant, reduces your cholesterol levels, lowers insulin and further reduces the risk of heart diseases and diabetes.

Weight loss can be brought about with regular exercise, being physically active and a change in diet plan.

Exercise: 150 minutes of exercise per week is considered to be ideal. It is recommended that per day 20 minutes of exercise helps. Depending on your comfort level you can choose the intensity of your workout but moderate-intensity workouts are recommended.

Exercises that are included under moderate-intensity workout are:

  • Walking briskly
  • Bicycling (12-15 km per hour)
  • Dancing
  • Easy jogging
  • Gardening and some household work like vacuuming

Diet for PCOS: Though any diet you choose might help you lose your weight, there are a few diets which are known to be beneficial for PCOS. These include:

  • Low GI (glycemic index) diet: This diet not only helps in weight loss but also helps lower the blood glucose levels, helping with the insulin resistance that might have been caused due to PCOS. Here’s the list based on the GI:
    Low GI foods: Fruits, green vegetables, carrots, kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils
  • Low Carb (carbohydrate) diet: A low carb diet restricts the carbohydrates. In this diet focus is on eating proteins, healthful fats and vegetables.

Low carb diet: chicken breast, fish, eggs, leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds, fruits like apples and berries

The diet for PCOS is of inordinate importance as a part of lifestyle change.

TIP 4: FOODS TO ADD

The knowledge of the food that you must add to your diet apart from the lifestyle changes is crucial. These include the ones that are high in fiber and help reduce blood glucose levels

Here’s the list of foods to be added to your diet:

  • Vegetables like carrots, beans and cauliflower
  • Leafy vegetables like spinach and cabbage
  • Lentils
  • Almonds
  • Omega-3 fatty rich foods like walnuts, eggs
  • Fruits like berries

TIP 5: FOODS TO AVOID

All foods refined and processed are a big no-no. This food either become a hurdle in weight loss, make insulin resistance worse or causes inflammation.

Here’s the list of foods to be avoided:

  • White bread
  • Fried food, namkeen
  • Instant noodles and chips
  • Sweet juices and aerated beverages
  • Processed meat
  • Refined flour
  • Sweets (mithai) and cakes
  • Oily food

TIP 6: NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS FOR PCOS

1) Inositol: This supplement tops the list of best supplements for PCOS. People with PCOS tend to develop insulin resistance, which means that the cells in the body don’t respond well to insulin hence leading to higher blood glucose levels. Inositol improves menstrual cycle, egg quality, insulin levels and cholesterol levels.

2) Vitamin D: is also another best supplement for PCOS. It helps in menstrual regularity and ovulation. It reduces androgen (male hormone) levels but also helps in egg maturation and development.

3) Fish oil: The best way to get omega-3 as a supplement is fish oil. It is known to lower cholesterol & insulin levels, lower inflammation and blood pressure as well as improve your mood, hair & skin quality.

4) N-acetyl cysteine: This supplement helps in improving fertility and many metabolic aspects of PCOS like fatty liver, high cholesterol and insulin resistance.

5) Green tea: Yes, your very own herbal tea has been known to do wonders for PCOS. A study published in 2017 demonstrated that the consumption of 500 mg of green tea extract taken twice daily for 12 weeks not only led to weight loss but also decreased fasting insulin levels and even lowered the levels of free testosterone (androgen) levels. There’s a great variety to choose from like spearmint tea, clove tea, ginger tea, green tea etc.

TIP 7: PCOS AND PREGNANCY (From conception to delivery)

Trying to conceive or to get pregnant when diagnosed with PCOS can be a little difficult but lifestyle changes and fertility medicines are known to help a lot of women with PCOS. Though a few women might need high-tech fertility treatments like IVF (in-vitro fertilisation). You should consult your doctor at the earliest if you are planning to get pregnant.

Pregnancy with PCOS also comes with its own set of risks and complications which can be taken care of with proper healthy diet, weight control, exercise, medications and close monitoring by the doctor.

The risks for moms-to-be with PCOS:

  • Miscarriages
  • Gestational diabetes (increased chances of developing diabetes during pregnancy)
  • High blood pressure during pregnancy (preeclampsia)
  • Birth by Caesarean section (C-section)

TIP 8: STAY INFORMED AND STAY POSITIVE

Though kept in the end, this tip is of utmost importance. PCOS is a lifelong disease. People suffering from PCOS have increased chances of developing diabetes, heart diseases and other metabolic diseases. Adapting to lifestyle changes and having a healthy mind go a long way.

Like everything else in life becomes better with a slice of positivity, the same goes for PCOS. You have to maintain your calm and keep your spirits high. It can be difficult dealing with PCOS and the baggage it comes with but there’s a large population of women in the same boat as you. Not that it makes PCOS easier to deal with but it somewhere gives you some moral support saying “You’re not alone.”

With so many things being discussed about PCOS and with the things you are already going through-stress, anxiety and depression have huge scope to creep into your life. Apart from this, the mood swings that accompany hormonal imbalance can make things worse.

To deal with all this you ought to:

  • Meditate
  • Exercise (in whatever form you like)
  • Talk to your friends & family to discuss how you’re feeling
  • Consult your doctor

Stay strong, stay positive.

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