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Manage Your PCOS With These Lifestyle Tips

- 9 min read
written by Shield Connect

Health is wealth is an old adage, however how to maintain health has a new outlook. If you stay healthy you can avoid many medical conditions that occur only because of living an unhealthy lifestyle. In polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) an unhealthy lifestyle may worsen the symptoms, may complicate it and the treatment may not … Continue reading “Manage Your PCOS With These Lifestyle Tips”

Health is wealth is an old adage, however how to maintain health has a new outlook.

If you stay healthy you can avoid many medical conditions that occur only because of living an unhealthy lifestyle. In polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) an unhealthy lifestyle may worsen the symptoms, may complicate it and the treatment may not give desirable results.

Read on to understand the importance of healthy lifestyle and how to achieve the same, as it is very important to lose weight if you have PCOS.

Why lifestyle management is important in PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition in women of reproductive age. It can, however, cause some serious health consequences, including conceiving problems in women who are looking to start their family. If the women get pregnant, it is often associated with complications, such as diabetes and hypertension issues during pregnancy.1

Polycystic ovary syndrome is commonly associated with excess weight gain, which, in turn, worsens the health burden of PCOS. Having a healthy lifestyle has been the most effective approach in PCOS and reducing the severity of its symptoms and complications. A modest weight loss, maintenance of weight loss and prevention of weight gain, are the first-line treatment for women with PCOS.1 Even a 5% loss of body weight will reduce insulin resistance and hormonal imbalance, which in turn would improve spontaneous ovulation and improvement of other symptoms.2

How your diet affects PCOS?
Women with PCOS are frequently found to have higher than normal insulin levels. Insulin is a hormone that’s produced in your pancreas. It helps the cells in your body turn sugar (glucose) into energy. If you don’t produce enough insulin, your blood sugar levels can rise. Your blood sugar levels also rise if you’re insulin resistant, meaning your body is not using the insulin produced by your pancreas effectively.3

If you’re insulin resistant, your body may try to pump out high levels of insulin in an effort to keep your blood sugar levels normal. Too-high levels of insulin can cause your ovaries to produce more androgens, such as testosterone. By having a body mass index above the normal range may also cause insulin resistance. Insulin resistance can make it harder to lose weight, which is why women with PCOS often struggle with weight loss.3

A high intake of carbohydrates, such as starchy and sugary foods, can increase the risk of insulin resistance, and therefore weight loss more difficult. Apart from your diet, PCOS also responds positively to proactive lifestyle choices. This includes exercise and daily physical movement. Both can help to reduce insulin resistance, especially when coupled with a healthy choice of food.3

Foods to eat
It is recommended to have 5-6 small meals daily at every 2-3 hour time gap in the day. It is also recommended to have low calorie meal especially in the evening.2 The following three types of diet may help women with PCOS manage their symptoms 4:

    • A low glycemic index (GI) diet: The body digests such foods more slowly, thus leading to the insulin levels to rise slowly. Foods in a low GI diet include whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, and avoid processed, oily foods.
    • An anti-inflammatory diet: Anti-inflammatory foods, such as berries, fatty fish, leafy greens, and extra virgin olive oil, are important in reducing symptoms, such as, fatigue.
    • The DASH diet: The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet potentially reduces the risk or impact of heart disease and may also help manage PCOS symptoms. A DASH diet is rich in fish, poultry, fruits, vegetables, whole grain, and low-fat dairy produce. The diet discourages foods that are high in saturated fat and sugar.

Healthful PCOS diets can include4:

    • Natural, unprocessed foods
    • High-fiber foods such as whole-grain and oats
    • Fatty fish, including salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel
    • Spinach, and other dark, leafy greens
    • Dark red fruits, such as red grapes, blueberries, blackberries, and cherries
    • Broccoli and cauliflower
    • Dried beans, lentils, and other legumes
    • Healthful fats, such as olive oil, as well as coconuts
    • Nuts, including pine nuts, walnuts, almonds, and pistachios
    • Dark chocolate in moderation
    • Spices, such as turmeric and cinnamon

There are slight differences found in the range of healthful diet plans. For example 4:

    • Diet emphasizing low cholesterol food items helps individuals to lose more weight. An example of this kind of diet, which encourages people to eat plant-based fats, such as olive and other vegetable oils.
    • People who follow a low-carbohydrate or a low-GI diet see improved insulin metabolism and lower cholesterol levels. People with PCOS who followed a low-GI diet also reported a better quality of life and more regular periods.

In general, losing weight helps women with PCOS, regardless of which specific kind of diet they follow. It is basically important to rigorously follow the diet that your doctor advises.4

Foods to avoid
Women, who are on diet to fight PCOS, should avoid foods already widely seen as unhealthful. These include food items with high cholesterol content such as 4:

    • Mass-produced breads, cakes and pastries.
    • Fried foods, such as fast foods, especially those that are deep-fried or refried in same oil.
    • Sugary beverages, such as sodas and energy drinks.
    • Processed meats, such as precut meats, hot dogs, sausages, and luncheon meats.
    • Solid fats, including margarine, shortening, and lard.
    • Excess red meat, such as steaks, hamburgers, and pork.

Other lifestyle changes to consider
Exercise regularly
One of the well-known strategies to improve weight loss is exercising regularly. Both cardio and weight-training exercises may help women with PCOS decrease their body fat and improve insulin sensitivity.5 Many experts agree that at least 150 minutes per week of exercise or only 20-25 minutes of daily exercise is ideal. 3, 6 Women who are obese or overweight and want to get pregnant must seek for physician-approved exercises. 3

Get enough sleep
Sleep is a very important factor for maintaining good health. Lack of sleep increase the activity of hormones that drive hunger, which may cause you to eat more throughout the day. In fact, insufficient sleep is associated with a higher risk of being overweight or obese. Thus it is important to get sleep of 7-8 hours a day. 5

Manage stress
Stress or depression may cause you to overeat, skip your exercise or physical activity and make you lose your motivation. It will increase your risk of developing belly fat and further worsen the symptoms of PCOS. Therefore it is very important to manage your stress, anxiety and depression in PCOS. It can help you to manage you weight as well. Meditation, yoga, and spending time in nature can calm the mind and let you connect with your body and help lower stress. It is also necessary to take professional help from doctors and psychological counseling. 5, 7

If you’re coping with PCOS or any of its symptoms, you may feel frustrated at times. Taking proactive steps regarding your health can improve your mood as well as reduce your symptoms. If your symptoms persist, speak with your doctor. They can work with you to identify the cause and recommend next steps.

1. Brennan L, Teede H, Skouteris H, Linardon J, Hill B, Moran L. Lifestyle and behavioral management of polycystic ovary syndrome. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2017 Aug;26(8):836-48.
2. Dennett CC, Simon J. The role of polycystic ovary syndrome in reproductive and metabolic health: overview and approaches for treatment. Diabetes Spectr. 2015;28(2):116-120.
3. Can My Diet Relieve Symptoms of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)? [Internet]. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/pcos-diet. Accessed on Sep 13, 2020.
4. What to eat if you have PCOS [Internet]. Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323002. Accessed on Sep 13, 2020.
5. How to Lose Weight With PCOS: 13 Helpful Tips [Internet]. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-lose-weight-with-pcos. Accessed on Sep 13, 2020.
6. Physical activity guidelines 2008: How much exercise do you need? [Internet]. Available at: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2013/11/20/physical-activity-guidelines-how-much-exercise-do-you-need/. Accessed on Sep 18, 2020.
7. Emotional health [Internet]. Available at: https://www.jeanhailes.org.au/health-a-z/pcos/emotions#. Accessed on Sep 18, 2020.

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