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Health tips for women living with PCOS

By Apollo 24/7, Published on - 15 February 2021

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In 1721, an Italian scientist, Vallisneri examined the ovaries of an infertile woman and found that her ovaries looked white, shiny and the size of a pigeon's egg. However, the actual discovery of polycystic ovaries was done by Irving Freiler Stein and Michael Leventhal in their report Amenorrhea associated with polycystic ovaries, in the year 1935. Polycystic ovary syndrome, commonly known as PCOS, is a condition where the ovaries (that produce eggs) start releasing an excessive amount of androgens (male sex hormones).

Normally these androgens are presents in small quantities in the female body but when it increases, the affected woman experiences sudden growth of unwanted hair on the face and body, excessive weight gain and irregular periods. A woman with PCOS may start showing these symptoms soon after their first menstrual period, i.e., at the age of 11 or 12 years. Even after years of research, no cure has been developed for PCOS but it can be managed by making certain lifestyle changes.

1. Rule out the aggravating factors

There are certain things that can aggravate the symptoms of PCOS in a lot of women.

  • Studies have shown that refined carbohydrates can increase inflammation, exacerbate insulin resistance and increase the release of estrogen in the body. These can worsen the symptoms of PCOS, and hence it is best to limit or avoid such foods.
  • Highly processed foods such as bread (white), pastries, sugary desserts, sodas and processed meats should be avoided completely as they can add on extra kilos to the weight, thus increasing insulin resistance in the body.
  • A woman with PCOS must quit smoking as it can increase their risk of developing metabolic syndrome later in life.
  • Consumption of salt must be reduced as excess salt can increase water retention in the body, resulting in bloating.

2. Change your diet

Small modifications in dietary patterns can bring a lot of difference in the overall health of a woman with PCOS.

  • A woman diagnosed with PCOS must consume high-fibre foods as they can help in reducing insulin resistance in the body by slowing down metabolism. Fibrous foods include cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower), bell peppers, beans, lentils, sweet potatoes and almonds.
  • Certain foods such as tomatoes, spinach, kale, fatty fish (salmon), almonds and walnuts, help in reducing inflammation from the body and should be incorporated into the diet.
  • Instead of having 3 large meals in a day, break it down to 5 smaller meals as it would allow your body to use up the blood glucose effectively.

3. Exercise is the key

Women suffering from PCOS must take up some form of exercise to keep their body active and to aid the weight loss process. Research reveals by losing 5% to 10% of weight, the body can stop making excess insulin and androgen. Exercise also helps in regulating the menstrual cycle of the PCOS affected women. To reap the benefits of exercises, affected women must take up some moderate-intensity exercises such as brisk walking, cycling or swimming for at least 30 minutes every day.

4. Don't go overboard

Women diagnosed with PCOS must be kind to themselves and must not put too many restrictions as everything must be done in moderation. While a lot of emphasis is laid on losing weight, women must not starve themselves to do it as in the absence of food the body might go into sugar crash (hypoglycemia), which is more dangerous than diabetes. Similarly, exercises must also be done in moderation without exhausting the body.

5. Practice mindfulness meditation

Women with PCOS are prone to get depressed and anxious due to a sudden increase in weight, unwanted hair growth and the fear of infertility. To maintain a positive outlook, women must get out of their house every day for a brisk walk or just sit in a park enjoying nature. In order to improve overall health and wellness, women must practice mindfulness meditation, which aims at clearing off negative thoughts from their mind. Studies have shown that mindfulness meditation helps in reducing anxiety while increasing mental clarity, resilience and calmness.

6. Visit your doctor routinely

Women with PCOS must get their blood sugar, cholesterol, triglyceride level and blood pressure checked periodically. One must not ignore the signs of anxiety or depression and must seek medical help if needed. Those suffering from sleeping issues must get screened for obstructive sleep apnea, where the doctor examines if there is any obstruction in the breathing passage. Medications prescribed by the doctors must be taken without fail as skipping the doses may not provide desired results. 

Conclusion

By following a proper diet, exercising regularly and getting screened routinely, PCOS can be managed. While paying attention to the physical aspect of PCOS, women must also make sure that their mental health is equally sound. Women must reach out to mental health experts in times of need as PCOS can be a challenging condition and having reliable support is crucial.

Consult a gynaecologist for any questions related to women’s health, including PCOS.

 

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