Around 6-9 % of women in the reproductive age group are affected by PCOS. Unfortunately, only half a percentage of these women get their symptoms and cause identified. Some go for the treatment while some fail to do so because of various factors. In India, it’s very common and every week I personally come across eight to ten females having the condition, looking for a solution.
Yes, PCOS is indeed the leading cause of female infertility and yes, it is the number one health condition women face today, with more than 1 in 5 suffering from its symptoms. The prevalence of infertility in women with PCOS is between 70-80%. PCOS causes hormone levels to become irregular, which makes it hard for women to become pregnant. PCOS can also increase the risk of miscarriage. The name polycystic ovary syndrome describes the numerous small cysts (fluid-filled sacs) that form in the ovaries. However, some women with this disorder do not have cysts, while some women without the disorder do develop cysts.
What is PCOS ??
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition in which the ovaries produce an abnormal amount of androgens, male sex hormones that are usually present in women in small amounts. People normally believe that females don’t produce any male hormones – androgens, but that’s not true. Women do produce androgens but in small amounts. Same is true for males regarding the presence of female hormones.
In some cases, a woman doesn’t make enough of the hormones needed to ovulate. When ovulation doesn’t happen, the ovaries can develop many small cysts. These cysts make hormones called androgens. Women with PCOS often have high levels of androgens. This can cause more problems with a woman’s menstrual cycle. And it can cause many of the symptoms of PCOS.
Treatment for PCOS is often done with medication and good nutrition. This can’t cure PCOS completely if the cause is undiscoverable or complex, but it helps reduce symptoms and prevent some health problems.
What is the cause of PCOS ??
But, What exactly is the cause of this so common condition ? Is it really exact or just an assumption over observation. Well, The exact cause of PCOS is not clear. Many women with PCOS have insulin resistance. This means the body can’t use insulin well. Insulin levels build up in the body and may cause higher androgen levels. Obesity can also increase insulin levels and make PCOS symptoms worse. Usually my Clients ask me, What are the risks for PCOS? And I tell them that they may be more likely to have PCOS if their mother or sister has it. One may also be more likely to have it if you have insulin resistance or are obese. PCOS may also run in families. It’s common for sisters or a mother and daughter to have PCOS.
Research suggests that PCOS may be caused from both genetic components and environmental influence. PCOS is believed to be caused from one or more gene mutations and is hereditary. Environmental influences such as having a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption may put you at higher risk of developing PCOS.
Can Diet help in PCOS ??
If you have been diagnosed with PCOS, an improved diet can help relieve your symptoms. Coming to it’s identified definition, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, PCOS, is a condition that adversely affects a woman’s reproductive hormones. As mentioned earlier, The studies and researchers on various cases of PCOS are still in process and each case of PCOS is different; its causes are not fully understood. It is a condition that causes a hormonal imbalance in women of reproductive age. Each woman’s PCOS symptoms are unique and that is the reason why the treatment, diet, nutrition etc they should receive has to be uniquely customised to them too. Many studies have explored the link between blood sugar, insulin, and PCOS.
Now, How will you know that you have PCOS ? Obviously, through signs and the symptoms. Here they are>>
The Signs and Symptoms of PCOS –
Irregular or missed periods
Unwanted hair growth on face and body
Oily, Acne-prone skin
Changes in skin pigment
Frequent mood changes
Weight gain, specifically around the midsection ( belly)
If I share about my clients, More than 40% have their symptoms of Missed periods, irregular periods, or very light periods, have Acne or oily skin and are obese, observing a weight gain, especially around the belly (abdomen). Around 20 % have Hirsutism – excess body hair, including the chest, stomach, and back. 10 % have Ovaries that are large or have many cysts, Infertility , have Small pieces of excess skin on the neck or armpits (skin tags) and have dark or thick skin patches on the back of the neck, in the armpits, and under the breasts.
Well to control PCOS, your diet really matters, so If you are looking for the quick hacks on a PCOS diet, here are the key facts you should know.
PCOS can cause increased androgen (male hormone) production. Elevated androgen levels put women at a higher risk of heart disease, high cholesterol, and Type 2 Diabetes. Women with PCOS also may experience persistent acne.
Regulating your hormone levels is an effective way to control your symptoms and improve fertility issues related to PCOS. Control hormone levels by consuming nutritious, high fiber foods, and eliminating blood sugar issues associated with PCOS.
Modest weight loss (5-10%) through exercise and a specific PCOS diet can alleviate common PCOS symptoms.
PCOS, contrary to what it stands for, can be diagnosed without the presence of cysts on ovaries as Doctors perform a series of blood tests, ultrasounds, and a symptom analysis to diagnose PCOS. Women can be diagnosed with or without the presence of cysts on ovaries. Due to the complexity and unknown cause of PCOS, Doctors diagnose a patient if they present a combination of one or more symptoms commonly associated with the condition.
Whether Obesity is correlated with PCOS or not ?
The next most frequently asked question that my female clients ask me is – Whether Obesity is correlated with PCOS or not ?
Well to that, I say, Besides hormone imbalance, women with PCOS experience insulin insensitivity. Insulin moves sugar (glucose) from the bloodstream into cells for energy. Women with insulin insensitivity due to PCOS are not able to convert sugar to energy, resulting in higher levels of insulin in the bloodstream. Higher levels of insulin cause an increase in androgen production and an increase in appetite. These factors can be correlated but are not a cause of weight gain. However, it is very realistic to lose weight if you have PCOS. Our programs – JungleFit also have specific exercise recommendations for women who want to become more physically active.
So, if you are experiencing a combination of the above mentioned symptoms, get your tests done. If it turns out that you do have PCOS, consider working with a nutritionist for PCOS to build an eating routine that will alleviate symptoms. You can go for the NutriFit program to help you control your symptoms and get better. Whether it be for increasing your energy, losing weight, or infertility linked to PCOS, a dietitian in our NutriFit program is a valuable part of your Lifestyle care.
Improve your PCOS symptoms and take action — today! Sign up for our NutriFit program and get customised PCOS diet plan as per your signs and symptoms. You can join my Workshops on Zoom and Google meet and Learn how you can lose weight, gain energy, and improve your quality of life through dietary improvements. Small changes can make a big difference in living with PCOS.
Written by – Dt. Shalini ( Certified Nutritionist, Nutrition content strategist, Food blogger)