Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal condition that disrupts ovulation and the menstrual cycle. It’s the most common female hormonal condition, affecting one in every seven Indian women. In PCOS, ovaries that contain small fluid-filled follicle often get enlarged or form multiple cysts. Hence, it is called Polycystic (many cysts). Even if cysts are detected in ultrasound, not all women develop hormonal issues or any physical symptoms. Dietician and Nutritionist Dr Swati Bathwal, Physioactive India, talked to Her Zindagi and shared her expert insights on the right management tactics to deal with PCOS to live a better life.
PCOS And Hormonal Issues
For women with PCOS, hormonal imbalances cause a number of symptoms such as irregular or absent periods, weight gain, acne, excessive body hair, mood changes, dark patches of skin and thinning head hair. Because women with PCOS may not ovulate regularly or may not ovulate at all, some women may have difficulties getting pregnant.
Lifestyle Changes For PCOS
Eating an unhealthy diet, not exercising and gaining weight will increase the risk of developing PCOS. Eating the right foods can help to improve PCOS. Even losing relatively small amounts of weight (around 5-10% of body weight) has been shown to reduce insulin levels, improve menstrual function, reduce testosterone (male hormone) levels, improve symptoms of excess hair and acne, restore ovulation and increase fertility. And most of us know that we just feel better when we are eating well. So if you have PCOS there are many good reasons to focus on improving your eating habits! The management of PCOS usually requires lifestyle changes including following a healthy eating plan and increasing physical activity, which help with weight loss and improving insulin sensitivity.
‘Dieting’ Is Not The Answer
- Diets may help you lose ‘weight’ (on the scales), but they don’t necessarily help you lose body fat.
- When you go on a strict diet that starves the body of carbohydrates, the carbohydrates stored in your muscles (glycogen) are used up. As every gram of glycogen is stored along with 3 grams of water, the initial fast drop in the weight you see on the scales is mostly water.
- Once the muscles’ glycogen stores are used up, the body breaks down some of its own muscle tissue for energy, which is exactly what you don’t want. Lean muscle tissue, unlike fat, is active – it uses up energy even when you are not active. Losing muscle tissue reduces your metabolism, meaning your body needs less energy to do the same work it used to.
- If you go off the strict diet it adds the weight you have lost back on, plus a bit extra, because your body needs less energy to survive than it used to. If you go on and off diets, your body ends up with less and less muscle and more and more fat.
- Many strict diets are nutritionally unbalanced and may not provide all the essential nutrients you need for good health – this is particularly important if you are trying to conceive. And you should never follow a strict weight loss diet when pregnant.
- You want to lose body fat rather than weight, so go by how your clothes fit or use a tape measure instead. If your body is fit and toned, who cares what it weighs.
- The only way to lose weight permanently is to change your eating habits and include some regular physical activity.
- Recognise and reward your achievements. And feel good about yourself now.
- Learn to enjoy healthy food. Think about food as fuel for your body – if you want your body to perform at its best you need to provide it with quality fuel.
Exercise And PCOS
- Exercise is important for everyone but is particularly important if you have PCOS. Exercising regularly also lifts your mood, reduces anxiety and depression, increases strength and flexibility, improves fitness and gives you more energy to get through the day. Plenty of good reasons to get started!
- Try to fit in some activity on most days. Research shows that 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise can help improve your health. 30 minutes can even be broken down into 2 sessions of 15 minutes or 3 sessions of 10 minutes and you will still see benefits.
- While aerobic exercise is generally thought of as the most effective for ‘fat-burning’, combining aerobic exercise with resistance training will give you good results.
- Including high-intensity intervals in your exercise program by adding short bursts of high-intensity exercise throughout your workout.
- Resistance training or weight training helps to build muscle and increases your metabolism, assisting with weight loss.
- A balanced exercise plan will include aerobic, resistance and flexibility/stretching exercises and is likely to get you the best results.
Dietician Swati Bathwal can be reached on social media at:
Linkedin: Swati Bathwal