Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is an ugly endocrine (hormonal) disorder that makes women in their reproductive years have oversized and under-working ovaries, putting their reproduction system at stake.
Often characterised by having high amounts of male hormones in female's body, this syndrome encompasses horrendous symptoms like irregular, heavy or no periods, excessive body and facial hairs (hirsutism), blistery painful acne, hair loss or feminine balding, mood swings and the most dreaded nightmare - infertility.
Prolonged diagnosis or untreated PCOS may witness the symptoms graduate to type 2 diabetes, hormone induced obesity, sleep apneas, heart problems and even worse - endometrial cancer.
Unfortunately, PCOS has no cure but empowering oneself with correct knowledge on coveted lifestyle changes and diet can make the battle much easier.
Two in every ten women in India suffer from PCOS. Needless to say, it's this whopping number, which prompted this write-up.
These five pointers might change your life and help you deal with PCOS:
1. Indulge in low GI foods to stabilise blood sugar topped with daily exercise
Women battling PCOS face fierce insulin resistance wherein their body produces the hormone but does not use it effectively. Posing a bigger challenge to carbohydrate metabolism, sufferer has high glucose build-up in the blood but a minuscule quantity is being absorbed by the cells making them lethargic, which acts as a prelude to type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes.
Tweak the food choices for carbohydrate staples to regulate sugar spike in the blood. Replace refined, high fat and sugar-laden food options with whole grains, whole legumes, low GI fruits and veggies to control blood insulin levels.
Ill-equipped on nuances of carbohydrate metabolism, women suffereing from PCOS often skip fruits fearing sugar rush which makes things all the more worse.
List out fruits low on GI and include their two units in your daily diet to fulfil your fibre, vitamin and mineral needs. Gorge on apples, pears, kiwis, plums, cherries, oranges; the choices are plenty.
Bank on cinnamon as it satiates your sweet tooth and also helps regulate insulin levels.
Lack of energy makes women give up on their exercise routines. It's important to know that undertaking light exercises regularly like walks, basic stretches, cardio, yoga, et al is a must.
Keep a check on the time while you exercise as working out for long hours leads to high cortisol (stress hormone) levels which makes the hormonal harmony go for a toss.
2. Say no to dairy and soy
Counting one's protein intake becomes a compulsion for to manage PCOS. It is advisable to include high-quality protein in the diet to reap the benefits of protein-carb synergy. This includes fighting hair loss, preventing anaemia, strengthening tissue health, teeth, bones and muscles.
But, don't opt for milk and its best-known substitute soy to satisfy any of your protein needs.
Research proves that milk or dairy products elevate the already high testosterone levels in females causing havoc in functioning of female hormones integral to reproduction.
Soy, on the other hand, delays ovulation making the menstrual cycle even more irregular.
Resort to eating nuts, whole legumes, poultry and white meats for meeting the protein requirements.
3. Include rich essential fatty acid sources in daily diet
Essential fatty acids (EFA) are not manufactured in human body so one has to procure them from daily diet. There are two forms of EFA (omega-3 and omega-6) found in the membranes of every cell in the body thus, making them vital for maintaining cell walls.
These fats create responsive and healthy cell membranes, allowing hormones to adhere to the cell more easily. Omega-3 fatty acids aid the body in keeping the cellular receptor sites (where hormones bind) repaired and in best condition. Imbalance of the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio has been found to be connected to PCOS leading to infertility.
Make sure you eat more foods with omega-3 such as hempseed, flaxseed, avocados or olive oils or supplement these wonders.
Eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and phytosterols like wheat germ and Brussels sprouts also curb hair loss, which is embarrassing for the women who suffer from PCOS.
4. Quit caffeine
Stimulants like caffeine cause the adrenal gland to overproduce hormones, consequently increasing estrogen levels that inflame the cysts.
In addition, a cup of coffee can make the body secrete excess amounts of cortisol and insulin simultaneously, causing severe hormonal imbalance. Gradually, begin by cutting down on your coffee and chocolate intake.
Say no to coffee. Choose better.
5. Magnesium-rich leafy greens are your best friends
Hardly celebrated and often forgotten micronutrient, magnesium can be your best bet for managing PCOS. Go for the green leafy vegetables which are low in calories and high in nutrient concentration per calorie.
They are also rich in iron, calcium, potassium and myriad of vitamins like B, C, E and K.
As I mentioned before, PCOS precipitates insulin resistance in sufferers, therefore magnesium thus becomes a must-have in diet being an effective insulin receptor.
The role of magnesium only begins here, it is integral in the generation of cellular energy. It promotes good sleep (combating sleep apnea) and balances hormone production (thyroid hormone, progesterone, oestrogen, testosterone et al).
Its high anti-inflammatory nature helps in healing cysts. It is also essential in vitamin D functioning, which further reduces oxidative stress and helps in the eliminating cancer causing free-radicals.
Magnesium calms the nervous system, controls cortisol levels, that is elevated in response to environmental stress or low blood glucose concentration.
Studies prove that including magnesium in daily food intake reduces occurrence of hot flashes by 50 per cent.
So now you know that insulin is not the only hormone that needs to be monitored when dealing with PCOS.
The syndrome cannot be cured but it definitely can be managed to not let encompassing symptoms ruin the quality of everyday life.
So, choose the right food, exercise and don't let stress overpower you.