General HealthPCOS/PCOD

PCOS: Impact of body weight and lifestyle changes

The prevalence of PCOS has skyrocketed over the last few years. PCOS or Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a medical condition characterized by an a hormonal imbalance in women of reproductive age. It happens when a woman’s ovaries or adrenal glands produce more male hormones than normal. This may cause cysts to grow in the ovaries.

The pathogenesis of PCOS is influenced by several factors, including genetic, environmental, and transgenerational factors. This condition causes hyperandrogenism in the ovary and adrenals by promoting a dysfunctional hypothalamus-pituitary-ovarian axis signaling.

Bodyweight and PCOS
PCOS can make the body resistant to insulin and thus increases the amount that the pancreas produces. Extra insulin encourages fat storage and increases hunger, both of which can lead to
weight gain. The elevated insulin levels increases androgen production, as a result, hirsutism, acne, irregular periods occur. Though bodyweight is also triggered by androgens (male sex hormone) it is mainly seen in the abdomen area as that is where men tend to have less weight. Thus, women suffering from PCOS will possess an apple shape rather than a pear shape.

The risk factors associated with excess body weight are

Although the majority of PCOS cases are obese/overweight, around 20-50% of women with PCOS are lean. This means that not all women suffering from PCOS are obese and is a result of a hypothalamic-pituitary defect which increases LH release. In this case, insulin plays no role. Insulin-mediated glucose disposal is reduced by 35-40% in women with PCOS compared to reproductively normal-weight women. Obesity does not cause this defect, but it substantially worsens it.

As an ill-defined complex, PCOS needs its due attention. Most PCOS women, regardless of their weight, have menstrual disturbances, infertility, hirsutism, acne, and acanthosis nigricans. Despite being similar in both groups, the degree of hirsutism is exaggerated in obese individuals. Specialists should pay special attention to patients with oligomenorrhoea (irregular menstrual flow) and accordingly diagnose and treat PCOS.  Obese PCOS patients have a higher prevalence of central obesity than their leaner counterparts.

Lifestyle changes that can help

Reduce consumption of sugar and carbohydrates: Even though the majority of PCOS patients crave sugary foods, its important to reduce the intake of such foods as they are resistant to insulin. Following a low-sugar diet could help reduced manage glucose levels.

Stress control: Increased stress increases testosterone production eventually increases insulin resistance. So managing stress will help in controlling the severity.

Exercise: Managing weight is one of the best and most effective ways to control PCOS to a limit. Regular exercise has many benefits in PCOS. Increasing muscle mass reduces insulin resistance and burns calories, which aids in combating obesity.

Diet: Foods to be added are as follows:

  • High fibre foods like Broccoli, Almond, Beans: these foods slow down digestion and reduce the effect of sugar on the blood thereby reducing insulin resistance.
  • Anti-inflammatory foods and spices, like turmeric and tomatoes- The inflammatory markers in women with PCOS will be higher when compared to those without PCOS. These foods reduce inflammation.
  • Iron supplements- These are for women who experience heavy loss of blood during their menstruation. Thus, to reduce the risk of anaemia, women are advised to include more iron in their diet.

Author: 

Navya Mariam Koshi is diligent, self-motivated Pharm D graduate using this platform to leverage her skills in this field to provide excellent and exceptional health care services to the public.

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