Weight Loss, Exercise and Diet Tips for Women with PCOS

weightloss-exercise-diet-tips-for-women-with-pcos
Source: Keto Vale
30 Jun, 2020 - By CWC Outreach

Patients with PCOS tend to gain weight and this puts them at a higher risk of its associated complications. Managing PCOS is straightforward. Elaborated upon below are some recommended remedial measures, including dietary changes and exercises that could help.

Most conversations a patient has with her doctor about Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), focus on irregular menstrual periods, missed and/or heavy periods. Apart from that, the biggest problem they face is related to weight gain.

While it is not proved that weight gain is a direct effect of PCOS, a link does exist.

PCOS is the most commonly known hormonal disorder in women and sometimes can lead to difficulty in conception. It is detected by a Pelvic Scan performed by a sonologist or a radiologist. Women who have PCOS have increased levels of male hormones and are also less sensitive to insulin, which is otherwise called as "insulin-resistance". As a result, they can be at a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, and uterine cancer.

Youtube credits : Chennai Women's Clinic & Scan Centre

Why weight loss is difficult with PCOS?

PCOS makes it more difficult for the body to use the insulin hormone, which normally helps convert sugars and starches from foods into energy. This condition is called insulin resistance. It can cause insulin and sugar glucose to build up in the bloodstream.

Research shows that the majority of women with PCOS are insulin-resistant, which can result in:

  1. High insulin levels when compared to usual baseline numbers
  2. Weight gain
  3. Various metabolic issues, including elevations in blood cholesterol and triglycerides
Symptoms-of-Insulin-Resistance
Symptoms of Insulin Resistance, Source - drewbairdfitness.com

Male hormones called androgens are produced at a higher rate due to higher insulin levels, which in turn leads to symptoms such as body hair growth, acne, irregular periods, and weight gain. The weight gain is typically in the abdominal area as male hormones trigger it.

For women with PCOS who want to conceive, achieving a healthy weight should be the first step. Both nutrition and exercise help to lower insulin levels, which has the direct effect of reducing the levels of androgens in the ovaries and the blood. Whereas high levels of androgens create a poor environment for egg development. Some women could resume their normal ovulation and improve fertility by reducing weight and insulin levels.

What are the dangers related with PCOS-related weight gain?

Women with PCOS are more likely to develop many of the problems associated with weight gain and insulin resistance, including:

  1. Type 2 diabetes: In patients with PCOS, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes is high due to insulin resistance.
  2. High cholesterol: Also known as hypercholesterolemia, could lead to the development of heart disease and stroke. It could be treated by adopting a low-fat diet, medications, and exercise.
  3. High blood pressure: High blood pressure or hypertension could be caused by overweight gain, which could, in turn, lead to cardiovascular diseases and stroke.
  4. Sleep apnea: Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes breathing to start and stop repeatedly. Risk factors include obesity and age.
  5. Infertility: Being overweight affects women’s fertility. Patients with PCOS have an imbalance of hormones in their bodies that causes them to gain weight, thereby causing infertility.
  6. Endometrial cancer: PCOS raises the risk of developing endometrial cancer or cancer of the uterine lining due to the excessive production of the hormone “estrogen” in the body.

What to do to lose weight if a patient has PCOS?

Losing weight lowers the risk of many diseases and also makes a person feel better. When a patient has PCOS, shedding just 10% of body weight can help relieve some of the symptoms of PCOS, such as bringing her periods to a normal frequency.

Weight loss can improve insulin sensitivity, as well. That may reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other PCOS complications.

Studies indicate that if a patient implements healthy habits with regard to diet and exercise, it could enhance her hormonal function and improve ovulation.

There are certain foods that help in such cases and foods which are to be avoided.

Glycemic-Index
Glycemic Index, Source - healthiack.com

Low GI foods: Glycemic Index (GI) refers to a categorization of foods based on the rate at which they cause blood glucose levels to raise. Processed and junk foods typically tend to be high-GI, while whole foods usually are viewed as being low-GI i.e. the release of glucose into the bloodstream would be slow and steady instead of a sharp spike. Consumption of High GI foods like sugar and refined flour results in high glucose levels and the storage of excess glucose as fat.

Some of the options for high-fiber foods include cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, greens, red leaf lettuce, beans, and lentils, almonds, berries, sweet potatoes, winter squash, pumpkin.

Lean protein sources like tofu, chicken, and fish do not provide fiber but are very filling and a healthy dietary option for women with PCOS.

Foods in a low GI diet also include whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, starchy vegetables, and other unprocessed, low-carbohydrate foods.

Patients who follow a low-carbohydrate or a low-GI diet could see improved insulin metabolism, lower cholesterol levels, regular periods, and overall better quality of life.

Anti-inflammatory Foods: Inflammation is caused by higher insulin levels, which contribute to weight gain. Anti-inflammatory foods include tomatoes, spinach, almonds and walnuts, olive oil, fruits such as blueberries and strawberries, and fish high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon and sardines. Patients generally lose more weight with a diet targeting mono-unsaturated fats rather than saturated fats. An example of this kind of diet is the anti-inflammatory diet, which encourages people to eat plant-based fats, such as olive and other vegetable oils.

In common,

"studies have found that losing weight helps women with PCOS restore the normal function of ovaries and the production of hormones, regardless of which specific kind of dietary pattern they follow.”

Foods that are to be avoided include refined carbohydrates such as pastries and white bread, fried foods, sugary beverages such as aerated drinks and energy drinks, processed/red meats of any kind, and solid fats, including butter, cream.

What types of exercise are usually recommended?

Exercise-and-Diet-Pcos
Exercise and Diet, Source - instafitness.in

Control of calorie intake is imperative for weight loss. Studies have shown that among people seeking to lose weight, those who are aware of how many calories they are consuming lose more weight than those who do not monitor their calorie intake.

Losing weight doesn't occur overnight. It takes control, diligence, and time. In any case, the advantages of metabolic well-being and fertility are exceptional.

Most of the signs and symptoms of PCOS could be improved with a few changes to one's lifestyle, particularly with exercise.

  1. Cardio - Good for reducing insulin resistance, boosting fertility, and stabilizing mood. Some simple activities can help with PCOS like walking, jogging, cycling, and swimming. These exercises increase the body’s insulin sensitivity, helping to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes
  2. Strength training - Good for reducing insulin resistance, increasing metabolic rate, improving body composition with more muscle and less fat tissue
  3. Bodyweight exercises - squats, push-ups, etc. improve the function of insulin in a patient’s body and boost metabolism by building more muscle mass.
  4. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) - Good for increasing cardiovascular fitness, decreasing waist circumference, and achieving a healthy BMI. High-intensity workout can help burn more calories and reduce abdominal fat more effectively.
  5. Core strength - Good for general well-being and injury prevention, preparing your body for pregnancy. A patient being above their ideal weight can cause lower back pain and bad posture, so it is better to include core training in their exercise schedule. Moreover, if a patient is planning on pregnancy, it is good to start training her pelvic floor muscles.

The most effective exercise anyone can choose is the one they can keep up in the long run. As each person has different challenges and experiences with weight control, visiting a nutritionist can help create the right strategy for an individual.

To Conclude

By making some simple dietary changes and becoming a little more physically active, it is possible for a person to reduce their symptoms of PCOS and improve their quality of life. Accomplishing and keeping up a sound weight and eating a healthy weight and eating good fat, lean proteins, and moderate amounts of low-GI carbohydrates and managing sleep schedules, exercising, managing stress can significantly help in weight loss for women with PCOS. If you have any question about PCOS, you can get the answer in top 10 FAQs for women with PCOS.

  1. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/can-polycystic-ovary-syndrome-make-gain-weight
  2. https://progyny.com/education/female-infertility/pcos-weight
  3. https://embrywomenshealth.com/hows-pcos-related-to-weight-gain
  4. https://www.webmd.com/women/polycystic-ovary-syndrome-pcos-and-weight-gain#1

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