If you’ve been recently diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), you may feel overwhelmed, confused, and upset. It’s a serious problem that impacts many people. Fortunately, you might find relief in a few simple modifications to your lifestyle.
We’ll take a look at some lifestyle changes that may help, as well as provide some background on exactly what PCOS is and how lifestyle modifications help.
What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that is commonly found with women who are in reproductive age (between 12 and 51 years old). The condition affects one in ten women, most of which discover that they have it in their 20s and 30s. Many women find that they have PCOS after reporting issues getting pregnant.
This may initially present itself as either prolonged menstrual periods, or infrequent menstrual periods; however, PCOS has also been associated with infertility issues caused by a woman’s failure to release eggs. While this doesn’t automatically mean that someone with PCOS can’t get pregnant, it may minimize the chances of getting pregnant.
The exact cause of PCOS is unknown but we do know that it is associated with a higher risk for obese women. Genetics also play a role in PCOS, causing a higher release of androgens, or male hormones. In addition, PCOS is associated with higher levels of insulin, which may contribute to insulin resistance.
Symptoms commonly start around the time of a woman’s first menstrual period. Alternatively, it can be associated with significant weight gain later in life. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent some of the long-term health complications—which include heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Some other possible complications of PCOS include miscarriages, gestational diabetes, sleep apnea, depression, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, abnormal uterine bleeding, or endometrial cancer.
How Can Lifestyle Modification Help?
As of now, there is no cure for PCOS, but a doctor can help you determine a treatment plan to properly manage the symptoms. Minimizing symptoms is important because it can help you reduce your chances of developing heart disease or diabetes.
One of the biggest risk factors of PCOS is obesity, which has also been linked with worsened complications of the disorder. That said, lifestyle changes can be adopted to help to manage the symptoms of PCOS, improve your chances for a healthy pregnancy, and minimize the risk for serious complications later in life.
Lifestyle Changes for PCOS-Sufferers
Fortunately, there are some simple lifestyle changes you can make to minimize your risk of the health complications that are normally associated with PCOS.
- Reduce sugars and carbohydrates
Insulin resistance, where someone can’t process insulin effectively, is commonly reported with people who suffer from PCOS. Insulin is the hormone that’s responsible for breaking down glucose (sugar) to turn what we eat into energy to power the body.
To help support our body and its ability to keep blood sugar at a healthy level, we can jumpstart the process by reducing the amount of sugar (carbohydrates) that we consume. While there are many healthy sources of carbohydrates, like lean meats, high fiber grains, and fruits and vegetables, it’s important that we tackle some of the unhealthy carbohydrates many of us commonly consume.
We should limit the amount of refined carbs we eat. These are commonly found in white breads, potatoes, sugar, and rice. In addition, we should avoid processed foods that are high in carbohydrates, like sugary cereals, cakes and cookies, and crackers. In addition, it’s a good idea to minimize or completely avoid drinks with a high sugar content, like soda or juice.
- Exercise regularly
Further supporting the body’s ability to properly process insulin, regular exercise can help someone build muscle mass and burn calories. In turn, this helps the body to continue processing insulin like it should.
Additionally, exercise can also help lower certain hormones that may play a role in PCOS symptoms, like testosterone.
- Manage weight
Being overweight has been associated with an increased risk for developing PCOS as well as an increased severity in some of its associated health problems. In fact, many people who suffer from PCOS are overweight, which can lead to a higher risk of infertility, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and many other health problems.
A healthy diet and regular exercise is a good way to manage your weight. In addition, talking to a dietitian can help you to create an appropriate diet for you and your needs.
Final Thoughts on Lifestyle Modifications and PCOS
Polycystic ovary syndrome affects many of us. In the US alone, there are about five million women who have PCOS, many of whom develop other long-term health complications as a result.
The silver lining is that you can take your health into your own hands by making some simple lifestyle modifications. Not only can they reduce your risk of some of the serious health conditions associated with PCOS, but they can also help you live a happier, healthier life.