Women have always been frustrated with their weight at some point in their lives. But for some women, weight gain is a side effect of a serious condition known as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). If left untreated, it can lead to an increased risk of serious health conditions. Let us have a look at what PCOS is, what are the underlying causes and symptoms for the same and how weight gain is a major health concern for women suffering with this condition.
WHAT IS PCOS
Polycystic Ovary Disease is a medical condition that occurs in women wherein it affects the hormonal levels due to a formation of small cysts in the ovaries. If left untreated it could lead to various other problems like diabetes, infertility, acne, heart disease and uterus cancer in some cases. Weight gain and difficulty with weight loss with PCOS is part and parcel of the condition.
SYMPTOMS OF PCOS
The most common symptoms of this disease are irregular periods or no menstruation at all, but if that is not evident enough, PCOS can go largely undetected.
- Irregular menses (usually delayed)
- Weight gain and difficulty in losing weight
- Acne, oily skin, dandruff
- Excessive hair growth on the face, chest, back
- Thinning of hair
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
Why does polycystic ovary syndrome cause weight gain?
PCOS makes it more difficult for the body to use the hormone insulin, which normally helps convert sugars and starches from foods into energy. This condition, called insulin resistance, can cause insulin and sugar to build up in the bloodstream.
High insulin levels increase the production of male hormones called androgens. High androgen levels lead to symptoms such as body hair growth, acne, irregular periods and weight gain. Because the weight gain is triggered by male hormones, it is typically in the abdomen. That is where men tend to carry weight. So, instead of having a pear shape, women with PCOS have more of an apple shape.
What are the risks associated with PCOS-related weight gain?
No matter what the cause, weight gain can be detrimental to your health. Women with PCOS are more likely to develop many of the problems associated with weight gain and insulin resistance, including:
- Type 2 diabetes
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
Many of these conditions can lead to heart disease. In fact, women with PCOS are four to seven times more likely to have a heart attack than women of the same age without the condition.
It is also seen that weight gain also helps trigger PCOS symptoms, such as menstrual abnormalities and acne. Losing weight not only can help reduce risks and make you look better, it can also make you feel better. With PCOS, shedding just 10% of your body weight can bring your periods back to normal. It can also help relieve some of the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome.
Weight loss will eventually improve insulin sensitivity, which in turn will reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other PCOS complications.
Dietary modifications for PCOS
Adding healthy habits into your lifestyle can help you keep your weight under control. Weight loss is best achieved through a combination of lifestyle changes – a healthy diet and physical activity.
- Eat a high-fiber, low-sugar diet. Load up on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Avoid processed and fatty foods to keep your blood sugar levels in check. Eat a diet which has Low GI foods.
- Eat four to six small meals throughout the day, rather than three large meals. This will help control your blood sugar levels.
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day.
- Eliminate smoking and liquor from the diet.
Hence, whether PCOS is a direct cause of weight gain or not, it’s clear that losing weight is helpful. It challenges the quality of life of the women who suffer from it. Yet with proper treatment, PCOS can be managed and symptoms can be relieved. In addition, early diagnosis can also help reduce the risk of long-term complications. Thus the main focus is always on weight loss, dietary modification and lifestyle changes.