In India one out of five women has Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome-PCOS. Women with PCOS have immature follicles in one or both of their ovaries. In normal women follicles mature to ovulate. Insulin and testosterone are the two hormones that play a major role in PCOS. High insulin levels in blood due to body’s insensitivity to insulin raises even testosterone levels.
Role of hormones in PCOS:
Ovaries and adrenal glands produce even male hormones along with female hormones. In healthy women, 80% of the male hormone, testosterone is unavailable for body tissues. Whereas, in women with PCOS the availability of testosterone to body tissues is high thereby causing lack of ovulation, menstrual irregularities, excessive facial and body hair, cystic acne on jaw line and thinning of hair.
Risk factors for PCOS:
- Obese women are at greater risk for PCOS. Insulin resistance is correlated to increase in abdominal fat and larger waist circumference.
- Moreover, body’s insensitivity to insulin may cause diabetes in later stages of life.
- Hypertension and high levels of bad cholesterol contributes in exacerbating the symptoms of PCOS.
Know your type of PCOS:
Knowing the type of PCOS saves you from opting the wrong treatments.
- Women with classic PCOS have irregular or no ovulation with higher testosterone levels. Obese women are most likely to have classic PCOS.
- Women with ovulatory PCOS have regular menstrual cycles. But they have higher testosterone levels and cysts in ovaries. Higher levels of testosterone in blood results in cystic acne, hair thinning and excessive facial/body hair.
Two Simple ways that help in regulating the hormones involved in PCOS:
1) Exercise induced weight loss:
- Change in lifestyle remains the first line of therapy in treating PCOS.
- Weight loss plays a major role in preventing women with classic PCOS from developing insulin resistance and abnormal lipid profile.
- A sedentary lifestyle worsens the symptoms and an active lifestyle improves them.
- Losing even few pounds of weight can bring about a greater deal of improvement in symptoms for women with ovulatory PCOS.
2) Having right amounts of omega-3 fatty acids containing foods:
- Omega fatty acids are the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA).
- Man evolved on a diet that had a ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids (ω6: ω 3) of approximately 1. But in present times the ratio has reached to 25:1 with obvious consequences of higher metabolic diseases.
- Intake of omega-3 rich foods or supplements regulates menstrual cycles, reduces the free testosterone levels thereby increasing sensitivity to insulin.
- The results of a clinical trial on PCOS patients after administering 2 capsules of omega 3 supplements for a period of 6 months reported that omega-3 fatty acids helps in reducing the interval between menstrual cycles, improves the lipid profile ( increases HDL, the good cholesterol and decreases bad cholesterol and triglycerides).
- The trials also reported that although omega-3 fatty acids did not reduce weight, there was a significant reduction in waist circumference.
- Another trial conducted on 78 overweight and obese women with PCOS reported that omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the free testosterone levels and also regulate the irregular menstrual cycles.
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids: Flaxseed oil, fish oil, chia seeds, walnuts, fish roe (eggs), fatty fish, seafood and spinach.
Walnuts among all nuts have high PUFA content that increases the protein that prevents availability of free testosterone. They also decrease LDL cholesterol thereby improving lipid profile. Best quality walnuts : Borges California Walnuts
Fitness routine with omega-3 rich diets are so-far the best and safe natural therapies for PCOS. You may include even :
Please consult your doctor before opting over the counter omega-3 supplements. It is advisable to opt foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids rather than solely depending on supplements. Regulation of PCOS is important in preventing Pre-eclampsia. To know about Preclampsia check here:
Foods to avoid: Foods rich in omega-6 fatty acids such as peanut butters, other nut butters, margarine, vegetable oils such as safflower, soya bean and corn oil.
Most importantly, if you are of reproductive age and plan on embracing motherhood sooner or later, it is prudent to start making small changes that can help you manage stress. Stress activates a whole lot of hormones in our body so read on to know:
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