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What is PCOS?

Updated: Jan 25, 2021


PCOS (polycystic ovary snydrome) is a hormonal disorder commonly among women of reproductive age.

Women with PCOS may have infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods and excess male hormone (androgen) levels.

The ovaries may develop numerous collections of follicles that are unable to mature and are actually not cycstes at all.


SYMPTOMS

These vary and can change throughout a womans life but can include


Irregular periods- Infrequent, irregular or prolonged menstrual cycles are common signs of PCOS but may not be the only cause.


Excess Androgen- Elevated levels of male hormones may result in physical signs such as excess facial and body hair , severe acne and male pattern baldness.


Polycystic ovaries- The ovaries may contain many follicles (visible on ultrasound) that are unable to mature because of testosterone so eostrogen won't be produced to a certain level, luteinizing hormone won't surge and ovulation won't occur. Although not every case has this issue.


*Please note a diagnosis of PCOS cannot be made on ultrasound alone*


This list isn't exhaustive and there are many other symptoms to consider including infertility, weight gain, mood disorders, insuline resistence...


It's pretty clear that medical assistance is needed but what can you do in regards to lifestyle changes to help improve symptoms, your overall health and well being?


Hormonal issues can make weight loss more challenging but not impossible and it's shown that even a decrease in weight of 5-10% can improve fertility, ovulation and menstrual health.


Although more studies need to be made these are the recommendations to date:-

A diet lower in carbohydrates and higher in fats has shown to be beneficial with attention to a suitable calorie deficit.

Macro recommendations are 30% fat (10% from saturated fat), 20% Protein and 50% Carbs -It's important to take note of your carbohydrate tolerance here and a slightly lower carb precentage may be preferable for the individual.


Practical applications- There is no quick fix and consistency is key.


Carbohydrates- Moderate amount and low in GI

Experiment with your carb tolerance


Reduce trans fat and refined sugars

Eat leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, pulses and low GI fruit with plenty of fibre in your diet.

Fats and proteins- Enrich in mono-unsaturated fats like nuts, avocad, olive oil etc .. and good quality proteins.


Fat loss can only occur with a calorie deficit but eating a wholefood diet should also be an important consideration.


There is a suggested link between low grade inflammation and PCOS so think about adding anti-inflammatory foods and cut out or greatly reduce processed foods.

Moderate alcohol consumption.


Dairy- This may contribute to inflammation and elevate insulin.


With all that said this approach needs to be sustainable as a prime consideration.

It's also important to have sleep strategies in place as with any healthy lifestyle.


EXERCISE- Is is the most effective way to improve insulin sensitivity, improve muscle mass and glucose tolerance.

It is a key predictor of long term weight management.

Elevated androgen levels (testosterone) lend to increased muscle mass, strength and power and the individual amy find they progress well in this.

Use HIIT (high intensity interval training) mindfully. Exercise is a stressor and HIIT although with it's benefits should be used with caution in this case.


The optimal exercise recommendations are-

150-300 minutes a week of moderate intensity exercise (50-70% MHR)

of that 90 minutes should be moderate to high (70-90% MHR)

with 2-3 full body resistence sessions.


*If you have a suspicion that something isn't right it's important to seek proffesional medical advice*


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