PCOS Awareness Month: Diet And Lifestyle Modifications To Manage Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
While the exact cause of PCOS remains unclear, research suggests that genetics, insulin resistance, gut microbiome composition and lifestyle factors play a significant role in its development.
PCOS is a multi-faceted condition with a range of physical and emotional issues
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a complex hormonal disorder that affects millions of women worldwide. Characterized by irregular menstrual cycles, excess androgens and ovarian cysts, PCOS can lead to a range of symptoms including weight gain, menstrual irregularities, acne, patches of thickened dark skin, hair growth and fertility issues. While the exact cause of PCOS remains unclear, research suggests that genetics, insulin resistance, gut microbiome composition and lifestyle factors play a significant role in its development. PCOS is not just a reproductive disorder; it is a multi-faceted condition with a range of physical and emotional manifestations.
Understanding the role of nutrition
The food you choose to eat can affect how your hormones work, how sensitive your body is to insulin (which helps control your blood sugar), and how much inflammation you have. Smart food choices are a key for managing PCOS. Start by picking complex carbs that do not make your blood sugar spike too much. Foods like whole wheat, millets and brown/unpolished rice are great. Include whole pulses, fruits and veggies that have a lot of fiber. Stay away from refined foods, sugary and ultra-processed foods that can make your blood glucose levels go up quickly, resulting in higher insulin levels. Eating enough protein is also important for muscles, hormones, weight management and to control blood glucose. So, use foods like nuts, fish, chicken, egg, pulses, and dals in your diet.
Almonds are a good example for healthy foods that can be included daily. They have MUFA (good fats), fiber, and protein, which help you manage your weight better. Almonds contain magnesium, a nutrient that plays a role in many biochemical processes in the body including blood glucose control and blood pressure regulation. Adding a few almonds to your morning breakfast, tossing a handful into your colourful salad, or enjoying their crunch in the morning after waking up nudges you towards better health.
Apart from changing what you eat, how you live has a big impact on dealing with PCOS effectively. Regular physical activity like walking, aerobic exercises, strength training, and yoga can help your body respond better to insulin, control weight, and reduce stress. Managing stress is important too, and meditation, deep breathing, muscle relaxation, and mindfulness can really help in this regard. Getting 7-9 hours of good sleep each night is important for balancing hormones and feeling better overall. Adequate exposure to sunlight not only helps in maintaining vitamin D levels but also helps in better mood, which can in turn lead to making better lifestyle choices.
Seeking professional guidance
It is essential to work with qualified healthcare professionals, including a nutritionist, endocrinologist, and gynaecologist to manage PCOS. Experts in these fields can provide personalized guidance which is tailored to your specific needs and medical history. Working with a qualified dietitian can help you figure out a diet plan that best suits your unique requirement.
PCOS may present its challenges, but with the right approach, it can be effectively managed. By focusing on balanced nutrition, regular exercise, stress management, and overall healthy lifestyle habits, women with PCOS can regain control over their well-being.
(Sheela Krishnaswamy is a Nutrition and Wellness Consultant)
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