PCOS: What it is and how you can control it
PCOS is no fun, as the women who have it can easily tell you. The symptoms are frustrating to deal with and women often feel as if they have no control over their bodies anymore. As September is PCOS Awareness Month, Nicole Witt of Beyond Infertility is empowering women to get educated about PCOS and take back control of their bodies.
PCOS, or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, is the most common hormonal condition women experience. Being diagnosed with PCOS gives many women an explanation for the odd and awful symptoms they have been experiencing. In honor of September being PCOS Awareness month, I want to make more women aware of PCOS and how they can manage the symptoms naturally.
What is PCOS?
PCOS is a hormonal disorder that is absolutely no fun for women to deal with. The symptoms of PCOS include:
- Thinning hair on your head, but excess body and facial hair right where you don't want it
- Skin problems including acne, darkening skin and skin tags
- Weight gain, especially around the waist
- Irregular or missed periods
These symptoms are very scary, especially for women who are trying to conceive. What’s even scarier: Doctors are not sure the exact cause of PCOS. Some women become insulin resistant with PCOS, causing the ovaries to produce too many male hormones. The androgen increase causes a hormonal imbalance creating the symptoms you just read. Doctors do know that PCOS runs in families and that there is no cure, only treatments that can alleviate the symptoms and help with infertility.
What are the treatment options?
The treatments vary depending on the exact symptoms a woman is showing. They can include:
- Birth control to regulate menstruation
- Ovulation induction to increase fertility
- Androgen-blocking and insulin-sensitizing medicine
- Anti-hair-growth medicine and other hair treatments for hair loss and growth
- Removal of skin problems
- Acne treatments
While these options can help with PCOS, there is so much women can do themselves to take control of their bodies, including changing their diet and creating an exercise plan.
The PCOS diet
Photo credit: IAN HOOTON/Science Photo Library/Getty Images
The first step in your PCOS diet is to regulate your insulin levels. This starts with carbohydrates, but not every carb-heavy food is the same. Carbohydrate foods with fiber help keep insulin levels down while carb foods that are sugary or refined cause insulin levels to rise. You will need to stick to foods with high-fiber and low-sugar carbohydrates.
The best part about a PCOS diet is you don't have to buy special foods, just monitor your carb intake. Balance your meals with veggies, fruits, whole grains, plant protein, lean meats and good fats. Make sure any grains you eat are high fiber and whole. Also, start buying sugar-free foods to eat and switch all your junk food to healthier options, such as crackers and fruits and veggies.
It is important not to be fooled by fat-free foods. Often they have sugar to make up for the fat. Besides, some fats are very good for you and your body needs them. Also, read the details on the label for sugar-free foods. They still need to have whole grains instead of refined.
The PCOS exercise plan
It is very hard to lose weight with PCOS, which is why an active, everyday exercise plan is needed. Although that can be difficult to maintain, being diligent about your exercise can do wonders for your PCOS symptoms. Plus, exercise has the added benefit of raising your endorphins to make you happier and makes you healthier all around.
Start off slowly when implementing an exercise plan. It is a good idea to begin with a brisk walk after eating a large meal. Then find an activity or sport you enjoy doing, such as soccer, basketball, bicycling or kickboxing. Work towards exercising five days a week for an hour per day.
PCOS is beyond frustrating, especially when you are trying to conceive. But you can take these steps to change your lifestyle, controlling your PCOS to a manageable level.