Do you suffer from Polycystosis (PCOS) or find yourself gaining weight despite concerted efforts to eat healthily and stay in shape?
Female Anatomy Is Different
Male and female anatomy differs, especially when it comes to reproductive organs. Weight gain is common in both genders, for a variety of reasons, but one female-specific disorder which contributes to this is PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome).
What is PCOS?
PCOS is a chronic endocrine disorder which frequently flies under a woman’s radar and often remains undiagnosed. For women with PCOS, ovaries produce follicles, but the ovules do not mature; these immature follicles can become liquid-filled sacs called ‘’cysts”. The ovaries also produce elevated amounts of androgens (male sex hormones) which can be detrimental to fertility.
Why does PCOS lead to weight gain?
Many women who have PCOS also have insulin resistance (IR) which, in turn, leads to weight gain. IR occurs when the body has difficulty extracting glucose from the bloodstream and converting it to energy, resulting in the body needing to produce more insulin in an attempt to maintain a normal blood sugar level. Over time, the body becomes conditioned and overproduces insulin in order to keep blood sugar levels stable. High insulin levels contribute significantly to obesity; when blood glucose levels continue to rise despite increased levels of insulin, Type 2 diabetes can develop.
High insulin levels can also lead to an increase in the production of androgens. Increased androgen levels, in addition to weight gain, can result in excessive body hair growth, acne and irregular periods.
Is there a genetic connection to PCOS?
There is no conclusive answer on why PCOS affects certain women and not others or a defined genetic link. Genetics may play a role, as it does in regards to the susceptibility for weight gain. If your mother or sister suffer from PCOS, or you have first-degree relatives with diabetes or glucose intolerance, this may mean you are at higher odds for developing the condition. According to researchers, while one-quarter of women with PCOS have mothers with the condition, one-third have sisters affected by PCOS and there may also be genetic correlation through paternal lines as well.
Risks Associated with PCOS-Related Weight Gain
Women diagnosed with PCOS are more likely to develop weight gain-related problems and insulin resistance, including:
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Sleep apnea
- Endometrial cancer
- Heart disease
How can women with PCOS manage their weight?
With PCOS, weight loss of 10% can regulate your monthly cycle back to normal and relieve some of its hallmark symptoms. Weight loss improves insulin sensitivity and this reduces the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other PCOS-related complications.
The first step to losing weight is a visit to your doctor. Your medical practitioner will determine your BMI (Body Mass Index) and prescribe an appropriate course of medication which may include:
- Contraceptive pills
- Anti-androgen medication
- Metformin (Glucophage)Anti-androgen medication blocks the effects of male hormones; while Metformin is a drug designed to treat high levels of insulin or diabetes. It helps to normalize blood sugar levels, reduces testosterone production and bring weight down as a result.
Besides medication, leading a healthy lifestyle is also effective in keeping weight under control. Healthy lifestyle changes include:
- Exercising (at least 30 minutes a day)
- Sleeping (at least 8 hours)
- Managing your stress
- Tracking your cholesterol and blood pressure levels
- Eating well: Adopting a high-fiber, low-sugar diet with more fruits, vegetablesand whole grains; avoiding processed and fatty foods. Eating 4-6 small meals throughout the day, rather than three large meals.
There are many contributing factors which can cause weight gain and PCOS is certainly one of them. It’s very important to seek an early diagnosis as ongoing PCOS can lead to infertility down the line.
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