Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition that affects many women of reproductive age. It can cause irregular periods, acne, excess hair growth, weight gain, and infertility. PCOS can also increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and depression. But don’t worry, there are ways to manage PCOS and improve your quality of life. In this article, I will share with you some tips on how to manage PCOS with a healthy lifestyle.
What is PCOS and what causes it?
PCOS is a hormonal disorder that occurs when the ovaries produce too much androgen, a male hormone. Androgen can interfere with the normal development and release of eggs from the ovaries, leading to the formation of multiple small cysts on the surface of the ovaries. PCOS can also affect the levels of other hormones, such as insulin, estrogen, and progesterone.
The exact cause of PCOS is not known, but it is believed to be influenced by genetic and environmental factors. Some possible factors that may contribute to PCOS include:
– Family history of PCOS or diabetes
– Obesity or being overweight
– Insulin resistance or high blood sugar levels
– Inflammation or chronic stress
– Exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals
How to diagnose PCOS?
There is no single test to diagnose PCOS. Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms, medical history, and family history. Your doctor will also perform a physical exam, including checking your weight, blood pressure, skin, hair, and reproductive organs. Your doctor may also order some blood tests to measure your hormone levels, blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, and other markers of health. Additionally, your doctor may perform an ultrasound to check the appearance of your ovaries and the thickness of your uterine lining.
To be diagnosed with PCOS, you need to meet two of the following three criteria:
– Irregular periods or ovulation problems
– High androgen levels or signs of excess androgen, such as acne, hirsutism, or alopecia
– Polycystic ovaries, which means having at least 12 follicles (small sacs that contain eggs) in each ovary or an ovarian volume of more than 10 mL
How to manage PCOS with a healthy lifestyle?
There is no cure for PCOS, but the symptoms can be treated and the complications can be prevented. The main goal of PCOS management is to balance your hormones, regulate your periods, improve your fertility, and reduce your risk of long-term health problems. The best way to achieve this goal is to adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes:
– Eating a balanced diet: A balanced diet can help you maintain a healthy weight, lower your blood sugar levels, and reduce inflammation. You should eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, and low-fat dairy products. You should also limit your intake of refined carbohydrates, added sugars, saturated fats, trans fats, and processed foods. Some specific dietary recommendations for PCOS include:
– Eating foods with a low glycemic index (GI), which means they cause a smaller rise in blood sugar levels after eating. Examples of low-GI foods are beans, lentils, oats, barley, quinoa, apples, berries, and carrots.
– Eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help lower inflammation and improve insulin sensitivity. Examples of omega-3 foods are fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines, as well as flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and soybeans.
– Eating foods rich in antioxidants, which can help protect your cells from oxidative stress and damage. Examples of antioxidant foods are blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, cherries, grapes, tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, and green tea.
– Eating foods rich in fiber, which can help you feel full, lower your cholesterol levels, and improve your bowel movements. Examples of fiber foods are fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
– Eating foods rich in calcium and vitamin D, which can help support your bone health and prevent osteoporosis. Examples of calcium foods are milk, yogurt, cheese, tofu, kale, and almonds. Examples of vitamin D foods are eggs, mushrooms, fortified cereals, and fatty fish. You can also get vitamin D from sunlight exposure, but make sure to use sunscreen and avoid sunburns.
– Eating foods rich in iron and folic acid, which can help prevent anemia and support your red blood cells. Examples of iron foods are meat, poultry, fish, eggs, spinach, and beans. Examples of folic acid foods are leafy greens, citrus fruits, avocados, and fortified breads and cereals.
– Being physically active: Physical activity can help you lose weight, improve your insulin sensitivity, lower your blood pressure, and boost your mood. You should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week, such as brisk walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming. You should also include some strength training exercises at least twice a week, such as lifting weights, doing push-ups, or using resistance bands. You can also try some flexibility exercises, such as yoga, pilates, or stretching, to improve your range of motion and reduce stress.
– Managing stress: Stress can worsen your PCOS symptoms and increase your risk of depression and anxiety. Stress can also trigger the release of cortisol, a hormone that can increase your blood sugar levels and promote fat storage. Therefore, it is important to find healthy ways to cope with stress, such as:
– Practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, mindfulness, or progressive muscle relaxation
– Engaging in hobbies or activities that you enjoy, such as reading, writing, painting, gardening, or playing music
– Seeking social support from your family, friends, or support groups
– Seeking professional help from a therapist, counselor, or coach if you feel overwhelmed or depressed
– Quitting smoking and limiting alcohol: Smoking and alcohol can have negative effects on your PCOS symptoms and your overall health. Smoking can increase your androgen levels, worsen your insulin resistance, and damage your lungs and blood vessels. Alcohol can increase your blood sugar levels, interfere with your liver function, and impair your judgment and decision-making. Therefore, you should quit smoking and limit your alcohol intake to no more than one drink per day for women.
– Taking supplements: Some supplements may help improve your PCOS symptoms and your general well-being. However, you should always consult your doctor before taking any supplements, as they may interact with your medications or cause side effects. Some of the supplements that may be beneficial for PCOS include:
– Inositol: Inositol is a type of sugar that is involved in insulin signaling and ovarian function. It may help improve your ovulation, menstrual regularity, and fertility. It may also help lower your blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. The recommended dose of inositol for PCOS is 2 to 4 grams per day, taken in divided doses.
– Magnesium: Magnesium is a mineral that is involved in many enzymatic reactions and cellular functions. It may help improve your insulin sensitivity, blood sugar control, and blood pressure. It may also help reduce your inflammation, oxidative stress, and anxiety. The recommended dose of magnesium for PCOS is 300 to 600 mg per day, taken in divided doses.
– Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is a vitamin that is essential for the production of red blood cells, DNA, and nerve function. It may help prevent or treat anemia, especially if you are taking metformin, a medication that can lower your vitamin B12 levels. It may also help improve your mood and cognitive function. The recommended dose of vitamin B12 for PCOS is 500 to 1000 mcg per day, taken as a sublingual tablet or an injection.
– Zinc: Zinc is a mineral that is involved in many aspects of metabolism, immunity, and wound healing. It may help regulate your hormones, reduce your acne, and improve your skin health. It may also help lower your inflammation, oxidative stress, and insulin resistance. The recommended dose of zinc for PCOS is 15 to 30 mg per day, taken with food.
How to manage PCOS with medication?
In some cases, lifestyle changes may not be enough to manage your PCOS symptoms and complications. You may need to take some medications to help you achieve your goals. Your doctor will prescribe the best medication for you based on your individual needs and preferences. Some of the common medications used for PCOS include:
– Hormonal contraceptives: Hormonal contraceptives, such as birth control pills, patches, rings, injections, or implants, can help regulate your periods, lower your androgen levels, and reduce your acne and hirsutism. They can also protect you from endometrial cancer, which can result from having irregular or absent periods. However, hormonal contraceptives may have some side effects, such as weight gain, mood changes, headaches, and blood clots. They may also interfere with your fertility, so you should stop taking them if you want to get pregnant.
– Metformin: Metformin is a medication that is used to treat type 2 diabetes, but it can also help women with PCOS who have insulin resistance or high blood sugar levels. Metformin can help lower your blood sugar levels, improve your ovulation, and increase your chances of getting pregnant. It can also help you lose weight and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. However, metformin may have some side effects, such as nausea, diarrhea, stomach pain, and vitamin B12 deficiency. You should take metformin with food and start with a low dose to minimize the side effects.
– Clomiphene citrate: Clomiphene citrate is a medication that is used to stimulate ovulation in women who have irregular or absent periods. It works by blocking the action of estrogen on the brain, which triggers the release of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). These hormones stimulate the growth and maturation of eggs in the ovaries. Clomiphene citrate can help you ovulate and increase your chances of getting pregnant. However, clomiphene citrate may have some side effects, such as hot flashes, mood swings, headaches, and multiple pregnancies. You should take clomiphene citrate under the supervision of your doctor and monitor your ovulation with urine tests or ultrasound scans.
– Spironolactone: Spironolactone is a medication that is used to treat high blood pressure, but it can also help women with PCOS who have excess androgen levels or signs of excess androgen, such as acne and hirsutism. Spironolactone works by blocking the action of androgen on the skin and hair follicles, which reduces the production of sebum and hair growth. Spironolactone can help improve your skin and hair appearance and lower your blood pressure. However, spironolactone may have some side effects, such as irregular periods, breast tenderness, fatigue, and potassium imbalance. You should not take spironolactone if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, as it can cause birth defects.
How to manage PCOS with natural remedies?
Some women with PCOS may prefer to use natural remedies to manage their PCOS symptoms and complications. Natural remedies are substances or practices that are derived from plants, animals, minerals, or other sources that are not considered conventional medicine. Natural remedies may have some benefits, but they may also have some risks, such as lack of scientific evidence, inconsistency, contamination, or interaction with other medications. Therefore, you should always consult your doctor before using any natural remedies, and inform your doctor of any natural remedies that you are using. Some of the natural remedies that may be helpful for PCOS include:
– Cinnamon: Cinnamon is a spice that is derived from the bark of several species of trees. It has been used for centuries for its medicinal and culinary properties. Cinnamon may help improve your insulin sensitivity, blood sugar control, and menstrual regularity. It may also help reduce your inflammation, oxidative stress, and cholesterol levels. You can add cinnamon to your food or drinks, or take it as a supplement. The recommended dose of cinnamon for PCOS is 1 to 6 grams per day, taken in divided doses.
– Spearmint: Spearmint is a herb that is derived from the leaves of a plant in the mint family. It has been used for its aromatic and medicinal properties. Spearmint may help lower your androgen levels and reduce your hirsutism. It may also help improve your mood and digestion. You can drink spearmint tea, or take it as a supplement. The recommended dose of spearmint for PCOS is 2 to 5 grams per day, taken as a tea or a capsule.
– Apple cider vinegar: Apple cider vinegar is a liquid that is made from fermented apple juice. It has been used for its health and beauty benefits. Apple cider vinegar may help improve your insulin sensitivity, blood sugar control, and weight loss. It may also help balance your pH levels and detoxify your body. You can drink apple cider vinegar diluted with water, or take it as a supplement. The recommended dose of apple cider vinegar for PCOS is 15 to 30 mL per day, taken before meals or at bedtime.
– Turmeric: Turmeric is a spice that is derived from the root of a plant in the ginger family. It has been used for its color, flavor, and medicinal properties. Turmeric may help reduce your inflammation, oxidative stress, and pain. It may also help improve your immune system and liver function. You can add turmeric to your food or drinks, or take it as a supplement. The recommended dose of turmeric for PCOS is 500 to 2000 mg per day, taken in divided doses.
– Chasteberry: Chasteberry is a fruit that is derived from the berries of a shrub in the verbena family. It has been used for its hormonal and reproductive benefits. Chasteberry may help regulate your pituitary gland, which controls the production and release of hormones. It may also help improve your menstrual regularity, ovulation, and fertility. You can take chasteberry as a supplement. The recommended dose of chasteberry for PCOS is 20 to 40 mg per day, taken in the morning.
PCOS is a common condition that affects many women of reproductive age. It can cause various symptoms and complications, such as irregular periods, acne, hirsutism, weight gain, infertility, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and depression. However, PCOS can be managed with a healthy lifestyle, medication, and natural remedies. By following the tips in this article, you can balance your hormones, regulate your periods, improve your fertility, and reduce your risk of long-term health problems. You can also improve your quality of life and well-being. Remember, you are not alone in this journey. You can always seek help and support from your doctor, family, friends, or support groups. You are more than your PCOS. You are a strong, beautiful, and amazing woman. 💕