Acne during teens is an extremely common and frustrating experience that many of us have gone through. Everyone around you is advising some cream or a visit to the dermatologist, while you are silently waiting for the hormonal imbalances to settle for good.’ Cut to adult life, the acne has worsened, periods have become irregular, there’s weight gain and stress has no signs of dying down. All these are some common symptoms of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, not just pubescent acne anymore; a condition not many women are aware of. An increasing number of women and teenage girls are suffering from PCOS or PCOD.
Statistics for PCOS are alarming, 1 in 5 women are known to suffer from this syndrome – where there is a hormonal imbalance of the sex hormones estrogen and androgens or sex hormones. This leads to changes in the menstrual cycles; making them irregular and causing the development of multiple tiny cysts on their ovaries. Even postmenopausal women experience symptoms of this syndrome. The hormonal imbalance may also lead to insulin resistance; that’s why women find it difficult to lose weight, even though some may be lean.
PCOS is one of the leading causes of infertility and anovulatory cycles, making thousands of affected women approach IUI (Intrauterine Insemination) as a method for conceiving.
Take this questionnaire to find out if you could be having PCOS.
1. Are you overweight?
a. Yes b. No
2. Are you experiencing any abnormal growth of hair on face, chest or on the stomach?
a. Yes b. No
3. Is your face becoming oily or are there any acne on the face?
a. Yes b. No
4. Are your periods irregular / absent for quite sometime?
a. Yes b. No
5. Is your hair thinning?
a. Yes b. No
If the questions are more ‘A’s than ‘B’s , it’s time to visit your gynaecologist.
Symptoms of PCOS:
Visible signs and symptoms include:
- Gain in weight
- Facial and body hair
- Belly fat
- Acne on face
- Dark spots on skin, especially back of neck
- Hair thinning
- Pain in pelvis
- Irregular periods
General symptoms of PCOS:
- Anxiety and depression
- Craving for sugar
- Mood swings
- Loss of sleep
- Low sex drive
Benefits of exercise for PCOS:
Exercise SHOULD be an important aspect in the course of treatment of PCOS treatment, it should be adopted with medical attention and must not be left out. It helps in :
- Improving sleep keeping hormones in balance
- Helps in release endorphins – the happy chemical which helps to relieve stress
- Improves insulin sensitivity
- Lowers cholesterol levels in the body
- Regulates hormones
Diet for PCOS treatment naturally:
- Take the good fats from your diet, avoid the bad ones: Say yes to olive oil, butter,coconut oil and no to processed vegetable oils like canola oil, corn oil, soyabean oil
- Sugar and refined foods are a strict NO
- Ditch that cup of double espresso – completely cut down on foods that contain caffeine
- Take extra care of your liver with a regular detox diet
- Avoid preservatives and processed food
- Eat fresh vegetables and fruits
- Drink plenty of water
Your plate should look like this:
Prescription for maintaining a healthy mindset despite having PCOS –
PCOS can begin with a single cyst and cause a lot of stress as we all hear how damaging a cyst can turn out to be thanks to all the women around us talking about it. The best thing to remember is that each individual will see a different manifestation of the syndrome and regular checks will ensure that PCOS does not cause lasting damage. If you have a family history of PCOS or feel that you might have PCOS, the best thing to do would be to speak to a good gynaecologist about your fears and go in for 6 monthly check-ups. Ignorance will only make it worse.
Stress and anxiety or worry tend to accompany PCOS symptoms and the best way to deal with it is to remember that stress worsens PCOS symptoms as chronic stress elevates ACTH, a hormone which stimulates androgen secretion, thus increasing abnormal growth of hair on face, chest or on the stomach. Androgen hormones are protective against the long-term effects of chronically elevated stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.
How do you deal with the stress that accompanies/causes/worsens PCOS –
- Change your mindset about PCOS. Yes it causes weight gain and hair growth in all the wrong places but worrying about it only increases the symptoms. Instead invest in a good exercise and diet program and consciously work on your body. A positive body image is the first step to feeling good about yourself while dealing with the depression or anxiety that usually accompanies PCOS.
- Tips to reduce stress hormones – Meditation, whether through walking/dancing/a quiet yoga pose/chanting/taking your pet for a walk/listening to soothing music while lying down or scribbling are some of the ways in which you can reduce stress and also create a positive mindset.
- Stay away from negative people or social media that works towards scaring you about PCOS or about your body image.
We know that it’s easier said than done but a lot of lifestyle diseases respond best to a balanced diet, exercise, stress busting activities and a positive mindset.