Get Help With Your Weight Gain and Other Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Symptoms

Hectic routines and erratic eating habits have given rise to obesity, making it very common among men and women today. A major contributing factor to weight gain is the sedentary lifestyle working professionals are forced to lead by virtue of their roles and responsibilities.

However, women of reproductive age often go through hormonal disorders which might induce weight gain, with polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS being the most common.

But does weight gain mean you have PCOS?

PCOS weight gain is accompanied by other symptoms like irregular periods, hirsutism, excessive hair loss or thinning hair on the scalp, acne, and unusual fatigue in some cases.

Diagnosis of the syndrome is best done by an expert.

Losing weight with PCOS can be quite challenging if not approached in the right way. Read on to learn all about PCOS weight gain and how you can tackle it smartly and effectively.

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Why Does PCOS Cause You to Gain Weight?

Insulin resistance is the most common reason for weight gain in PCOS.

Insulin is a hormone that helps the body convert sugar and starch from food into glucose, which is then converted into energy. PCOS makes it difficult for the body to use insulin normally, which results in higher levels of sugar (glucose) in the body, and, in extreme cases, a buildup of glucose in the bloodstream.

High insulin levels encourage the body to produce excess male hormones called androgens, which bring about changes like excessive body hair, acne, irregular periods, and weight gain. Moreover, women with insulin resistance tend to have impaired levels of hunger hormones, causing them to feel hungrier and have more cravings. If not managed properly, these cravings can jeopardize even the best eating habits, leading to an increase in calorie consumption and thus weight gain.

Since weight gain is also triggered by excessive male hormones, it is typically more prevalent in the abdominal area, which is where men tend to carry weight. Thus, women with PCOS tend to have an apple-shaped body instead of a pear shape.

Abdominal fat is the most dangerous kind of fat, as it is associated with a higher risk of heart disease and other chronic health conditions.

What Areas Are Affected?

PCOS affects the endocrine system, which includes the ovaries, adrenals, pituitary fat cells, and endocrine pancreas. The ovaries might develop fluid-filled sacs which can hamper ovulation. Women with PCOS may also experience increasing mood swings because of the hormonal chaos in their bodies.

When it comes to PCOS-related weight gain specifically, it mostly affects the abdominal region and the hips.

Stomach

The abdomen is indeed one of the most common PCOS weight gain areas.

Insulin resistance and hormonal fluctuations are major contributors to a PCOS belly and can cause uneasiness in the stomach by making you feel heavy and bloated. Androgens further encourage fat to collect around the abdominal region (similar to how fat collects around the abdomen in men, considering androgens are male hormones).

However, the ‘PCOS belly’ has nothing to do with the size of the belly. Some women might develop bigger bellies, while others may not notice any changes in size at all because of the accumulation of visceral fat. (This is fat that wraps around your abdominal organs deep inside your body that you can’t always feel or see.)

The long-term implications of having abdominal fat include elevated insulin resistance, cardiac diseases, and in dire cases, stroke, diabetes, blood pressure, osteoarthritis, and many other chronic conditions that adversely affect the quality of life.

Apple vs. Pear Body Shape

The increase of androgen causes the accumulation of fats in the abdomen, which leads to the enlargement of the belly area. The hormonal chaos creates room for the growth of belly fat. Thus, women with PCOS start developing an apple-shaped body rather than a pear-shaped body.

Women with PCOS tend to have apple-shaped bodies. The high levels of cortisol (stress hormone) also reduce the production of SHBG protein. (Sex hormone-binding globulin or sex steroid-binding globulin) which may encourage more testosterone to go to the tissues of the body.

The Impact of Androgen Levels

Androgens impact puberty to a great extent. Especially with PCOS, high androgen levels often lead to excessive facial hair, acne, and several other issues in women. The excess androgens lead to the release of testosterone by the ovaries, which can give typically male characteristics to a woman. Androgen also favours the development of visceral fat which is the fat that wraps around the internal organs in the abdomen. You may not always see or feel this fat but it does exist. This fat is dangerous as it is related to the release of hormones and proteins in the body that can cause inflammation in the body’s tissues and organs and also narrow the blood vessels.

Insulin resistance is one of the major underlying causes of increased androgens in the body. This can hamper ovulation and lead to chronic menstrual and fertility issues in women.

Other Factors That Impact How Much You Weigh

The body needs healthy fats to support its functioning, but too much fat can be alarming, as it can cause cholesterol buildup and an increased risk of heart disease. There are a number of reasons people might be overweight. When we routinely take in more calories than we are burning, it can lead to obesity.

Poor eating habits are the primary reason for weight gain in most people today. Hectic routines also encourage us to eat unhealthy food to save time.

A sedentary lifestyle is the most fertile ground for weight gain, and when combined with irregular eating patterns and unhealthy food choices, it can be very harmful to the body.

Genes also play a role in your body weight, shape, and size. Some concerns may be hereditary and might require you to be more cautious while addressing them.

Stress also has a major impact on your body, especially for people who respond to stress with binge eating.

What Are the Health Effects of Being Overweight?

Being overweight can cause a variety of medical conditions. It can make you more susceptible to chronic health conditions.

Obesity is a serious medical concern that can severely affect the health of a person. It is crucial to understand how and when your body starts gaining weight and to take the required measures to control your weight.

An obese person may suffer from one or more of the following diseases or other health-related issues

  • High blood pressure: With high blood pressure, the heart has to work harder. If the issue is prolonged, it may damage the heart permanently and lead to fatal cardiac diseases.
  • High cholesterol: Triglycerides are a type of fat (lipid) found in your blood. When you eat, your body converts any calories it doesn’t need to use right away into triglycerides. High triglyceride levels in the body increase the chances of having a heart attack, as they make it difficult for the heart to pump blood efficiently.
  • Liver problems: The accumulation of fats in the liver can cause inflammation or even permanent liver damage.
  • Joint pain: An increase in weight puts excessive pressure on the joints and may lead to arthritis.
  • Insulin resistance and diabetes: Insulin helps keep blood sugar under control, but being overweight can induce insulin resistance in the body, resulting in increased blood sugar levels which put you at a very high risk of diabetes.

Diagnosis

PCOS and weight gain are not always interconnected, so weight alone does not indicate PCOS.

Along with weight gain, PCOS is accompanied by symptoms like irregular periods, facial hair, acne, hair loss or thinning hair on the scalp, and unusual fatigue, in some cases.

It must be noted that proper diagnosis of the syndrome can only be carried out by a medical expert. It is best to consult your doctor if you face any unexplained symptoms which hamper your daily functioning.

Treatment

A healthy diet and regular exercise are the best place to start.

When talking specifically about PCOS, losing just 5% to 10% of your total body weight can be a great help in managing your PCOS. There are several steps you can take that will help with your PCOS weight loss journey.

- Reduce your carb intake
Because carbs affect insulin levels, lowering your carb intake may help manage PCOS. Women with PCOS may also benefit from a low-glycemic diet. You can refer to the glycaemic index (GI), which measures how quickly blood sugar is raised by a particular food.

- Eat fibre-rich foods
Women with PCOS may lose weight more quickly with a diet high in fibre since fibre keeps you fuller after eating.

- Include protein in your diet
A meal that is high in protein can help stabilize blood sugar levels and increase feelings of fullness. Besides reducing cravings, it can also help you burn more calories and control hunger hormones. You can add protein to your meals or choose high-protein snacks if you are concerned about not getting enough protein. High-protein foods include eggs, nuts, dairy, meat, and seafood.

- Eat healthy fats
It is true that fats are high in calories, but adding healthy fats to meals can reduce hunger. This may help you to eat fewer calories throughout the day. A few examples of healthy fats are avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, and nut butter. Meals and snacks that contain healthy fats and protein will be more filling.

- Practice mindful eating
A mindful approach may make it easier for you to recognize your internal eating cues and aid in weight loss. This may be especially beneficial for women with PCOS, who are much more likely to suffer from eating disorders.

- Avoid processed foods and added sugars
Consuming processed foods and foods that are high in sugar should be kept to a minimum when trying to lose weight with PCOS. It is best to avoid refined carbs, especially fried foods, as they can spike your blood glucose levels and encourage insulin resistance.

- Exercise regularly
Women with PCOS may benefit from cardio and weight training exercises for reducing body fat and improving insulin sensitivity.

- Get good sleep
Lack of sleep has been shown to increase hormones such as ghrelin, which is often called a “hunger hormone” because it increases the drive to eat. Insufficient sleep can also raise cortisol levels, which may cause you to eat more throughout the day. Sleep deprivation is also linked to an increased risk of obesity and weight gain.

- Don’t stress too much
The high levels of cortisol caused by chronic stress are linked to insulin resistance and belly fat. Cortisol levels can be lowered by exercising, meditating, and spending time outdoors.

Ayurveda and Natural Remedies

Although the following ayurvedic and natural remedies are not backed with significant scientific research, many people have found they help with PCOS.

- Mulethi
Also known as liquorice, mulethi is said to act against androgens. It also stimulates the production of the enzyme that converts the male hormone androgen to the female hormone oestrogen.

You can take Mulethi root powder and mix it in a cup of hot water. This brew can be used for up to two months and is known to have prolonged effects.

- Flaxseeds
Consuming flaxseeds in a nutritious smoothie is a delicious idea, as they help in managing your PCOS symptoms, including weight gain. You can also consume flaxseeds directly after your meal.

- Cinnamon
Cinnamon helps improve the function of insulin receptors and aids in regulating the menstrual cycle. It can be consumed by mixing it with water or adding it to your tea.

- Chamomile tea
Chamomile tea can help reduce the symptoms of PCOS. You can also brew it in warm water.

How to Help With Bloating

A healthy diet that includes greens, especially leafy vegetables like spinach along with vital supplements like omega-3 fatty acids, can be very helpful to cure bloating. Fruits like cherries or blueberries can be consumed too. It is very important to control and monitor carb intake, as it may lead to weight gain.

Including all types of fibre in the diet is important to keep the body active. Protein is important, as it stabilizes blood sugar and helps in PCOS weight loss by making you feel full. Fermented food can also be included, as it increases the healthy gut bacteria.

Weight training helps too! Regular exercise can help release the tension in your abdomen and eliminate that constant heavy feeling.

Tips for Fat Loss

Along with diet and lifestyle changes, opting for a PCOS weight loss diet plan can be the best thing you can do for your body. PCOS weight loss diets are structured to suit the needs of your body and your unique nutrient requirements.

You also might have come across several PCOS weight loss medications, but consuming any form of medication without consulting your doctor could make things worse than before.

The best approach is to include the above-mentioned diet and lifestyle changes in your routine and consult your doctor to give your body exactly what it demands.

Talk to a PCOS Professional

PCOS affects every woman differently. While your symptoms may be similar to somebody you know, what works for them might not work for you — and in rare cases could affect you adversely.

Seeking expert advice is the best way to lose weight with PCOS and manage your symptoms effectively.

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