PCOS OR Poly Cyst Ovarian Syndrome affects about 12% women.That makes PCOS one of the most common hormonal disorders in women. And like any other hormonal disorder, PCOS has a variety of symptoms. And these symptoms of PCOS vary from one woman to another. And there is no way to cure PCOS permanently. But it can be managed with the right lifestyle.
It is often said that pcos is a very complex disorder and there is no one size fits all way to reverse these symptoms.
So, the question arises:
“How can you Reverse PCOS naturally? And is it possible to reverse PCOS naturally?”
I have often wondered myself “Can you reverse pcos? or can you cure pcos naturally? and how to reverse pcos naturally?”
And let me give you a very simple answer. YES, it is very much possible.
And NO, it’s not that simple to understand. But I am here to explain.
In this post, I am hoping to cover:
- What are the most common symptoms of PCOS?
- What are the underlying causes of PCOS?
- How does PCOS affect women?
- What is the best diet for PCOS and how to make a PCOS Diet Plan?
- What are the best exercises for PCOS?
- What supplements should I take for PCOS?
The most common symptoms of PCOS:
While there are a lot of symptoms that can indicate that you have PCOS, the most common symptoms of PCOS are:
Missed or irregular menstrual cycles:
Having irregular cycles is quite common in teenage years. But if you have irregularities in your period in your twenties as well, you might have PCOS. Generally speaking.
Now, there is a possibility that you have nothing at all and you juts have longer cycles. and that’s nothing to worry about as long as they are fairly regular.
About 50% of the women who have PCOS are obese or over weight. Pcos makes it difficult to lose weight. But the weight gain or sudden weight gain results from poor diet for pcos and also a sedentary lifestyle. The underlying reason for weight gain in pcos is insulin resistance in your body.
Because PCOS is mainly caused by excess of androgens, it can often cause a hair loss or a lot of hairfall. Pcos can also result in thinning of hair.
Oily skin or acne:
While a lot of people have acne during teenage years. That acne is often the result of changing hormones in the bodies. But women with pcos could have acne as adults as well, because PCOS is mainly a hormonal issue to begin with.
Now, let’s talk about the main causes of PCOS in women:
THE MAIN CAUSES OF PCOS
The exact causes of PCOS are not known. Researches have shown that PCOS has a variety of symptoms that are triggered by multiple things. And these triggers and symptoms vary from woman to woman. The most common causes of PCOS in women are:
- Insulin Resistance
- Body Inflammation
- Excess Androgens
It should be noted however, that there is no single reason why someone might have PCOS. Doctors suggest that high level of androgens prevent the ovaries from producing hormones and generating eggs as they normally should. These eggs when not released cause cysts to form in the ovaries. To understand the causes of PCOS, let’s talk about them in a little more detail.
To understand what insulin resistance means, let’s first talk about how insulin works. In a healthy person, blood sugar rises right after having a meal.
Now your body needs to convert this blood sugar into energy.
So, a hormone called insulin is released right after having a meal. This indicates the liver to take sugar from blood and convert it into energy. After a few hours, when the blood sugar falls, insulin also falls.
But in case of Insulin resistance, your body is resistant to insulin, It means that even if insulin is being produced, your body doesn’t get the message. So in order to get the message through your body produces even more insulin.
This can also be explained by glucose intolerance among women who have PCOS. This is also one of the reasons why people find ketogenic diet to be a great fit for curing PCOS naturally. Because keto diet asks you to completely quit sugar from your diet and hence the trigger isn’t there anymore in your diet.
And the presence of too much insulin in your body causes weight gain. And at later stages in life, it can also cause type 2 diabetes and heart conditions.
Studies have shown that people with PCOS have some form of body inflammation. A large percentage of women with PCOS have chronic low grade inflammation. Body inflammation can be tested by getting a blood test done. Women who have body inflammation can be tested for CRP or C-Reactive protein.
Another reason of developing PCOS could be excessive weight gain. It can have many underlying factors like a sedentary lifestyle and poor diet. Typically a diet that is high in processed foods, sugars, saturated fats, causes excessive weight gain and often by consequence PCOS as well.
If body inflammation is the underlying cause of your PCOS, the cure of PCOS or a method to reverse PCOS could be avoiding foods that are inflammatory. And including more anti-inflammatory foods in your diet like leafy greens, olives, tomatoes, nuts and seeds (healthy fats).
Studies have shown that people who brought these lifestyle changes lost about 7% of their body fat in 3 months and also showed improvements in blood sugar levels and blood pressure as well.
Excess androgens is the third cause of PCOS in women. Androgens are often referred to as the “Male” hormones, but they are present in both males and females. They are in fact essential for a lot of functions like muscle growth, building bone strength and proper function of the body.
You’d be surprised to know that women have more androgens than estrogen.
It is when there are excess androgens, that it becomes a problem and a probable cause of PCOS in women.
Excess androgens in women can often result in:
- Excessive hair growth: Especially facial hair or hair on back and chest. A lot of women often remove the hair without even realizing that it might indicate a medical condition.
- Male patterned baldness: Another common “symptom” in women who have PCOS due to excess androgens. It is indicated by a receding hair line or hair loss or baldness around the crown.
- Acne: Acne is quite common in both boys and girls in teenage years and is often a result of hormonal changes. Adult acne can also be a result of poor skin care routine. However excess acne often when accompanies by other symptoms could indicate PCOS.
- Deepening of voice: Deepening of voice or developing “men-like” muscles is another symptom that might indicate presence of excess androgens. However it is just an indicator.
HOW DOES PCOS AFFECT WOMEN:
PCOS, or poly cystic ovarian syndrome is an endocrine disorder, but it affects more than your physical health. Studies have shown that it can affect your emotional and psychological health as well. Lets take a look at how PCOS affects women.
Fertility Problems or INFERTILITY:
PCOS is one of the most common causes of infertility in women. In fact a lot of women find out they have PCOS when they are trying to get pregnant. In healthy women, an egg is released by the ovaries during each menstrual cycle. But in women who have PCOS, the egg is not released as it should normally be.
Because women with PCOS often have irregular periods, or sometimes no periods at all, they find it difficult to track their fertility window and thus get pregnant. That’s why women with PCOS often have to seek medical help while trying to get pregnant.
However, it can be reversed and the symptoms of PCOS can be improved by lifestyle changes or with ovulation inducing medical treatments.
RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH REPRODUCTIVE CANCERS:
Women who have PCOS often have irregular periods and that means that the wall inside their uterus does not shed every 28 days as it should. It leads to thickening of the walls, which can then take irregular or abnormal shape. It triples the risk of developing endometrial cancer in women with PCOS.
Having PCOs also increase your chances of other medical risks, at later stages in life. Women with PCOS have more chances of developing :
DEPRESSION: Because the symptoms of PCOS like weight gain, excessive hair growth can lead to low self esteem and often results in mood swings.
TYPE 2 DIABETES: Women who have PCOS have more chances of developing type 2 diabetes at later stages in life. It is usually common in women who also have an insulin resistance.
HIGH BLOOG PRESSURE AND CHOLESTEROL: High blood pressure and high cholesterol are also common in women who have PCOS and they can often lead to a number of other conditions like heart disease or strokes.
HOW DOES DIET AFFECT PCOS? WHAT IS THE BEST DIET FOR PCOS?
Research has shown that diet can help reverse some symptoms of PCOS. Diet is known to affect PCOS because a proper diet helps with weight management and insulin resistance.
In fact, Pcos friendly diet and lifestyle changes are the only two ways that can really reverse the symptoms of PCOS naturally. There are some other treatments that involve using metformin for PCOS.
But the use of metformin for PCOS is recommended only by doctors and while we talk about it in this post here, I would recommend you try other thing before getting started with the medication.
The key is to understand how sugar works and how your metabolism works and then feed your body what it needs to function properly and not with junk.
Generally speaking, there are some food categories which are really good for women with PCOS and some foods that should be avoided on a PCOS diet.
Consuming foods that are processed and high in sugar are bad for PCOS and consuming healthy home cooked nutritious and balanced meals is good for PCOS.
There are of course some foods that are considered as superfoods for treating PCOS. Check them out here.
While there is no single diet that is recommended for PCOS, the following three PCOS diets are the most common:
#1: Low Glycemic Index Diet:
Glycemic index is a value that is used to measure how certain foods affect your blood sugar. Different foods are classified as low, medium and high GI foods depending on what affect they have on your blood sugar levels.
For example, consuming soft drinks that are high in sugar will cause a spike in your blood sugar, but eating an apple which also has sugar will not have the same spike effect. The reason being, soft drinks have a high G.I. and apple has a lower G.I.
So, foods that take time to get digested and are rich in fibre, do not cause a spike in blood sugar levels. But foods that have a high GI and get digested quickly will affect your blood sugar.
#2: An Anti-inflammatory diet:
An anti-inflammatory diet is rich in fibre, berries, green leafy vegetables, lean proteins like fish and plant based fats such as olive oil. Anti inflammatory diet helps with PCOS because it helps reduce the inflammation in the body and helps lose weight with PCOS.
#3: DASH DIET:
DASH diet or the Dietary Approach to Stop hypertension, is generally recommended to patients who are at a risk of heart disease. But it has also shown results in women with PCOS. DASH diet is rich in greens, whole grains, poultry, fruits and vegetables.
Foods to avoid with PCOS
Because a lot of the women who have PCOS also have insulin resistance, so it makes sense to avoid foods that cause that insulin spike. And managing insulin is in fact the best way to manage PCOS.
Here are all the foods you should avoid if you have PCOS:
- Processed white breads and pastries
- Deep fried food i.e fast foods like fries, nuggets etc
- Sugary drinks like soda, processed juices and energy drinks
- Excess red meats like steak, pork ribs etc
- Refined all purpose flour
- Processed fats like butter, margarine etc
Foods to include with PCOS:
Here are some of the foods that you should include in your PCOS diet:
- Whole grains like wheat and whole wheat flour, pasta etc
- Foods that are rich in fibre like apples
- Whole fruits and vegetables especially berries and fruits and veggies that are rich in water like water melon
- Green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale
- Lean proteins such as fish and eggs
- Nuts like almonds, walnuts, pistachios
- Dried beans and lentils
- Anti-inflammatory spices such as cinnamon, black pepper and turmeric
- Dark chocolate
RElated: 10 superfoods for PCOS
How to make a PCOS diet plan
Although there are tons of videos and blogs on the internet, talking about PCOS friendly diet plans, here are a couple of things that I find the most important:
#1: Educate yourself:
It’s important to understand the importance of nutrition and to educate yourself about which foods are good for you and which aren’t instead of blindly following a diet plan for PCOS.
Read more about glycemic index and make a note of low and moderate GI food items and then think about what recipes you can make from them.
It is also important to have a balanced diet and not cut carbohydrates completely like in keto. Think about what is sustainably for you and focus on creating a lifestyle change instead of trying to lose weight quickly on a fad diet.
#2: Eat in moderation:
Having really big meals that are too far apart causes sugar levels to spike. So you are better off with having smaller portions but at regular intervals throughout the day.
If you do not eat intuitively and have no control over the food you eat (I know I speak of it very lightly because I don’t want to get in details here) try practicing portion control. There are a couple of ways to do that. instead of eating things in a plate, try eating in a bowl, it works best!
#3: Eat a balanced diet:
Balancing your diet is the most important part if you want this to be a life long change. A general rule of thumb is to have a lot of colors on your plate. How many colors are there in mac and cheese? One, right!So know straight away that it isn’t the best for you.
Try having some greens, a few berries, a protein, a curry or sauce and some carbs and see how colorful your plate looks. That’s the beauty of a balanced diet. the more colorful it is, the more nutritious it is. But M&Ms don’t count, okay? Don’t cheat.
The best types of exercises for PCOS:
Exercise is the second best way to treat PCOS. And exercise coupled with healthy eating habits can totally reverse pcos. Here are all the types of exercises that are good for women with PCOS, so that you can decide what’s best for you.
#1: Cardio: Cardio is great for improving insulin sensitivity and weight loss as well. So exercises like brisk walking, swimming, cycling and running are great for women with pcos. Doing at elast 30 minutes of cardio everyday will ensure weight management and will keep pcos in check.
#2: Weight training: There are a number of myths among women about weight training. It’s 2021 and some women still believe that weight training will make them bulky. That’s not the case however.
Weight training is infact great for women with pcos because it helps change your body composition. Weight training will help you shed fat and build muscle mass.
Having more muscle mass means that you burn more calories while working out and even throughout the day. So, worry not and lift!
#3: Yoga & Pranayams: Probably one of the most underrated yet the most effective exercises out there. Practising yoga or pranayam everyday is known to reduce stress, improve flexibility and blood flow and thus overall health. There are specific asasnas for everything. So search for yoga asanas for pcos and try practising the same for at least 20 minutes everyday.
#4: HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training: Because women with PCOS are at a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases, HIIT makes a perfect fit. because high intensity interval training has been known to improve cardiovascular function. HIIT is also great if you have been wanting to lose inches off your waist, because that’s where women with pcos gain most weight.
#5: Core strength training: This is something that I personally hate doing, but I know how important it is. We’re talking about crunches and AB exercises. Core strength is extremely important for you to have a better posture and helps through pregnancy as well. It’s also great because it helps avoid any fat gain around the abdomen area, which is usually a struggle point for women with PCOS.
What supplements should I take for PCOS?
Although the best way to keep PCOS in check is through a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle, there are some supplements that help too. These supplements are known to reduce the symptoms of PCOS:
#1: Vitamin D: According to research, about 75% of women with PCOS are deficient in Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is usually pretty expensive to get tested and a deficiency results in you being lethargic and moody. Vitamin D plays a very crucial role in the overall health and fertility and thus is extremely important. And while Vitamin D can be absorbed by being in the sun for at least 20 minutes every single day, taking a supplement doesn’t hurt either.
Vitamin D improves the overall follicle egg maturation and development and is thus extremely important for women with PCOS who are trying to conceive.
#2: Omega 3 fatty Acids: Studies have shown the benefits of including Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet because it helps in regulation of blood glucose. Omega-3 is usually found abundantly in fish oils. Omega-3 is also known to reduce the androgen levels in women and thus helps in maintaining a healthy menstrual cycle.
#3: Magnesium: Magnesium is shown to play a role in regulating blood sugar levels as well as insulin and blood pressure regulation. However, women with PCOS are 19 times more likely to have a magnesium deficiency.
Thus, taking magnesium supplements can result in regulation of PCOS related symptoms and also improves mood swings and anxiety in women with PCOS.
#4: Zinc: Zinc deficiency results in symptoms like hair loss, acne or excessive hair growth in women with PCOS and taking a zinc supplement can help with these symptoms.
Zinc supplements are also known to affect weight management, ovulation, insulin sensitivity and regulates blood pressure as well. So if Zinc supplement is not on your radar, it should be.
#5: Vitamin B-12: Studies have shown that women who use metformin (usually used for diabetes patients) for pcos, develop a B-12 deficiency. And B-12 is extremely important for proper functioning of the neurological system and a deficiency of B-12 can result in neurological and nerve damage as well as mood swings and reduced energy throughout the day.
That’s it for this post. Again, I am not a medical professional but have researched about PCOS enough. I was diagnosed with PCOS more than 15 years back and have been working towards creating a better lifestyle and managing the symptoms without any medication. I thought I’d share what has helped me.
Please consult your doctor before starting with any supplements or medication or changing your diet. It’s juts great to be well informed and known your options. Hope you see you on the other side of your fight with PCOS and I hope this post helped a bit 🙂
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