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Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder that affects many women of reproductive age. It is characterised by a range of symptoms, including irregular periods, hormonal imbalances and the presence of small cysts on the ovaries. While there is no cure for PCOS, lifestyle modification can play a pivotal role in managing the condition effectively. Dr Madhuri Burande Laha, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospital, Kharadi sheds light on the importance of lifestyle changes in PCOS management.
Before delving into lifestyle modification, it's essential to understand the underlying factors of PCOS. PCOS is often associated with insulin resistance, where the body's cells do not respond effectively to insulin. This leads to higher levels of insulin in the bloodstream, which can result in increased production of androgens (male hormones) by the ovaries. These hormonal imbalances contribute to many of the symptoms associated with PCOS.
The role of lifestyle modification:
Lifestyle modification is a cornerstone of PCOS management because it directly addresses insulin resistance and hormonal imbalances. Here are some key aspects of lifestyle modification for women with PCOS:
1. Diet matters:
A balanced diet is crucial for managing PCOS. Focus on:
Complex carbohydrates: Choose whole grains like brown rice, quinoa and oats over refined carbohydrates. These foods have a lower glycemic index and help stabilize blood sugar levels.
Lean proteins: Incorporate lean protein sources like poultry, fish, tofu and legumes into your diet. Protein helps control appetite and supports muscle development.
Healthy fats: Include sources of healthy fats like avocados, nuts, seeds and olive oil. These fats can improve insulin sensitivity.
Fiber-rich foods: Foods high in fibre, such as fruits, vegetables and legumes, help regulate blood sugar levels and improve digestion.
2. Regular exercise:
Physical activity is a powerful tool for improving insulin sensitivity. Engaging in regular exercise helps the body use insulin more efficiently. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week. Additionally, strength training exercises can help build muscle mass, further enhancing insulin sensitivity.
3. Weight management:
For women with PCOS who are overweight or obese, even a modest weight loss can significantly improve symptoms. Losing weight can reduce insulin resistance and regulate menstrual cycles. Consult with a healthcare provider or a registered dietitian to set realistic weight loss goals and develop a personalised plan.
4. Stress reduction:
Chronic stress can worsen hormonal imbalances in PCOS. Practice stress-reduction techniques such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises or engaging in hobbies that you enjoy. Reducing stress levels can have a positive impact on overall well-being.
5. Sleep hygiene:
Getting enough quality sleep is essential for hormonal balance. Aim for 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Establish a regular sleep schedule and create a comfortable sleep environment to promote restorative sleep.
6. Regular monitoring:
Regular monitoring of PCOS symptoms, blood sugar levels and hormone levels is essential. Keeping track of your progress can help you and your healthcare provider make informed decisions about your treatment plan.
7. Medications and supplements:
In some cases, medications or supplements may be prescribed to manage specific symptoms of PCOS. Metformin, for example, is a medication that can help improve insulin sensitivity. Discuss any potential treatments with your healthcare provider.
8. Support network:
Building a support network of healthcare professionals, support groups or friends and family who understand your journey can provide motivation and encouragement. Share your challenges and successes with others who can offer guidance and empathy.
Lifestyle modification plays a pivotal role in managing PCOS effectively. By addressing insulin resistance and hormonal imbalances through dietary changes, regular exercise, stress reduction and weight management, women with PCOS can experience significant improvements in their overall health and quality of life. It's essential to remember that PCOS management is a journey and progress may take time. Consult with your healthcare provider to create a personalised plan tailored to your unique needs and circumstances. With the right lifestyle modifications and support, you can take control of your PCOS and lead a healthier, more fulfilling life.