If you are a woman of reproductive age, as a health expert I would want you to complete reading this in the next 5 minutes at any cost! For your own good.
In my 5 years of working as a health coach, having managed 500+ cases of PCOS, the one biggest learning I have had is that
PCOS / PCOD affects a woman’s quality of life in more ways than one, & that awareness around being able to control it through lifestyle changes is very low.
Traditionally , PCOS had been looked at primarily as an endocrine disorder, but we now know that it is is a metabolic, hormonal, and psycho-social disorder. It is extremely important to not ignore PCOS & control it right away with the right diet & lifestyle, else the risks of type 2 diabetes, BP issues & in extreme cases infertility , are very real. Why is why as a health coach, educating the masses of women on this very important issue is my priority number 1, & this PCOS awareness month in September, we are going all out in doing that!
What are the health risks? Do I need to be worried?
PCOS prevalence in India ranges from 2.2% to 36%. Most reports have studied adult women with ages ranging from 18 to 45 years. (2015-17 data)
Step 1: Knowing & understanding the problem
Watch out for the following common signs and symptoms of PCOS/PCOD, catch early signs & get right on with your efforts to control it- that’s the smartest thing a women of reproductive age can do for her health
1. Irregular menses
3. Acne & Hair loss
4. Central obesity & Heart disease
5. Insulin resistance
As I said, ignoring PCOS is a health crime, & can potentially lead to the following very serious conditions:
3. Lipid abnormalities
4. Cardiovascular risks
5. Obstructive sleep apnea
The challenges faced by women diagnosed with PCOS of different age groups are different.
Not to forget, it is also proven to impact you emotionally - with diagnosis of any disorder, disease, or syndrome it is reasonable to say that a patient may have anxiety, which can be attributed to the occurrence or risk of obesity, hirsutism, irregular menses, and infertility.
Some common challenges that I’ve observed across the 500-odd cases I’ve coached are poor body image , Social stigmatism and Low self-esteem - the emotional impact is about as bad as the physical impact!
Now enough about the problem- what’s really the solution?
Step 2: Understanding the science
PCOS/PCOD can’t be cured, the good news is that the majority of the symptoms can be managed by incorporating necessary modification in terms of diet and lifestyle changes. Women with PCOS usually weigh more than women without PCOS, and seem to have a greater appetite, consume more energy-dense high glycemic index (GI) foods and saturated fat, have inadequate fiber intake and have inadequate PCOS-related knowledge.
The quality of diet interferes with the metabolic and endocrine abnormalities of PCOS/PCOD. There is in fact a complex interrelationship between different nutritional factors and endocrine status. It is known that diet plays an important role in the regulation of the metabolism of steroids and LH secretion. High fibre diet reduces serum oestrogen concentrations in pre-menopausal women, and a low fibre–high lipid diet may increase circulating oestrogen and androgen concentrations. Too technical? Let me break it down in a way that you can understand easily, & implement changes FROM TOMORROW!
4 most important, life-changing concepts to understand: Negative energy balance: Quantified nutrition Macro-nutrients split, & foods to avoidMicro nutrients (often ignored) Importance of activity/ workout to boost metabolism
Step 3: Making your plan, very smartly
Let’s understand each in the next 2 minutes- you will thank me for life if you implement these:
A. Negative energy balance through Quantification: Your body burns calories/ energy in 2 ways: for keeping you alive (it’s called Basal metabolic rate), and the energy you expend in physical activity & workouts. Let us say these 2 combined comes out to be 2000 kilo calories. Simple funda- if you eat slightly more than 2000 Kcal you gain fat , and if you eat slightly less (not drastically- topic for some other day) you lose (fat). It is important to have a PCOS diet & workout that ensures you are in negative energy balance.
B. Macro Nutrients: Now it isn’t as simple as ‘All calories are created equal’, especially for conditions like PCOS. What you eat is as important as how much you eat. This is how your ideal diet should be: Carbohydrate: (50% of total calorie) High fibre carb (whole grains: Brown rice and long grain rice, oats, millets like ragi, jowar, bajra) should be incorporated in the diet to improve insulin resistance and to boost metabolism. Simple carbohydrates like sugar, refined flour, corn syrup needs to be avoided.
Gluten(Wheat and it’s by products) is harmful due to it’s hormone disrupting property- should be avoided.
Protein: (20% of total calorie) High biological value protein (egg, chicken, fish) needs to be incorporated, vegetarian sources include pulses and legumes.
Dairy is a contradiction due to insulin resistance and interrelation with c-peptide- should be avoided.
Fat: (20-30% of total calorie) Moderate amount of dietary fat needs to incorporated, oils rich in PUFA (Sunflower, Suffolar, Soybean, Mustard) & MUFA (Olive oil, Canola Oil, Coconut oil, Pure organic ghee) along with Omega 3 and Omega 6(2:1 respectively) fatty acids to be included in the plan which is beneficial in improving glucose metabolism in turn will improve insulin resistance.
C. The ‘often-ignored’ Micro Nutrients
Vitamin D3, Vitamin B12, Zinc and Magnesium have a beneficial effect in terms of improving the hormonal imbalance and insulin resistance- not sure if you have these in your diet or where to get these from? Take screenshots of the following images & check if you have each of these 3 micro-nutrients in your diet. What to do if all of this quantification, restrictions , macro & micro, sound too much to figure out? Simply fill in your details to set up a free consultation with a clinical expert to guide you & tell you exactly what you need to do
Step 4: Implementation & consistency towards goals
Finally, all of this knowledge gained won’t be useful if you are not able to be consistent towards controlling your PCOS & improving your life- it is understandable that life is extremely busy & making these changes sounds like too much work , but taking extra efforts today is much much better than regretting 5-10 years down the line. Implement the changes yourself today, or enrol under a coach if you think you lack the discipline. And do share this with your friends, you never know how many lives you can change by sharing knowledgeP.s. do fill out your details here if you feel you need a clinical expert’s advice & guidance to control your PCOS & get fitter.
Seema Eshwar, Senior Dietitian at NutriPal. She has over 4 years of experience & has coached over 2500+ clients having lifestyle disorders like obesity, diabetes, hypertension & multiple medical conditions like parkinson’s, autism & epilepsy.
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