Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, known as PCOS, is a hormonal disease that affects 5 to 10 percent of adult women throughout their reproductive years. The symptoms include hirsutism (excessive hair growth, particularly on the face), adult acne, irregular periods, infertility, insulin resistance and weight gain. PCOS can increase the chances of heart disease and diabetes, as well as cancer. It has been found to have a genetic factor, but the symptoms are made more severe by obesity and insulin resistance. These can be controlled through diet and weight loss. Here are five safe weight loss options for women who suffer from PCOS.
1. Steady Weight Loss
A slow, steady weight loss is the safest option for PCOS sufferers, as large, quick weight loss can lead to a rebound effect by depleting muscle mass and lowering the metabolism. PCOS sufferers often have a lower than average metabolism anyway, so lowering it further can make long term weight loss even more difficult.
2. Exercise Regularly
Cardio exercise has been shown to have benefits for sufferers of PCOS with insulin resistance, even when no weight loss is present. When combined with weight loss, exercise will have even more benefit. Even walking a few times a week will make a difference, but vigorous aerobic exercise should be incorporated if possible, after consulting a doctor.
3. Lift Weights
One way to increase metabolism is by strength training, by lifting weights or similar activities. Studies have shown this to be beneficial for women with PCOS. While strength training does not burn as many calories as cardio exercise does, it increases muscle mass, which then burns more calories during other activities.
4. Follow a Low GI Diet
The best diet for insulin resistance is one which concentrates on foods with a low Glycemic Index (GI). Foods with a low GI release sugar into the blood more slowly, resulting in a slow and steady release of insulin in response. This prevents the body from developing a further resistance to insulin and can eventually improve the response. Low GI foods include those high in fiber, fresh vegetables and some fruits and protein-rich foods. There is some evidence that milk can increase the rate of acne in some PCOS sufferers, however, so milk products should be eaten in moderation.
5. Be Kind to Yourself
Stress is considered a contributing factor to insulin resistance, and may also contribute to weight gain through stress hormones. Lack of sleep is another culprit. Giving yourself enough time to sleep and exploring methods of reducing stress such as meditation, relaxation and more leisure time will help improve your insulin sensitivity and can lead to further weight loss and reduction of PCOS symptoms. Another contributing factor to insulin resistance is smoking, so quitting can not only help your symptoms directly, but it can also make exercise easier by reducing stress on the lungs.
PCOS can be a devastating disease, affecting not only the health, but the self esteem of the women who suffer from it. Long term consequences of PCOS can be severe, and result in premature death by heart disease or cancer. However, many of the effects and symptoms can be controlled by diet and exercise, by reducing weight and increasing insulin sensitivity, and restoring self confidence and quality of life.